The Ball
Primal Carnage

If I was nerdy enough to have a "favorite engine," it would probably be the Unreal Engine—not necessarily for its technical achievements (though you can't say it hasn't been an essential tool for developers in the past decade), but for its accessibility. The easy-breezy development kit has been especially kind to indies, and because of that, some brilliantly creative games have been built on the engine. Now Steam's flogging an Unreal Indie Bundle, and for $20, it's actually got a pretty admirable selection of games.

In the seven-game lineup, the stand-outs for me are the hypercute Dungeon Defenders and slick-looking Sanctum - these are two tower defense games I've dragged numerous pals into playing the past couple of years, and I'd feel pretty pleased with myself if I could drag the readers of PC Gamer into playing it too. Meanwhile, I'm also looking forward to giving Primal Carnage a whirl. While our preview in October last year thought it decent despite not seeming quite fleshed out, it's half a year onward, and I'm dying to see if those promisingly savage dinosaurs have cut their teeth on the beta stage and become truly, frighteningly awesome.

The other games included in the package are Q.U.B.E., The Ball, Unmechanical, and Waves. All up, the games are worth about $80, but in the Steam bundle? You can get 'em for twenty. Though there isn't a specified end date for the promotion, it's warning that it'll be around "for a limited time only."
Dungeon Defenders
dungeon defenders 2

I didn't like Dungeon Defenders 2's competitive MOBA mode very much, something I feel a little guilty about. I probably would have enjoyed it more had I not been playing DotA since the time steam was simply another word for hot water or if my team had a quarter of a clue between them. The guy beside me? He went zero and nineteen. By the end of it, I wanted to bake his mouse into a pot pie and feed it to him.

That said, Trendy Entertainment's interpretation of the increasingly popular genre is interesting. The most obvious change made is the complete removal of the usual armament of items. Gone are the Divine Rapiers, the Manta Styles, the insufferable Dagon. Instead of Power Treads (or Steam Boots, or what have you), Dungeon Defenders 2 uses time-limited consumables and only time-limited consumables: health potions, mana potions, things that give you a temporary increase in speed, things that absorb damage after your health has been lowered by a certain percentage and so on.

It's a peculiar decision that I'm completely on the fence about. On one hand, I can see where Trendy is going with this—it's not only trying to simplify things, it's attempting to circumvent unstoppable snowballing. On the other hand, this maneuver neither stops bad teams from being bad nor does it allow the individual to potentially salvage a disastrous situation. We've all seen an angry Spectre turn the tide of a Dota 2 game on her own. This, sadly, isn't something that I'd expect to happen in Dungeon Defenders 2.

The other major change is the switch from the familiar top-down perspective to a slightly over-the-head but mostly behind-the-shoulder third person view, like Smite. How does a third-person MOBA dressed up in Dungeon Defenders' syrupy-sweet visuals actually play? Okay. The selection of available heroes is somewhat impressive given the fact the game has only just recently entered closed beta. There are many faces that will be familiar to veterans of the franchise and others such as the Spider Princess that may be a not-so-subtle nod to the MOBA mode's spiritual progenitor.

For my hands-on, I went with the Gun Witch, a short-skirted sylph with a rather big gun. She had the ability to fire a bullet that would ricochet between opponents, a projectile that would silence (and damage) the first thing it hit, a leap that had her barreling headlong into a targeted area and a "snipe" that let her, after a brief wind-up period, unleash massive damage in a direction. In an the environment filled with players playing the game for the first time (PAX), the long-ranged glass cannon seemed the best bet.

Everyone picked their heroes and the game began in earnest. I bought a few potions, waffled at the base for a minute, before briefly joining the rest of the team as they charged down the middle lane, past our tower, across the river and then into a self-propelled genocide at the enemy's tower. Needless to say, I stopped before they got to the second half of that excursion.

Three minutes. Four dead teammates.

