Co-Awesome: Dungeon Defenders

I have a 4 year old son and an 8 year old daughter at the time of this writing. While my daughter will occasionally play a video game, my son is like a mini-me – he’d play video games 100% of the time if we’d let him. He likes to play on the iPad and he’ll play the occasional Castle Crashers on the Xbox by himself, but what he *really* loves is playing coop games with me.

It’s a neverending struggle to find games that he can play himself that can keep me interested at the same time. Nothing too violent, nothing too complex, nothing that requires reading (yet). I had purchased Dungeon Defenders long ago on Steam and never really got into it, but one Saturday morning I fired it up for him to try. He’d never played a 3rd person game before, and I was worried that he wouldn’t even be able to control it (I gave him the 360 controller, I used the keyboard and mouse). That worry was completely unfounded…

What followed his introduction to Dungeon Defenders was an obsession. “LET’S FIGHT SOME MORE OGRES!!!! ARE THERE ANY STRONGER SWORDS FOR ME??? LET’S PLAY ANOTHER LEVEL!!!!” All. The. Time.

We’re playing just the vanilla game with no DLC. He plays a squire due to his aforementioned love of swords. I play an apprentice during the build phase and swap out to a monk during the combat phase. Overall this strategy works out pretty well. I personally *must* play a builder class since he’s unreliable help, and I really need to switch to something that can take enemies out in a pinch since I can’t always call on him to run somewhere to put a little extra oomph behind my apprentice’s towers. He does like to build the occasional sword trap or “kaboomer” (the bowling ball trap), and I’m slowing getting him interested in the harpoon trap. That said, most of the static defenses still fall to my apprentice.

There’s not much reading needed for Dungeon Defenders, which works out well for him. At the lower difficulty levels the game is easily soloable, so there’s quite a bit of content there to keep me interested while he runs around and stabs things. The biggest challenge is keeping him equipped with an “awesome sword.” He actually does quite a bit of helpful DPS most of the time, so I try to outfit him with swords that will keep him in the game (lots of life and lots of hero damage). The problem there is that the most powerful weapons don’t always *look* like the most powerful weapons, and more than once I’ve had to accept that the weaker (but giant blue and sparkly) sword is going to be the one he insists on. Again though, I’m approaching this as if I’m playing solo, so if he goes a few levels without being super-optimized it’s ok.

So far we’ve managed to get through all the content on medium including Glitterhelm caverns. We’re up to the second boss on hard, though I think we’re *far* from taking him out. We’ve also done a number of the challenge levels on easy, and he seems to enjoy those quite a bit (“wait – the ogre is our FRIEND? WOW!”).

There’s plenty to keep me interested, too. With an apprentice at 50, I can lay down towers and switch to any character to experiment or just mess around, especially if we’re playing on medium or lower. There’s also progress bars everywhere, and those sure do get my mild-to-moderate “MUST FILL UP ALL THE PROGRESS BARS” OCD going. The loot is a little tedious, but he seems to understand why I need to take 5-10 minutes every now and then to clear out our inventory.

Overall, Dungeon Defenders has been quite a successful find for our Co-Awesome adventures. We’ve played our share of platformers and beat ’em ups, but Dungeon Defenders has enough depth to it that I think it might hold my interest longer than it holds his, and that’s really saying something. If you’ve got a little one that loves to play with you, but you just can’t handle another level of Nickelodeon Super Happy Funtime Terrible Video Game, give it a try. It’s out on practically every platform ever (we play on PC with split screen) and is often on sale for super cheap. Even without the loads of DLC there’s quite a bit of game included.

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