Game Name – Dungeon Defenders
ESRB Rating – N/A
Genre – Tower Defense and Action Role Playing
Educational Values – Problem Solving, Long term thinking, Team Building, Strategic Thinking
Platforms – Windows, Steam, Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, iOS, Android, Mac OSX
Where to buy – iPhone App Store, DungeonDefenders.com, Steam, XBLA, PSN Network
Would we buy it? – Yes. This is a fun one that has enough twists and turns to make it worth the $15. We are also looking forward to the sequel.
About the Game
Dungeon Defenders has the bright and cheery aesthetic, along with the goofy story line to make it seem like a kid’s game. And on many levels, it is. The controls are relatively simple, the violence is bloodless, and the learning curve (at least for the first few levels) is gentle. But do not let that fool you into thinking the game is not worth your time. Dungeon Defenders is a complex multiplayer experience that throws in enough requirements for teamwork and higher order thinking to keep even an experienced gamer coming back to replay levels they have beaten in the past. Each level is able to be played by one to four players and scales in difficulty based on the number of gamers in the level. Combine a variable number of players with the different play styles for each class, and Dungeon Defenders provides a huge combination of successful strategies for each map. Throw in the fact that the average round is only ten minutes and you end up with a game that can allow a group to play a map multiple times with multiple combinations in a short period of time.
Here they come, defend the crystals!
The goal of each map is it survive each wave of monsters by building towers and fighting through the enemies while protecting your crystals from being destroyed. To accomplish this goal, you choose of the four basic character types Monk, Huntress, Squire, or Apprentice, and fight through waves of monsters who are trying to destroy your crystals. Each character type or ‘class’ has their own primary and secondary attacks, but more importantly, they each drop their own towers and traps to help you fend off the waves of enemies. Levels start out with some coins that allow you to purchase and upgrade your towers along with a map with all of the entrances for monsters to come in and more coins are dropped by the monsters when they die.
One can also play each level with up to four players working together. As with many games, the more the merrier. Since each class has unique abilities and traps to work with, the variations to complete each map are huge.
Teamwork is the name of the game.
What the Game Teaches Us
Dungeon Defenders makes you balance. You have limited resources in terms of the amount of gems you have to purchase and upgrade your towers. You have a maximum number of towers that you can create in each match and that ‘cap’ is shared by the entire team. So if you have one person dropping weak towers out all over the map, the entire team is in jeopardy. You have to work with everyone to make sure that resources, in terms of gems and towers, are spread evenly and appropriately. You have to weigh which towers to upgrade, or tear down when they are no longer useful. That kind of higher order thinking, and the requirement to work well with other people, even people you may not like or want to work with are necessary skills in the world.
As with every video game, it allows the gamer to fail repeatedly with no real consequences. The gamers can meet together to discuss their strategy and next round. Or they can jump right back into the action with the players sitting next to them and around the world. But the cooperative aspect to it adds a great deal. It is no longer as simple as “oh well, I had a bad game, I can just restart.” The other teammates counting on you to pull your weight and make the appropriate decisions for the good of the many is one of the most important aspects of Dungeon Defenders. It bridges the gap from the Cognitive domain straight to Affective levels of Valuing and Organizing.
General Feelings on the Game
Dungeon Defenders is a gem of a game. The learning curve is a little steep at first, and the end levels can be very difficult. But it is beautifully animated and a heck of a lot of fun. As a team building exercise, it is outstanding. Though it can get frustrating to have to rely on someone else dropping the right tower in the right place, or pulling their weight in the rounds themselves. But you can say that about any cooperative game. The mini games around choosing your gear and upgrading it are fun, but not really necessary to have a complete gameplay experience (which are the best kind of mini games, really).
Dungeon Defenders may be a little difficult for the youngest gamers to pick up, but you could definitely play this one with your upper elementary ages. Or, your mid thirties, game reviewer, of course.