It is a tough time to be online right now. We are watching as a whole race rises up against the systematic oppression they have experienced for years. It is hard not to be upset and the urge to help is strong. If you are in Australia you may feel like helping is too hard, the distance too great. Player 2 would like to remind you all though that Australia is by no means innocent. Indigenous Australians have been victimised and silenced by ingrained systemic racism and police brutality for generations. We, as a nation, have treated them in such a bad way for so long their voice is no longer even acknowledged let alone heard. So helping starts at home. Write to your local state or federal MP. Donate or assist a charity that works with the Aboriginal community. Educate yourself about the traditional owners of the land you are now sitting on. These are just some of the small but important steps each and every one of us needs to take to make Australia and, by extension, the world a better place. Player 2 would also like to say it is important to recognise all marginalised voices in this country, from the LGQBT+ community to disabled Australians to other minority ethnic and refugee groups, and work together to make this a truly equal place to live.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened – Taking Towers to an Orc Fight
Tower defence games always felt like sidelined titles to me – usually aimed at more casual players on mobile game storefronts. It always felt like their strategic validity was obfuscated by civilisation and its total wars. And like a pathetic little purist, my toe made the tiniest ripple in the original Dungeon Defenders and then casually walked in the other direction because that there is too cold for me to take a dip.
But as the ages have watched me and my continued strategy game woes, Dungeon Defenders Awakened has stirred a growing realisation in my gaming journey:
I cannot command armies. I cannot delegate if my life depended on it. But somehow, ask me to construct inanimate soulless WHS safety hazards right in your path and, pal, I am on that doorstep ready to wreck chaos and torch the risk assessment.
Therefore, I was fully ready to commit to Dungeon Defenders Awakened, the new offering in the series by Chromatic Games, with the hope that a retail version of the game might spark my interest more than its free-to-play predecessor. This is in itself a laughable justification, as Awakened is arguably a remaster of the decade-old original game. However, I gravitated more towards this release – maybe because it felt more accessible in single-player, maybe because I felt like I missed the original’s hype train, or maybe because it makes the original look as ugly as homemade sin.
The graphics and interface have definitely had a good spruce into Unreal Engine 4 – the movement is fluid (and thankfully customisable), the level design is inspired, and the interface has been updated. This serves to accentuate the whimsical look that the series has retained over numerous titles, brought forward to a newer generation. It is not a lot of change, but it is still welcome.
The style of gameplay has similarly not changed much. This is still a combination ARPG/tower defence game at heart, still with the option to go it alone or team up with up to three other players. While I did my gameplay solo, I did enjoy being the only strategist on the map and jumping around to support my defensive structures as they held back wave after wave of enemies. I don’t feel like I lost a lot by playing the campaign on my own, although I agree that a friend or two might have made it easier.
Strategy is managed through a build phase to build your structures, and a combat phase for you to bound around the map while you and your structures attack enemies and defend your crystal. At the end of each wave, gems and loot drop near the crystal and around the map – gems being used to build more structures or upgrade your current ones during the match, and loot providing weapons and armour to upgrade your character across the entire game. There is an element of “rinse and repeat” that is inevitable in this format, with your character’s progression through experience and increased stat points being a key foundational component to assist you. Eventually, I got to a point where the experience and gold acquisition was the primary motivator, as look drops did little to improve my current character and it was better for me to sell my trash and upgrade my current gear. I felt a compulsion to level up to increase my damage, speed, and health, or even the opportunity to boost stats for my structures.
Of course, this brings up the argument that the game could be considered basic. Certainly, in comparison to the original 2010 release that has apparently benefited from additional content plugged into it over time, Dungeon Defenders Awakened would feel very bare. However, I can see that Chromatic Games have highlighted the rudimentary accessibility with this remaster. Focusing on the basics allows for greater stability – getting a good primary flow to the experience before focusing on other things. Additional mode offerings complement the campaign and further promote the provision of good items and levelling your heroes. I wasn’t daring enough to give Challenge mode a go, because providing the same maps with a random challenge quirk will probably be of interest to me when I feel like I want to spice up my strategy (for now I am happy with the balanced vanilla experience). However, I was definitely more intrigued by the Survival and Mix modes on offer, increasing the number of waves up to 25 or infinity depending on your personal tolerance towards “numbers go up while hope goes down” scenarios. These modes allowed me to see how my decisions played out over a longer timeframe, teetering between immortality and frailty.
At the time of this review, Chromatic Games are working through issues with users who pledged to their Kickstarter or purchased the game in early access, as the upgrade to the 1.0 launch has left their previous progress behind in the early access version. This has resulted in a lot of negative reviews from users who progressed substantially in the earlier build and do not want to lose their hard work.
All in all, I loved Dungeon Defenders Awakened. Chromatic Games have got the core gameplay down pat. Maps are short and sweet, and there are extra modes for when I feel like I am ready to play for longer or try a different strategy. While the loot system does not give many regular advances in the later game, there is still avenue to trash for gold and benefit from each play. Being developed by a company with a good history of additional content in the original game, I am hopeful for additional content in the future, but for now, I am just happy playing this game on repeat for days.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened was reviewed on the PC with code kindly provided by the publisher.
When Sarah was young, her brother complained that she “got through that final level of Super Mario World on a fluke.” Refining this skill, Sarah has continued to be successful purely by accident. Follow her on Twitter at @essieteric.