While I'd like to blame my team (who could probably feed all of China) as much as possible, it's understandable that they might've found themselves bedazzled by Dungeon Defenders 2's colorful visuals. Though marginally shorter than the heroes themselves, the "creeps" in Dungeon Defenders 2 weren't immediately noticeable. It took me a good ten minutes to realize that the hunch-backed creature wielding a ball and chain was a teammate as opposed to a slightly more powerful NPC.

I also have my suspicions about this possibly being the fault of the third-person perspective. Though an arguably excellent way to showcase the artwork, it offered a narrower frame of vision. Even in Dota 2 or League of Legends, it can an absolute nightmare keeping track of precisely what is going on in the battlefield. Things get even more complex when heroes can slyly duck behind a siege engine, one located at the very periphery of the fog of war. Is it a crippling difference? No. I can see getting used to this new viewpoint. Was it a necessary and effective change? Probably not.

And, really, that's the most relevant question: were the changes made both necessary and effective? Did Trendy have to swap from the traditional control scheme to the slightly more awkward WASD mode of control? Does designing a MOBA that exclusively uses consumables promote accessibility, or is it simply an attempt by Trendy to distinguish itself from an ever-growing set of competitors?

In Trendy's defense, its competitive mode is a decent marriage between what makes Dungeon Defenders work and the trappings of the genre. However, there's a lot to be said for wantonly stripping out and stripping down features. Games like Awesomenauts and Smite both had the right ideas about things but I'm still not so sure if there's anything to defend about Trendy's encroachment into the muddy waters of the MOBA.

Trendy Entertainment is planning a staggered release of Dungeon Defenders 2. The cooperative mode of the game goes into beta late this year or early 2014, and the competitive mode is currently in closed beta. Read more on the Dungeon Defenders 2 FAQ.
Dungeon Defenders
Dungeon Defenders 2

Dungeon Defenders is a fun co-op action tower defense game. Dungeon Defenders II, announced today by Trendy Entertainment, is that idea give or take everything that's happened in PC gaming over the past three years. It's free-to-play with cross-platform multiplayer (PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and Web), and it's launching in two parts: a new competitive MOBA mode that's in closed beta now and will be playable at PAX East this week in Boston, and an update to the cooperative defense mode of the original, which is scheduled for beta late this year or early next. So, not much has changed.

The competitive mode, which Trendy happily labels a MOBA, is taking beta signups right now. It will initially feature just one 5v5 map, but on the hero side Trendy anticipates it will have amassed 24 to choose from by launch. Some of those will be paid heroes, but the rotating selection of free heroes is expected to match "similar free-to-play games." Meaning League of Legends, of course.

And, as is now standard practice when announcing F2P games, Trendy already has an answer for the question: "Is the game pay-to-win?"

"Of course not!" reads the official FAQ. "As of this moment in development, everything sold in the game is obtainable through play. Furthermore, all stat giving items are awarded only through play, not pay. Like many other games in the genre though, you will be able to purchase boosts that will let you level faster or find better cosmetics."

But why make a cooperative game into a MOBA in the first place? Answer us that, Trendy!

"During the development of Dungeon Defenders we constantly tried different multiplayer modes. Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, you name it. None of them really fit. When planning the sequel, we couldn’t drop the idea that a MOBA in the Dungeon Defenders universe would rock. Maybe it was all the after hour games of League we played in the office. We don’t know. But it fit well into the storyline and achieved a core goal of helping Dungeon Defenders players meet new players, so we went all in."

Oh, well that makes sense. But what makes it different from League of Legends and Dota 2? Don't have an answer for that, do you?

"Our take on the MOBA genre is more rpg-esque, with more hero customization, persistent hero leveling, loot and a town square where players can socialize, manage their heroes, shop, trade, and queue for matches. We’ve drastically simplified the item system, to reduce the learning curve for new players and are aiming for shorter total match times. We’re also experimenting with some other unique twists that you might find out about later (if they work!)."

