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Publisher: Reverb Publishing/D3Publisher
Developer: Trendy Entertainment
Genre: Tower Defence
Mode(s): Single-player/ Multi-player co-op
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points
Launch Date: 19th October 2011


Dungeon Defenders is a game based on the classic style of tower defence. In this version of tower defence, you get to be part of the action first hand. With a selection of four different characters, each with their own style of attacks and defences, have Trendy Entertainment provided a nice hit for the XBLA marketplace, or is this a title that is unable to defend itself? Find out by reading our full in-depth review.

Game-play - 8/10

The first thing players must decide when they boot up the game is if they want to play local or over Xbox Live. Whichever choice the player takes, they get rewarded with an extensive in-depth tutorial, which teaches everything that is needed to be known in order to pass the levels. But before we go into further details, we need to address the initial story introduction.

The introduction begins with explaining that in the past, Etheria was plagued by evil beings known as the Old Ones. These Old Ones brought a lot of pain and destruction in their wake until the champions locked the evil power in Eternia Crystals. The four heroes get called away to a war, leaving their children behind to look after the castle and the crystals. After messing around they accidently cause the resurrection of an ancient evil. Now they must defend the Eternia Crystals from the hordes that come after them.

This story is an easy one to follow and regardless of which character you select, you get the same tutorial. While this tutorial is helpful and gives the player a basic understanding of how to make the best use of their defences, it's so in-depth that it can drag on. But don't worry; once the tutorial is over, you are left to your own decisions as to what and where the best defences should go.

Each level contains a certain amount of waves, with each wave comes more enemies. Their target is to destroy the crystals that you desperately defend. At the beginning of each wave, you are put into the build phase. This allows you to build the defences at a faster rate than when you try to build during the combat phase.

As we mentioned above, there are four characters that are featured in the game. These are the Squire, Monk, Huntress and Apprentice. Each one has different player skill levels, and different defensive capabilities.

Apprentice
The Apprentice is the Novice levelled character. Styled to be a mage, this character features magical towers as the offensive defences. As for normal defences the character features a magical barrier. The towers range in type as you level up, beginning with Magic Missiles, Fireballs, Lightning and finally Deadly Strikes. In keeping with the style of his character, The Apprentice uses a magical staff as a weapon.

Squire

The next player skill level is Medium, which is the Squire. The Squire is a knight who uses a sword as his weapon. The defences that are featured in his arsenal are probably the strongest in the game. A Spike Blockade is a standard defence, but the Bouncer or Slice N Dice Blockade will make short work of enemies. As for attacking, the Squire features a brutal Harpoon turret, as well as a Bowling Ball turret. Given how the Squire is a medium levelled character, this became the best option of the pick.

Huntress

Stepping up another difficulty in the player skill levels, the Huntress is the one behind the Veteran difficulty. In keeping with the style she has been given, she features traps as her defensive abilities. Also in line with her title, the Huntress uses a crossbow. Her defensive abilities consist of a Proximity Mine, Gas Trap, Inferno Trap, Darkness Trap and Ethereal Spike Trap.

Monk

Finally, taking up the Insane player skill we have the Monk. The Monk uses a spear and channels his aura into offensive and defensive energies. To damage the hordes of enemies the Monk features an Ensnare aura, Electric aura, Strength Drain aura and Enrage aura. The final ability is a defensive healing aura which comes in very helpful on the harder levels.




Someone forgot to bring their pants to the costume party


While these characters have different player skill levels, it doesn't mean that is the difficulty you will be playing on. The difficulty can be changed while you are selecting a level to take on. A great feature about this game is that in both multiplayer and single player you can switch between the classes as long as you have created a save slot for each. This allows you to really make a stronger defence, especially in single player, where you can have the defences set up how you want, ranging from different classes.

To build defences, the player requires a certain amount of Mana, which is magical energy. Mana can be found in chests which appear in between waves, or more commonly by defeating enemies. Mana can also be traded, however the developers have noted that right now, the trading system isn't working up to scratch, however you can drop Mana for your teammates. There is also a limit on how much you can put down in defence. Each type of defence will take up defence units, of which you have a set amount per level. In single player this is plenty, however in multiplayer co-op, it can be tough even on two players to remain under this limit. This however will be covered further down the review in the multiplayer section.

