Title: Dungeon Defenders: Awakened
Developer: Chromatic Games
Release Date: May 28, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Chromatic Games
Genre: Tower Defense
The tower defense genre has a few series that manages to stand out amongst the others, one of which is Dungeon Defenders. Developed by Chromatic Games, this series has experienced some growing pains since its 2010 launch but has worked through it all to hold onto its hardcore fanbase.
Now, the developer is returning to its roots with the release of Dungeon Defenders: Awakened, which seems to adopt elements of their previous titles to give fans a substantial and much-needed tower defense experience. However, this ends up making Awakened feel more like a remaster than a sequel.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened reintroduces the four characters from Dungeon Defenders, the Squire, Huntress, Apprentice, and Monk. Each character plays differently and has access to a range of abilities. Furthermore, they each build unique structures that prove to be essential in making it through the late game offerings. The characters also have a level of difficulty, with the Squire being easier for newcomers and the Monk being less newcomer friendly. Regardless of the character, they each need to work together to stop the hordes of enemies making their way to your Eternia Crystals.
The story is told through comic book-like cinematics. Sure, it isn’t needed, but I like that the developers gave some thought as to how these heroes found themselves in this situation. It definitely gives them each a personality and context to the settings.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is a tower-defense game through and through. Players will find themselves in many build and combat phases across the 15 maps offered at launch. However, long time fans will notice early on that a few of those are remastered versions of classic maps. For this entry, I wish the team focused on creating new maps for the entire campaign since I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve played some of these in the past. I would have even opted for DLC of classic maps, but what’s done is done.
That said, the graphical comparison between Dungeon Defenders: Awakened and its predecessors is night and day. This game is undoubtedly beautiful with updated textures and level designs, and excellent character and attack animations. In this entry alone, the team has proved how much they’ve improved, and it really shows prominently during each stage.
When it comes to the maps that I hadn’t played before, I will say that the team really knows how to push players to their strategic boundaries. They begin by slowly rolling out enemy lanes to the Eternia Crystal before they ramp up the challenge in the middle of Act 2. After a while is possible to develop your own techniques to take out enemies, but a lot rides on your character being at the right place to trim down the ever-growing crowd of goblins.
Like some of the remastered levels, enemies are also ones that you’ve seen before. While this means that they have the same balance and mannerisms that fans are used to, it makes the experience less of a surprise when you know what to expect. The bosses do have some originality to them as they pretty much dominate the level they appear on. Thankfully, there are plans to include new bosses and enemies in future updates.
In terms of modes, players can expect higher difficulty settings up to Nightmare, which will put seasoned player’s skills to the test. The game also includes a Survival mode, with plans to launch Mixed Mode and even greater difficulties in the future.
However, the most prominent mode is multiplayer, which is just as fun as its ever been. Building up defenses with your friends and frantically running to help each other out is a blast. Sure, there are moments where things need to be taken seriously, but this game is gratifying, even when you fail a mission. This has a lot to do with the game’s high focus on loot and character customization.
Throughout matches, enemies will drop heaps of loot that constantly offers new defenses and elemental buffs along with weapon types that will surely fit anyone’s playstyle. It’s astonishing the amount of loot in this game, but nothing beats the feeling of coming across a legendary weapon that makes your character completely OP. There’s a good focus on customization as players can use stat points earned by gaining levels to distribute them to specific stats on their character. These can also be reset in case you get something wrong.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened has a few issues with controller support; it just doesn’t work. I tried multiple times to get the hang of navigating the maps and building structures, but nothing seems to be responsive. It becomes even more awkward when accessing the menus and trying to distribute stat points or customize your character.
Another issue is that the game suffers from enemy glitches where a group of foes will get lost or stuck or just fly randomly across the screen. Thankfully, this didn’t affect my experience too much, but it is something that I hope is fixed.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is an accumulation of the feedback and skills that this developer has received throughout the series. The gameloop of stopping hordes of enemies in their tracks just works, but if you’re a fan of the series, then you’ll be getting more of the same with this entry. Still, this is the most balanced and prettiest entry to date and a hell of a good time with friends. For that, I’m eager to see how the title grows post-launch.
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