|Min OS X: 10.6|
April 13, 2012 | Jon Carr
Mac OS X: 10.6.3 | CPU: 1.3 GHz Intel | RAM: 2 GB | HD Space: 3 GB | Graphics: Open GL 2.1 / Shader Model 3 capable graphics card with 256 MB video RAM
Reviewer's Rig:27" iMac, Core i5 Quad 2.8Ghz, 8GB RAM, ATI Radeon HD5750 1GB
Tower defense (TD) is a popular, yet now increasingly stale, genre in which you place different towers to fend off hordes of enemies trying to get at your crystal, portal, generator or what have you, depending on what setting the game is in. How do you spice it up? How do you evolve the genre? Developers hit on the idea to let players control a character who can also fight in addition to placing towers or defenses. Instead of the usual overhead RTS style view, now you get a 3rd person character in which to view the action, and to jump into the thick of things as you see fit. It's more interesting, more personal, and in the end, more fun when done well.
Dungeon Defenders from Trendy Entertainment isn't the first game to do this, but it's the first one we can play on the Mac. A simple story sets things in motion: Long ago in Etheria (the game's world) brave heroes fought the forces of evil and eventually locked away the evil powers into Eternia Crystals. Later on the champions younger kin are left in charge and while playing screw up and break the crystals, thus unleashing the forces of evil into Etheria once more.
While the story isn't anything to get excited about, the gameplay is. You can control one of 4 different heroes, each with their own unique attacks and set of defenses. Every hero gains levels, and skill points can be used to increase a variety of stats like hero speed and attack, or tower summoning time and health. Each character also has 2 unique abilities to activate in the heat of battle.
Heroes are fairly typical RPG fare: the apprentice, huntress, monk and squire. Each hero comes with a difficulty rating, and they recommend you start with the apprentice, though I jumped right in with the squire. The apprentice is the most standard TD style character with various elemental towers and some area of effect attacks. The squire is your tank character, with high health, a special blocking move, and a focus on damage absorbing or deflecting defenses such as the spike and bouncer blockades. The sexy elf huntress is your ranged damage as she wields crossbows and guns with deadly accuracy. Her defenses are a number of traps which can stun, cause explosions or confuse groups. She's more sophisticated to play and requires a good focus on either damage or traps to be the most effective. The monk is listed as the hardest to play, but I can't really comment on that as I didn't try him out much. His defenses are a series of auras that can ensnare, heal your team, or even cause enemies to attack each other. He's the most team orientated character due to his auras and abilities which are almost entirely team based.
Every hero has a very distinct look and controls well. Since you can add stat points as you see fit even two of the same hero can be quite different. There are also a number of costumes for each hero, so you can have different looks. My only real complaint here is the game bills itself as an RPG hybrid, which it is, but with only 2 abilities per hero it feels a little shallow on the skill front. Each defense has a particular level it unlocks at, and while you level up at a fairly steady rate, most of your time is spent dumping it into hero stats as the 2 abilities per hero doesn't leave much to unlock otherwise. There are even more heroes you can get by paying for DLC and they have new skills, but it's not quite the same.
As far as levels go, Dungeon Defenders isn't lacking. Over 70 different maps are included, and while the Mac version doesn't have the mod tools, the PC version does, so you can still access user created content as well. Every map has a different visual look, layout enemy types and scripted surprises. In traditional TD style the enemies come along preset paths at different parts of the map. Playing alone you have to scramble and run around, but when doing multiplayer it's easier to assign each player a section or path to defend. Every round begins with a build phase in which you can place your defenses and plan who does what. You can even switch out your hero class in the build phase if you wish. Once everyone is ready you start the round and off it goes to the attack phase. These alternate until the waves are over and you beat the level. There are 4 difficulty modes, survival missions, challenge maps and more. Plenty to keep even the most diehard of tower defense busy for a long time.