ReviewsReview: Dungeons Defenders: Awakened

Review: Dungeons Defenders: Awakened

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Tower Defense game fans are gluttons for punishment. Wave after wave of marauding enemies attempt to destroy their bases. The chances of survival are usually slim unless they prepare correctly and plan for the worst-case scenario. There are plenty of top titles available; Kingdom Rush, Bad North, Plants Vs Zombies, and so forth. But, I’m here to talk about the fourth instalment in a long-running franchise, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened.

Originally designed for mobile gaming, the series quickly jumped to Steam and finally onto console with Dungeon Defenders II. The latest instalment aims to continue the narrative from its predecessor while taking advantage of modern technology.

Developed and published by Chromatic Games, this is a Tower Defense title with a twist. The base building only makes up one portion of the gameplay. Character levelling and all-out combat are also implemented. This makes Dungeon Defenders: Awakened a Tower Defense, adventure, RPG, Hack ‘n’ Slash mashup. On paper, this shouldn’t work, but in practice, it’s a fast-paced and hectic joy to play.

The beautiful world of Etheria.

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is fairly unoriginal!

For all its strengths, and there are a lot. Dungeon Defenders: Awakened’s plot lacks originality. This was a little disappointing, but I soon forgot about it as the story has limited influence on the action that unfolds.

The land of Etheria had been in turmoil. Evil monsters ran amuck, and the people feared for their lives. Heroes stepped in to battle the vile hordes. They thwarted their advances and eventually trapped them forever in an Eternia Crystal, or so they thought. A drunken group accidentally broke this precious prison, and sadly the evil returned.

With a new plan to overthrow Etheria, the group of heroes were transported to a new timeless realm. Here they must continue fighting and protecting the Eternia Crystal with all their might.

Slice and slash your way to victory.

No hand-holding, and plenty to learn.

So, I wasn’t impressed by the story, but it matters not! It sets the scene well and starts you on your journey through the short but action-packed campaign. If you are not familiar with the franchise, you’re in for a chastising experience. There is plenty to learn, and no one to hold your hand. Luckily, a fine tutorial takes you through the fundamentals, and you realise it’s a lot easier than it appears.

Each stage comprises three phrases; warm up, building, and combat. Warm up is your time to scout, you get an idea of the lay of the land, and start your plan. Building allows you to place your defences and repair any damaged goods. Combat is where each of the waves starts their advances. You can leave your structures, do the work, or you can grab a weapon and hack up some orcs. The choice is yours.

The fear surrounding complexities is eased early on, and though there will still be some confusion, you can get through this by trial and error. Once you are accustomed to its mechanics, it’s a pleasure to play.

Let your structures do their job.

Five characters and a lot of loot.

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened can be played solo, but it’s best experienced in a team of up to four players. Therefore, I wasn’t shocked to see a choice of five different character types; the Squire, Huntress, Apprentice, Monk, and a robot-like creature. For me, Skynet is a real threat, so the robot was binned off early (there is no way I’m making AI stronger). My hero deck comprised each of the other characters. The Squire and Monk for close quarter combat, Huntress for ranged bow attacks and the Apprentice for magic. Each has unique structures for the building stage, but they all perform similarly.

Success during each wave awards you; loot, gems, XP, and gold. They all have a use and are vital to a successful campaign.

Loot.

It allocates different weapons and armour. Each has a unique class and rarity. Individual attributes must be looked at, and the correct gear equipped for the job at hand.

Gems.

Dropped by each stinking orc you decimate. Gather them up and spend them on placing structures or upgrading existing buildings. Failure to do this will lead to a broken crystal and a loss of the stage.

XP.

Increase your levels and your stats. The stronger you are, the better chance you have of surviving. No surprises there.

Gold.

You want better gear? Steal the gold and improve your loadout with every coin spent.

It’s RPG mechanics 101, and each part works perfectly. The further you advance, the better your character will need to be. Any chinks in your armour will be highlighted and failure is a certainty.

Old-school 4 player style split screen.

Will its short campaign leave you disappointed?

The campaign comprises; three acts of five stages, each with five waves of attack. This isn’t a long story by any stretch, but it allows the choice of five difficulties to increase longevity. For around £25, will this lack of content leave you disappointed? I think not! I’m confident because there are several additional modes to get your teeth into. Survival, Tower Only, and Challenge will keep you busy long after the dust has settled on the campaign.

Survival is how it sounds; wave after wave of orcish hordes that eventually overcome your defences and sword. Tower Only makes you a general and an observer of the battlefield. Your weapon is no good here, and success is down to your structures and planning. Challenge will test you across each of the campaign settings, with tough quests. The latter was the hardest mode and punished you for making minor errors.

I loved this as a solo player, but it shines in co-op mode. The stages fly by with enemies being pushed aside and your team getting increasingly stronger. No one needs to worry about loot or gold, as you’ll have it coming out of your ears. It’s brilliantly hectic, confusing as hell, but wow! It’s enjoyable.

Work together for the best results.

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened couldn’t decide what colour to use, so it used them all.

When games bombard you with colours, it’s usually a headache-inducing mess. Not in Dungeon Defenders: Awakened, however. Chromatic Games couldn’t decide which colour to use, so they used them all, and it worked brilliantly. The cartoon style is fun and childish, but contains enough detail to make it pleasurable to look at. Each of the stages has a unique look, and this prevents the world from becoming repetitive. The action plays out smoothly, and other than a few jittery moments online, I had no issues playing it.

This ye olde world is captured in the wonderful folk style music. Calm and slow tunes accompany the warm up and building stage. This allows you to plan your approach and relax before all hell breaks loose. Combat knocks it up a gear with a faster tempo and aggressive attitude. It was well designed and suited each phrase. Alongside the music, the sound effects were great. The noise of the swords clanging, bows twanging, and the zip of magic brought every action to life.

Loot is life, so why make it so difficult to pick up?

When gathering loot is one of your key mechanics, it should be smooth and well oiled. Sadly, it’s not! It’s like trying to pick up a slippery eel. No matter how l hard you try, the thing always slips out of your grasp. There is a fine art to getting it right, and I never got it right! I simply spammed the X button repeatedly until I gathered everything. I’m not proud of myself, but it worked. Other than this annoyance, the rest of it handled like a dream.

There is a long list of reasons to return to this, and I’ve mentioned them all. But just in case you’ve forgotten; Fifteen stages across three acts, five difficulty levels, many game modes, co-op play, levelling up, loot, and just for the fun of it. It’s packed with replay value, and its massive achievement list will have completionists grinding to get the 100% status.

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is what online play was made for.

Online play is all about; fun, laughter, friends, and arguments. Dungeon Defenders: Awakened has all of this and more. Online play was made for this type of game, and you and three others must take advantage of it. It’s hectic, tough, enjoyable, and full of loot. What’s not to like? For these reasons I recommend it, so buy it here! You’ve stopped the evil before, so thwarting them again, shouldn’t be a challenge, right? Gather your band of heroes and take down your foes, one wave at a time! 

SUMMARY

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is a fun, fast-paced adventure game that combines many genres. Group together with friends online and overcome wave after wave of evil monsters. Gather all the loot, level up, and get through each of the three acts.

+ Colourful cartoon graphics.
+ Apt medieval music.
+ Easy to play, mostly.
+ Lots of replay value.
+ Excellent fun with friends.
- Picking up loot is tricky.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I've now found a new home to write my reviews, and get my opinion out to the masses. Still the lead admin for Xboxseriesfans on Facebook and Instagram. I love the gaming world, and writing about it. I can be contacted at [email protected] for gaming reviews.

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