“Dungeon Defenders” from Trendy Entertainment is an action-rpg-tower defense game available on Xbox arcade for 1200 Microsoft points. Yep, that is three game genres rolled up into one. One more and they would have earned a free sandwich. Despite a few early reservations “Dungeon Defenders” turned out to be a deep and rewarding experience.
The game opens with the usual fantasy storyline. I’ve begun tuning them out to be honest. There was a kingdom threatened by a great evil, might defenders rose up to vanquish said evil, the defenders leave the kingdom in search of new adventures leaving their kids behind… . Wait wait wait, what was that last part about the kids? This is where my heart begins to drop just a little. Apparently, while the legendary defenders (that you don’t get to play as) are away, their kids accidentally release the evil and now they have to clean up the mess. It is at this point that I am wondering if I haven’t been tricked into playing a kids game.
The game’s graphics don’t do much to allay my initial fears. I don’t know how else to explain it other than to say I felt like I was watching something on Nick Toons. Everything is bright and colorful and the characters look simply adorable. Even the goblins and orcs look huggable. I’m fairly certain it is an unwritten law of the fantasy genre that orcs should never be huggable. Tolkien must be spinning in his grave.
Trying to put that aside, and it wasn’t easy, I got down to actually playing the game. The object of “Dungeon Defenders” is to protect your magic crystal from waves of adorable; I mean nasty, monsters who want to destroy it, releasing the evil trapped inside. To protect the crystal you spend mana to set up various traps throughout the level, and when the monsters arrive you can take an active role in your crystals defense and fight the vile creatures head on. After each wave you are rewarded with new items and additional mana which you must decide to either reinvest into upgrading or creating additional traps, or to bank it. Banking mana is important as it also doubles as the games currency and can be exchanged for powerful weapons and items.
The RPG elements of “Dungeon Defenders” are extensive. Nearly everything in the game is customizable and upgradable, and there are a metric ton of items. For those gamers who really like to be in control of every aspect of your character, this game gives it to you. The one drawback to this is that you tend to spend a great deal of time in one or another of the game’s many menus. For the OCD amongst us it is easy to forget that there is a game to be played as you check out every item that is sent your way: what are its stats, how many times can it be upgrade, how much mana will it cost to upgrade it, etc.
A game like this lends itself to co-op, and “Dungeon Defenders” doesn’t disappoint. Having a party of four will utilize all the character classes, which means lots of traps and lots of action. Of course, that also means you will have to fight over the items and mana. I suppose you could probably share these things, but we all have that one friend who immediately makes a bee-line straight for the treasure chests and grabs every item until their inventory is full. If you are reading this and thinking, “I don’t have a friend like that,” then I have news for you; you are that guy.
“Dungeon Defenders” is very much a co-op game, but for those of us who fancy ourselves master strategists the single player has much to offer. The ability to switch your character class in between waves is not only a nice perk, but also absolutely vital for success. Each character has a few different traps and a few attacks, but with the ability to change your character you can access any trap and combine them in any way you wish. It becomes mind boggling when you are attempting to juggle four characters at once, having to constantly make decisions on what character to focus on in order to level up, and once they do level up, how to spend the additional skill points.
“Dungeon Defenders” is a game in which it is easy to become absorbed. In addition to the campaign and its multiple difficulties there are also challenge maps and survival mode. You will have to play all of these modes if you want to find the best gear and weapons for your character. While I am still not entirely certain what audience Trendy Entertainment was aiming for with this game (tweens maybe?) if you can look beyond the presentation you will find the game has something to offer for everyone.
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