GamingReview: Dungeon Defenders Awakened

Review: Dungeon Defenders Awakened

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Jumping into a new gaming franchise for the first time can be a daunting task. Whether it’s a series that’s 7 story games long or a sports franchise that’s been running for 30 years, getting up to speed is a challenge. 

With that in mind, today’s challenge is Dungeon Defenders Awakened, the 3rd game in a 4+ game copy-paste tower defense franchise. 

If there’s anything that makes this challenge slightly easier to bare, however, it’s the fact that the developer – Chromatic – always releases these games on Steam first and foremost, giving console owners an interesting look-see behind the curtain of development and that rare opportunity to see how it performed. 

Sadly, although it was released 2 years ago, the answer to that is poorly, and this kickstarted remake of Dungeon Defenders looks to be nothing more than a poorly-veiled final cash grab with the developer now focusing its efforts on Dungeon Defenders: Going Rogue – a game in Early Access on Steam that was originally going to be Awakened DLC, before abandoning the ship and creating a new game entirely – which is currently at half the price.

I should also add that you can play the game’s predecessor – Dungeon Defenders 2 – as a free-to-play multiplayer game on all platforms. But before you decide that your $30 is better left in your wallet – which it is – let’s get into what Awakened offers, which is mindless action RPG loot gameplay, where you need to defeat waves of enemies and prevent them from destroying your ‘towers’, or in this case – cores. Rinse and repeat. 

The opening cutscene isn’t skippable for the first 37 seconds……..because I don’t value my time I guess?

There are plenty of characters and abilities, which allow for a large combination of defenses and weapons to be laid out on the maps, but the game’s formula and mechanisms are so basic and predictable that success is almost academic. This is due to the very narrow path level design and pre-determined enemy behavior – the game even showing their pathways in build mode – that has them spawn from their entrance and travel directly to your cores and mindlessly to their death. This means that the battle is more about you knowing the abilities available to you and where to place your defenses – which the map makes incredibly obvious – rather than any challenge the enemies provide.   

Up to 4-player multiplayer papers over those cracks – to an extent – as you have to work with others and overcome their weaknesses to succeed, fostering communication and loot sharing between teammates. This isn’t to say that there’s nothing enjoyable about the single player mode, but if anything, it can be thought of as an extended multiplayer tutorial that gets old very quickly.

Nearly 5 identical modes for single and multiplayer make up the entire thing as well, which ultimately makes DDA feel like a cheap update to the original, as it only really improves the visuals, and ignores the improvements that DD2 offered in better maps and action. 

Hmmm, I wonder where I should place my weapons for enemies that religiously stick to paths??

If this was the first game in the series you could forgive some of the issues, but when DD2 is completely free (DDA having both a purchase fee and ps plus requirement), every single advantage DD2 has over DDA has Gandalf’s “You shall not pass” echoing in my ears – there is simply no justification for you to go down that road.  

One of my bug bears with RPGs is when attacks are met with almost zero visable reaction from enemies, with a number appearing above an enemies head, and a dull sound to combine for miserable feedback from the game. Unfortunately, when aligned with floaty controls and attacks with zero weight, Awakened‘s characters feel like animated plastic bags that swing toothpicks at padded pillows. Ridiculous comparison aside, it’s strangely relaxing, and the easy difficulty may act as a nice wind down from a hard day, but I don’t think that’s what the game is going for exactly.

With the ability to heal and mostly weak enemies, there’s not a lot of point levelling up any other stats other than attack and ability.

Adding yet more wood to the bonfire of my disappointment is the fact that DD2 does everything DDA doesn’t. Larger and more expansive maps have huge and chaotic enemy crowds that make things challenging and unpredictable, but the best thing about it is that the basic attacks have better feedback, and I feel like my character is actually attacking something and the enemy inturn reacting like they are receiving damage. The pillows and toothpicks are gone and the action feels meaningful – its comparatively glorious. You can also change your character in the predecessor mid-fight in DD2 which is a feature absent in Awakened – yet another puzzling omission to add to the list.   

After laying down a base plant, my character’s best abilities – a laser flower and suicidal homing explosive mushrooms – wrecks havok before needing to be replenished or fixed after receiving damage or reducing in number.

Unless you are familiar with the series and wish to play a remake of the original, I would recommend playing DD2 for free, and then wait to see which game the developer pulls the plug on (Awakened or Going Rogue) before committing to a purchase that requires multiplayer to enhance Awakened’s dull gameplay. 

SUMMARY

+ Colorful visuals
+ Decent multiplayer
- Stuttering action during heavy loads
- Barebones gameplay and features
- Single player mode isn't worth it
- DD2 offers much more enjoyment- and it's free

Reviewed on PS4. Also available on Nintendo Switch, X-box systems and Windows.
Alex Chessun
Alex Chessun
Currently obsessed with the Yakuza series (minus no.7), Alex is an avid fan of immersive Open World games, quick pick-up-and-play arcade experiences and pretty much anything else good. He also desperately wants Shenmue 4 to happen - a lot.

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Review: Dungeon Defenders Awakened+ Colorful visuals <br/> + Decent multiplayer <br/> - Stuttering action during heavy loads <br/> - Barebones gameplay and features <br/> - Single player mode isn't worth it <br/> - DD2 offers much more enjoyment- and it's free <br/> <br/> Reviewed on PS4. Also available on Nintendo Switch, X-box systems and Windows.