Each level features a different room layout, and some come with different obstacles already built in, such as being built over lava or having spike pits around the room. These obstacles can come in handy if you are able to push enemies into them with something like the Bouncer Blockade or the secondary attack that the Apprentice has. The amount of crystals you have to defend also increases every four levels, increasing the challenge.

The enemies can come from different entrances into the room, all heading towards the crystal. With blockades and offensive defences, you can re-direct them or even block them completely, while dealing damage. In some levels, you can even completely barricade the enemies out, leaving the crystals untouched throughout all the waves.

Occasionally, you will come across boss waves, while this is a nice touch, the scaling for this could've been much better. With three players, the first boss on Novice had 40,000HP, when we took it up to Medium, it became 75,000HP. With this in mind, it's clear to see just how hard Insane could be. For this review, Insane was attempted at the first level, and the team sadly failed to beat it. It definitely isn't a difficulty for those who aren't used to this style of gaming. Another thing with the Insane difficulty is that the build phase is always on a timer, whereas the lower difficulties can have unlimited time. The scaling could've been improved to leave the more challenging prospects of the game to the harder difficulties.

The multiplayer of the game is the same as the single, just with more people. Be it two players or four player co-op, the game scales to match the amount. This is good on some levels, where in single player you had a small amount of enemies in the initial wave, in four player co-op you can get more. However as the waves go on, the sheer amount of enemies easily becomes overwhelming. At one point there was near 600 enemies on one wave on the second level alone. This scaling issue could be toned down in future updates to give new players to the game a better chance at surviving.

Playing with friends is a fun experience, which can see all four as different characters, or all the same. It can make for interesting combinations, such as an Electric Aura on top of a Blockade, which would see enemies get stuck while being electrocuted. However as we mentioned earlier, with the amount of enemies that the game throws at you in multiplayer, these defences can fall down easily even on the Medium difficulty setting.




Big hordes mean big mana


This game can easily make your trigger finger ache after a few levels, which can become annoying, as the game itself is interesting. Luckily, if you do have your finger begin aching, you can go back to the Tavern. In the Tavern, you can view different trophies that you have earned, such as reaching level 10 or upgrading an item fully.

Another feature, which is the main aspect of the Tavern, is the shop. The shop features weapons, armours and pets. It always features three of each type. If you see an item that you want to save up for, you can lock it by pressing the right stick down. This means that it will remain there until you either unlock it or buy it. This is very beneficial as the shop items change per visit.

While at the Tavern, or even during a level, you can visit the Defenders Forge, which can be found during the build phase, or to the side in the Tavern. This allows you to check your characters information and upgrade items and pets. Upgrading costs Mana, and some of the higher levelled stuff can become expensive to upgrade.

Alongside the campaign mode is a challenge mode. While the campaign can be quite challenging, it doesn't hold up against challenge mode. Some of the challenges include defeating all the waves without building any towers, or defending a crystal as it warps around the room. They come with recommended character levels, such as 20 or 40, and you really do need to be them to stand a chance. For the most part, these challenges are fun and live up to the title of challenges. However the final one in the list is player v player. While this sounds like fun, it's put across badly. Firstly, it's player v player v horde. Secondly, it shows how different the characters scaling is. During the review performance on this mode, a character with 2000 health was dying against one with 400 without doing the damage that it usually does.

The game also features a Survival mode which lives up to its name. You can select which map you play on and which difficulty. Afterwards it is a case of surviving as many waves as you can. Again this is where the game becomes very challenging. But should you feel it's not enough of a challenge, there is also Survival Mix mode. Mix mode alters what enemies come after you in each wave. This means instead of the easy goblins of wave one, you could end up with orcs or mages. Again, this is a mode for those who can stand and take the challenge.

Finally there is the Pure Strategy mode, which disables building during combat phases and attacking with your weapon. It is purely down to the defences and how well you use them. This mode can also become quite a challenge at later levels due to only being able to sit back and watch the defences do their work.

A downside to the game however is the auto-aim. You can be aimed at a big enemy and getting its health down, then a smaller enemy might get between you, causing the aim to shift onto it. While it isn't too big of an issue, it can become annoying when you are against a big horde and taking down the big ogre, to have an archer get in the way.

Graphics - 9/10

Dungeon Defenders features cartoony graphics which feature high details in the locations on offer. Be it a dark dungeon or a light royal throne room, the details along with the colour scheme compliment each other. Each enemy set looks the same, all the goblins look alike etc. But to change it up slightly, there are multiple colours, indicating strengths. This comes through sometimes on Novice and Medium, but on Insane, most enemies come out in the stronger red forms.

