With such a variety of arcade titles available on the Xbox 360 Marketplace, it can sometimes be hard for a new game to bring something unique to the selection but Dungeon Defenders has done just that. With an extensive levelling system, variety of characters and enough loot to satisfy even the greediest goblin, Dungeon Defenders has brought something fresh to a populated marketplace.
The game begins by describing how all the adults in the world have gone off to war and their children are left behind at the castle to wait for their return. Being bored, the children begin running around the castle causing mayhem and accidently knock a magical crystal from its altar. This crystal was used to trap all the evil in the world and with its shattering, has released hordes of demons, goblins and other foul beasts on the doorstep of the castle. It’s up to the young children to fight for the castle in the absence of their parents. The children come in four varieties, the Apprentice, Hunter, Monk and Squire. The Apprentice has magical towers and wields a staff, the Hunter lays down traps and uses a bow or gun, the Monk places auras to damage foes or heal allies and wields a spear and the Squire uses mechanical fortifications and wields a sword.
The style of gameplay in Dungeon Defenders is similar to that of a tower defence game where you must protect the crystal and kill hordes of enemies that will be trying to destroy it. The enemies enter through doors that are all over the map and then take a set course towards the crystal. Your job is to set up various defences during the Build Phase, be it an Electric Aura from the Monk or a Fireball Tower from the Apprentice, in the paths that the creatures will take. As there are multiple doors and a variety of different creatures that will be coming towards the crystal, it’s up to you and your teammates to judge what defences would be better suited to a particular path. Every time you kill an enemy you will gain some Mana that is used as currency in the game. Aside from purchasing Weapons, Armour and Pets from the shop, you spend Mana on building, upgrading and repairing your defences but while in the levels your character will have a capped amount of Mana that will increase as you level up.
When you are not fighting monsters, you will find yourself spending time in the Tavern, which is a little hub area that you and your friends can change classes, buy items and view the leader’s trophies that represent his or her accomplishments in the game. The game offers four player co-op so in a perfect party you could have the defences of each character and maximise your chances of winning. If you are unable to play with friends you can also change your character during the Build Phase in each level at the Defender’s Forge to set up a variety of defences before switching back to the character you wish to play. You have a choice of four different difficulties to choose from ranging from easy to insane and the scaling is just that – insane. Even playing on the easy mode you will find it very difficult to take some of the waves of enemies that come at you not to mention the bosses that make an appearance every four levels. The only trouble with Dungeon Defenders is you will find yourself repeating maps over and over just to level up and be able to proceed. This sort of spoilt the flow of the game and made it a little repetitive at times. Once you’ve mastered the story levels, there are also a variety of challenge maps that you try your hand at and crank the difficulty up even more.
The great thing about having a higher difficulty is the loot is a lot better so eventually the game becomes easier and easier to play and considering you can share the loot from one character to another on one account, playing a fresh character is far less stressful. Most weapons, armour and pets can be upgraded using Mana and is almost required to be if you want to stand any chance of taking on any of the insane challenges. In the beginning you will find yourself struggling to buy a pet or new weapon from the tavern shop as Mana is hard to come by but a few levels in you will start having a full Mana purse. If there’s an item you like at the shop but don’t quite have the funds to buy it you can lock it in place and the next time you visit the shop it will still be there but the others items will change overtime.
Dungeon Defenders may not be everyone’s cup of tea but for those willing to give it a chance, they will have a rich game that will last quite some time if you intend to experience each class to its fullest. With a hefty price tag of 1200 Microsoft Points, some may be put off but with so many short arcade titles out there these days, it’s good to finally see something that will actually be worth your money.