Dungeon Defenders Platform: PC [Also available on Xbox Live Arcade / PlayStation Network / iOS] Developer: Trendy Entertainment Price: $14.99 Tower Defense Redefined Yet another tower defense game, right? Not quite... This cell-shaded game redefines the genre by successfully introducing RPG elements and fast-paced combat to the saturated realm of tower defense. The end result is an MMO-like experience that still manages to remain loyal to its tower defense roots. Defending the base continues to be the primary objective, however, the burden of defense is not just on the towers as your character plays a significant role as well. The RPG elements make things a lot more interesting as attribute points can be assigned to both the character and towers. Determining which one gets the most power is up to the player and can result in some interesting outcomes depending on your play style. This game is also not limited to just solo play as it supports both cooperative and competitive multiplayer (local and online). Guard it with your life. The storyline on the other hand isn't as innovative as it follows the traditional save the world from evil approach. Cutscenes throughout the game tell the tale of how the young adventurers accidentally unleashed evil upon the world and must now defend it. Fortunately, the cutscenes are very brief and actually have some good narration. Keep It Classy The game supports multiple character slots which offer different classes to choose from. Each class has a unique play style which keeps things interesting but at the same time, can be overwhelming for novice player accustomed to a particular strategy. There's also a skill recommendation for each player but from my personal experience, the learning curve between each one isn't too significant once you've gotten the hang of the game. The Apprentice for instance, is a mage who relies on long ranged combat and magical towers to deliver serious damage. The Squire on the other hand, is all about close combat yet is able to plant adequate defenses as well. The Huntress is similar to the Apprentice when it comes to long ranged combat except that she has to worry about reloading and relies on traps rather than powerful offensive units for strategic combat. The Monk can be compared to the Squire except that he relies primarily on magical auroras for additional support which are similar to traps except they aren't triggered and deal damage immediately. Lastly, there is the Barbarian which at the time of this review, was not yet playable which hints off at the fact that it's coming through DLC. Although there are ability differences among the classes, all of them are able to heal themselves which consumes mana, this can help avoid death as when a character dies, they lose all their current mana. The base doesn't suffer any damage though. Enemy blood, the best way to decorate your dungeon. The Basics The PC version offers two options, playing with locally saved characters and online characters which are considered ranked. The main difference is that Steam achievements cannot be earned with local characters and that ranked characters can only be accessed by playing online. Both character slots are also independent. Locally saved characters can still go online though. The game also offers two game modes, a campaign and challenges. Both game modes have different difficulty levels for each mission that they offer. You can adjust the difficulty at your own leisure but not while a game session is in progress. A player would have to quit the session and go back to the tavern (which contains a shop and the mission selector) in order to restart the same mission under another difficulty. The campaign missions all consist of guarding the base which is a crystal that has a certain amount of HP. The early missions tend to contain only one crystal but later on, you'll have to guard more than one. At the end of each wave, the crystal's health is replenished along with the player's. Treasure chests containing treasure and mana are also restocked. During this intermission, players can also switch characters and equipment. Defenses planted before will not disappear as well even if a player switches to another class. Loot dropped by enemies and not picked up anyone will automatically be sold by the start of the next round which will be evenly distributed among active players so there's no need to pick up everything. It is a good idea to pick up rare loot though as it can be sold for a decent sum. In addition, it is also possible to adjust the camera angle to go from third-person to first-person which gives off an FPS vibe. I personally didn't like it too much and stuck with the default third-person view. Tower defense as FPS!? Some missions feature a boss which has a high HP count but is vulnerable to a particular weakness. The player must exploit their weakness to easily defeat them. Playing with multiple players will increase the boss' HP count as well as the overall enemy count. Taking down the boss with a fellow adventurer sporting a not-so-SFW Steam name. Challenges on the other hand offer a lot more variety. Some stick to the traditional primary objective and mix things up a bit while others take a much more unique approach. One of them involves protecting an ogre rather than a crystal while in another the role of being the defender is reversed as you're actually invading the enemy's base. PVP is