Tower defense can be a difficult genre in which to innovate. If you take away either the towers or the creeps then you’re not really playing tower defense, and if you add other things to the formula then you begin to make a different type of game with tower defense elements. The folks behind Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten have managed it, though, by marrying an RPG to the tower defense formula. Your party makes up your towers, and there’s an interesting story to uncover along the way.
Defender’s Quest hits on several things that I love in a game. First, I can permanently improve my units. Since the towers are people here, it makes sense that each tower is unique. I can level up two berserkers and choose different skills and passive abilities for each of them. It’s a nice change from something like Defense Grid, where all of my level-2 gun towers are exactly the same, or something like Bloons TD 5, where I can upgrade along divergent paths but none of the upgrades are permanent from session to session.
Having named units with potentially different upgrade paths and equipment make tower defense about more than determining what unit type works best in what position, by adding the unique question of “which berserker should I put here?” after I’ve determined that the berserker is really the unit type to do the job.
Like other tower defense games out there I can customize the AI of each of my units by instructing it to go after the first unit it sees, the last unit it sees, the unit with the most HP or the unit with the least HP. Every tower defense game needs this. I love being able to tell my archer to hammer on the strongest thing she can see, while my berserkers just pound on whatever is closest. And then when fast units come in, I can change the archer over to those to ensure that they don’t reach the end of the maze.
Since there are stats to increase, weapons to buy and new warriors to recruit, Defender’s Quest is unique in that you’ll find yourself replaying levels for cash. The developer though of this and gave each fight multiple levels. Higher levels are worth more money, because they have more and more varied enemies and use alternate spawn points. Even when you’re grinding for cash, Defender’s Quest keeps things fresh and entertaining.
The presentation is great as well. Defender’s Quest looks and feels like a game that could have been released on the Super Nintendo. The overworld map is easy to navigate, the character models are simple but effective both in battle and in cutscenes and the sprite work is great. Watching units slowly (or quickly; there are x2 and x4 speed options) march to their demise looks great.
And when you’re done with the campaign, there’s a New Game+ mode where you have a chance to craft legendary items and fight even harder units with skills that make them temporarily invincible or allow them to regenerate health when they’re not being damaged. What makes NG+ even better, though, is that you can switch back and forth at will, meaning that when you get stuck in NG+ you can go back and finish a few of the harder fights from the original playthrough before moving on in your second.
Defender’s Quest can be finished in around five hours, but I find myself coming back to take on optional fights in the main game and continue a New Game+ file. Defender’s Quest is fun, and it’ll run on just about anything.
Pros: Fun combination of RPG mechanics and tower defense gameplay, beautiful sprite graphics
Cons: Fairly short if you push through the campaign