REVIEW: ‘Dungeon Defenders: Awakened’ Switch Port

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Dungeon Defenders Awakened

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened from Chromatic Games is just shy of a year and a half past its PC release. The game serves as the sequel to Dungeon Defenders II. However, it is evident that Dungeon Defenders: Awakened serves more of a soft reboot as many of the mechanics are reminiscent of the original game. Since its PC release, this tower defense action RPG has seen positive reviews across the board as the franchise has gotten back to its 2010 roots in more ways than one. Now, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened makes its way to the Nintendo Switch as Chromatic Games attempts to extend its reach to console play.

For the uninitiated, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened at its core is a tower defense game. Players control different heroes that come with their own unique abilities to prevent enemies from destroying your core. As with any tower defense game, the maps and the waves of the enemies become more complex. Dungeon Defenders: Awakened allows players to level their characters and build them to whatever playstyle suits them best to combat the increasing difficulty.

Every core feature from the PC version of Dungeon Defenders: Awakened before the Lycan’s Keep update is present in the Nintendo Switch port with five heroes, various difficulties, maps, and five game modes to be tackled alone or in multiplayer. With the Lycan’s Keep update recently released for the PC and Xbox One, Nintendo Switch players can expect it soon but still have plenty of content to play through.

Players currently have five heroes to choose from. The Apprentice, a mage who controls a variety of magic towers and ranged attacks.  The Squire, a knight who uses blockades, turrets, and physical attacks. The Huntress, a ranger who uses various traps and quick, ranged attacks. The monk, a flexible hero who uses auras to support teammates or structures and has speedy physical attacks. And finally, Series EV-A, a robot that uses beams and powerful ranged attacks.

Dungeon Defenders Awakened

As the heroes level up, players can allocate points to give their hero a more distinct focus in true RPG fashion. For example, a full attack Monk, a full aura support Monk, or even a hybrid of the two is easily attainable depending on player choice.  Respeccing heroes is also straightforward, so you are never locked into one choice, which is helpful when playing with friends who need a specific hero type or if you want to test out different builds.

Players also gain access to a variety of items that drop during waves of enemies. The items can pair with specific builds, giving players more options for how they build their heroes. With any game, there is always a meta of which heroes and builds to bring to a map to ensure success, but with the plethora of build combinations, most casual players will likely see different kinds of heroes throughout their time with Dungeon Defenders: Awakened.

While Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is built for a four-player multiplayer experience, it doesn’t mean it still can’t be fun alone. With the ability to hero swap during the build phase, players can use the abilities of different heroes to prepare for each wave. For example, a player can use the Series EV-A to place beams on the ground, the Apprentice to place ranged towers, and the Squire to place blockades, then switch to the Huntress during the combat phase to do big damage while repairing and upgrading structures. In addition, the heroes share experience, so as long as you have them on your hero deck, they should all scale together as the maps get harder and harder. Further, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened doesn’t limit the creation of the same heroes, so if someone wanted to take a full team of Squires with each having a different focus, they can and still be successful.

If you have played ports of PC games before, you know that most do not have the best track record. Buggy mechanics, reduced graphics, poor control functionality, amongst other issues, can take a great game and turn it into an unplayable nightmare in the port. Thankfully, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened’s Nintendo Switch port largely avoids many of these pitfalls.

Dungeon Defenders Awakened

The biggest draw for me when it comes to the Nintendo Switch port is playing in handheld mode. For the most part, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened plays better than I expected in hand. While the graphics and framerate are clearly less than what you can expect from the PC or even Xbox One, it is not such a large difference that took me out of the game. The controls and structure placements are easy enough to get used to once you have completed the tutorial.

However, the glaring issue with playing Dungeon Defenders: Awakened this way is that action on the screen is smaller. At times enemies seemed to stack on top of each other, and without a colorblind mode, it was difficult at times to determine which kind of enemy I was firing at. In addition, the text on items is often hard to read while loot is on the ground. The amount of loot that is dropped is much less than in the beta. However, with the smaller screen, it is almost not worth the effort to check to see if something is an upgrade as the game’s pacing is slowed down when you have to squint to read. In contrast, the text size in the menus’ inventory screens is adequate, but the actual gameplay makes it hard to imagine anyone with poor eyesight being able to play the game to its full extent.

While docked, Dungeon Defenders: Awakened plays much better. The smaller text from the handheld mode is much less of an issue. The framerate improvement is instantly noticeable, even if it isn’t what you will get from the PC version. Given my bigger hands, the pro controller made controlling my hero and the structure placement much easier. However, despite the vast improvements while the Switch is docked, gamers who either have a Nintendo Switch Lite or don’t have the ability to dock the Switch reliably will be stuck playing an inferior experience. In every other way, the port lands, but be wary if you have issues with small text and objects.

Overall, I enjoyed playing the Nintendo Switch port for Dungeon Defenders: Awakened. Outside the issues with scaling while playing handheld, the experience was virtually identical to my experience with the PC version last year. Even though I only played offline, I can certainly see Dungeon Defenders: Awakened being a great party game for Discord communities and game nights, given its easy learning curve and fast-paced playstyle. The variety of hero combinations and playstyles, several game modes, and different game difficulties allow endless hours of replayability, a great moniker for a Nintendo Switch game. If you can get past the minor accessibility issues, you may find yourself fighting wave after wave and hour and hour in Dungeon Defenders: Awakened.

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is available now on Nintendo Switch.

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

I enjoyed playing the Nintendo Switch port for DDA. Outside the issues with scaling while playing handheld, the experience was virtually identical to my experience with the PC version last year. Even though I only played offline, I can certainly see DDA being a great party game for Discord communities and game nights, given its easy learning curve and fast-paced playstyle. The variety of hero combinations and playstyles, several game modes, and different game difficulties allow endless hours of replayability, a great moniker for a Nintendo Switch game. If you can get past the minor accessibility issues, you may find yourself fighting wave after wave and hour and hour in Dungeon Defenders: Awakened.