Dungeon Defenders: Jack of All Trades, Master of None

Categories: Gaming

What sold us on Trendy Entertainment's Dungeon Defenders is basically that it sounded like the video game equivalent of a smore, the awesome combination of three great ingredients into a cohesive whole. The idea behind the game is an experience that combines tower defense, roleplaying games, and hack and slash. The question is, will it blend and is it digestible?

You control one of four classes, a squire, a mage apprentice, a huntress or a monk. These young warriors were left behind to guard magic crystals, and of course they immediately break the seals holding back hordes of monsters that want to destroy the crystals.

Each stage is set in a basic map resembling your basic tower defense setups, and you spend time erecting defenses before the wave of enemies come. Unlike tower defense games, though, you are able to supplement your defenses by actually going out into the battle and attacking the incoming enemies.

We've spent a fair amount of hours playing the game, and our reaction is somewhat mixed. The game has some incredible positives. First and foremost amongst them is that it looks spectacular. We've never felt more like we were actually inside a cartoon. Also, the melee battling is addictive as hell. If you're one of those people who could get lost for hours in old-school games like Gauntlet, Loaded and Smash TV, then you'll feel right at home here.

The amount of customization you can do in the game is its main selling point. You literally can change any aspect of the game. Everything from your clothes, to the crystals themselves, to your pet that aids you in battle, to investing magic power into your weapons and armor to increase their power, is under your control. The goal is obviously to allow a player to build an avatar that perfectly mirrors his personal playing style.

However, this is not a game that is very easy to jump into. The learning curve is so steep it's damn near vertical. Setting your defenses in the beginning can be an exercise in frantic desperation. You'll have to repair them many times between waves. Also, you can only hold a certain amount of magic power, so picking up more from slain enemies is a pain in the ass because you have to acquire the maximum, go spend it, them come back to get the rest.

Battling isn't any easier. Even while playing the tutorial, it took the game forever to tell us which button was used to attack, and finding a balance between charging your enemies and utilizing your defenses is crucial if you don't want to end up very dead very quickly. Observation can be a problem because the camera can rotate horizontally, but not vertically, though this is alleviated somewhat by the minimap feature, which is easy to use and extremely helpful.

All the customization comes with a price as well. Navigating the maze of menus for upgrades and equipping takes a lot of practice, especially if you're trying to make quick decisions in the heat of battle, though it does pause while you ponder. The print is quite small, even on our flatscreen, and the icons that indicate enemy weaknesses and elemental properties are confusing even for someone who mastered the 9 million different symbols in Final Fantasy XII.

What we're saying is that no matter how much the game looks like a cutesy little battle game along the lines of Castaway or one of the Secret of Mana titles, it is actually very in-depth and intense. We're getting the hang of it, but war is hell and Dungeon Defenders is probably the closest you're ever going to get to what it would actually be like to be involved in a real magical campaign. You'll have to worry about all the logistics a modern army would, as well as how to swing your magic sword.

In the end, by combining three different genres, Dungeon Defenders has become none of them. Don't download it expecting that proficiency in one area will pull you through. Versatility is the only thing that will bring you success.

Dungeon Defenders is now available on XLA and PSN.

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My Voice Nation Help

I agree with these five positive comments previously given.  My son and I both love this game and discuss it indepth.


As someone who has already clocked up 112 hours on the PC version I can tell you that the conclusion the reviewer makes about requiring versatility is.. and I mean this quite objectively...100% wrong.At about level 20 I can beat various levels in single player without firing a shot with my Apprentice, I can likewise beat other levels without laying a tower with Huntress.So if you like Diablo you go one way - if you like tower defense you go the other. You can of course mix and match as much as you like IF YOU WANT TO!.Hell, there are even game modes where you cannot fire a shot yourself and have to rely wholly on towers and traps. Did this reviewer not even glance at the opening Menu? It seems not.

Disgruntled Reader
Disgruntled Reader

This is easily one of the worst pieces of text cobbled together by a human being in the history of our species.

I'm not sure what platform this review is for, but the author couldn't figure out how to attack things? How is that possible? On the PC, you LEFT CLICK with the mouse. On the Xbox you pull the SHOULDER TRIGGER. What? WHAT?

The author compares the enemy elemental resistances to "Final Fantasies 9 million different symbols." I can't speak to that game, but this one has exactly three symbols. A green icon with a skull, a blue icon with a lightning bolt, and a red icon with a flame. I'm certain absolutely any one reading this even with absolutely no knowledge of video games could determine what those symbols mean.

And what is this nonsense about three genres? Its a tower/hero defense hybrid. At no point is this game billed as a full fledged campaign RPG along the likes of Final Fantasy or Mass Effect. Then there is a weird, backward comparison to Secret of Mana... which is a full fledged campaign RPG.

There are an astounding number of odd problems with this article. Its as if the author has a complete disconnect from our planet and our species, like someone at the other end of the universe participating in an infinitely long game of chinese whispers (telephone).

Eric Blade
Eric Blade

It is a bit of a learning curve, but it's certainly not insurmountable.  My kids, 12-17 are going insane with the game.  :)   

It sounds like the blog author hasn't played multiplayer yet.


I'm currently level 30 and on the final boss and all I can say is that it is amazing. Awesome soundtrack, mind-blowing slick graphics, fast paced strategical elements, and some if the coolest looking weapons I have ever seen and it costs 15$! Best game this year easily. Stop playing CoD and angry birds and pick this game up.


What a lousy review. The author is probably just sour because he is so noob and just dies often. A steep learning curve? LMAO. Why don't you go back and play pac-man or angry birds you wannabee game reviewer.

This game is awesome. With its loot mechanics, tower defense strategies, and character development - it just blows your average RPG/Action/TD game out of the water.

And all in a low low price? BUY. BUY. BUY. Don't listen to this guy. The guys at Destructoid did a much better review.

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