Monday, July 30, 2012

Dungeon Defenders and Orcs Must Die!

I probably should have done this ages ago, seeing as I played these games ages ago. But no matter! Orcs Must Die! 2 has just come out, so let's celebrate by talking about old irrelevant material. Whee! The main reason I want to talk about Orcs Must Die! and Dungeon Defenders together is because they both are part of a new breed of tower defense games, that pulls you out of your tower planting perch in the sky and throws you smack into the middle of the action (Sanctum is another similar game, I think, and I don't know what else there is). Now, the main point of this: I think Orcs Must Die! did this right, and Dungeon Defenders did it wrong. And now I'll explain why.
Now, don't misunderstand. I don't think that Dungeon Defenders is a bad game, and on top of that it's been quite a while since I've played it, so for all I know they've fixed all the problems I had. It's definitely a ton of fun. The aesthetics are ridiculously bright, colorful, and cheery. The characters are all very distinct (well, at least the original 4), and are reasonably balanced. The constant earning of new loot and unlocking of new abilities/towers is extremely addictive. And most of all, there's 4 player co-op. All of that is pretty great. But what's not so great is the general feel of the gameplay. Character movement is slow and floaty, and attacks feel worthless and bland. There's just a general lack of oomph. You get used to it, and it doesn't impede play, but your character will hack and slash through hordes of enemies and it will feel absolutely boring and insubstantial. The insubstantial feeling is only compounded by the hordes of enemies, as higher difficulties and more players will result in more enemies. Speaking of difficulty, the last I played the game the difficulty was extremely out of whack. With only two players, we were able to quite easily beat all of the early stages, but when our party got upped to three, we consistently got wiped out on probably the 3rd level.

Another much more significant problem is the aiming system. Your character is only capable of damaging the enemy that you're locked on to. And you have to be reasonably close to an enemy to lock onto it. And this is just all kinds of problematic. For one, what about the characters with ranged attacks? The huntress and ranger both use crossbows to fight, and their secondary 'attack' merely zooms in a scope for them. But unless the game thinks you're targeting something, you're only shooting blanks, so sniping is a no go. You'd think it wouldn't be a big deal for the more melee based characters, but it still is. Simply put, enemy hordes are big. And it's quite annoying when you charge in swinging, but only deal damage to a single enemy at a time. Thankfully, hordes also tend to be comprised of the weaker enemies, so after a few swings you'll just move on to the next enemy, and I think that hitting enemies you're not locked onto will knock them back slightly. And again, I want to restate that Dungeon Defenders is by no means a bad game. If you're looking for a game that you and a couple of friends can play together, definitely try it out.
But then, there's Orcs Must Die!. In my opinion, Orcs Must Die! absolutely nails the gameplay. It's hard to describe it, but movement and combat all simply feel good. It's all fast and fluid, which is good because combat will get extremely chaotic. In Dungeon Defenders, things were fairly slow paced. Although your movement was slow and floaty, enemies also moved at a crawl, so things only really got hectic when you had enemies breaching your defenses on multiple fronts. In Orcs Must Die! on the other hand, you move quickly but so do your enemies. Unlike Dungeon Defenders, which will have enemies coming from a half dozen paths, in Orcs Must Die! there are only a few options for the enemy approach. It's very easy to place traps in the way of the enemies (and each trap is amazingly fun), but each trap has a cooldown after activating, and there are always enough enemies that a trap taking out one is inactive long enough to let by ten. Things get crazy very fast as you try to hold back the flood of enemies long enough for your traps to reactivate, and it's fantastic. And now that they've added in two player co-op, you get to do it all with a friend. And now I don't have anything else to say about it. Whoosh I'm off.

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