Alright fine, announce your game with plenty of details and jump straight into closed beta like some kind of indie game studio that communicates frankly and only when it has something to show. See if that works. And while you're at it, why not promise a gameplay reveal in the announcement post? Schedule it for this Friday, maybe? Yeah, I thought you would, and now I guess have to get real excited about it with no need for sarcasm, because it actually is pretty exciting.

I'm not a big MOBA fan, so I'm more excited to see more of Dungeon Defenders' original co-op, but I'm willing to give the competitive mode a chance while I wait. What say you?
Dungeon Defenders
Humble Bundle Android 5

Don't worry, the Humble Bundle for Android 5 may name-check Google's telephonic operating system but, in typically Humble fashion, the latest round-up of pay-what-you-want indie games is available for PC, Mac and Linux too. This version of cross-platform indie pick 'n mix includes four games as standard, with another two available to those who beat the average. Among them is the excellent Super Hexagon.

Joining Terry Cavanagh's geometric avoid 'em up are music based schmup Beat Hazard Ultra, 2D action adventure Dynamite Jack, physics toybox Solar 2, and atmospheric puzzle platformer NightSky. You'll also get Dungeon Defenders plus its DLC for paying more than the current average.

As always, your payment can be split a variety of ways between the individual developers, the charities EFF and Child's Play and the Humble Bundle organisers. Pay over $1, and you'll also receive Steam keys for all of the games.
Dungeon Defenders

Now there's even more reason to use that holiday cash Aunt Myrtle sent you on something charitable. The ongoing Humble Indie Bundle 7 has just expanded its indie game offerings to include The Basement Collection of Flash games, the action puzzle platformer Offspring Fling, and the retro 2D platformer Cave Story. The original bundle was packed with indie hits Snapshot, Closure, The Binding of Isaac and its Wrath of the Lamb DLC, Shank 2, Dungeon Defenders and its DLC, Legend of Grimrock, and the documentary Indie Game: The Movie. So, for the next six days, you can snatch up nine full games and one movie for a price that's absurdly close to free.

If you haven't done a Humble Bundle before, here's how it works: You can donate any amount of money and receive Snapshot, Closure, The Binding of Isaac, Shank 2, and Indie Game: The Movie. But if you pay more than the average ($6.41 as of this writing), you'll also get Dungeon Defenders, Legend of Grimrock, The Basement Collection, Offspring Fling, and Cave Story. The folks at Humble Bundle estimate the total value of this collection at $170. You can even choose how you'd like to have your payment divided between the developers and the two benefiting organizations, Child's Play Charity and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

For more information on the games included in the bundle, check out the trailer for Humble Indie Bundle 7 here.
Dungeon Defenders
Humble Indie Bundle 7

The seventh Humble Indie Bundle is upon us, just in time for the holidays. For whatever cash you've got left over after your shopping's done you get a slew of indie winners that include The Binding of Isaac, bloody platformer Shank 2, the surreal Closure, the gross-tastic Binding of Isaac (and its Wrath of the Lamb DLC), and colorful sidescroller Snapshot.

You'll also get the Indie Game: The Movie documentary, and clearing the average price—$5.87 as of this writing—gets you the excellent Legends of Grimrock and Dungeon Defenders (plus included DLC). That's the holiday spirit!

The bundle's organizers introduce each game with terribly hilarious puns in the trailer below.

Dungeon Defenders
indie royale
Unlike A MAJOR PUBLISHER, the Indie Royale guys actually know what the word "indie" means. Their latest colon-tastic bundle includes Dungeon Defenders, Containment: The Zombie Puzzler, Data Jammers: FastForward, Brainpipe - A Plunge to Unhumanity and Weird Worlds: Return to Infinite Space. You also get a few extras: Dr. Blob's Organism, and the VooDoo Interface and Temporal Logic Grid Blues OSTs.

