The tower defense scene quickly became the most sad, tired corner of the app store. While some standout franchises have managed to keep their heads above water, most tower defense excursions are monotonous affairs.
Enter Dungeon Defenders; where most games are content to put a little spin on typical tower defense fare, dungeon defenders adds multiple exciting new elements to what is typically found in the genre. Granted, there may well be a game out there that blends third person action-RPG elements and cooperative multiplayer into a tower defense game, but we have yet to see something of the sort on iOS.
The game makes a poor first impression, as players must slog through a lengthy tutorial mission during which the screen is marred by wave after wave of text help boxes. Once finished with the tutorial, players are then free to dive straight into the game’s wealth of content. Since Dungeon Defenders blends RPG mechanics into a traditional tower defense game, the player can gain experience in combat, level up their avatar, and equip them with new gear. A player’s leveled character is used to serve as a sort of mobile tower during battles, one that can also place additional defenses on the field as he or she sees fit.
Dungeon Defenders makes good use of Game Center for multiplayer purposes. While jumping in to a quick game is easy enough, it is just as easy to invite your friends along, and just as well since voice chat is always better with people you know. The multiplayer is essentially the single player content with more players allowed on the field. The whole experience works smoothly, and having more people available lets players split up and defend the all-important Eternia Crystal from multiple angles.
Dungeon Defenders seeks to emulate a console experience in as many ways as it can. The graphics are outstanding, the mechanics are deep, and play sessions are long. That last item on the list is the kicker, because Dungeon Defenders sometimes forgets that players are experiencing the game on hardware that will likely need to be put down often. This doesn’t allow for the lengthy play sessions that the game demands, during which there is no way to save. I don’t want to lose twenty minutes of progress to my battery dying, or accidentally hitting the home button, but both things have happened to me.
Mobile games are advancing at an alarming rate, sometimes at the expense of forgetting that they are still meant to be mobile. Dungeon Defenders walks a fine line, because it is just good enough to warrant the amount of time it requires one to dedicate to a session. This doesn’t mean that battles don’t drag on for what feels like forever, but it is more entertaining when some friends join in.
There have been complaints that the iPhone version of Dungeon Defenders is difficult to control. Even on the iPad, the game’s screen is cluttered with gigantic icons, and I can only imagine how this plays on a smaller screen. Fortunately, everything controls just fine on the iPad version of the game.
Dungeon Defenders is a creative leap for the tower defense genre, and one that I would like to see followed up by more refined sequels.
Dungeon Defenders is available as a Universal App for $2.99