Developer: Trendy Entertainment
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★½☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆

The most infuriating kind of game is one that clearly has great ideas at its core, but falls flat because of its execution. Dungeon Defenders: First Wave is a novel idea, blending together tower defense gameplay in a hack ‘n slash model, complete with 4-player online multiplayer. All these elements should come together like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but in this game, the combination is more akin to peanut butter and poison.

Dungeon Defenders’ setup is that you are trying to protect a crystal in the dungeon you’re in from being destroyed. You can build defenses to damage and/or deter enemies, like walls and magic turrets, using mana. The rub is that you’re doing all this as a character from one of four classes, the knight, warrior, mage and elf classes that all have different defense types and attacks. You build your defenses by actually running around the map and building them, and can run around and attack enemies with your weapons and spells, like in a hack ‘n slash game. But otherwise, this works much like a standard tower defense game – you need to keep your crystal from being destroyed by enemies, you just now have more say over how you get this done.

Developer Trendy Entertainment has created a vibrant and colorful game. In a world where fantasy games consist largely of many shades of brown, Dungeon Defenders isn’t afraid to use the entire color palette. The game runs on the Unreal Engine, and runs quite impressively – the game isn’t quite as good-looking as Infinity Blade is, but this game does have a lot more going on, especially with all the action on-screen and all the graphical effects in play. The game also supports 4-player online co-op through Game Center, allowing you to quickly jump into any available games, or add your friends to try and conquer some dungeons.

Dungeon Defenders’ downfall is that it is too busy. Tower defense games work because your goal is to focus on erecting and managing your defenses, and having that omniscient view to see what’s going on all across the map. Hack ‘n slash games work because you get to run around and kill things wantonly, your goal being survival. Dungeon Defenders just mixes the two games without compensating for anything on either end. You’re playing a hack ‘n slash game and a tower defense game simultaneously, and it gets frustrating and overwhelming very, very quickly. The build phase of the game is also bogged down by the fact that instead of having that omniscient view of the playing field, you have to physically run around and do everything. And the hack ‘n slash elements are negated by the fact that you’re constantly running around, building and repairing defenses.

Things ease up a bit with the online play, but the problem is that tower defense games are all about planning and strategy – having 4 strangers run around and put up defenses all willy-nilly defeats the purpose of strategy entirely. Also, continuing the theme of disconcerting busyness, the GUI is absolutely horrid. The game throws an overwhelming amount of information at you that takes up so much of the screen on the iPad that I can’t even imagine playing this game on a smaller device. This isn’t even factoring in the times when hints and tutorials pop up and take up half of the screen, making your viewable area that much smaller. The menus are horrible as well – healing yourself is 3 menus deep, and mind you, this is a hack ‘n slash game at its heart. You just cannot be fiddling around with menus when all hell is breaking loose around you.

Dungeon Defenders just reeks of an idea that wasn’t fully thought through. It is as if someone got the idea to make a hack ‘n slash and tower defense hybrid, but never considered if it would actually work. If not for the fact that it was the second game released with the Unreal Engine on iOS, this game might not be notable at all. While the game’s idea is certainly more inspired than many games, it takes a proper execution of those ideas, and that is what Dungeon Defenders lacks.

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