Dungeon Defender (The Kongregate Flash Game One, Accept no Substitutes.)

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Ages ago you were the terror of the surface world. Close to total conquest the cowardly mages of the world wrought a spell that trapped you far beneath the earth. Deep below you’ve been gathering allies, minions, and loot to prepare your campaign to retake the surface. Now is the time to begin that campaign. Unfortunately for you, the armies of the overworld were prepared for such an invasion and are sending their heroes to take your gems. Without which you’ll lack the necessary wealth to pay the salary of your allies or bribe certain salacious guardians along the way. Marshal your forces and prepare your traps to keep your fortress safe while you enact your revenge.

History

Dungeon Defender was made my Tom Delorenzi of Grey Hound Games fame. A studio most known for an iOS port of the Gemcraft series — and with a website not updated since 2012. It seems like Dungeon Defender was one of the first games of Delorenzi’s that met widespread release on the website Kongregate.

As you can see in the title image, Dungeon Defender was released in 2008. It’s a Flash Game so it’s hard talking about competition.

Experience

I’m the kind of guy who keeps going back to a game, often long after I’ve finished it. I was wondering why I keep coming back to Dungeon Defender and I’ve found that it’s shockingly verbose for such a simplistic seeming game. Between the different villains you can play as, the ability trees they can put points into, and the different strategies you can employ. Now… I just wish that these differences had a more concrete impact… because I just keep using the same strategy under all these circumstances and I keep winning.

Gameplay

Dungeon Defender is a tower defense strategy game where you’ve got to coordinate your forces to withstand an onslaught of so-called heroes. You do this by digging through tunnels, placing traps in your opponents’ path, placing monster nests, and send your own avatar to dish out heavy damage on their own. Heroes will spawn in through portals on the map and they will take the most direct route to your fortress. Whether that’s through a bunch of lairs or around a giant maze they’ll do it — be careful about digging things out because tunnel walls cannot be placed once removed. Should a hero walk on a lair with no monster in it that lair will be destroyed and will have to be rebuilt, costing valuable gold.

Placing your lairs tactically is the name of the game considering gold is such a limited resource. Need gold fast? Some of the tunnel wall chunks are lined with ores which can be pawned when your peons dig them out. Lairs contain monsters who will fight until they die. Fear not, another will take its place before long. Monsters are seperated into fliers — who can fly over walls or otherwise phase through them somehow, melee mashers who duke it out with whoever gets close, and ranged monsters who will support and fire ranged attacks at nearby enemies. You can also place support buildings that raise the stats of the monsters of adjacent lairs in completely imperceptible ways.

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As you can imagine, your peons cannot dig through steel walls.

Every wave of enemies you defeat earns you gold, and every bit of gold leftover at the end of a round earns interest. But.. not spending enough gold to survive the round is a dangerous preposition. Your avatar starts every round at your fortess is an able fighter. If sometimes fragile, who need not fear death. Should you avatar die he’ll return to life at your fortress after his brief stint with death.

The Gush

I don’t know what it is that I like about the simple sprite designs but I find them a delight. From the tiny goblins to the giant heroic bears I think they look great for a set of pixels. They only move mildly with the the facsimile of animation but I love it anyway.

Every level has a new gimmick. Something that really shakes up the nature of gameplay and gives the player an opportunity to get really far ahead. From neutral nests defending ancient treasures to a mission where enemy monsters attack your fortress it’s a great way to make each level special.

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Gimmicks like the houses in the final level sending a gold to the coffers when destroyed.

The Kvetch

The music is a special kind of bad. It might be a 2 minute long loop, maximum. And its tone is completely unrelated to the events of the game. It sounds like something that should be playing out of a music box. Not something that punctuates a campaign is deep villainy.

It’s a small thing but having to manually dig out every chunk of wall takes a lot of time and is simply annoying. If only there was a way to select multiple chunks of wall to be designated for digging out at once. Sadly, no such thing exists.

Flying enemies are a necessary evil in this game. It’s important to have them to mix things up but they ignore the maze paths that you’ve made and make a b-line for your fortress from the gate. They cannot be attacked by normal melee monsters but can be attacked by ranged monsters and manticore flying monsters. So… if you’re a death knight, the melee avatar, then you’re gonna have a bad time as you stonewall these elven wizards but can’t actually damage them. Desperately trying to scrabble together enough money to set some ranged lairs. Perhaps if there was a warning as to which waves of enemies would be ranged then it would be on the player to prepare but at this point it’s just a matter of memorization.

The support buildings are really powerful but their effect seems largely invisible. Apparently they’re instrumental to optimal strategy and their efficient placement will make your monsters much more powerful… but it doesn’t seem that way. You gotta make that seem impressive, you gotta make me want to use these buildings that do not produce cool monsters that beat up my enemies. They have no flair.

The Verdict

This game is a great way to kill an idle afternoon. Although it’s got a couple of cheap shots and simply lacks polish the overall experience of placing lairs and watching enemies come to their doom is satisfying and fun. Just like all the games in this series it’s completely free. Just going to show that a decent game doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.

Next Week: Lisa The First

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