Dungeon Defenders: First Wave for mobile platforms was a decent success, if you could access it. Eventually it became free to play title with the option to purchase in-game mana via microtransactions. Now updated to the Second Wave, it is still popular among the mobile players and it even interconnects with the PC version in cross platform co-op.
Alas, my quite powerful HTC phone is not fully supported. I can download the game and play in the Tavern (a small, free-roam staging area), but loading a mission causes a critical crash. So imagine the sneer that crept across my face each time someone chatted up Dungeon Defenders and its latest, awesome trailer. Yeah, knock yourself out, buddy. I was an early adopter and still haven’t gotten to actually play the game.
But a second chance was written in the stars; I’d signed myself up for review duty months before. With a sinking feeling that I was going to either have to swallow my pride or justify my bitterness I fired up the Xbox 360 version of Dungeon Defenders.
The first thing you’ll notice is how campy this game is. The characters are partially cel-shaded and each have their own twist on their respective genres - a pantless knight (Squire), a bouncy-chested elf (Huntress), a levitating Monk, and a mage with an obscured face and oversized hat (Apprentice) are your hero choices. Each have a primary attack type and a handful of unique traps that are unlocked as you level up. These traps and abilities cost mana to use, which you earn by killing enemies while protecting your crystal from attack.
The second thing you’ll notice is how slow the pacing is as a level 0 character. This was disconcerting at first, but after dumping several pips into my character’s speed I was finally able to put the “action” into “action RPG”. Granted, this game is supposed to be a tower defense hybrid - and so the slower, methodical pace is warranted - but nonetheless I was not a fan of the first 30 minutes of solo play.
After getting some faster legs on Sir Jim I bought some upgraded armor and a better sword in the Tavern. The loot system in Defenders is a lot of fun for novice RPG players, because it’s very generous and easy to understand. Whomever can’t be bothered by looking at every individual stat can instead let the game decide which pieces are best to equip - a thumb up or down icon provides quick and simple suggestion. Building defense mechanisms and traps is done by using a four-position radial menu. It’s not complicated, but taking any damage kicks you back out to the main screen. To counter this there’s a build phase before every round, and if you need to quickly repair something there is a shortcut button so you can avoid getting caught in the radial menus. It’s not perfect, but it works.