Dungeon Defenders: Awakened Early Access Review — Listless Nostalgia

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened aims to take players back to the early days of Xbox Live with very mixed results.

Revisiting the games we used to play, or ones which we have fond memories of, usually goes one of two ways. In our minds, games we used to play tend to improve with time, aging like a nice whiskey into something savory and, somehow, sophisticated.

It's a somewhat frustrating experience, then, when a game isn't as good as you remember. Worse still is when a remake or remaster feels worse than the original, and unfortunately, that's the case with Dungeon Defenders: Awakened

For those of you who aren't familiar, Awakened is a Kickstarter remake of Dungeon Defenders, a game that came out nearly a decade ago. For those of us keeping score, anything 10 years old tends to be considered retro, meaning that if you remember this game, you now feel incredibly old. 

And as you might already suspect, this remake won't make you feel any younger. 

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened Early Access Review — Listless Nostalgia

Dungeon Defenders, both the original and Awakened, is part tower-defense and part third-person action game. You play as one of four heroes fending off waves of enemies by using your class attacks and placing class-unique towers in strategic positions.

It's not a complicated game, but its loop was a lot of fun when it originally released, largely because things ramp up very quickly. There's an ever-increasing barrage of various monsters forcing you to constantly tweak your strategy. 

It helps that the game's co-op was some of the best around. Lord knows there are worse games that have been saved by co-op. 

The concept was once unique, but it's something a little more common nowadays. As such, the main selling point of Dungeon Defenders: Awakened seems to be that it is a remake of a game that people used to love, making the target audience people like me. 

And while the original Dungeon Defenders is still oh, so good, Awakened just doesn't hit the mark.  

Do It For the Horde

Squire performing his circular slice attack.

The game goes like this: you look around the map to clock where the monsters are going to come in and the paths they'll be taking, then you lay down towers or traps. The entry points enemies use are shown before each wave, and often, adversaries enter in more places as waves go on.

This means immediately planting defenses you think will be relevant, but also planting ones that will help out later in the game. 

After placing towers and traps, you enter the combat phase. This is where the monsters walk in and follow their set paths towards the object you're meant to protect: the Eternia Crystal. As they approach, either your well-placed towers will take them out, or you can take a more active role and shoot them or strike them with your hero.

Between rounds, you run around and grab more gems to buy more towers or upgrade the ones you already have. You can also level up your character and equip new items.

Again, it's nothing revolutionary these days, and honestly, it's just not enough to warrant a remake. That's especially apparent when the original game not only holds up fine today, but also when it's almost one-third the price of this Early Access version. 

The gameplay is as exactly as it was, but there's less to do because it hasn't got all of the extra content that came after the initial release many moons ago. If you're a returning fan, you'll feel as though the game is rather empty. In fact, I'd wager that's also how you'd feel if you picked this up without knowing the series.

Sure, Awakened looks pretty, and it sounds good, but that's not good enough in 2020. Without more to do, there's just no reason to grind your way through the game or wait for more content to release. 

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened Early Access Review — The Bottom Line

Towers and traps the castle map in Dungeon Defenders Awakened.

Pros

  • Cute cartoony graphics
  • Good difficulty curve
  • Still fun, if a little bare bones

Cons

  • Not enough content yet
  • It lacks the spark that the original game had
  • It does have its share of bugs

It's important to remember that this is currently an Early Access game, but it's also important to remember that it's one you're paying full price for — $39.99.

As such, there's no reason to pull any punches here, so I won't. Right now, it's not really worth picking up this version of the game over the original. It's just not good enough yet, and it doesn't have enough content. 

Hopefully, in time, Awakened will become an excellent example of how good the series can be, but it's not the case at the moment. 

[Note: A copy of Dungeon Defenders: Awakened was provided by Chromatic Games for the purpose of this Early Access review.]

Contributor

Jason likes the gym, roguelikes, and FromSoftware. There is a pattern there for sure, but try not to read too much into it. He's also a freelance games journalist who is slowly trying to take over the world. Not in a menacing way though, he'd probably just make everyone get pets or something.

Published Feb. 25th 2020

Cached - article_comments_article_65496
Related
More Dungeon Defenders Awakened Content