Dungeon Defenders: Awakened (DDA) is the latest instalment of the Dungeon Defenders series, a loveable and charming tower defence RPG game set in the faraway land of Etheria. You follow the adventures of 4 different heroes (or classes) who must guard the Eternia Crystals from the Old One’s Army and the turn the tide against them. This pretty much wraps up any exposition or story behind Dungeon Defenders: Awakened, but the true enjoyment of Dungeon Defenders is in its gameplay and challenge.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is the direct sequel to its predecessor Dungeon Defenders II, a free to play smash hit released in December 2014. A Kickstarter for Awakened began in March 2019 after the announcement of its development. This new entry boasts gameplay updates, upgraded visuals, mechanics, new locations, bosses, story and a return to the glory days of the original Dungeon Defenders. But the main feature is the use of a next-gen game engine in the form of Unreal Engine 4.
The Land of Etheria
The basic premise of Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is you have to defend an Etheria Crystal in the middle of a map from waves upon waves of enemies. Crystal gets destroyed, you lose, but if you survive the map, you win and progress onto the next stage. While battling through the hordes of the Old Ones armies you’ll collect loot in the form of weapons, armour and accessories. The loot system in this game can make you feel very over-encumbered and throw mountains of otherwise useless loot in your face constantly.
To combat this, a sort of upgrade system is in place to allow you to upgrade each piece of loot using hard-earned in-game currency. This mostly counteracts the excess loot, as you can upgrade your favourite staff or sword (up to a point) enough to keep using it at higher levels. This, however, does not help with the over-saturation of loot. I cannot tell you how many times I had to sift through mountains upon mountains of loot in my inventory only to find nothing of use or even items I couldn’t use as I needed to be a higher level. It can get very boring and monotonous.
In your defence of these crystals, you are given the choice between 4 different classes or heroes. The Squire is your run of the mill melee class, the Huntress your ranged hero, the Apprentice the staff-wielding mage, and finally the Monk, your healer (with just a splash of melee). Your account can have up to 4 hero cards so you can swap between and use heroes in between rounds which is a nice feature that lets you dive deep into each class.
Each hero has its own unique ability and playstyle, but on top of that, they also have their own unique defences in the form of buildable structures to assist them in their defence of the crystals. These structures include barriers, turrets, traps and auroras. To build these structures you need to efficiently utilise the shared mana pool. You’ll quickly find that just slapping down any old barrier anywhere won’t do to defend your crystal, and this game requires a lot of strategizing with your fellow heroes. The resource management and building aspects are a nice cherry on top for this game and add a layer of depth I really enjoyed. Furthermore the ability to repair and upgrade your constructs even further expands things.
At the end of every level of the campaign you’ll face off against a boss, as well as another large wave of enemies. While these bosses are far from perfect (oftentimes they feel more like bullet sponges than actual obstacles to overcome, especially on the higher difficulties) they add an element of excitement and surprise. All of these gameplay features turn a seemingly simple game into a thrilling tower defence with so much depth and enjoyment. The challenge that Dungeon Defenders: Awakened presents to you is an enjoyable and difficult one!
But there is very little to say of new features added in Dungeon Defenders: Awakened. Don’t expect this instalment of the series to revolutionize Dungeon Defenders. This was a bit of a disappointment as there was plenty of opportunities to expand on the success of Dungeon Defenders II.
I think that the seamless integration of 4 player co-op into Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is what really makes it a cut above the rest. This game by its very design is meant to be enjoyed with at least 3 other friends to get the most out of it (although you can play solo if you want).
The aesthetic of Dungeon Defender: Awakened may seem a little too cartoonish, but I can happily say it’s grown on me. Each and every level has its own layout with different settings throughout the land of Etheria thrown into the mix. I found myself very entertained by the various backgrounds of each level. Speaking of Dungeon Defender’s aesthetic, the UI in this game is very intuitive. Though at first, it may seem distracting and in your face, it is super easy to use on the fly.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is an excellent title which knows how to keep you entertained through wave after wave of mindless enemies. It’s colourful and cartoonish aesthetic add so much more life and character to this tactical RPG tower defence title that many just don’t have.
Although you may become bogged down by the monotony of its gameplay loop (although if you don’t enjoy horde and/or tower defence type games I strongly advise giving this a hard pass, obviously) and the over-encumbered inventory, it’s worth pushing through that to really get at the enjoyable and challenging experience Dungeon Defenders: Awakened presents to you.
And with many updates promised by the developers in the future, this is a great game to jump right in to.