Indie Game Spotlight: Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten

dq_04Indie Game Spotlight is a series in Critical Diversions, and its purpose is to shed some light on a recently released (probably not always recent) “indie” game. What does indie mean? Well indie is basically any game not funded by some kind of big company and usually created by a small team (Minecraft, Super Meat Boy, Braid, etc.).

There is no schedule for this, but will be a sporadic series that happens whenever something catches my attention. You can treat this sort of as a review, but know ahead of time that I consider all the featured games great, and the purpose of this is to basically urge you to at least give these games a look.

The first in this series is Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten, which was released in October of 2012.

Defender’s Quest is essentially a tower defense game that throws in some RPG elements as well. I have been searching for a good tower defense game since Defense Grid. If there is anyone out there that is like me in this regard, Defender’s Quest provides an experience that may just put it up there as one of the best tower defense games ever made.

One of the many criticisms I see leveled towards any kind of tower defense game is that there has not been much innovation in the genre. That is a topic for another day, but essentially my argument against that is that if there is too much innovation, the game is no longer a tower defense.

A cutscene

A cutscene

But, back to Defender’s Quest. Defender’s Quest does provide a really neat level of innovation and fresh gameplay to the rather structured genre of tower defenses. That is mainly provided through the inclusion of those RPG elements. The new types of towers that you acquire are just new characters that help you on your journey.

There are six types of units/towers that you can use in the game. Some of you may be thinking, only six? The game solves this problem though, as each of those characters is given a talent tree based on their class/type of tower. They gain levels as you progress through the game, and each level gives you a point to put into it, essentially allowing you to choose what type of tower you would like that unit to be. Some of the things on the tree are passive, while others are abilities. While there are technically six tower types, each basically has two directions to go, so we could say there are 12.

Because these are units that gain levels and whatnot, there is a limited number of them. You can’t just keep placing the same tower. Instead, you go around and recruit more of the same unit, with up to 6 for every class. So, the most towers you can place at any one time is 36. You need to level up those new units you get right away as well.

On top of all that variety there is just a little bit more. In the game is a basic weapons and armor system that you need to be aware of. There are different shops that are scattered throughout the game to gear up your characters, and there are some unique items that you can get, but I will discuss that more later.

dq_01Then there is one totally unique “tower” to the game, and that is provided by the main character, Azra. She is the person you are protecting in the tower defense and has a health bar that is diminished whenever a unit reaches her. She levels up as well, and has unique abilities that she uses during a level, like increasing attack speed, healing, etc. Instead of weapons and armor, she can equip books that can change those spells.

The enemies are pretty basic and standard to the genre. There are normal enemies that do nothing, some that are armored, some that attack, some that can attack from range, some that can move through obstacles on the map (water), and more. There are other properties that they have as well, and all of those can be mixed and matched together to create an enemy. So, while it sounds basic, there is a reasonable amount of variety as well.

The game progresses linearly through a successive amount of levels. But, you may notice on some screenshots that below the red circles, the levels, there are some stars. Those stars are difficulty rating. You can play each level on a Casual, Normal, Advanced, or Extreme difficulty. The game is not set up really for you to be able to take on the Extreme difficulty right away, but to return to it later and finish it.

This kind of doubles, or triples, the amount of levels available because the difficulties do a few different things. First, they usually dramatically change the enemies that you will be facing. Not only will the enemies be on a higher difficulty, but they are likely to be entirely different than the ones that are on the previous difficulties. These difficulties provide bonuses for completing them too. Usually there is a gold/xp bonus, but some of the levels provide unique items for you to use as well. These unique items serve an interesting purpose in the New Game+.

dq_03New Game+ changes how the enemies act in some ways, for example they all have regeneration now. Also, the enemies are changed on some levels. More than that though, New Game+ opens up some sidequests that you can do for each of your main characters, so it also adds content that way.

There are also bonus levels that you can attempt as well. Access to those bonus levels is dictated by the amount of gold stars you have collected through the game. There are blue and gold stars. Blue stars mean that you defeated a level. A gold star is for a “perfect” completion, meaning that you did not leak a single enemy.

The two final things I would like to talk about are the story and the visuals. It seems that the pixel artstyle just keeps on getting better. Defender’s Quest is a pretty smart and charming looking game, but that is all there is to be said really. The story can be pretty interesting as well if you pay close attention to it, but it is not the strong point of the game.

There is definitely more to the way the game is played, and in some places I was intentionally vague, but I think that some of those are fun to discover on your own, so I won’t ruin any more for you.

Finally, the last thing I can really say about this game is that if you have any inkling, or receive any enjoyment from playing a tower defense game, or are interested in trying out a tower defense game, go out and buy this right now. It is only 15$ on both Steam and GOG right now, and it is worth every penny.

Mentioned games: ,