Dungeon Defenders is a great game, but as you may have already experienced it can be very challenging. That's not a bad thing unless you're struggling with solo play, or have friends who are terrible at videogames. Or perhaps they just never listen when you say an Eternia Crystal is at risk of being destroyed.
While I can't help you with that last bit, Trendy Entertainment was kind enough to provide us with a wealth of expert strategies for solo players, general tips, and how to get the highest scores to fight your way to the leaderboards.
When playing Solo, you'll want a way to lock down some approaches to your Crystals since you won't have anyone manually covering those. To that end Trendy recommends starting as the Squire or Apprentice. These classes offer a physical blockade early on to stall incoming waves from reaching your Crystals. Remember you can cross-class; change between your created heroes at the Forge during a Build Phase. Leveling up several different classes will make getting through some of the more difficult levels much easier in the long run.
You'll have the easiest time in these harder levels when picking the Squire to start with. If you've put most of his level-up points into Defense stats, his Harpoon Turrets can keep enemies at bay and give you the necessary breathing room to switch to another heroes and give them some easy XP for a round.
In case you only want to manage two heroes at the time, it's best to add the Apprentice in the mix. His Defenses have a lot of variety and scale well throughout the early game, and his Overcharge ability makes it easy to simply Repair all the Defenses and getting that delicious XP without requiring high level stats.
If you want to throw a third class into the mix beside the Squire and Apprentice, Trendy suggests the Huntress be next. Her Inferno trap is a force to be reckoned with in the mid to late game, and since it is based on charges and not health points, the difficulty you are playing on will have much less effect on if you suddenly finding your Defenses are falling due to the high damage of more difficult enemies, or even Ogres.
For players who don't mind a little micromanaging and parallel leveling of four different classes, it's recommended to leave the Monk for last. While his Defense Boost can provide much needed support even in Solo, he really shines as a Multiplayer Hero. His Defenses take much more attention and points to become useful early on and one of his more useful Defenses for the late game is not available until you are a few levels in, so it's better to use those Defense Units (the limit for Defenses in a level) on some other Defenses while soloing. You can still go all the way solo as a Huntress or Monk, but it will require some creativity and a lot of skill to pull it off on your own.
The best class for manual damage would be the Huntress. Being ranged and applying constant damage with minimal DPS (damage per second) downtime is clutch. While the Squire will be applying a heavy load of DPS through more effort in upgrading stats, the Huntress will seem to simply pick up her total DPS through new drops and having the range to not require chasing down enemies.
If you're new to the genre or a game like Dungeon Defenders, the Easy difficulty is the way to go. You'll still get a good amount of experience, but you'll have some more space to get a hang of the UI, the flow of gameplay, and to toy around with how each Defense works against different types of enemies. For the more hardcore players, you should have little problems going through it as the Squire or Apprentice.
Moving to a higher difficulty is really up to whether you feel like you've collected enough good gear, and whether you've reached a certain mastery over a level to be able to beat it without almost losing. If you can't get a 'Flawless Victory' (i.e., receiving no Crystal damage at all) in a mission on Medium, it's recommended to wait a bit until you start trying it on Hard.
Trendy's protips for survival
Surviving can be hard enough, but knowing how to build your character when you're starting out can be a bit of a guessing game. Trendy Entertainment has these tips to help you out.
Protip #1: Hero stats are exponential.
Protip #2: Repair.
Protip #3: Hunt Mages (those guys who summon skeletons).
Protip #4: Add a Monk Healing Aura to the mix.
Protip #5: Upgrade, don't repair.
General tips & tricks
Pets are fun and can give you a good buff in stats, but as you may have noticed they can become really expensive really fast. The shop only re-rolls items and pets after completing a mission. If you're starting out, beat Deeper Well (the first mission) and lock a cheap pet by clicking RS or the equivalent button. This way it won't re-roll if you complete another mission.
These pets will be the cheapest pets you'll find in the game and although they won't give you a large amount of DPS support, they can give you some invaluable stat boosts that are well worth the price. Since the store re-rolls after mission completion, this ties into Protip #8 of doing the first mission several times; it gives you the best chance to find and acquire a good early game pet.
The Tavern lobby's store owner can offer a lot of different items and pets, but it's not always easy to choose between spending your money on those or spending it on upgrades instead. There's a luck factor involved due to the random re-rolls of items, but as you've probably noticed the shop equipment will quickly become out of your financial reach. This is because Trendy wanted to encourage players to find loot rather than just buying loot in the early game.
Saving Mana for upgrading the one awesome lucky weapon you find is the best way to spend your Mana. Later in the game when you earn more Mana and have stored some nice savings in your bank, you can spend some time replaying missions to re-roll the shop That way you can try to luck out on a set item to complete a set or try to find the perfect pet.
When playing Solo traveling distance is always a factor. Placing Defenses at closer choke points will help keep them all in tip top shape. Lowering the amount of choke points is also just as important. For example, on 'Foundries and Forges', the second level of the campaign, placing your Defenses at the three choke points around the core (not on top of it but where they converge) is a much easier setup to maintain than placing them at the four choke points further out.
All the same, since you are reducing choke points there will be more enemies per choke point and as long as you are able to soak up the damage with repairs you will be better off. Only in the first few levels will placing defenses near the crystal core be effective, players will have to rely on their speed and tact to keep things up in the later levels.
While Trendy didn't want to give away all their secret recipes for Defense success, they do have a couple of handy tips.
Magic Blockades: Don't forget that these strip enemies of their immunities! Placing some random Magic Blockades around doesn't hurt to not only distract the enemies but to help your elemental towers take them out. Magic Blockades are also a great Ogre distraction. Placed in their path they will usually want to smash them and it can save you time to rebuild or build more in the case of an incoming Ogre.
Darkness Traps: This will become one of the most underappreciated Defenses in the game, but can really help lower the stress of a choke point by confusing the enemies and redirecting them to other Defenses or targets.
Huntress Trap Placement: Pay attention to the effective radius and not just the area that triggers it. Also, stagger your traps. Putting the Inferno Trap further back from the Defenses will kill off most of the non-fire-immune enemies and the ones that are can walk into the Proximity Mine just ahead of it. Putting a Gas Trap further ahead of an Inferno trap can cause the enemies to cough and sit in the Inferno Trap even longer which can really help with higher HP enemies.
Loot drops and quality modifiers
The amount of players never factors into the quality of the loot, it is entirely dependent on the difficulty in which you play and the mission you are on. That said, having more players in the game will result in more loot drops due to the higher amount of enemies, which can give you a better shot at the 'lucky drop'.
Later campaign missions will reward better loot and challenge missions do so as well. Survival, Mix Mode, and Pure Strategy will not award better loot than the level already gives. However, loot gets better as the waves go on, so if you play one of those modes into a deep wave you will find better stuff than you normally would otherwise. Not to mention the rare and exotic loot and pets that come from these modes.
I could never figure out what actually defined my scores when playing Dungeon Defenders, but once again Trendy came to the rescue. Here's what they had to say.
Score is determined in several ways:
Here is a list of the Wave Bonuses:
And why not have some handy map layouts while you're here? Use them to plan ahead with your friends!