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Another Bit of Dabbling

March 19, 2012

Dear Reader,

This weekend, I continued my dabbling by purchasing yet another game.  I’m already plate-filled with Skyrim (though I haven’t played in a few weeks), WoW (though I haven’t played in about a week), Civ (though I haven’t played in about a month), the three F2P return games (DDO, Rift, and LotRO), Star Wars (49… almost done), and Deus Ex (gd the boss battles – I know it’s been said a million times, but I love the game but hate the bosses).  This weekend, thanks again to a Steam sale, I tried Dungeon Defenders, and I actually enjoyed it very much.

I’m not sure why I’m surprised about liking it.  For some reason it seems to me like a flimsy game, a cell phone game for game amateurs.  I have to say that perhaps I’ve been quite wrong about it.  In fact, my famously curmudgeonly buddy likes the game very much, so much in fact he’s already purchased the five new heroes that go along with the game (as have I, and I have never previously purchased DLC.  I dislike the whole business model and have been predicting for years that things like ME3’s Day 1 DL would become the trend).  We only started playing midday Saturday and have already logged almost 10 hours (which might not seem impressive, but that means that since we started playing, basically that’s all we’ve played).

It’s an interesting mix of a DotA style game and a game like Diablo.  You control a hero who can build defenses and also fight as monsters appear.  There’s two distinct phases, a build phase and a fight phase, so it’s not really a reflex-based game like a real time strategy, which is wildly beneficial to old men like my buddy and me.  We’ve played the first three boards with my wife, my buddy and I.  My buddy and I also leveled a separate set of characters, since apparently one should have a base-building character and a fighting character (though I’m not sure that’s how it’s intended to be played).

At any rate, the difficulty scales very nicely.  The first board is mostly a learning board with few big threats.  The second board is similar, but introduces some new mobs, including suicide bombers.  Then, on the last wave, a huge ogre mob appears that smashes basically everything (including heroes) and has to be dealt with quickly and carefully.  Then the third board introduces new mobs.  It keeps the game interesting, moving between the known and unknown.  In both of the last-wave cases, my team failed the first time, having become overwhelmed by mobs as the big boss ogre appeared.

This failure was… refreshing.  So many games have become so easy, or, if they’re not, so easy to recover from.  In Deus Ex, I simply save every chance I get, so if I make a mistake, I can quickly reload to undo it.  It makes the game simply a repeated experiment in trial and error.  In this game, you save after each board, so if you fail, you have to go back and replay the whole board.  I’m happy about that; you don’t lose your items or your experience, you’re not punished except by having to play some more, improve your characters some more, and potentially get some new items.  It may not be fun failure, but it’s certainly fair failure.

WoW’s failures usually either still provide you with a reward (in PvP) or penalize your play time (running back from a wipe), but they certainly don’t ask you to do more work for more benefit.  Deus Ex’s failures provide no real penalty at all; you simply reload, taking a few seconds of your play time away.  Dungeon Defenders mixes both; it asks more of you, it takes time, but it also allows you to play during that time, instead of just regrouping and reorganizing, and it rewards you for that play.  I’ve liked that balance.  A lot of games could learn from it




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