It’s been quite awhile since I played the original Dungeon Defenders which, honestly, left a sour taste in my mouth. Though I’m a fan of the tower defense genre, I can’t say that my enjoyment extends to those titles where I’m actively participating in shooting at creeps or bad guys. Games like Sanctum and Orcs Must Die! just never struck a chord with me. Imagine my surprise then when I picked up Dungeon Defenders II and instantly enjoyed it.
The problem with those aforementioned titles is that the twitch-based action detracts too much from overall strategy, where in particular the first Dungeon Defenders ramped up the challenge level far too soon. In that title it almost felt as though the entire responsibility of defending your crystal from attack rested squarely on your character’s shoulders, with the towers merely supporting your efforts. Dungeon Defenders II is the exact opposite of that experience, and is all the better for it.
From the moment you select your character and jump into your first match, it’s clear that with the right towers in place you can fend off almost anything. There are environmental traps such as fire and ice cannons that you can use to bombard enemy troops, but that’s far from necessary. As things progress you can choose to step out from behind the line and assume a more offensive role, but standing back and repairing or upgrading your towers is just as viable an option.
The graphics and controls seem markedly improved as well. The art style still follows a cartoonish route, but this time the color palette is far more vibrant, and moving your character around the battlefield is crisp and precise. In the few hours I spent with the game I saw no bugs or crashes to speak of, which is impressive considering that the title is only in Early Access and has a higher level of polish than most recent Ubisoft releases (seriously Ubi, what happened to you?).
At this point I’d recommend the game wholeheartedly for those fans of the tower defense genre, and in particular for those who like a little more action in their TD games. But considering that the game feels so near completion now, it begs the question of what the developers intend to add over the next year in approaching a retail release. Looking at the blurb on the Steam store page there’s a list of features like local co-op, tavern (the game’s interactive lobby) customizations and boss stages. While those all sound like great additions, curiously it is developer Trendy Entertainment’s intention to ultimately make the game free-to-play, supported by in-game purchases. So that throws a small wrench in the works.
While the game is good enough to warrant a purchase in its current state (and that can be said of woefully few Early Access titles), I have this nagging little voice that says if I didn’t already own the title, I could just wait patiently and eventually get it for free. True, Trendy promises that your purchase price will be converted to in-game currency later so you can buy skins and other customization items that don’t give you advantages against other players (Trendy is adamant about that). So ultimately the choice is up to you: if you’re jonesing for a new tower defense game then Dungeon Defenders II will most assuredly not disappoint. But if you can hold out awhile longer, acquiring the game may be easier on your wallet later.
An Early Access code for Dungeon Defenders II was provided to Pixel Related for this preview.