Dungeon Defenders: First Wave is certainly an ambitious game. Cross-platform and cross-genre, this game takes the usually static tower defense genre into the realm of action. Landing not just on your iPhone and iPad, but also on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and even high-end Android phones, Dungeon Defenders certainly gets extra points for hitting all the bases.
The game might prove a bit too much for players used to the more casual plan-and-watch nature of slower tower defense games. In Dungeon Defenders, you take the role of one of four heroes– a knight, monk, mage, or huntress. You don’t create them from scratch, but they advance in an RPG-like fashion as you progress, and each has very different abilities and combat styles. Their combat style is important, as they’ll actively be fighting once you set down your standard defenses.
Hope this green gunk comes off…
Dungeon Defenders is basically divided into two phases: building and combat. In the build phase, the game acts just like most tower defense games. Each hero has specific “towers” that they can set in the dungeon they are attempting to defend from a horde of familiar fantasy monsters. The knight, for instance, uses brute force and simple barriers like spiked walls to defend his turf. Other characters use clever and incredibly amusing traps straight out of a dungeon master’s handbook. These include powerful spells and force fields, rolling balls that crush everything in their path, crazy blade-spinning death traps, and other engagingly sadistic devices.
Placing your units can be somewhat awkward in the almost claustrophobic, 3D, isometric landscape. But eventually, you’ll get the hang of using the d-pad symbol to move your hero around and pressing button icons to perform actions. The interface is clearly only trying to emulate the console version’s controller. While this works, it would have been nice if the developers created a truly touchscreen-centric interface.
Once your defenses are set, just tap on your special “Eternia” crystal and the fun begins, as waves of enemies begin to pour in through the many doors of the dungeon. The crystal is essentially the crux of the game– the monsters are out to destroy it, so your focus is less on surviving and more on making sure the crystal survives each wave. If you die, you’ll simply respawn in a few seconds.
Mysterious magical rune time.
While your defenses are doing their job, you’ll be running around fighting directly as well. Since the four characters offer a variety of melee and long-range combat skills, and different defense abilities, there’s a surprising amount of tactical variety. Players who like running right into the fray and hacking mercilessly, for instance, will dig the novice-aimed knight. But characters like the monk and mage will give strategy fans a real run for their money, as their classes are harder to control, but ultimately more powerful.
As you progress, both your character and even the items you obtain will earn experience points and greater abilities. The game progresses in typical RPG-fashion this way, ensuring that as the waves of enemies get more challenging, your character at least has some hope of keeping up.
If the odds get a little too far out of whack, or you’re just lonely, Dungeon Defenders has one more killer aspect– four-player drop-in/ drop-out cooperative multiplayer. If you want, players can drop right into your game and help out (or vice versa). Although this does tend to make the game feel even more chaotic than usual, it’s still a great addition.
Despite its genre-identity crisis, Dungeon Defenders: First Wave successfully melds several different styles. While it feels a bit too crowded at times and the pace can get crazy, this is a sharp, colorful game with plenty to do. It’s one of the most ambitious iOS titles we’ve played in a while.