Available On: PC (Steam), coming later to Switch (Q3 2020), PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (Q4 2020)
What is the difference between a new game and a remake? Despite being labeled as an all-new game in the tower-defense series, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is clearly a remake of the original 2010 game.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the original Dungeon Defenders effectively combined tower defense gameplay with co-op action. The formula remains as fun as it was a decade ago, though it’s disappointing to see so little improvement or changes.
If you’ve missed out on the series, Dungeon Defenders stars four heroes: the knightly squire, spellcasting apprentice, trigger-happy huntress, and stoic monk. Though the story technically takes place after Dungeon Defenders 2, our heroes have been reverted to their original teenage forms.
Each hero can deploy five different towers, traps, or auras along with a few basic attacks and special abilities. The huntress specializes in long-range weapons and damage-over-time traps, while the apprentice is all about elemental spell-throwing towers.
Players choose one hero to play at any one time, but can freely switch between heroes to mix and match towers in between waves of enemies, who march toward the crystal core in each level. Heroes share experience and level up, increasing their physical stats as well as the power of their unique towers and defenses.
Enemies drop better loot that can be equipped, but neither the loot nor the leveling feels very impactful. Heroes don’t gain much in the form of new abilities, instead relying on passively increasing their stats.
Weapons can change how some of the characters attack (especially the huntress) but it’s tough getting excited about a piece of armor that adds one point of speed, and none of the armor changes the default appearance. More often than not, I ignored loot entirely. Players can earn gold from selling loot (which thankfully happens automatically if you don’t pick it up before the next wave), but as of this review, there’s nothing to spend it on, making the game feel unfinished despite several months in Early Access.
For the Core
Most tower defense games involve a bird’s eye view of the action, but Dungeon Defenders uniquely puts players in the thick of the action, swinging swords, firing cannons, and repairing traps. It’s best played cooperatively with other players running around building towers and defending lanes. Levels can reach a satisfying crescendo during later waves, and the few boss battles are some of the best experiences the campaign has to offer. Multiple difficulty levels and game modes ensure a ton of replayability, though be prepared to play on the same dozen or so maps.
I had fun figuring out my favorite tower combinations, such as the squire’s spiked walls, apprentice’s lighting tower, and monk’s slowing aura, and watching damage numbers pour over the enemy. But while the visuals certainly look nicer, it’s disappointing to play many of the same exact maps from the original 2010 game.
Combat and movement also feels floaty and weak, whether I’m swinging the monk’s staff or firing the huntress’ guns. I’m almost certain the game never explains what the various hero abilities actually do. The UI for building towers is much improved, but the inventory screen is a giant mess of same-y icons. For a modern remake, much of the action and design feels archaic in all the wrong ways.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is rated E10+ for Fantasy Violence and Alcohol Reference. The series’ family friendly art style was always a major selling point, and I’m happy to see Awakened continue this trend. The art style for heroes and enemies is bright and colorful, and defeated enemies simply poof out of existence.
After several years of free-to-play missteps, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is designed as a return to the series’ roots. It succeeds as a solid remake of the original game, but fails to move the series forward beyond retreading a 10-year old concept. Nostalgic fans and curious newcomers could enjoy its friendly cooperative gameplay, but keep your expectations in check.