Game Review Roundup: DOWNLOADABLES - Renegade Ops, More

Game Review Roundup: Downloadables


Dungeon Defenders

Reviewed By: Seth Robison

'Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

The simple but durable Tower Defense genre of games gains another entry with Dungeon Defenders, a deceptively simple looking downloadable game from first-timers Trendy Entertainment and Reverb Communications.  As with the bulk of Tower Defense games the goal is to grind down waves of enemies before they reach your base, here a crystal, by strategically erecting different kinds of barriers.  In Dungeon Defenders, this basic setup is augmented by a class-based third person action/RPG component that is reminiscent of dungeon crawlers like Torchlight.

In a core campaign consisting of holding off multiple waves of foes in a series of different dungeons you have access to four character classes each with their own set of defenses.  While one class can build attacking towers in the traditional sense, others either focus on passive defense barriers, area of effect traps or buff/debuff fields.  While players can specialize in just one class, building up levels to improve the stats of that character or that character’s structures, they are allowed (and should be encouraged) to swap their player character out for one of a different class during the ‘build phase’ in order to mix and match their defenses. 

The class choice ends once a round begins in earnest, as you are locked into the last character you choose as the game transitions to a 3rd person hack and slash affair.  During an attack wave you can fight alongside your defenses using your class’ individual set of melee and/or ranged attacks or use that time to shore up or repair your defenses. This switch-up in game play styles adds a lot to a genre that is often too passive to remain interesting for long.  In other Tower Defense games, a small mistake in your defensive layout can lead to disaster that can be frustrating to passively watch happen, in Dungeon Defenders at least you can throw yourself into the gap in what might ultimately be a vain, but valiant, attempt to stem the tide.

After a few rounds of play you will quickly realize that the core challenge in Dungeon Defenders is a system of resource management that brushes up against the kind found in RTS titles.  Almost every action from building towers to healing yourself comes out of a finite pool of mana that can be restored via random treasure chests or enemy drops, which means the above mentioned valiant efforts must include wading out of position to recharge. 

Dungeon Defenders expands its genre even further with a system of item drops, purchases and upgrades that rivals many dungeon crawlers, and though there is a handy instant indicator if a new item is better or worse than then one you are currently using, you must carefully maneuver to stand in the right spot to pick it up.  Also tricky is the game’s camera, which is preset into a series of only moderately useful positions controlled by clicking the right stick and has the tendency to lock to foes at random and draw your attacks off.  Visually Dungeon Defenders uses that aging ‘cartoony medieval’ look popularized in dozens of RPG and action titles like World of Warcraft that serves the premise but doesn’t add anything new, neither does the thin soundtrack and canned battle sounds.

Overall Dungeon Defenders is deeper than it looks on the surface, with unlockable extra modes (like playing in ‘pure’ Tower Defense mode without the 3rd person combat) and a networked or local split screen co-op mode for up to four players that is a frenetic must-play.


War of the Worlds

Reviewed By: Seth Robison

'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

Patrick Stewart.  It was such a stoke of brilliance to cast the legendary actor in the role of narrator for Paramount and Other Ocean Interactive’s video game adaptation War of the Worlds that it deserves to be mentioned first.  The star of stage, screen and television tells the story of the game, itself an adapted version of the classic Martian invasion story that takes elements from both the original 1898 novel and the 1953 Hollywood film.  Accompanied by an orchestral score and period appropriate music, his singular voice provides a gravity to the situations depicted in the game that even the best graphics could never convey visually.

Stepping back from the mic, War of the Worlds is a side-scrolling platforming title that, like Limbo or Outland, leans heavy on atmosphere.  The carefully detailed player character stands out from the setting of a London in the process of being annihilated by extraterrestrial invaders.  War of the Worlds effectively uses ‘depth of field’ to sell the game as being set on a larger scale, as smoky ruins stretch out parallel to the action, NPCs wander about or just flee in terror.  This effect also reaches into the foreground, and while the idea behind this part of the effect is interesting and immersive, the tendency for objects in the foreground to block the view of the player character is occasionally frustrating, something particularly aggravating in the segments of the game were you are being chased by Martians.

As if to reiterate how out-matched humanity is in this conflict, the challenge level in War of the Worlds is very high.  Classic Prince of Persia-esque movement challenges are augmented by environmental puzzles and Martian hazards from the original novel (Heat-Rays, the Red Weed and Black Smoke) and new ones like robotic spiders and airborne mines. Players will need to be very precise with their jumps and depending on their individual skill level, submit to a lot of trial and error as you negotiate deadly obstacles.  Not helping matters is a camera that also wants to get in on the end-of-the-world action by shaking, sometimes right before critical jumps. Luckily, the checkpoint system is forgiving and reloads are quick, almost to a degree matching Super Meat Boy.

For those up to the challenge, War of the Worlds will reward you with more impressive visuals and more Patrick Stewart, though the ultimate reward for completion should be an auto-play feature where you can just sit and listen to Stewart tell you a story while you snuggle under a blanket with a cup of Earl Grey tea.


Renegade Ops

Reviewed By: Lucas Siegel

'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

If you're looking for a game to sit down on the couch and yell at your friends over this fall, this is it. While there are a lot of multiplayer options out there this season that will be taking up a lot of your time, it's still worth it to check out lesser-hyped options like this game.

While there is an online option for multiplayer here, the real fun is in sitting side-by-side with a friend, stealing kills and power-ups in this tank-based shooter. The game is fast-paced, has an old-school feel, and still manages to offer something new to the genre. With up to four mini-tanks (and at times mini-helicopters) traversing an enormous field of battle, there is a lot of chaos here. Luckily, the controls are easy to master, allowing you to jump in and focus on blowing s*#& up nice and quickly.

Each of the four over-the-top characters has their own specialty attack, and all other attacks can be upgraded in various fashions – think… any other shooter you've ever played for the basic gist of that. The "story" is presented in a mix of comic-y still shots and straight up goofy dialogue that serves as a nice pause in the action, though when hanging with friends you'll likely find yourself wanting to skip these and jump back into the fray.

And really, that's the best thing you can say about a simple shooter like this. The action is fun, the side objectives are numerous, and the pace stays fast throughout. There is a massive disparity when you change difficulty levels from easy to normal to hard – easy to normal is like running a race first on a moving walkway, then backwards with your feet tied together – but it really serves the game's multiplayer focus. If you can only play online, don't fret- it works smoothly and you don't have to deal with split-screen if your friend decides to go rogue (or you want to divide objectives).

Aside from presentation and the individual weaponry, there's not a lot that Renegade Ops brings "new" to the table; luckily, it does everything expected of the shooter genre right, and doesn't need a whole lot of new. This is a fun game, and as a downloadable, an inexpensive alternative to all the big budget disc games sitting on store shelves. This isn't going to replace any of those experiences, but it's a fun one to enjoy in the interim.

Stay tuned for more downloadable reviews, plus reviews of some big time disc-based games from this packed season!

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