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Why I Love: Dungeon Defenders

by Charlotte Simmons 4 years ago in product review

Strategy and Action RPG? Yes, please.

Real-time strategy and tower defense games, for the most part, aren’t really my cup of tea. I can absolutely see the fun in them, but I can’t stand being distanced from the action, so I tend to shy away from games like them.

However, I’ve always appreciated them. There’s something very interesting about scanning a landscape, thinking long and hard about how you’re going to implement victory into the next scenario. Be it small-scale like Bloons or far and wide like Crusader Kings, real-time strategy and tower defense is nowhere near an inferior form of gaming.

It’s unfortunate that my preferences keep me away from this take on my favourite art form. It is not unfortunate, however, that I was still able to enjoy some of the best elements of this genre (which would have fallen through the cracks of my interests otherwise) in a game that, to me, is revolutionary in its gameplay.

I absolutely adore Dungeon Defenders.

The Apprentice engages in combat against Dark Elf Archers.

Dungeon Defenders is a tower defense game in which you protect a large, customizable crystal from wave after wave of goblins, trolls, ogres, and various other monsters. You spend the Build Phase by littering the battleground with a selection of different defences, while the Combat Phase puts your arsenal to the test against the waves of enemies.

As expected, the tower defense roots are fairly cut-and-dry. It’s spiced up, however, by the characters in the game.

When you begin a game, you create a character by selecting a class (the four stock classes being Apprentice, Squire, Huntress, and Monk) and giving them their own unique colour palette and name. Once this is done, you’re transported to the Tavern, which is a hub world that allows you to buy equipment, test weaponry and start missions.

Only the Apprentice has access to these five defences.

More importantly, each character boasts their own selection of defences that they can place on the battlefield, such as the Apprentice’s elemental damage towers or the Monk’s status-changing, area-of-effect auras. As a result, it's recommended to have multiple characters made so that you can make the most out of your options, while also heavily encouraging multiplayer (spoiler alert: it’s a hell of a good time).

But it doesn’t end there. What especially makes this game so intriguing for me is that the characters themselves engage directly in the combat phase, with the player taking direct control of them. As I stated before, I don’t like being away from the action, so this was an absolute breath of fresh air. Like their defenses, each character takes to the fray with a different fighting style, such as the Squire’s melee approach with the option to block attacks, or the Huntress’s ranged weaponry that relies on ammunition. Fighting alongside your friends whilst maintaining your heavily armed battlefield is absolutely exhilarating during the Combat Phase. This direct-combat gimmick even benefits the Build Phase’s strategy-oriented purposes, as you can add yourselves onto your list of possible defense options.

It gets even better from there! Each character gains experience points from progressing through waves of enemies and completing missions, and these points can be allocated to a number of different stats, such as hero speed, health, attack rate, and damage output, or you can upgrade stats for your towers to apply similar buffs. Finally, you gain access to brand new defenses and abilities as you level up, making the Action RPG elements in this game as ever-present as the tower defense ones. Other customizations include upgradable weapons (complete with special traits like elemental damage and extra projectiles), “familiars” which are pets that follow the hero around and provide stat boosts or extra attacks, and the option to re-spec your hero if you want to try a different build.

Dungeon Defenders takes the best of both worlds and puts them together perfectly, making for a unique experience that, to me, has yet to be rivaled. You transform the map into a deadly gauntlet to face the waves, but rather than retreating and seeing if your strategy pays off, you jump right into the fray alongside your defenses and lay waste to them with Action RPG combat as well. This was a brilliant way of keeping players close to the action of the game without de-prioritizing the tower defense elements.

Surprisingly, Trendy Entertainment was able to expand on this combination by releasing DLC characters that corresponded to these two individual genres (RTS and Action RPG). These two characters are the Summoner and the Barbarian.

The Summoner, rather than summon defences, can give commands to his minions.

The Summoner’s defences take the form of crystalline versions of the enemies that you and your allies fight, allowing you to create an army of your own to oppose the one you face. Upon the beginning of the Combat Phase, the Summoner retreats to the sky and views the map from a top-down perspective, ordering his troops around the map in true Real Time Strategy fashion.

The Barbarian is built around pure combat.

The Barbarian, meanwhile, can not summon any sort of defenses, but instead has access to various combat poses and can dual-wield any two melee weapons. He can switch between these combat poses throughout the Combat Phase, from the fast-moving Tornado stance to the life-sapping Siphon stance to the high-defence but slow-moving Turtle stance. Combining these various stances with his combo attacks and battle leaps makes him an excellent choice for full-on combat.

The inclusion of these two characters allowed the gameplay to be boiled down into the two different genres that it mashes up. The Summoner can be selected to play a classic RTS style game, whereas the Barbarian allows players to focus completely on the player-combat aspect of the game. I personally think this was a brilliant little inclusion that really helped to show the essence of what game tried, and accomplished, succeeding in.

And this is just the core gameplay. There are so many other modes to explore in this game, such as Challenges, where a special effect is added to the mission (such as a moving crystal or an additional ally you must protect), Survival Mode, which pits you against round-after-round of monsters, Hardcore Mode, in which players don’t respawn after death until the next Build Phase, and Pure Strategy, where combat cannot be entered by the players themselves at all. There’s even a PvP arena option where players can pit themselves against one another using weapons and defenses alike.

This brand new take on gameplay would have had me sold regardless, but all these extra game modes to explore ensured a hyper-fresh, almost self-sufficient gaming experience.

I may not be a fan of tower defense games, but I’ll be damned if I find any strategy game that won me over like Dungeon Defenders did.

product review

Charlotte Simmons

A creative writing student who has a lot to say!

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