Defender’s Quest is an RPG-Tower-Defence hybrid on Linux, Mac and PC. The game was developed by Level Up Labs and was their first effort as team.
The story of Defender’s Quest Follows you, The Royal Librarian. You are introduced as having caught the plague and being disposed of in ‘The Pit’, but before you succumb to the plague, you reveal some sort of power that allows you to walk the line between life and death. Using your new-found power, you summon an ally – a rather silly berserker full of manly spirit – to help you. This berserker acts as a pawn and together you survive, and are freed of the plague. Your new goal becomes to escape ‘The Pit’. As you have just been sent there, you know little of what is truly happening. Your berserker ally informs you that the war you have been sheltered from in the Capital has, in fact, ended. The war was being used as a cover-up for the plague. You run into a Pit Warlord called Ozimal Kal – somehow even a place like ‘The Pit’ has managed to spawn its own society. Ozimal Kal captures you and forces you to battle in the Coliseum in which you are teamed up with a ranger. When you reveal your powers, he has intent to sell you, but in the night you are met with a mysterious stranger who advises you on an escape plan. At this point, the story is really only just beginning, but I don’t want to spoil the whole story for you, this is just a taster. I can, however, inform you that the story is well-executed and it was a nice change to see a Tower Defence game with a story that has game-play in mind. It was also great to see the ignorance of your character – the reason you can be fed back-story – wasn’t that of an amnesiac, but tied into the story itself.
The balance of difficulty works well. At no point during my play-through did I feel like a level was too difficult on Normal difficulty. Defender’s Quest has four difficulties; Casual, Normal, Advanced and Extreme. There’s quite a large jump between each, meaning you can’t just power through them all at once. To beat each difficulty, you’re going to have to progress or grind, returning to it later when you’re stronger. This is particularly interesting because when you complete higher difficulties, you can receive weapons and such as rewards which will in turn help you complete later levels. While going back and completing higher difficulties will help a lot, it’s not required and the game can be completed on Normal without too much problem. If you’re not managing to complete levels on any difficulty, find the game too hard or just want to roll through the story, there are options that allow you to tailor experience, scrap and loss conditions to your tastes.
Towers in Defender’s Quest come in the form of units and require Psi to be placed and upgraded. New units are slowly introduced via the story without making it feel like the game is trying to hold your hand and tell you what to do. In the world between life and death, you are able to summon these units to defend yourself. There are many different types of unit, such as Berserker, Ranger and Healer. Berserkers are high-damage, close-range units. Rangers are low-damage, high-range units. Healers are low-damage, healing units. These are the back-bone of your army, and during the story you will be given one of each of these units. New units can be recruited in towns you’ll discover as you progress in the story and each additional unit you add to your army will increase the price of the next unit, so avoid buying units you don’t need just because you can afford them now – If you want to avoid grinding scrap.
As you continue to press through the missions in Defender’s Quest, you unlock new unit types who will be key to the story. Along with you, your units can be customised. Each unit can have different coloured hair, eyes and various parts of their outfit. This helps create a visual differentiation between which you use more often, allowing you to instantly recognise your strongest units. On top of visual customisation, each unit and your librarian has a skill tree. Skill trees in Defender’s Quest are relatively basic, but they unlock various perks that can be used by units during battle. To use them, your unit has to be upgraded using Psi. When upgraded, your unit will now perform its new attack automatically. The player will also gain access to spells that can be upgraded such as Lightning – a direct attack on an enemy – and Frenzy (a party buff) – as the story progresses. Units can also be outfitted with gear which will give them an instant boost in power. Gear can be purchased from various towns encounter throughout the game.
Defender’s Quest has two distinct art-styles. The battles and world map use a pixel-based style in the vein of older, SNES-era, RPGs. The story unravels in a simplistic art-style which fits both being serious and comical. While the art-style is simplistic, the facial expressions are well-done and really aid in discerning the tone of what is being said.
The soundtrack in Defender’s Quest bears some resemblance to older RPGs. I felt at a few points like I had heard some parts of songs before. An homage to titles that have influenced the creation of the game, probably. My favourite example was the battle theme being similar to the battle theme from Final Fantasy in the intro, but as the song progresses, it becomes its own.
It’s rather difficult to think of any problems in Defender’s Quest. Any issues I come up with make me feel like I’m being a bit petty and picking on the game. A few things I would’ve liked to have seen are slightly more diverse skill trees, unit colours further separated, an option to zoom out on the world map and a few more nitpicks. Beyond that, my main problem is really just that it’s tower defence and not turn-based strategy. Again, I’m just nit-picking.
Defender’s Quest is a quality title that has seen a lot of love and care, it comes highly recommended. Level Up Labs has taken a stagnating genre and intricately laced it with compelling features, giving it a whole new image. There’s plenty of humour and the story is interesting. So go out there and discover the mysteries of ‘The Pit’ and the source of your powers.