DUNGEON DEFENDERS / Trendy Entertainment / PC
 
 
There's a lot that I like about Dungeon Defenders. I like the core concept - Tower Defense mixed with both action and RPG elements, as in addition to your towers and various other defenses, you control a dood who can run around the battlefield and attack the monsters directly. I like the colorful cel-shady-ish art style. Generally the map design is thoughtful, and the play control is just fine. It even has a pretty nice soundtrack, sort of a folky-Celty thing almost in the style of the Witcher games.

The major problem with it is that nearly all long-term enjoyment of the game is locked off behind a massive wall of Grindan. First of all, the game really emphasizes multiplayer (up to 4 players.) When playing the maps solo, you will simply be overwhelmed on anything but Easy difficulty. Each character only starts out with one magical defense available; the rest are unlocked as they level. The first usually comes at a reasonable Level 3, but the next ones are at 10, 15 and 25. Oh, and all that neat DLC that comes with the various bundles of the game? Most of it unusable unless you're level 25. Some of it level 50, like most of the bonus maps.
 


This is a problem on several levels. First of all, it's hard to get a feel for each character. You don't get their whole suite of abilities until level 25, so you could concievably dump tons of hours into a character only to find they never really play the way you want. With the relatively few options that are survivable for you as a solo player, once you pass level 5 it's roughly about an hour of playtime per level. You also have to level up weapons and equipment individually with bonus Mana you capture in the levels, and this is also in much shorter supply in the early maps and easier difficulties that you're stuck with by yourself offline, so levelling a decent weapon takes fucking forever as well.
 


So if you're not planning on doing multiplayer, you may as well not even bother. However ... even if you're down for multiplayer, there's still problems. I ran into the Portal 2 issue with this one, where I started playing it about a year after release ... and by that time seemingly everyone online was OMG Level Ridiculous and had been playing the game for like 800 hours already. Characters have to be relatively near the same level, or the weaker ones won't be able to survive the maps and difficulty settings the stronger players need to maintain challenge. Well, I hate playing with strangers anyway ... but my friends were no better. Unless you have 2 to 4 friends that you start playing the game with at the same time, and you're all either OCD or Not OCD, it isn't going to work. The OCD/autistic/grind fetish ones will immediately get hooked and start dropping 8 hours a day into the game, and there's no way someone who wants to play a more "casual" 1 or so hour a day max can keep up with them. It's extremely conditional.
 


And while I do feel the gameplay is "fine" for the most part, it's not entirely sunshine and roses. The game sports one of the most cluttered and counterintuitive menu systems I've ever seen. You'll eventually adjust to it after a couple of hours, but it's a needlessly frustrating introduction. It also doesn't like teaching you the intricacies of playing it. There's two tutorial options available - Quick and Full. However, the Full option on the menu wouldn't respond to either the designated Xbox 360 button, or just clicking on it directly with the mouse! So I'm not sure it even exists. The Quick tutorial did work, but it's so rapid-fire Powerpointy that it's basically useless for a new player.
 


So ... I'm sure playing with 3 or 4 other people the way the game was intended can be a real thrill. Unfortunately, since I don't know anyone who has a copy of this game who isn't Grindan 4 Lyfe, I'll never get to experience that. If you aren't a grind fetishist and you don't have a crew that plays pretty much the same way you do that you can start out with, Dungeon Defenders will more than likely end up moldering in the dungeon, all its unique and fun qualities locked away behind an inaccessible wall of typical obnoxious MMORPG bullshit.
 
 
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