Dungeon Defenders – same old same old but still fun

I recently talked about how despite having a negative first impression of Dungeon Defenders, I’ve grown to love it and through the carrot on a stick seen so often in RPG games, I’ve been unable to put it down. However I didn’t want to leave it sounding as though the game was a grind so here’s an article on how the game is still fun.

For starters there’s four different types of characters. The Apprentice is a longer range fighter, shooting using a staff, with pretty much only ranged style defenses (at least of use). To be honest I don’t rate the Apprentice at all. It is deemed to be the “easy” class but it really isn’t as I’ve found it uses elements a lot. What are elements? Well pretty standard where you can have extra fire, lightning or poison damage and some enemies will be more immune to elements, which means that some of the Apprentice’s defences are useless against some enemies.

The Squire is a melee combat type, which is great fun to play, as well as providing the best balance of towers. You have easily the strongest barricades and also excellent long range towers – giving a much better range than the Apprentice (which seems a bit broken to me!).

The third class, Huntress, took me a while to get into. She only places traps so when playing solo I really struggled as many enemies will get through due to the rearm timer. The need to constantly repair traps also means as a lower level you are going to be legging it about a lot! However she is quick and uses ranged weapons giving you great combat mobility… once you get a half decent weapon that is!

Finally there’s the Monk who has both combat and ranged attacks (although ranged is pretty rubbish!). To me the monk feels very much like the 4th player your group as their solo combat abilities aren’t great and their enemies can just wander through their auras. The special abilities are all very much tied to helping team mates as well. That said, speed aura works great when placed in front of unattended towers. They will help slow down and bottleneck enemies. The electricity aura can also be a very handy way to “thin out the numbers” of enemies approaching.

So yeah, the four classes all provide a different style of play and introduce something unique to the game. As my interest was starting to fade a little, finding myself in no mans land for difficulty level, I gave some of the other classes another go and the game really came to life. Playing solo is very challenging, if not impossible with each class. You can switch between classes though so I’ll often do the first round with my squire and get the defences set up, then bring in the monk and huntress defences to halt the enemies before they reach my squire’s towers. Having to switch character constantly is a pain in the backside though! I also feel like it is missing at least another tower per character, maybe with the exception of the squire. The other classes have maybe at least one dud or lacking balance.

A weakness is the variety of enemies, at least in the out of the box version without DLC, or really I should say lack of variety. There’s a weak dude, an archer, a tough guy, some quick ones that explode, flying enemy plus on the odd occasion huge ogres then of course the odd boss. This means the game is a little samey at times. Ideally you’d have a few more enemies, even if not functionally too different, to provide a different look and feel when on later levels or harder difficulty. Instead the difficulty is indicated through colour, the element icons (e.g. if they have immunity to fire) and a ^ rank icon. Whilst you could make the same enemy look different through alternate armour, having very visually different enemies throughout the levels does, at least in my opinion, add a lot.

The levels themselves are all visually very unique and have their own tactics required and strategy style. Obviously the art style doesn’t change but the environments and settings can be very different. Not everything is in a grotty dungeon or samey tunnels! There’s outdoor levels, fighting in grand looking throne rooms and of course given the name… dungeon levels. So that’s good. The look and feel is a little blocky, but it has a charm and works well enough for my likings. The cut scenes have a fun and colourful feel – much like the game itself. The tavern, a place you go between missions to buy / upgrade stuff, looks a bit dated, has dodgy collision but I still like it. Not everything has to be ultra realistic HD graphics.

To provide unique and varied gameplay there’s a few extra options available to the player. You could switch mode between normal, survival and towers only. Survival, as you’d expect, involved fighting it out against lots and lots of enemy hordes. This really didn’t work though as the difficulty balance wasn’t quite there making it a bit of a boring, time consuming slog at times. I’ll be discussing that in another article.

The tower only mode is an interesting idea. You can’t shoot or do anything mid wave so it is purely a tactical game. How good is your setup? How strong are your defences? This starts off really fun but soon gets old. The problem here is, like survival, the waiting. Even when your defences are awesome and you don’t need to do a great deal yourself in normal mode, least you can fight a few guys… makes it more fun. In a pure strategy mode, waiting for all 700 guys to spawn and get killed isn’t quite as fun!

Finally we have the challenges. These take the core gameplay and mix it up a little with one challenge per level. You may have loads of the fast exploding goblins to fend off or maybe defend an ogre yourself. They are all really fun but exceptionally hard, especially when going solo. I’ll delve into that more in another article as this one is long enough already!

So yeah – it is pretty samey at times but there’s enough there to mix it up a bit. In particular trying out new characters really opens the game up. That has given me a HUGE new lease of life and I’m always finding better ways to utilise the four classes, even when playing solo.

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