May 8, 2012 8:00 PM | John Polson
[Colin Brown of Backlog Journey guest reviews the games in the latest Indie Royale offering, The May Hurray Bundle.]
I'd be surprised to hear someone claim they're unfamiliar with Dungeon Defenders. Trendy Entertainment's runaway tower defence hit managed to build up a considerable community due to the strong focus on multiplayer and inclusion of several MMO elements. Combined with a steady stream of both free and paid DLC, and it's clear that Trendy's title is a game you can sink a ton of time into. But how about the underlying game itself?
Well, let me tell you about my friend's reaction to this game rather than my own. I was having a hard time playing this game before I drafted a friend to play with; a lot of reviews from when the game came out focused on how it was very unbalanced for a solo player, and multiplayer was about the only way to play. They're basically right, as playing by yourself means that your sole class isn't versatile enough. Sure, you can level up a damage class, a tower class and maybe a utility class, then constantly swap halfway through levels, but that can double or triple the amount of grinding you must do and is just tedious.
But back to my friend. He was quite skeptical at first because of a strong dislike for tower defence; I tried to explain that it was more hands-on like Sanctum or Orcs Must Die, but he thought it sounds "like DOTA" or something. However, once we both got the game working and joined a few others, he began to really enjoy the title, as did I. A lot of this fun comes from the hands on nature of a tower defence/shooter. There's never really any downtime as you always have towers to build or enemies to shoot. But Dungeon Defenders adds more of a meta appeal to the basic structure.
It's pretty brilliant, actually. Trendy simply added in a hearty amount of MMO and even slight DOTA trappings to make Dungeon Defenders a multiplayer game to return to again and again in place of a single player one off experience like Orcs Must Die. Instead of levels, the maps of Dungeon Defenders each feel like an instance in an MMO; while the multiplayer lobbies certainly aren't massive, each level is a self contained loot filled extravaganza you can play with friends or strangers (though I would recommend the former). Even without the extra DLC packs, the base game includes tons of levels to work through, and the DLC expansions provide a natural outlet to move on to once you finish the game, or pick up when a hefty Steam sale crops up.
It's a fantastic example of an alternative multiplayer for those who don't like the ultra competitive nature of most versus titles, but can't afford an MMO. Some of the genre's ugly aspects make an appearance like the emphasis on grinding or competition for loot, but overall it's a very successful MMO-lite experience with gooey tower defence innards. Playing by yourself would likely be frustrating and annoying, but playing with another either via local coop or the online community makes Dungeon Defenders an ideal option for coop focused players.
[Dungeon Defenders is part of the currently running May Hurray Bundle, on the IndieGames co-created site, Indie Royale.]