As far as lightning goes, the light sources give off a warm glow which adds to the overall feel of the game. While the few cut-scenes are done as comic styled pictures, the game operates more like a cartoon. There are also the colours of the crystals. The crystal colours are made to shine bright, and are adjustable, along with the crystal shape in the main menu. Much like the crystal, Mana drops are brightly coloured too. The shine and brightness of the Mana gems can literally make even the darkest dungeon burst alive in a mash of bright colours sparkling on the floor.

The characters themselves are brightly coloured and animated in a nice cartoony way to go with the rest of the games style and some of the characters even come with their own sense of humour when it comes to style. Take for instance you have the wizard whoís hat is way to big for his head, which in turn means that how he could possible see where he is going is anybodyís guess then you have the knight who appears to be missing half of his armour so runs around in his love heart boxers. These elements show some real nice attention to detail that the developers simply didnít have to do.

With each of the different characters comes a different special ability or power ups if you will that also come with their own graphical flair. Depending on which character you choose and what element the special ability may use, for instance the electricity force field aura or the wizards electricity bomb. They may all be very much different but they all look really nice and none of them really look alike.

Dungeon Defenders does come with a few technical graphical glitches, this is mainly in the form of when you visit the tavern if you go up close to a wall you will be able to pan outside of the tavern itself and see what the outside of the map as to offer, which in fairness is not a whole lot apart from lots of darkness and a few horribly rendered trees.

For an arcade title Dungeon Defenders does a lot graphics wise for the size of the game, whilst it may not be perfect it really is something great to look at but prolonged periods of time may lead to headaches as some of our team found out.




Co-op can be fun but heavily scaled against you


Sound - 8/10

The sound featured in this arcade title is hard to fault. The orchestral mix that accompanies most levels is calming in the build phases, which is then changed with a slightly faster tempo during combat. The game is good at making the players anticipation and adrenaline rise with the music per level.

The sound effects for the towers and magic attacks charging up are a nice touch, with the staff's noise rising steadily to the thump of a defensive attack landing. The only downside is the background tracks steadily become repetitive, but with all the action it is easy to lose track of the background music. As for the music that is featured in the Tavern, it's a warm soft tune which fits into the fantasy tavern stereotype perfectly.

You may find that you won't pay much attention to the music in the background though because of how punishing this game can be, you may find it will be a whole lot easier to focus on communicating with your team mates and listening to each other to find out where the enemies are attacking from.

Achievements- 7/10

The achievement list for Dungeon Defenders is extremely well thought out. But the downside is this is definitely not an easy list. Possibly the easiest achievement this game will offer you is for completing all the levels on any difficulty. Past that however, you are in for one long grinding session.

There are achievements for completing the game on Hard and Insane, and as mentioned earlier, the Insane levels can destroy you and your defences instantly. Alongside these harder achievements is some grinding achievements, such as storing 15,000,000 Mana in the Mana bank and reaching a character level of 70. The last achievement people would end up getting is for earning every accomplishment in the game.

While it may be a tough punishing list, it is also rewarding when you see an achievement pop. This is due to how rough they can be to get. The list could've been made more friendly to players and award achievements easier, but for those who love a challenge this list shall fill up their time. Trendy really have managed to produce a list that will define what an achievement is in game.




Visit the Tavern often for new items in the shop


Conclusion

Dungeon Defenders is a fun game once you are used to the controls, and after a few upgrades, you feel that the character is more personal to your style of play. With the ability to shift between characters during the build phase, players will enjoy being able to defend with all four characters defences, which working on their preferred character.

Whilst the game is a hard and challenging and one that will take some time to get into its important not to give up hope with the title, as you progress you will find that the game will open up, give you more options and get you more interested in what is going on. Add in how the difficulty really ramps up as you progress from level to level you will find that you will spend many countless hours just grinding by yourself or with your team to make sure youíre all ready to take on the hordes of enemies that lie within the next mission.

There are game-play improvements which include the enemy to player scaling issue, but even with a hard achievement list, this game can provide hours of entertainment for the price point that the game is set at, some gamers will no doubt wait for the inevitable price drop, but no matter what price you buy the game at, do yourself a favour and at least try the trial itís a good game you just need to devote your time into it and in return it will devote itself to you.



 

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