By Dain Schroeder on Fri, 12/24/2010
Over the years, many games have attempted to merge two separate genres into one unique experience. Ultimately, many of these games end up failing at this. However, Trendy Entertainment's newest release, Dungeon Defenders: First Wave, is not only a triumph of genre-busting fun, but it's also one of the best iOS games I've ever had the pleasure of playing.
Dungeon Defenders is the 2nd game released for iOS to take advantage of Epic Games' powerful Unreal Engine, the same technology used to power many of the biggest console releases on the market. As gamers have come to expect from an Unreal-powered game, Dungeon Defenders looks great and is as impressive from a technological standpoint as it is from a graphical one. To fully explain the unique creation that is Dungeon Defenders would be a nearly impossible task; it's really one of those games that only makes sense once you've experienced it. A quick-and-dirty overview of the game would be to say that it's a hybrid tower defense and RPG, but simply saying that doesn't do the game justice, as it's so much more than just that.
Players are given the option of creating a character based on one of four distinct classes. These classes are more-or-less standard RPG fare; this reviewer's favorite is the powerful Apprentice, who excels at casting long-range spells but can be relatively easily dispatched in up-close combat. However, players may also play as the Huntress (a long-ranged powerhouse), the Squire (an in-your-face tanking machine), or the Monk (who is well-rounded and is great to have in a party). Once players have selected a class and named their character, they may begin playing the game, either online (with up to three other players via Game Center) or solo. Before playing, however, gamers must first be subjected to one of the most lengthy and confusing tutorials ever unleashed unto the world. Please don't let that scare you off, though - the game really isn't that complicated to learn, and once the tutorial is behind you, you'll never want to put the game down.
Once the game begins, players must defend one or more Eternia Crystals (placed strategically around the map) from an oncoming horde of enemy invaders. This can be done by building towers or by using powerful spells and attacks (which each class is armed with several of). To make things even more interesting, each class has slightly different types of towers available to them, meaning that gameplay changes significantly depending on what class you play as. Not satisfied to stop there, Trendy Entertainment takes things a step further by adding a deep level-up and gear drop system. Players can not only gain new items from killing monsters, but even spend mana (the equivalent of money in this game) to level up a specific item, increasing its power.
Dungeon Defenders: First Wave is an excellent game, and the online multiplayer is some of the most fun I've ever had with a game. That said, it pains me to say that there are a few flaws with the game that may hurt the experience for some players. As mentioned before, the tutorial is really bad, and unfortunately that's the first thing players will experience with the game. Some reviews have complained that the controls are too confusing; however, I'd strongly disagree - after a few minutes of playing, I had no trouble with them, either on the iPad or the iPhone. One complaint I did have is that I was unable to play a 'private' multiplayer game - once I created a game with just one of my friends, it wasn't long before other players joined in. This isn't a deal-breaker by any means, but it would be nice to experience the game with just a group of friends.
Trendy Entertainment has informed me that the game will soon be updated with iOS "4.1 support, cross-platform play between Android, iOS, & PC, improved performance on all devices, a video-tutorial, and possible small improvements on the UI (this is TBD)".
Dungeon Defenders: First Wave is an exceptional game, and it's truly amazing that the developers have brought an Xbox Live title to the iOS platform with absolutely no compromises. While the game currently suffers from a few minor flaws, I think that it is a must-have for for absolutely anyone who enjoys tower defense and/or RPG games. I often tell people that the highest praise an app can get from me is to remain on my phone when I've finished reviewing it - in this case, I am leaving it on both my iPhone and iPad, and I've been spending many combined hours playing it. If you give it a try, I have no doubt you'll feel the same.