Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dungeon Defenders II

PAX South has made a very bold statement for 2015: It will be the year of RTS.

The floor was littered with real time strategy/simulation games. I don’t want to say literally out the butt, yet it was pretty close to hitting that mark. And it’s an excuse to say “out the butt” and have it out of context in regards to a bodily function. As far as the eye can see, RTS made itself known. It’s coming back into gaming with a vengeance. The two largest booths at the convention were Twitch and Greybox, a developer for the soon to release Grey Goo and Dreadnaught, both space-faring RTS titles. The booth was so large, and the demos were taking up to 30 minutes per person, it was impossible to get into the line. So we made use of the free spaces on the floor to check out the other games available.

One product that we enjoyed, so much so that we had to pre-order it for the early access at the booth, was Dungeon Defenders II. It’s an action tower defense game. You could call it an RTS to an extent because it requires you to act and react as the game play occurs, while giving you a chance to build up your defenses to ensure your home point isn’t destroyed by the enemy. Developed by Trendy Entertainment, the game builds off of the successes of the first Dungeon Defenders and adds new content.

For those who have not heard of or played the first game, the game play is relatively simple. You choose a hero to defend your home point. Each hero has a set of abilities that allow you to place towers or traps around the course and kill the enemy goblins as they try to overrun you. In order to place more traps you need to build up mana by killing enemies. Your hero can also move around the map and attack enemies that the traps may have missed; thus the action element of the game.

Some of the changes made in DD2 deal with abilities and mana. Mana was necessary to heal your hero, build your towers, and make upgrades. Mana is now split into Gold, to buy things, Building Mana, and Skill Mana. Hopefully those are self explanatory. Healing now no longer costs mana. It’s completely free, but there is a timer on how often you can use it. Heroes now have 4 abilities and 4 towers to use. Map progression contains minimum and maximum levels. If a high level player wants to jump to a lower level map, their stats will be balanced to reflect the level requirements. I approve of the level balancing.

As a first-timer to the game, they set the mode on easy. I felt that easy was too easy. I was given the role of the Huntress, who utilizes more traps then towers, and has a variety of long-range abilities such as a venom flask (which can be combined with the Squire or Sorcerer to create combos). She was also the only female Hero so take what you will from that. Her role is focused on supporting the other Heroes, but her arrows did pack a punch. I found myself handling one of the funnels of Goblin’s by myself, more often than not. I was hoping for a challenge, but mindless fun? I'll take it.

Part of the RPG elements in the game come from buffing up your Hero. As you kill goblins, some will drop new equipment for you to use, such as boots, chest plates, and weapons. These items are only accessible by you, so no one can sneak in and pick up the item. You also have the ability to view the item before you equip it. If you find it’s a crappy pair of sneakers, you can sell them off for Gold, and turn that money into another tower. I found this part of the game more enjoyable because you had some control over the customization of your character as your progressed in the game.

The game can be played solo or up to 4 players. While our headsets were busted, I could easily see why a team is preferred in this type of game. The game’s set-up emphasizes cooperative play. There are too many turns, corners, and alleys where the enemy can overwhelm one person. And your base stats, along with gold reserve, are just too little to handle everything by yourself. You need a team to progress. It’s as simple as that.

Now it’s possibly that as we are experienced gamers, we figured out quickly how to form up and execute the plan of attack. Squire and Monk on the front lines while Sorcerer and Huntress at the back. The Sorcerer’s towers work best on hilltops or open areas for AOE. Huntress’ can use her slow traps at the front to reduce enemy speed, or in tight corners. Monks and Squires are best for funneling enemies on a large field into a smaller area. So the lack of vocal communication didn’t hurt us. We had everything figured out in a few minutes and kept on going. You attack with your left mouse button and move your Hero using WASD. It’s an intuitively simple control scheme that even beginner players can easily adjust to.

As a whole I found the game enjoyable, and it will definitely be an entertaining time waster. The graphics are stylized like Wildstar, with colorful clothing and over-sized characters. The music was upbeat and didn’t feel forced. There were touches of ambient sound that surprised me. Typically a game like this wouldn’t think about such an insularly detail, but hearing birds chirping on the battlefield made the game feel real. Well, as real as it can be with goblins and talking cats.

I think this will be a fun game for Steam-heads who want a break from their first person shooters. The game currently has no release date, but it’s estimated to be out in 2015 on PC and the PS4.

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