Games are provided in their Steam and Desura forms, apart from Weird Worlds which isn't on Steam, weirdly. The current price stands at £3.14, but you can pay more than £4.32 to get Starscream's album Future, Towards the Edge of Forever.
Dungeon Defenders
Trendy Entertainment, creator of action tower defense game Dungeon Defenders, is offering a cash prize of $1000 (about £620) for the winner of its first map contest, as well as inclusion of the map in the game's ranked and open modes. The contest will also award $500 (£310) to the second place winner, $250 (£155) for third, and a "DunDef prize pack" for all winners. The official rules have been posted to Trendy's forums, and the Dungeon Defenders Development Kit can be downloaded as free DLC on Steam.

Trendy is asking for "people of all experience" to participate, and suggests starting with a how-to guide in its forums. Once submitted, the entries will be evaluated both by the community and a panel of judges.

The contest is not strictly limited by age or region, though Trendy cautions that to claim the cash prize you must "meet the age requirements for your state and country," so keep that in mind. Also note that Trendy will own the winning map so that it can safely include it in the game. Entries must be maps which haven't been previously released, and the deadline for submissions is June 21 at 11:59 p.m. EST.
Dungeon Defenders

What better way to break open today's toughest campaign issues than the imminent threat of becoming demon food? The just-released President's Day Surprise DLC for Dungeon Defenders unlocks four new skins, including President Obama and Mitt Romney, then sets you up to battle for points while avoiding a giant patriotic demon. Of course you'll also be fighting your fellow players, and at some point Michelle Obama will probably use a machine gun to rain lead pain down on George Washington. If only every presidential debate was this entertaining.

The free DLC unlocks more than just democratic mayhem. Two new pets (a Democrat Donkey and Republican Elephant) and two new weapons are also added. Would-be dungeon debaters can pick up their boxing gloves via Steam.
Dungeon Defenders
Dungeon Defenders review thumb
The real heroes of the realm have gone off on a crusade, and only their young pupils are left behind to defend the Eternia Crystals from monsters. That’s the premise of Dungeon Defenders, a tower defence game where you place turrets to stop streams of AI-controlled enemies as they work their way around a maze to attack your base.

So instead of a Knight, there’s a tiny Squire in an oversized helmet and no trousers, and Huntress, who expresses her character by turning around and wiggling her buttocks. The intro warns that “these heroes-in- training will have to grow up quickly” – this might be too quickly.

Playing alone, it’s a strange game. Each hero type can place a different type of defensive structure, but you have to do loads of running around to intercept all the enemies. Placing structures costs mana, and that has to be scavenged from dead monsters. It takes a long time to scrounge up enough to set up a good defence, a long time to place those defences, and a long time to walk between all the places you want to put them.

Dungeon Defenders only really works in multiplayer: it’s co-operative, so you can each focus on one particular stream of enemies, or one particular aspect of defence.

I like to play Squire, and set up a killzone on one particular path. I place a harpoon catapult off the beaten track so it can penetrate whole lines of enemies. Then, to keep them in the field of fire as long as possible, I lay spiky barricades to block and damage them just before they leave its arc. If there’s room, I add a bouncer turret right in the middle of the chokepoint, which shunts them back or into the spikes.

These abilities are unlocked at regular intervals as you level up, and you can enhance either your fighting skills or your defensive structures. You also find randomly generated items, and can ‘invest’ in your favourites: pay gold to boost one of your weapon’s magical properties. It’s all smart and effective stuff to keep you engaged early on. After that, it relies more on you enjoying the matches themselves.

None of the individual interactions are especially fun, though – combat is stiffly animated and unconvincing, turret projectiles don’t have much weight, but there’s a definite pleasure in deciding where to concentrate your efforts and resources, while others do the same around you.

Strangely, Dungeon Defenders doesn’t have any good systems for encouraging players to work together. Mana, the most crucial resource, is hogged by the first player to snatch it from the battlefield. You have a shared maximum for how many structures you can build, but no individual player limits: the jerk who squanders it by overbuilding his own stuff is ultimately rewarded with a higher score.

It’s also tough to get into a good game. The browser tells you the character level of the host but not the other players, so you’re usually in a game with at least one hero too high or too low level to have fun with.

The core idea is good, but right now it’s too hard to get into a good game, or work effectively with other players once you do.

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