The lights are on
Recently, we had another opportunity to go hands on with Dungeon Defenders 2 to see how Trendy’s action-heavy tower defense title is coming along. Our four-player demo revealed improved combat, more trap combos, and a deeper level of strategy thanks to map sub-objectives.
Our tour of Dungeon Defenders II’s new environments starts with a trip to the sewers. While we don’t fight on that map, Trendy uses it to illustrate how all of Etheria’s battleground are connected. Looking up toward the ceiling reveals the town square from our New York Comic Con demo.
Maps are more vertically tiered, and before departing the dank underground, we are able to run from ground level, up stairs, and across pipes. For ranged characters, this approach to level design offers more opportunities to deal damage without being in harm’s way.
From there, we move to the mountains. Rivers wind through this map, and bottomless chasms force champions to watch their step. The team at Trendy walks us through new trap combinations that accentuate new types of damage that can be dealt to the oncoming horde.
As the huntress, I am able to place geysers that knock enemies into the air while also drenching them. The apprentice’s lightning aura is then positioned to deal bonus storm damage by electrifying the wet foes. This not only hurts, but stuns advancing troops. Another combination requires enemies to be frozen before being hit by a cannonball or other physical attack for crushing damage.
Combinations often require multiple champions, but can be executed solo if a character is equipped with the correct elemental weapon. A huntress with an electrified bow can cause storm damage by herself in combination with her geyser.
As in Dungeon Defenders, loot is dropped during battle and can be stored or equipped. As players spend more time with the game, they’ll likely level up a number of different characters. The new deck system allows players to swap among three characters between rounds, equip those new loot items, and adapt to the next enemy wave. Whether that’s three different classes or three different builds of the same one is up to each player.
One of the big changes to Dungeon Defenders II that makes the deck system a smart inclusion is the addition of map sub-objectives. These are locations to defend further forward from the main base. Keeping them safe will make later waves easier to deal with, because losing one opens up a new entrance for monsters. For waves with mini-bosses, like the brutal troll, it becomes harder to guess which portal it will randomly enter battle from and, in turn, where you need your strongest defenses.
For those who enjoy the uncertainty inherent in this, Trendy is creating a new “wave director.” Instead of pre-defined waves that include the same number and type of enemies each time, the director will survey the map, account for defenses and current classes in play, and design a wave to exploit player weaknesses.
For instance, a dearth of air defenses might lead to an increased number of wyverns. Playing as melee characters might yield additional spear throwers to pull you away from your defenses. The idea is to create deeper challenges for even the most skilled players.
Playing through the five waves was extremely enjoyable thanks to the frequent and useful communication among our team. There were tense moments as a troll lumbered toward our defenses and celebration when we (barely) took it down before it breached our line. Dungeon Defenders II is, so far, a more polished and enjoyable experience than the original. I remain cautiously optimistic though, as Trendy has yet to explain how its free-to-play model will be implemented.
We’ll know a bit more as the game nears its spring soft launch. For more, check out our preview from last fall’s New York Comic Con.
Very nice. I can't wait to play DD2. I actually still play the original every now and again.
I loved the first one, its one of my favorite co-op games. I hope the second one comes to consoles at some point.