This is where my Gamer Girl and I have been going when DDO’s lag monster defeats us: Dungeon Defenders, from Trendy Entertainment. Now, no laughing. I’m serious.
Yes I know, it is a ridiculously cartoon-like game. Yes I know it is not even an MMO. But it is fun. And there is a lot to be said for fun.
Dungeon Defenders is a tower defense game combined with a shooter. You build your defenses, and then you run around and actively defend them. You can play in a mostly-towers mode, or in a mostly-characters mode, or both.
Characters come in four classes (another seven or eight are available with downloadable content (DLC). Characters are simple; there are eight character statistics plus two skills. Nothing is select-able, you have the stats and skills that you have and that is that. You do get to choose which stats to increase as you level; you can choose to specialize in combat, or in tower building, or some combination of the above.
Each class is able to build a set of defense towers that is unique to that character; often you will find yourself selecting which character to play solely on the basis of the towers that you want.
Assuming you are like me and chose to play with all of your characters. Even in Dungeon Defenders I am not able to focus on a main character.
This is a good time to point out that Dungeon Defenders is not an MMO; my alt-itis is fine, there is no need to have a main character. There is no crafting, no housing, no end game, none of that. It is just a video game; load up and start shooting. A cool video game, with lots of fun maps that each have their own unique challenges, but that is that. You don’t spend hours getting your character “just so” like you would with an MMO.
It is just not the same thing.
Dungeon Defenders came out in 2011. It is not new, but the plus side of that is that all of the DLC is already out. The base game is super cheap on Steam, but it’s not really the bargain that it first seems. If you buy all of the DLC too you will spend as much as you used to spend on AAA video game titles. You’ll want the DLC, or at least much of it, more than half of the game maps and characters are DLC-only.
Yet it is totally worth it.
The quality is outstanding – no bugs. Not any. We are so used to bugs in our games that we keep blaming them for things only to realize that we are being stupid and the controller is not turned on or we forgot to equip a weapon or are making some other basic blunder.
It seems weird, I’ve gotten so used to working around bugs it is hard to adjust to just playing. But there are no bugs at all.
Not even stuck spots; you can get stuck, rarely, but it only lasts a few seconds. The game detects your stuckness, somehow, and increases your movement ability until you can get out.
Even the monster AI is self-healing; they do occasionally make pathing errors and get hung up on game geometry. But the game detects that too, and after enough time where a monster is not changing locations, it starts moving them differently. If that doesn’t work either it just kills them off for you.
It happened in the youtube video (assuming it ever succeeds uploading and you can actually see it) except I stopped capturing video just before the event. A dark elf archer is flattened against a wall where my defenses can’t reach, slowly shooting arrows at my wizard’s blocker. I turned off Fraps because I didn’t want to capture a minute or two of slow arrowing. But I was too hasty. Right after I stopped Fraps, the game noticed that the elf was immobile, and had him leave the wall and move about. My towers picked him off and that was that.
Anyway, no bugs, and no monster AI hangups. But that is not the best part.
The best part is the balance. Each character has abilities that are different enough to stand them apart, yet balanced well enough that you want to play them all. Ditto with each of the level maps. There are about 40 altogether, including DLC, and each map has multiple modes (standard, challenge, tower only, survival), and difficulty level (easy, medium, hard, insane, nightmare).
They all work. It is amazing how well-balanced everything is. The guys at Trendy just got it exactly right, visibly so. I susplect it is like catching lightning in a bottle; Trendy has come up with newer variations on the game including a Dungeon Defenders II but they just don’t have the same magically-perfect balance.
It is quite stunning, really, just how perfectly they matched challenge versus capability and how well they maintain that balance throughout your character progression. On every character.
So there you go. Brilliance in cartoony format, brainy challenge with childlike animation.
Fun, too. Did I mention the fun?
🙂 😀 🙂