The action-packed online multiplayer tower defense franchise is back with Dungeon Defenders: Awakened so let's protect the crystal.
I absolutely loved my time with the original Dungeon Defenders when it debuted on PlayStation 3 and years later, I had a great time with Dungeon Defenders II on PS4 as well. Now, there's finally a 3rd entry although it's more of a revival of the series since it contains a few environments from the previous games and playing it should result in very few surprises if you've played at least one of the other titles.
For the unfamiliar, you essentially run and jump around intricate arenas while setting up defensive towers such as harpoon turrets, bowling ball cannons, and a few different blockades. Once you're ready, you'll initiate the attack phase where your towers thin out encroaching enemy hordes and the goal is to protect a massive crystal. Meanwhile, you can hack and slash at the monsters yourself as well as perform skills that can provide boosts, harm enemies, and heal yourself. You'll also use earned currency to upgrade and repair your towers.
This formula is tried and true and should come naturally to anyone who has played a tower defense game before. What makes Dungeon Defenders stand out is its vast selection of modes and stages that are great fun to conquer such as a straightforward campaign complete with boss levels, survival where you see how many waves you can endure, a list of tricky challenges, the unpredictable mix mode, and a mode where your character can't attack. Plus, the fact that you can cooperate with up to 4 players online is excellent as it adds to the sense of comradery and fun. I also enjoy the stages themselves which feature a wide assortment of layouts that make figuring out where to place your towers for maximum impact a strategic challenge. Oh, and the amount of loot that you'll gather allows you to constantly swap out your gear for more powerful equipment. Between that and levelling up, there's some rewarding progression.
With all of that said, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened may just be the clunkiest and most haphazard entry in the series so far. Considering it's been out on PC for over 9 months already, I was expecting a much less buggy experience. As it is, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened will consistently have you scratching your head at the amount of glitches and issues that it has. For example, the upgrade points that you assign frequently become unequipped, it's easy for your character to get stuck between a tower and the environment, the menus are needlessly convoluted to navigate, and the game completely froze on me a few times and crashed completely a couple times, too. As a fan of the previous games, I must say that playing this made me quite disappointed which is a tough pill to swallow.
Not only is it full of bugs and performance issues, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened definitely doesn't look like the next step up for the franchise. In fact, Dungeon Defenders II looks way better and that released over 5 years ago. The unimpressive visuals are unfortunately compounded with frustratingly floaty gameplay where jumping takes a lot of getting used to and attacking enemies doesn't result in satisfying feedback as it feels more like you're just waving your weapon in the air while monsters' HP gauges deplete. On top of all this, some elements are rendered inconsequential and to test this, I completed a whole normal difficulty boss stage by only setting up harpoon towers and nothing else. The fact that you're not really forced to experiment with different defenses is kind of a bummer.
As someone who's enjoyed the previous couple of Dungeon Defenders games a lot, I must say that Awakened is quite a disappointing experience. Although it retains the familiar formula and includes cool modes, it's still an undeniably clunky iteration of the franchise.
- + Enjoyable blend of tower defense and melee combat with nifty upgrades and loot
- + Wide selection of modes and stages
- + You can play online with a party of 4
- - Gameplay feels floaty, clunky, and many elements seem inconsequential
- - Graphics are dated and unmemorable
- - Currently has loads of bugs and issues