Dungeon Defenders: Awakened Preview

Some 8 years ago, a little tower defence game emerged from Studio Trendy Entertainment. At the time the genre was still fairly new, at least in the sense that it was making a resurgence. Studios were hard at work to infuse their own creative innovations into what had, to that point, been a very straight forward genre. Trendy Entertainment’s Dungeon Defenders was a fresh take that offered some great visuals, impactful progression and hours of endless fun for co-op players. At the time I put over 100 hours into that game and loved every minute. 

So when it was announced that a reimagining of the title in the form of Dungeon Defenders: Awakened was up on Kickstarter I have to confess that I was more than a little interested. Trendy Entertainment, under the new name of Chromatic Games, has been hard at work developing what is essentially both a follow up to Dungeon Defenders II as well as a reimagining of the companies original title. 

The company recently reached out and asked our team to take a look at the progress they’ve made. Currently still in development, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened (DD:A) hopes to capture what made the original so great while infusing some of that creative innovation that made Dungeon Defenders so great. So grab that coffee, kick back and check out our preview of Dungeon Defenders: Awakened.

That Old Familiar Feeling

Upon firing up DD:A for the first time the feelings of nostalgia quickly washed over me. The Deeper Well, the first map for the original title, was laid out before me with a beautiful new look and feel thanks to Unreal 4 Engine. Beautifully recreated, Deeper Well felt as it did all those years ago and was wonderful to play. After the initial feelings of nostalgia began to wane, I was thankful that what remained was a solid and refined Dungeon Defenders experience.

As the game is still in beta, only a handful of levels were available but each has been recreated from the ground up using the Unreal 4 engine. Lighting, character models and the textures all look fresh and bright giving the whole experience a new feel. The aesthetic makeover is a refreshing experience for the eight-year-old title. 

More than a Feeling 

Awakened isn’t simply as reskinning though. Chromatic Games has been very intentional about upping the ante with this reimagining. The game features some great new story elements as well as a much smoother, more engaging combat system. Hacking, slashing and shooting all feel exceptionally responsive and tight. I did a quick combat comparison between the original and DD:A and it is definitely noticeable. Awakened feels like a current-generation hack and slash experience.

The team has also completely reimagined the user interface. A lot of the process behind gearing up, upgrading and stat comparison have been streamlined into simple, easy to follow menus. Back in the ‘OG’ days, inventory management took place standing at the forge. With DD:A, you’ll be able to access your inventory anywhere in the world on the fly. 

All of these improvements felt so great and made a lot of sense for the player. For a game where you spend half of the time frantically running around stopping hordes of enemies from busting down your door its crucial to be able to quickly navigate menus and access features. This is just one way that the team seems to be rethinking the gaming experience. 

Still, Work To Be Done

At present, the game feels and looks great. However, it isn’t without some rough edges. Frequently enemy spawns would bug out leaving one final enemy stuck in a doorway and invincible. This meant that we would have to wait until the enemy figured out how to defeat the door boss or we would simply abandon the match. 

Another rough edge game in the form of some colour oversaturation and bloom effects that will need to polished and balance. At present, every once in a while you’ll be blasted with some pretty intense light blooming and colour that can be disorienting. Thankfully they are quickly corrected by the engine. These, of course, are all part of the beta testing experience and I look forward to seeing Chromatics’ final results.

Final Thoughts

I love the Dungeon Defenders series. I’m excited to see a reimagining of the original title and if the Kickstarter page for Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is anything to go by we are in for something great. The title offers a pretty solid balance of original content with new features, quality of life improvements and overall visual updates. This coupled with its refined combat and movement make an eight-year-old game feel fresh and new. I look forward to diving into the full game when it releases and exploring all the world of Etheria has to offer. As of the time of writing the game doesn’t have an official release date but with a full release planned for current-gen consoles and full four-player split-screen here’s hoping for 2020. 

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