also available through challenges but no XP is earned. I wasn't too impressed by the PVP as unless you got matched up with adequately leveled opponents and had a high level character yourself, it's not much fun getting slaughtered by both monsters and higher leveled opponents. I felt that there should have been a more noob friendly PVP arena limited to lower leveled players as not all of my characters were high enough to stand a chance. Dungeon Improvement Towers along with other available units can all be upgraded including pets and equipment. While the ability to summon certain units does require a particular combat level, upgrades are not restricted by this but are indirectly related to combat level in the sense that a player must have a certain amount of mana to upgrade them. Increasing your mana count can be achieved through attribute points that are allocated to the health portion of the character. This means that HP is also increased. Fortunately, if you're not playing solo, others can assist in the upgrade process which means that you can also upgrade another player's defenses. Pet and equipment upgrades on the other hand are influenced by gold, not mana. Solo Adventurers Beware Although the game can be played alone, it's harder to complete missions under the harder difficulties by doing so and if your character is still low level, it's not going to be particularly easy nor too enjoyable. Certain classes will also struggle much more. Due to this, I would strongly recommend playing with others. For the most part, complete strangers proved themselves to be effective team mates and overall, only encountered a small amount of troublemakers. I did get kicked a few times for having a low level character though but ultimately, wasn't upset as some missions are designed for higher leveled characters so it was understandable. Luckily, there is a way to get some sort of assistance without another human player through the usage of pets. The game includes Team Fortress 2 inspired pets which are pretty awesome but require a combat level of 25 to use. There are also other pets that can be purchased that require a much lower level as well as other more powerful pets that come at a much higher price. Although you can own as many pets as you want, you can only have one out at a time per character. Initially, I played the game solo but started to get bored and as soon as I played with others, things got a lot more fun as when you combine multiple classes, the strategy changes drastically and hopefully in your favor. At times, there were some disputes though over resources as certain players hogged the dropped mana while others would place their units in horrible spots which would cause the unit limit to be reached and thus prevented other players from placing units which might have been of more benefit. So it definitely has its issues at times but overall, the fun achieved through effective teamwork outweighs the problems. Working together ensures success. Loot well spent... After experimenting with every class and the different difficulty levels, I can honestly recommend this to both casual and hardcore players. Easy is quite easy as long as you're close to the recommended level for the mission and if your paired up with some others around your combat level, it's pretty hard to mess up. The tougher missions under the harder difficulties require much more skill and are excellent for hardcore players looking to max out their character and inventory including pets. As long as you don't mind playing with others and have a reliable broadband Internet connection, you should be able to get your money's worth. I have invested about 20 hours into the game and still have not maxed out any of my characters all the way nor completed all the challenges. I have also owned the game for about a month now and haven't had any problems finding others to play with. I've successfully joined and hosted many games throughout different times of the day. This is fairly rare for an indie multiplayer game as even some mainstream retail games struggle to keep players interested after the first two weeks so kudos to Trendy Entertainment for keeping the community engaged. It hasn't been a smooth ride all the way through however, as there were some annoying bugs that have now been fixed but I still do witness a somewhat rare instance of getting stuck. Fortunately, it can be resolved by either selling the unit that causes you to get stuck or getting killed by enemies if you're stuck elsewhere. Halloween DLC The Halloween DLC packs were free when they were first released but now cost some money. The costumes ($0.99) are purely cosmetic so depending on how much you care about your character's appearance, they may or may not be of interest. The Halloween mission on the other hand is a fun challenge and features some additional costumes that can be unlocked upon completion as well as some ultra-rare weapons. After completing what's available out-of-the-box, it could prove to be a wise investment. A mummified magician, and no, the pet doesn't have a costume on... Pros: +Innovative concept +Awesome replay value +Nice presentation +Character class and equipment variety Cons: -Not as fun alone and can become frustrating under harder difficulties -Unmemorable boss fights and storyline Dungeon Defenders demolishes evil with a 8.75/10 defense rating. A review copy was used to evaluate the game.