Overview

Dungeon Defenders is a unique RPG/TD hybrid in which you play as a warrior that can summon tower like defenses to help him fight off hordes of enemies. This is the second game to use the Unreal engine.

Features

DD features unique gameplay, great graphics based on the unreal engine, a very different play experience with each class, co-op multiplayer and a lot of levels.

The Good

Tower Defence games are a dime a dozen on the app store. These slow, static defensive games don’t appeal to everyone and the concept has been cranked out in just about every form you can think of. DD finally brings something unique to this stale gene.

DD centers around Eternia crystals. These large crystals were used to seal away a great evil generations ago. Now four young warriors in training have inadvertently released a horde of evil creatures who are now terrorizing the kingdom in an attempt to release their masters from their crystalline prisons by destroying them. Now only these inexperienced trainees can protect the realm from total destruction.

This serviceable story is told though a narrated, well drawn cutscene, which is very nice. After the game starts however the story has no further role.

In DD you can as play as a Warrior, a Mage, an Archer or a Monk. While these classes vary in their vital stats as you’d expect, they also vary in the traps they can summon. The  Squire prefers melee traps, while the Mage likes distance traps for example. The way they fight is also different, as the Mage’s ability to attack from a distance is a huge advantage.

Unlike other TD, games, you can use your warrior in real time, moving him around and hacking or shooting to your heart’s content.

The game features hordes of enemies, so its almost always required to take advantage of the TD side of the game. Each class can summon defenses, similar to placing towers in TD games. The amount of towers you can place and repair is controlled by your Mana pool, as each trap costs Mana to create and repair. Dead enemies drop Mana and  it is also found in treasure chests.

The actual gameplay involves strategically deploying your traps to halt and kill enemies. You first begin in the build phase, where you construct your towers, pick up items and generally prepare. Once you are ready, you move to the combat phase, where enemies pour in and, hopefully, a combination of your well placed traps and your character’s skills stop them dead.

The RPG side of the game is quite robust. As you level up, you can put points into stats to strengthen either yourself or your traps. You can also outfit yourself with new armour and weapons that you find in your travels.

Graphically, the game looks excellent. Everything in the game has a soft, warm look that really makes it stand out and the graphics are full of personally. Enemies and characters are very well detailed and magic effects look great, with well done lighting effects.

The sound is similarly well done, featuring plenty of loud battle effects and some neat magic sounds. Its easy to tell whats going on from the sound, as trap damage and other important events have distinct sounds, which is important in a game like this. The music is generic “mighty quest” type music, but it suits the game very well.

The Bad

Unfortunately the game is hampered by a pretty horrible camera. The camera is often in the worst possible spot for what you happen to be doing at the time and you’ll have to use your map constantly to see where enemies are and what each of your tower’s health is. Its very hard to get a handle on who is where and where enemies are breaking though, because of the terrible fixed camera. A behind the back, or first person camera would be much better.

The game’s controls are also obviously not designed for a touchscreen.  The interface is a massive cluster of huge buttons that get in the way and the map covers the entire screen when you have it activated. Basic touchscreen staples, such as swiping on the screen to look around, or to pitch and move the camera are absent and there is no option to swipe to move. Seemingly obvious shortcuts like double tapping a defence for options to repair or delete it aren’t available either and you must jump though two menus to accomplish this simple task, which is not practical in the heat of battle.

Summoning defenses is also a three step process and is very slow when you’re trying to replace destroyed defenses during combat. The Dpad feels clunky because of the shocking camera and the inventory system feels quite awkward.

The game also has intermittent performance problems. On my iPad the game sometimes ran at about 20fps during an average battle. This makes it feel like the game is in slow motion and combat sometimes looks and feels like you’re fighting underwater. There is really no excuse for this; the iPad only comes in 2 specs, both of which have identical power, thus any game can and should be designed to run at an  acceptable speed.

DD does not support multitasking. If you press the home button by accident and start another app before restarting DD, you’ll be starting over at wave 1. This is a  ridiculous idea for a mobile device, where you might only have minutes to play. Each level can take 20 minutes or more to complete and nobody who plays on a mobile device expects their game to take that long without a chance to save or stop midway.

The game also supports co-op multiplayer, but it lags even more so than single player. After many “failed to join game” messages, the game I joined lagged me out. The next game I joined had too many idlers and the next lagged so badly I couldn’t even move around. MP is basically broken right now.

The Verdict

Dungeon Defenders has the potential to be a great single player game and an epic multiplayer one, but the performance bugs, the poor interface, the broken MP and the general roughness of the game make it an annoying experience, as often as it is a fun one. Updates will doubtlessly fix the issues prevalent in this game, but until they do, steer well clear of Dungeon Defenders.