Tower defense games have been around for quite a number of years, though recently developers have been merging the genre with others such as role-playing and shooters. The latest to take a new spin on the formula is Dungeon Defenders, a downloadable title for Xbox, PS3, and PC, which is a 4-player loot-based blend of Action RPG and tower defense within a fantastically cel-shaded fantasy world. And boy, does it work incredibly well.
The core gameplay of tower defense games is focused on constructing objects and turrets to defend a point on the map. Dungeon Defenders fully embraces the idea of only being able to succeed by doing so while also borrowing the absurd quantity of weapons found in games such as Borderlands, and then allowing players to fight alongside their defenses unlike most tower defenses. Every level nets players dozens of new items, which can either be upgraded or merely scrapped for currency, and every weapon look distinctly different from the last. It’s a nice change of pace to Borderlands’ weapons only really differentiating from one another by what elemental damage it had. For fans of loot, the sheer amount of items will be appealing.
What truly set Dungeon Defenders apart from 2011’s earlier action/tower defense Trenched (or rather, Iron Brigade due to trademark issues) is the RPG elements. Players take on the roles of 4 classes (Squire, Apprentice, Huntress, and Monk, with two more coming sometime soon), each with their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Apprentice can summon magical towers that deal damage, but his only defensive tower is a small and simple wall, while the Huntress can lay down powerful traps to damage and ensnare enemies only to lack any kind of wall-like structures. In Trenched, each mech was fairly similar to one another, and one person could easily suppress an entire portion of a level on his own. Dungeon Defenders, in contrast, players must actively work together to achieve victory over the hordes of monsters (which get up into the hundreds at a time with no lag!) by combining their towers together. Trendy Entertainment has been kind enough to allow players to swap their character on the fly during build phases to accommodate solo play, though it is still quite challenging to overcome your enemies on your own. You’ll have to combine every class in creative ways to come out on top.
Regardless as to whether you play by yourself or with a full group of friends, Dungeon Defendersis a fun and incredibly cheap game with a great deal of content packed in. With most retail games having maybe a dozen hours of campaign, DDis nowhere near completion even after 40+ hours sunk into it. For just fifteen dollars, this is definitely one of the greatest downloadble games of this year.