When the parents are a away the children will play. And play they do. Dungeon Defenders promises a new twist on tower defense games and a large cross-platform experience. Does it hold up? Watch the door and make sure your tower is placed well, I'll watch the other.
In the land of Etheria the heroes of yore battled The Old Ones, imprisoning them in the Eternia Crystals. When that task was completed the heroes sensed more wrongs to right in the lands, so they journeyed forth leaving their young offspring in charge of tending to the castle. The daily chores, being about as exciting as you would expect, it wasn't long before the young ones would turn chore time into fun time. During the excitement of a recreation of their parent's heroic exploits the children accidently shatter a crystal, releasing an ancient evil.
Realizing their parents are too far away to help the young heroes take it upon themselves to defend the castle from the monsters and creatures that march forth.
Control and Gameplay
Control-wise Trendy wanted to make Dungeon Defenders simple to handle since the game would be released on multiple platforms. My review copy was for the PC and it was the classic "WASD" and mouse control. While there are other shortcut keys I found that the game was playable and entertaining with just the basics.
Trendy Entertainment took the traditional tower defense game and married it with an action role-playing game. The surprising result of Dungeon Defenders is that it's a very fun game. You can choose one of four fantasy archetypes; the Apprentice (wizard), the Huntress (ranger), the Squire (knight) and the Monk (um...well monk). Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, for instance the Apprentice and Huntress are both better at a distance with their ranged weapons while the Squire and Monk are more adept at up close melee.
In Dungeon Defenders each level is broken down into multiple waves, with each wave consisting of a build phase and a combat phase. In the build phase you create your towers and place your defenses in ways that you feel are best to defend the Eternia Crystal within that room. Once that is done you are ready you move on to the combat phase. During this time monsters march in from various doorways towards the Eternia Crystal, only stopping to attack your defenses or you. You in turn can attack or, if your defenses start to come close to falling, you can repair or replace them. As you defeat the monsters they will always drop mana jewels , and occasionally weapons, or armor that you can use to upgrade or sell for other weapons, armor, or other upgrades.
All the levels in Dungeon Defenders can be played co-op either local or online, which I highly suggest. While you can play through the game solo it can get rough by yourself, especially when you have creatures coming from multiple doorways on opposite sides of large areas. Another advantage of multiplayer co-op is that the specific turrets and defenses which each class are able to deploy complement each other.
Cross platform playability is supposed to be possible between the PC, iOS, Android, and PlayStation 3 versions. As of this writing I have not been able to confirm that. Additionally iOS 5 seems to have a broken version now since Dungeon Defenders crashes every time I try to open the game. Hopefully Trendy will have that back up and running soon.
Graphics and Sound
The art style of Dungeon Defenders is a cell-shaded cartoon style that is very colorful. In a world of browns this game stands out. I like it, it fits the kids as heroes story.
The audio is nice and subdued. The characters have very little in the way of voice acting other than the occasional "Aaaa!" or "WooHoo!" The music suits the situation and also stays in the background. I do not remember it popping up and standing out, which is what a good soundtrack should do. Compliment without getting in the way.
Trendy Entertainment had some lofty goals with Dungeon Defenders. They wanted a fun action RPG tower defense game that could be played cross-platform. When I first heard it announced I thought, "finally someone will have the guts to do something truly cross-platform" and while I haven't experienced it yet, it's here. It's not a big studio pushing it either, but a small one. Good for them.
Tower defense games can vary from boring to darn fun, the addition of the action RPG elements put Dungeon Defenders firmly in the darn fun category. It's even more fun with friends and sometimes hilarious. I played with a friend that was several levels above my character. At times in the battles I would start to get overwhelmed and ask for help. Out of nowhere his Huntress would come in with, what I referred to as the "arrow spitter 150," and mow down the hordes to a manageable size. The nice thing is that even though we were far apart in levels the game seemed to scale for that.
The one thing that Dungeon Defend really nailed down was the multiplayer aspect. The game is built with it in mind. The structure of the levels, the ability to just hang out and chat in one person's "Tavern" (hub area), all lend to the "friends hanging out having fun" feel. Solo the game becomes a real challenge with each characters weakness becoming revealed as the game progresses.
I did come across one problem that stood out. The opening splash/credit screens and introduction movie seemed to have problems playing sound and video at the same time. Every time I have opened the game I will either get video with no sound or sound with a black screen. Thankfully it is isolated to the intros and doesn't affect gameplay.
If you manage to finish all the game's levels it has plenty of replay-ability with each level having multiple difficulty settings and modes. Not to mention that Trendy has promised plenty of downloadable content (they already have a free set of Halloween downloadable content available that includes new outfits and a level). And if that wasn't enough Trendy has also included the ability to modify the PC version so players can create their own levels or even "rejigger" the entire game.
Lots of multiplayer fun, cross-platform playability, but a slightly lacking solo side, Dungeon Defenders gets a 4 out of 5.
Dungeon Defenders is rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Older for Alcohol Reference, Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence. It is available now for Windows PC, Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, iOS, and Android.
For more information see the Dungeon Defenders web site.