Chromatic Games have a new tower defense game, by the name of Dungeon Defenders: Awakened, the next in an increasingly long line of titles in the series. You see, this is actually the fourth Dungeon Defender game after they began on mobile, before Dungeon Defenders Eternity was released on Steam, and then followed by Dungeon Defenders II on Xbox One, amongst other platforms. According to the developers, this new game is set narratively after Dungeon Defenders II, but features some gameplay systems and visuals from the first game, albeit heavily tweaked. Apologies for the history lesson, but knowing where we’re coming from makes it easier to see where we’re going. So, come with me, and let’s get defending!
The first choice you have to make is the character that you want to play as. You have a choice of five, but you wouldn’t know that from the tutorial or lack thereof. If you just hit “play”, you’ll end up in the game as the Squire, a melee-based character armed with a big sword. If, however, you press “start” on the tavern scene, you’ll see an option for “Hero Deck”; it is from here where you can add other characters to your roster – the Apprentice, a ranged magic user; the Huntress who is a bow-using elf; the Monk, a martial arts master who uses melee weaponry, and a fifth character, that seems to be a robot, called Series EV-A. You can only have four characters in your deck, sadly, so one will be left unused. After a quick peruse of the achievement list, there is an achievement for getting the original four characters to level 100, so sorry EV-A, you’re sitting this one out.
Now, after choosing your character, you need to know how to play the game and luckily Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is pretty simple. The game has three phases when you start a fresh run. There is the warmup phase, which allows you to have a poke about the map you are on, and get used to what’s where. This is also a good phase to get everyone loaded in and on the same page if you are playing with friends. After this, you enter the build phase, which will show you where the enemies are going to spawn from, and the routes they will take on their way to the Eternia Crystal; it is this which we need to protect from the hordes. Holding down the RB button will then allow you to choose from a range of towers, assuming you have unlocked them by gaining levels. Once you have selected a tower, you can place it anywhere where it is green, and then rotate it to your liking. Obviously, putting towers down to cover paths the enemies are going to take is pretty self explanatory, and as the towers range from magic missiles for the Apprentice, via crossbow things for the Squire, through traps for the Huntress and “auras” for the Monk, having an in-depth coverage is a good idea. Once you have spent up (building towers uses resources in the shape of jewels, which the enemies drop as you kill them, so these build over time), it’s time for the combat phase – swarms of goblins, orcs and even cyclopes who will attempt to storm your crystal.
For the most part you’ll be left hoping that your defenses can do the job, but if you are being overrun, it’s possible to dive into the frontlines yourself, scrapping and fighting the waves of enemies hand to hand. With a ranged character, like the Apprentice, finding a vantage point and weakening the hordes before they reach your defences is a very valid tactic, and even as the Squire a few sword swipes can make the difference between success and failure.
With a modicum of luck, the defenses should hold the baddies back, and with sufficient jewels you can make them stronger by upgrading. But just by playing you may not necessarily learn that, as the game does such a bad job of pointing out the essentials.
Anyway, by building, upgrading, and building more, you should be able to hold off the hordes. Each map has five waves, which get consistently bigger and harder, and each act has five levels. With three acts to go at, you can see that the campaign is not enormously long, but there are also five difficulty levels, from easy to massacre, and beating the game on massacre is quite a challenge, especially on latter levels when the Act boss appears. Luckily, it’s possible to set up defenses in such a way that he gets pretty much battered as soon as he appears, and planning will always be your friend. After each wave, you return to the build phase, and while you can only have a certain number of defences, upgrading and selling ones that are surplus to requirements will allow you to redeploy elsewhere.
The Campaign mode is pretty short, but luckily there are a plethora of other modes to have a crack at. Survival does what it says on the tin, tasking you with surviving as many waves as possible before they inevitably sweep you aside. There are scenario challenges, where you have a series of set obstacles to overcome, there is Tower Only mode, where you can’t attack and must instead rely on the strength of your defences to keep the crystal safe, and so on and so forth. Add to this the ability to play with up to three other players over the online scene, and Dungeon Defenders: Awakened has a huge amount of replayability built in. With a ridiculous amount of loot being dropped by the enemies, and levelling up mechanics that allow you to either make your character stronger or the towers that you can build better equipped, there are a large amount of ways to play the game.
So, Awakened is big, and even though it goes you zero idea of how to play, it is actually quite fun when you get to grips with it. But are there any other bad points? Well, in a word, yes. Picking up loot is ridiculously hard to do, as you have to be in just the right place before pressing X to grab it, and even then it’s not always great. The tactic I’ve developed is to just run around mashing X as I try and look at the loot. The netcode is not the best either, with glitching and teleporting common in an online game, and there’s generally just a feeling of rough edges being prevalent throughout. With some polish and a bit of love, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened could well have been a contender for genre leader, especially when you compare it to some of the other Tower Defence games out there, like Royal Tower Defence. That said, it’s enjoyable to play as long as you can look past the almost unfinished feel to the core gameplay.
If you can grab a few like-minded friends, and don’t ever set your expectations too high, then there is a good deal of fun to be had here with Dungeon Defenders: Awakened on Xbox. Add in multiple difficulties and scenarios, and there’s enough here to keep you playing for a decent amount of time.