Dungeon Defenders II Review (Early Access)
As someone who put 300 hours into the original Dungeon Defenders, and another 60 into Dungeon Defenders: Eternity, I was hoping that this installment of the franchise would be more of the same (only better). I was a little disappointed to find out that the tower defense game with action elements that I enjoyed so much is now an action game with tower defense elements. That said, this is (supposedly) a pre-alpha early release with more updates and content to come, but I am not getting my hopes up that they will fix this game. Every other early access I have gotten excited about has ended up disappointing me big time.
I chose my favorite character from the original for this edition (the Wizard) since he had, in my opinion, the most versatile towers when playing alone or in a group. DD2’s wizard has only 4 towers: a fireball tower, a wall, an ice beam (that slows but does no damage), and an earth shatter tower. Of these 4 towers, two of them actually deal damage. For a so-called tower defense, this is a little disappointing.
Playing the maps solo is almost impossible, since the starting currency to build with is insufficient, and you are expected to get in there and start shooting at the minions that are spawning (which is why I would consider this an action game rather than tower defense…the tower defense has been put on the back burner). There are also new units that throw javelins (that have better range than any damage tower), which ruin this game for me. I like to play the maps on the original by myself, or with my brother, but with these units, I need to constantly scurry around looking for javelin guys destroying my towers. Having to constantly babysit each group of towers on fairly large maps is tedious (and apparently I am not the only one who thinks so, since Trendy put out a survey asking if the javelins make the game more or less fun). Even the first level in the 10-14 level range cannot be done by my wizard solo. I have only two choke points to worry about, and I still cannot get back and forth fast enough to keep the defenses at each alive. Meanwhile I am attacking these minions for 100-200 damage per hit and they have 3000-4000 hp each. Admittedly, all of the gear I have picked up was to buff my towers (except my weapon), so that explains some of it, but even with all my tower buffing gear, my towers are getting slaughtered. Since I cannot beat the maps solo, I am forced to rely on random PUGs, who can be accurately assumed to be idiots 90% of the time. No, there is no reason to put 20 traps in a line on one of the lanes while the other four have almost nothing on them.
Another issue I have with this game is that during the round, tower building currency is rare, and only likely to be picked up by the melee characters who are in the fray. Since I am trying to make a tower specialized wizard, who has ranged attacks and abilities, getting enough mana to build or upgrade towers is extremely difficult or impossible. With four players in a map, the chests that give you currency for building between rounds drop enough to make about two towers, or upgrade one.
They also got rid of the only good thing they added to DD Eternity (the dash). DD:E was just a remake of the original, with all the same maps etc. I played it for a bit, but quickly lost interest in grinding gear on all the same maps that I had done before. Now, shift (the dash key from before) gives me a breakdown of which monsters are spawning where, and which direction my towers are facing (which is new). I will acknowledge the usefulness of this tool, but it is not nearly as fun or useful as the dash they added to DD:E.
Placing the towers is often awkward, since the camera wants to zoom back to let you do it, and often crashes into the terrain making the rotation of the tower to the position I want very choppy at times. Keep in mind this is a so-called “pre alpha” Early Access game, so this is (hopefully) something that should get worked out as they develop the game. One thing they did change for the better in this game, is that you can now move while placing a tower, to minimize the interference from the walls of the map.
One thing they changed in this game is the addition of a grouping system that sorts players by level. There are two tiers at max level (based on a suggested item level) for players looking to tackle tough maps on a high difficulty level. This is a great feature considering the game feels like it is meant to be played multiplayer exclusively. At least the idiot PUGs that I end up with are around my level and can do adequate damage to the minions (in theory).
Another thing that Trendy added to this installment that is cool are the traps on some of the levels. These can be used to hurt or disable the minions as they charge your towers. If you position towers to take advantage of these traps, your lane defenses will be much better. The problem with these traps is that they must be manually activated, meaning that they are not very useful when playing single player (since the traps are scattered all over the map). You can activate them by shooting them, which makes it possible to use them from across the map, but this also means that they will get accidentally hit and used up inadvertently.
This game needs a sell all button. When trying to see the items on the ground that get piled up, I often have to pick up the other items on top. This leads to a lot of inventory clutter. One thing they added to deal with this is the temporary inventory, which accumulates when your bags are full and can be equipped or sold after a map is finished. The problem with this is that the items tend to accumulate quickly, and there is no sell all button (meaning I need to click on every single one of the items I want to sell each time I am selling). This is not game breaking, but it is annoying. Hopefully this is something that will be updated eventually.
Another thing about this game that I do not like is the addition of micro transactions. Most companies are not as disciplined as Riot (League of Legends) about keeping the micro transactions from breaking the game, so hopefully as the game develops they will not go down that road. For anyone who is not completely in love with the original DD or DD:E, I would hold off getting this game until it is a bit farther down the development road.
Overall this game is lacking (as expected from an early access game) but has a lot of potential (like every early access game). As it is now, the game is fun, and totally playable (I did not encounter any major bugs, although it did crash once). For a so-called “pre-alpha” this game feels pretty polished and looks amazing; the only things I really have an issue with are gameplay related.
Score: 3 out of 5