Developer: Chromatic Games
Publisher: Trendy Entertainment LLC
Genre: Action Tower Defense
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Also Available For: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PC
The Basics: Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is the third and latest entry in the Dungeon Defenders franchise, a series which blends gameplay from the tower defense and third person hack and slash genres. I never played any of its predecessors for any significant length of time, so I’m not able to speak to how similar Awakened is or how it measures up; what I can do is judge it by its own qualities, and unfortunately my verdict is not going to be a particularly favorable one.
The gameplay of Dungeon Defenders is based around defending magical crystals from large waves of enemies using a combination of emplaced defenses and direct engagement from the player. The player selects one of several heroes (seven, in this case) to this end, each of whom has their own set of skills and buildables. The “towers” in this tower defense title have a fairly genre-standard range of effects, from slowing and impeding enemies to diverting their path to simple and direct damage. None of the towers feel particularly creative or memorable, but they are at least rather effective – it didn’t take me very long at all to figure out a strategy that required minimal input from me/my defender during actual waves in order to completely avoid having my crystals take any damage whatsoever. In fact, even on the third of six difficulties, which is a step above the default “normal”, I was able to skate through several levels doing nothing more than occasionally running around to collect currency dropped by enemies and upgrade my defenses between waves. This brings me to the main problem with Dungeon Defenders: Awakened: it’s just boring.
This is a game, dear reader, which does very little to instill in its player any sense of urgency or danger. The enemies are slow and weak, easy to utterly shred through with almost no risk of incurring damage either to the player or the crystals they are defending, and that’s not even the only thing which slows the game’s pace to a veritable crawl. On top of the sluggishness of the actual combat sections, the game has a serious problem with the ratio of loot and gear sorting to action, something which is most certainly not helped by the clunky interface on the PlayStation 4 version. I don’t just mean that moving through the inventory and other menus is obnoxious with a controller over a mouse and keyboard, either, that aspect of it is intensified by the way that it also doesn’t do a very good job making clear what part of the screen you currently have selected. Even once you do struggle through the interface, each level feels pretty much the same as the rest, so you’ll be questioning what the point of it all was in the first place before logging off after a match or two.
Interface issues aren’t the only technical difficulties my PS4 encountered with Awakened. The game is quite unstable (and I can’t actually speak to whether that’s a console issue or a more deeply ingrained problem with the coding) with semi-frequent instances of freezing and crashing, up to and including a couple times during the unskippable cutscene that plays every time you boot up the game before you even get to the main menu. Awakened’s working-as-intended state is not presentational masterwork either, to be honest, characterized by janky animations, uninspired visual design, and forgettable music and sound effects. I will at least say that, aside form the animations, its presentation is not overtly grating, just the same as its gameplay: boring.
Are there worse things a game can do than be boring? Absolutely, but ironically enough very few of those things will kill my interest in a title quite so quickly as just not being an engaging use of my time. Maybe Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is more fun with friends (as it can indeed be played in co-op like previous entries in the series) but I can’t imagine any enjoyment it might provide would be on the same level as any number of other games, multiplayer and single-player alike.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is a perfectly mediocre game that isn't fun enough to justify a purchase, much less spending dozens of hours in it.