Defender’s Quest Review
Game Name: Defender’s Quest
Developer: Level Up Labs, LLC
Greetings again friends and colleagues and that weird guy Phil I met at the bus stop. Review time again! Now, I know before I promised that I would start writing reviews on games I didn’t think were amazing. But then I decided to pick up Defender’s Quest (it feels so safe in its arms).
Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten is a Tower Defense/RPG developed by Level Up Labs. First released in January of 2012, it was distributed from their website as well as a few other online distributors. It was recently added to the Steam store and was included in both the Steam Workshop for mods and the new Steam Trading Card System. Currently, Defender’s Quest is available on PC, Mac, and Linux.
Okay, boring technical stuff out of the way.
Let’s preface this with saying that I’m not much of a Tower Defense kind of guy. Yes, I’ll admit to playing a few rounds of Plants Vs. Zombies. But then most people have. I just don’t see them as having much depth or substance. This game would have completely blown past me if a friend who tends to make good indie game recommendations hadn’t mentioned it. So I picked it up and tried it out.
I’m not sure what it was that first playthrough, but as much as I enjoyed the game and loved playing it, I kind of let it fall to the side when newer, shinier games came out. And so I just left it alone and ignored like all those orphans you hear about (except even more sad). Then I saw it on Steam and decided that the game deserved another chance. The fact that it was on the Steam Trading Cards list did not affect this decision at all. Nope. Not a bit.
The second playthrough did the trick. I was pulled in and the hours dripped away as I slammed through battle after battle and struggled vainly against the super sheep with its lovely fleece (one day super sheep…one day).
If any of you aren’t familiar with the Tower Defense style of gameplay; the basic concept is that you are given a “tower” and a path to the tower. Hordes of enemies will try to reach the tower and it’s your job to stop them by planting defensive structures along the path to the tower.
In Defender’s Quest the tower is a young girl and your structures are troops you’ve recruited to help fight off the minions of a dark and spooky evil. Winning battles awards you money (used to buy weapons and armor) and XP that is used to level up your characters and your “tower”, granting them new abilities and strengthening their stats.
The story is quite interesting; particularly how they account for being able to basically maneuver around people at will. The gist is that you are in a war-torn region and are stricken with a horrible plague that is ravaging your city. So, the city officials decide to do the humane thing and throw you in the pit with all the other sick people. But you recover with strange new powers and you pull people to you in order to fight off the victims of the plague who weren’t so lucky as to get magic powers. As you journey through you learn more about your powers and the cause of the plague (surprise, they’re linked). I’ll let you play yourself to find out, but I will say that I was quite satisfied with the story’s progression and conclusion.
There’s nothing I like more than seeing a game that can enjoy itself (stop doing that, we have company). Playing throughout I would continuously chance upon little bits of humor and silliness that brought you out of the depressing setting. Though that’s not to say that the dialogue is just joke after joke; each of the characters have their own beliefs and opinions that grow and change as the story progresses. By the end I found myself actually caring about my little pawns of death and destruction.
As with other games of similar genres, a decent amount of strategic thought should be put behind both troop placement and how you level their skills. The good news to that is that for a small cost you can go in and reset the skill points of any character so that you can reassign them to suit your combat needs. This is just one of the features that really make the game.
As much fun as the game is to play, it’s the little things that earn this game high marks. On the title screen there is a button that asks if you would care to Like them on Facebook. Now, normally I dislike sticking my gaming into my social media, so I declined and thought that would be that. I won’t tell you what happens when you click on either response, but I will say that it’s quite rewarding. Afterwards I felt so charmed I had to go and give them a Like (I see your strategy now you devious, gorgeous bastards).
Recently, Level Up Labs released a Gold version of Defender’s Quest that addressed a number of fixes that needed to be made as well as a bunch of new features nobody even knew they needed. Just a smattering of tasters for the enhancements brought out by Gold: New game + mode so that you can kill and kill again and again, targeting logic which allows your defenders to pick enemies they fight based on their strength, speed, health, etc. or just plain attacking an enemy until it is paste in the ground (warning: do not eat the floor paste), enchanted weapons in New Game +, bonus missions, mod support, bug fixes, dear lord this list will just keep going let’s just give the lovely people a link with more info and be on our way.
Regretfully I can’t talk about New Game + mode that much because I’ve just recently started it myself, but already I’m thrilled. Typically when I start up this mode in other games it’s basically just the rehashed version with stronger enemies and better loot. But Defender’s Quest actually throws a few extra goodies at you to entice you to keep on, my favorite of which by far is the journal. As you progress through the story it updates itself and gives you a look at the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings about her situation and her thoughts on her fellow survivors.
Another interesting feature that should definitely be noted is that while starting up a game of New Game + you are still fully able to return back to the original game and start back up right where you left off. Any levels or loot you gain in either mode is shared between, essentially having the same party move between both modes.
When it was first released the game was pretty graphically uninteresting. Pretty standard bit-style that you see in many indie games. Though I did enjoy the cartoonish artworks they did for the cut scenes. Since the Gold version release though the artwork has had some significant work done on it. The developer’s blog has some pretty nifty before and after shots that really show the level of improvement. The game is still in bit-style, but the artwork looks considerably more polished.
The score was produced in-house by Level Up Labs and holds up quite well throughout the game. It does a good job of setting the mood between venturing across the countryside and being hip-deep in the battered bodies of your enemies. I don’t think it’s something I would listen to on the car ride to work, but it’s certainly fitting for the game.
After all is said and done, Defender’s Quest is one of those very rare games that gets it all right. The game is exceedingly well-crafted and I’ve seen nothing but love from the creators both towards the game itself and for its fans (matching Steam prices on their website, giving info on the Wiki page, free updates). I recommend this game highly to fans of the Tower Defense genre and the RPG genre. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to feed some undead into the woodchipper that is my berserker line of defense while laughing maniacally.
Defender’s Quest for the PC I give a 6/6. You earned it kiddo.
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