If you were ever around during the tower defense craze, you likely remember three main games dominating the genre. Those three would be Bloons Tower Defense, Plants Vs. Zombies, and most importantly for this piece, Dungeon Defenders. Dungeon Defenders was popular on the Xbox thanks to solid controls and great gameplay, but it’s also good on PC. Recently Chromatic Games announced that Dungeon Defenders 1 would be getting remade, and I was personally ecstatic. I was excited to see if it lived up to the previous game while improving and making it feel fresh. Did it accomplish that? Yes, and no.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is a (soft) remake of the original game, so you can expect the environments to be still stable. The graphical improvements on the game have helped it tremendously, though. The cartoon graphics of Dungeon Defenders 1, unfortunately, haven’t aged super well. This graphical upgrade looks beautiful, especially in higher settings, and feels up to date with current year graphics. This is definitely where I think a lot of the budget was put into, and it was well spent. Every map from Deeper Well to The Summit now has more distinct looks and better lighting effects.
This is combined with the classic soundtrack and sound effects from the original games, which is a nice callback. Mind you, they aren’t the exact same as the audio has been cleaned up a bit, but it invokes that feeling of nostalgia. The average player likely won’t notice this much, but any Dungeon Defenders veteran is going to pick up on it and appreciate it immediately. There are even some new soundtracks for the new maps, which give the music a bit of freshness.
That leads me into the gameplay of Dungeon Defenders: Awakened. For the most part, you can expect a lot of the same due to it being a remake and all. The character’s towers work the same, their abilities work the same (though the huntress’ Piercing Shot takes on a new form), and the Squire and Wizard are still busted. It’s nice to see, though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want something more. Maybe in the future, there could be a new ability to choose from for each class to add to the customization.
There are also a few new maps. Ancient Mines and Magma Mines replace magus Quarters and Servant’s Quarters in Act 1. Act 2 also has Tornado Valley and Tornado Highlands. Act 3 stays the same, but those new maps do add a bit of freshness for veteran players. The only thing I wish for is to have some more of the Dungeon Defenders 1 maps brought into Awakened to have more content, as the game feels a lot more barebones than 1 does in its current state. Thankfully though, the roadmap does promise some more maps are coming in its Early Access phase and beyond.
Now though, I’d like to take some time to talk about the difficulty of the game. There are four difficulty settings that all seem to be just fine for what the game is, being the same that Dungeon Defenders 1 had. The levels, on the other hand, though could use some work. I played through the whole game on Medium for the first two acts I did just fine solo. There were maybe one or two times I had to restart due to misplaying something or merely the game crashing, but Act 3 is where things got a little funky. I started randomly having levels that were much tougher than previous ones and required me to rework a lot to complete them.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not against difficulty in games. I’ve played through many challenging games, so I’m open to it. It would’ve been nice to see a better challenge ramp up within Act 2 to prepare better for that, though. The last level of Act 3 was so overwhelming that I had to get others’ help on it. Chromatic Games needs to take another look at the difficulty of each level because I feel there’s a lot of work that could be done.
There’s one final point I’d like to cover on difficulty, and that’s to do with the multiplayer. I enjoy co-op games and have played many that are excellent, Dungeon Defenders being one of them. The co-op does feel quite nice, of course, as playing with other players is almost always enjoyable. Combining different towers feels as great as it used to, and I recommend playing with friends if you try this game. The difficulty piece of it, though, is where it begins not to make sense. Through playing several matches, I’ve learned the health and enemy count doesn’t scale with player count. This, to me, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, considering that there are several players in the game. If there can be even a little scaling, it would help to prevent players from just power leveling off of others.
Options And Improvements
Finally, I would just like to touch on a few smaller things. For one, there are graphical and gameplay options. The options menu is pretty good from the start, offering a lot of graphical options for those who have lower or higher-end PCs. There’s also a handful of gameplay options that help you tailor the gameplay to your preferences, and there’s enough to pass there. There aren’t any accessibility options, though, which is a shame to see. This isn’t going to be an issue for an average player, but anyone who thrives off of colorblind modes or poor vision (text to speech) will likely be sad it’s absent. Hopefully, the developers can add some more in further into Early Access.
The other thing I’d like to talk about is what ported over from Dungeon Defenders 2. That game wasn’t exactly considered great by a lot of fans, with good reason. There were some things that it did correctly, though, and Chromatic Games noted that by using its better item inventory. That was much appreciated, as sorting through your Dungeon Defenders 1 gear could be a bit of a pain. The only other thing I hope they port over is upgrades changing your buildings. Having to check the yellow bar can be annoying sometimes, so that visual changes would help clarity quite a bit.
Overall, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is a soft remake with a pretty solid foundation. It has a lot of the gameplay that fans have come to know and love but introduces some new maps and beautiful visuals that bring it more in line with 2020 graphical standards. The game does need a lot of work from the development team, though, as the difficulty and lack of content do bar its potential. As much as I would love to, I can’t recommend this game at its current price. There’s not enough reason to play this over Dungeon Defenders 1 yet. Provided the roadmap ends up being fulfilled, though, that opinion will change. Chromatic’s already proven they can in the past, so I trust that they will.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is available on Steam in Early Access but is planned for PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch later this year.