Dungeon Defenders hands-on preview

From Dungeon Defenders’ description alone, it may sound like the developers at Trendy Entertainment may have bitten off more than they can chew. But from our experience playing the game, it looks to be combining the mix of gameplay styles together quite nicely. We had a chance to run through some of the early levels in our hands-on demo with the developers and get a small taste of this surprisingly deep downloadable experience.

We started off the demo in character creation where we had a choice between four different character classes: the Squire, the Apprentice, the Huntress, and the Monk. Each character class has unique skills, weapons, abilities, and towers they can build. Naturally, we chose the Squire and gave a bright purple sheen to his armor through the character customization options. Our Trendy co-op partner chose the Apprentice to compliment the defensive capabilities of the Squire with the little mage’s offensive spells and towers. Then we were off to defend some dungeons.

In the first level, we were tasked with protecting a giant purple crystal, called the Eternity Crystal, from an incoming horde of goblins, giant orcs, and dark elf archers. Rather than using the standard top-down view of most other tower defense games, Dungeon Defenders allows players to view the battlefield from the third-person perspective. This perspective also adds to the tension of the game, since players have to high tail it to trouble spots on-foot rather than having access to the entire map all at once.

The level is played out in several enemy waves, which then further breaks down into two phases: preparation and combat. In the prep phase, we had a limited time to analyze the potential destructive path of our enemies and plan accordingly before they came knocking at our door. The level layout could be seen using the detailed mini-map which displays player, tower, and enemy locations. So, we placed our Squire’s spiked barriers on the open paths while our friend, the Apprentice, placed fireball shooting magic towers directly behind. Building more towers requires additional mana and resource points, so choosing the best location for defenses, maintaining them with the repair ability, and upgrading them constantly is vital, especially in the later, more hectic levels.

Once we were done preparing for the onslaught, we ran over to the Eternity Crystal to trigger the combat phase just a little bit early. Goblins and orcs came flooding in and immediately began attacking our fortifications. This is where Dungeon Defenders becomes a bit more than the standard tower defense game. In addition to repairing towers and building new ones, we were forced to jump into the fray ourselves to cut down the more threatening enemies. Long ranged archers were attacking our magic towers from afar, so we dispatched them with some quick sword slashes then waded into the goblin ranks. The first few waves went by leaving behind a variety of loot, which drops from enemies or chests and can be switched out with currently equipped items on the fly. We lucked out and picked up a powerful poison enchanted sword which we then upgraded to dish out some significant damage. It was pretty much a cake-walk at that point as we sliced through goblins like a hot knife through butter — but it was still only level one.

To show us just how hectic and challenging the game can get, Trendy dropped us into one of the early boss levels for characters at about level 14. At the start, waves of increasingly difficult enemies bombarded our barriers and magic towers with suicide bombing kobolds and powerful mages until the final wave began. A giant flying demon boss armed with two huge swords revealed himself. With a full wave of enemies joining the boss in the assault, we frantically ran around the level repairing towers, slashing mages, and combating the boss. With deteriorating defenses, and a deflating ego gained from our level one badassery, the horde was able to break through one of our barriers and attack our Eternity Crystal. After that, we were helpless and our Eternity Crystal was destroyed. With the end of the demo, we were left curious to see the more advanced sections of the game, but that will have to wait till we get closer to the release date.

Dungeon Defenders promises to be one of the most content heavy downloadable titles coming out this year. There is definitely a lot to do. Boasting 80 plus hours of gameplay, Dungeon Defenders aims to keep players busy with multiple gameplay modes, four unique character classes to level up, gathering epic loot, and joining friends in 4 player split-screen and online co-op. So, those who fancy themselves fans of tower defense, hack and slash, RPGs, or all of the above, might want to keep an eye out for this one.

Dungeon Defenders releases on Xbox 360 and PC on October 19th for $14.99, with the PSN version coming in the near future.

Sep 29, 2011

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