Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time.
Here's what you don't do when you're a king in medieval times: Lead all of your forces to some faraway land and leave your castle unguarded… except for four bumbling children. And then be surprised that they, of course, stumble upon an ancient crystal locked deep in your unprotected castle and unleash every known monster in the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual and all of its expansions. O King, I shall follow thee into the depths of Hell… by the power of your idiocy.
[image1]Lucky for the king, though, the four children are far from defenseless. Don't be fooled by their cartoony, thick-outlined faces, their jolly hops, or their bite-sized clothing that look like they come from the Final Fantasy IX fan store. Hey, you'd be surprised how much you can learn by mimicking knights and wizards during recess and watching marathons of Home Alone. In Dungeon Defenders (not to be confused with Dungeon Defender), these children not only have a knack for trap-laying, resource-spending tower defense strategies, but they can also whoop any monster with the strength of any warrior in Gauntlet Legends.
Progressing up from one level of the tower to the next, your job is to expunge any evil monsters that come out from specified spots in waves, at the end of which is a battle against a gigantic boss demon. Before each oncoming wave, you can see the number and the types of monsters that will engulf the area, but you only have a limited amount of time to build your tower defenses and a limited number of towers you can construct. So you'll have to make lickety-split decisions based on the grid-based terrain of the level as well as the weaknesses of the monsters. Because if the enemies destroy your crystal core, it's going to be a cold night outside… and you're dead.
But unless your character is severely under-leveled, that's probably not going to happen. Nearly everything in the game is upgradable: primary stats, elemental resistances, your tower's stats, your weapon and armor, and your class-specific character abilities that range from a powerful melee strike for the Knight to a Mana Blast for the Mage. As you keep the evil hordes at bay, you can pick up treasure chests for instant boosts to health and mana as well as loot from bosses. Dying doesn't end the game either; you just have to spend precious seconds respawning.
[image2]The best part is that all of these upgrades are sustained and carry over to multiplayer play, featuring up to four-player local or online cooperative modes. (Yeah, when was the last time you heard of a "four-player split-screen" game that wasn't a first-person shooter. ) While you can display trophies of your accomplishments in your lobby, you'll probably join up with another dungeon defender for the trading opportunities, the harder challenge, the subsequently better loot, and all the shouting orders as to where everyone should place their tower defenses. Better yet, if you upgrade a weapon or piece of armor to the maximum Level 10, that object will be permanently "forged by" your character, which allows you to spread the word of your epic item-building prowess.
As a bold combination of tower defense, four-way multiplayer, stat-building, and straight-up action, Dungeon Defenders is much more innovative and intense than it appears. It has the same brightness and seriousness as Castle Crashers and PixelJunk Monsters both rolled up into one. Barricade your doors when Dungeon Defenders arrives on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade later this year.