Review: A Return to Form for Tower Defense Action RPG Dungeon Defenders: Awakened

Screenshot: Dungeon Defenders: Awakened Dungeon Defenders is a long running tower defense action RPG that’s found a dedicated following since its initial release in 2010. With four games under their belt, Chromatic Games (formerly Trendy Entertainment) is using its newest title, Dungeon Defenders Awakened as a sort of soft reboot of the franchise. Using the original art style and classes, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened brings the mostly PC/mobile series to consoles in hopes of expanding the fan base. While they are mostly successful, there are some growing pains in the transition to home platforms.  Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is a tower defense based game with action elements thrown in to ramp up the gameplay. There are four classes to choose from: A squire (knight), monk, huntress and apprentice (mage). Within the game, the levels are split into either a build phase or attack phase. The build phase is used as planning time to think about strategy with your teammates, or on your own if you're playing solo. During this time, the enemy entrances and paths are highlighted, with their end goal--destroying the Eternia crystals--set at the corner of the map. During the action phase, enemies slowly enter the fray, moving along their set paths and attacking anything in their wake.  Screenshot: Dungeon Defenders: Awakened The heroes have up to 5 towers and 3 combat abilities. The squire uses sword slashing abilities to get up close with the enemies while the huntress attacks from a distance using arrows and traps. They are varied enough to fit most personal styles and work well together when partied with friends or online players. The power of the gameplay is in the synergy. The other aspect of the classes is their towers. Each class has 5 different towers that unlock as they level up, such as the huntress' gas trap or the square blockade. Towers are placed strategically around or used to block and defeat the enemies as they path to the crystal. Pairing the right towers together really shows off thesynergistic mechanics at play. There is a leveling system that is largely used as a gatekeeper to traps and class abilities, but leveling up also rewards stat points that you can distribute as you see fit.  Enemies in Dungeon Defenders: Awakened are classic fantasy tropes such as skeletons, elves, goblins and the like. The phases pace the game enough to not get too hectic but also feel tense when necessary. Completing a full set of waves on a given map will progress the players to the second map, with slight variation and setting. While well designed and detailed, phases remain inconsequential, as they exist solely to change up enemy pathing, entrances and Eternia Crystal(s) placement. The story follows our heroes as they defend the dungeons from the hordes of the old gods but is otherwise largely unimportant. Screenshot: Dungeon Defenders: Awakened As with previous iterations of Dungeon Defenders, there is slated DLC with two new heroes to add as well as endless and hardcore modes to explore, so there’s a lot to expand upon. Unfortunately, the transition to console isn’t without fault. A lot of the menus come off as confusing, with very different functions for holding the button prompts, and navigation. Sometimes, a hold is necessary instead of just a press, which isn’t clearly indicated. Also, the color differentiation between options as you maneuver the menus makes it practically impossible to tell what is currently selected. The tutorial is also a source of frustration, as it doesn’t clearly give directions as to how to progress.  Fans of the series will enjoy seeing this iteration coming to their consoles, but I suspect new players onboarding will find it difficult to get into. That said, there’s a lot to enjoy with Dungeon Defenders: Awakened. It's a solidly built tower defense game that brings back memories of 2011, and first experiencing games like  Orcs Must Die! but diving deeper into Dungeon Defenders: Awakened reminds me why I played them on PC in the first place. The gameplay is solid but repetitive, and the controls are passable when not confusing. I will continue to stand by this series as something worth checking out, but if a console is all you have access to, expect the experience to be a little rough around the edges.    Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is available now on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S as well as  Nintendo Switch.       If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. You can also catch us streaming games we’re reviewing and staff favorites on our Twitch channel.
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Alex Orona