There are few titles out there that could be described as “the one that started it all”. Dungeon Defenders? Dungeon Defenders is one of those that kicked off the hybrid Tower Defense and Action RPG genres together in one solid package. Having had it’s ups with the first, and down with the second, Awakening is a reboot to the series by throwing our heroes back to where it all started. Think of this as Dungeon Defenders 3 story wise.
Having recently been given access to Dungeon Defenders: Awakened on Steam’s Early Access program, I didn’t realize both how much I missed this and how much nostalgia it actually brought about. Originally released back in 2010, this “would have been” cult hit made it big and properly so. It had towers. It had dragons. Goblins. Knights. Archers. Ogres. And instead of kicking back once your towers were in place, you picked up your weapon so that you could fight as well. Leveling up only made you stronger and as a by product, made your towers more powerful in the process as their level caps increased while you increased their overall outputs.
Eventually, more was added to the mix. A barbarian class, an Android, new stages, new enemies and then? A sequel. Our heroes were no longer the kids that unleashed the apocalypse while the parents were out. They were now the heroes. Sadly, this was not to be. With loads of issues from inside the company and its development, Dungeon Defenders 2 just wasn’t working like its predecessor. I gave it a few tries from having covered it from another site to loading it up down the line to see how things were coming along. Overall? I just couldn’t feel the magic like the first.
So I am quite happy to say, that even with some issues that I don’t think should be existing right now, that Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is looking pretty good and prioritizes the player first, not some multiplayer lobby that crashes the game before you could get out of it and into your own private one.
Campaign, Survival and Challenge are currently the three modes for you and others to tackle with the original four characters making a return in their new no longer powerful adult bodies. Knight, your sword and board, Mage, your magic slinger, Archer, death from afar, and the Monk, the man with the stick and the auras to make him scary. Together on your own or together with others, the core of the experience is back into place and for the most part offers a solid experience.
The campaign, which is really where you should be starting is a series of stages split into acts that must be completed to move on. Each stage gets harder and harder not only throwing more and more enemies your way, but also making you have to defend more than one crystal’s location. So do you put down the Knights or Mage’s towers? The Archer’s traps or the Monk’s auras to help you do it yourself? As a single player it’s really something to be thought about however, you’re never “alone”.
I was to re-thank our PRs for multiple codes as both my brother and I got the chance to get back into this together. The original got me through a tough time years back and being able to get back into it with Marc was great. Knight and Mage going at the horde was great, but when he went offline and I still needed to take the other classes for a spin and not hold up an open lobby game? Here’s the part where you’re never alone.
Available between every wave is the ability to switch between the characters that you have in your deck. Up to four characters can be added and each character in the deck receives a share of the accumulated experience allowing you to level multiple characters up at once. Need to rush level your new character? Now you don’t need someone else to do it for you. Combine that with being able to put down several different types of traps and things become a little easier when playing single player, however, you’ll generally want someone else along for the ride as this is still definitely “Better with a Partner”.
The gameplay itself is smooth. You can run around, double jump, swing at enemies or shoot at them depending on your class or sit back and relax if the wave is really not worth your time OR if you want to make sure that your defenses are actually working. Nothing is worse than hacking & slashing at things only to realize that you left a glaring hole in your defenses if you walked away. Placing towers takes a few seconds, you can easily rotate them around and then repair or upgrade them as needed. Better than that? You can upgrade or repair other classes / player’s towers if you’re closer than they are. That or if you have the budget for it.
Where things don’t quite work so well right now, and it’s Early Access so there is that leeway, it’s the item and menu management. With a controller. It can be downright hell and with the previous two to look back on, I’m not sure why. Oftentimes it would select but then not continue. Leveling up was impossible without a mouse. Upgrading gear was impossible without a mouse. You could get to where you should be doing the action but then you couldn’t actually put points in. The screen just stared at you.
Only making matters worse was when you were checking out your gear an item that you weren’t even looking at would stay on screen. Permanently. Well permanent until the whole screen reloaded itself with a transition into a stage or back to your tavern. So with that, often I would leave checking out new gear until getting back to the tavern because trying to defend your base and your crystal when you can’t see where you’re aiming or if there are enemies left in front of you wasn’t the easiest thing to do. Fighting a boss was next to damned near impossible.