Dec 1, 2012

Review: Defender's Quest

Released: Nov 2011 ? I have been looking hard to nail it, but I'm not entirely 100% sure.  Bust my balls if I'm wrong, here.
Developed by: Lars Boucet
Published by: Lars Boucet

Defender's Quest throws you into the soles of Azra, a victim of a plague, who somehow gains magic talents and spirit world powers from a plague related near death experience, letting her tap into power from the beyond, being half dead from the plague but not quite and everything.  She's very frail but quickly finds out she's able to fight this plague from her half spirit realm, through spells and summoning companions into the "half way there" realm, the only place plague zombies, snails and acid spitting serpents can be put down for good.

This sets the stage for a tower defense experience slightly out of the ordinary. Basic gameplay is straightforward, but instead of just buying towers and upgrading them, you instead summon companions and recruit new ones to take up arms against the plague army, and they all gain experience from your battles, filling in talent points to specialize their roles as you go.  They can also be equipped with gear you find or purchase along the story campaign, and Azra herself also learns and improves her spell arsenal with experience gained from each battle.

Pushing you from one level to the next is a very humorous and at times emotional comic slides story which does a beautiful job telling the player why the main heroine and her companions do these spirit world battles.  You can name your companions as well, as well as any extra hirelings you bring along for the battle.  A good story is always appreciated, but it is even more so when you see them told through your custom named characters! I certainly got a number of kicks out of the lines my berserker hireling Vadrigald had to share in the intermissions. :)

Meat and bones gameplay then:  Defender's Quest's level gameplay is traditional in nature.  You have your summoner who can place down defenders with specific strengths and weaknesses to fight and survive a number of waves of attackers per level. Placing defenders, upgrading them, and casting Azra's spells all cost mana points which are gained by killing the onslaight of enemies.  Sounds almost dull, right ?  What if your defenders (towers) were carried over from level to level and gained stats, skills and gear upgrades as you go ?  Beat the game and "New Game+" unlocks, not only giving all the enemies new abilities but also enabling Azra's personal journal, sidequests to take on and hellish challenge levels which will really test your abilities.  Throw in achievements for completing campaign and new game+ without hiring extras outside of the main recruits, and there is already a staggering amount of hours required to get to the bottom of this game.  If you like TD, and don't mind some RPG to go with it, there's a strong possibility you will love the trip.

Defender's Quest is written in Adobe AIR which will run reasonably well on most half decent systems, while still being somewhat CPU throttled.  That said, it performs FAR better than for example Binding of Isaac which was done in straight Flash, the difference between them is very plain. Tossing a bone to lower specced systems, there are options for lowering the flashy bits and particle effects.  Of course, it doesn't hurt also that you can easily lower the game's speed which will also help people of either slow pc's or minds (me).  Speaking of options, you can also adjust money and XP gains through the accessibility options, letting you go through it as quick or slow as you please!  This can of course be abused to beat the game easily, but that's your choice.  I like that it's given in the first place.  It is also very useful if you decide to start a new game with just the story companions without extra hirelings, and take a shot at the achievements related to main party only story missions.

As I'm sure you'll no doubt have picked up by now, I'm rather enjoying this game.  Its no secret I tend to enjoy well done Tower Defense games, and Defender's Quest is happy to tickle my sweet spots.  The game is as easy or fiendishly hard as you want it to be, while offering a story stronger than most of its genre.  Chuck rpg elements like levelling and gearing your defenders into the pot and the end product is a pretty sweet game.

Defender's Quest comes heartily recommended for anyone enjoying a decent TD bash, be it at casual or pro levels.

Verdict: 7/10

+Solid tower defending through good levels and companion customization options
+Likeable campaign story
+New Game+ is a lot more than just the same levels again with 10x hp enemies
+For a flash game, runs darn well considering the amount of effects on screen at times
-Lack of advanced TD mechanics, no mazing and arguably weak defender debuffs+synergy
-Sprites, animation and sound effects, while functional do not stand out in any way, a missed opportunity to draw players outside of the usual TD crew in.


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