Indie Game Review: Defender's Quest
Developed by Level Up Labs, Defender’s Quest is an indie game which brilliantly combines two gaming genres, tower defense and role playing. By themselves, tower defense is simply a matter of curbing the passage of enemy hordes from one end to the other without any storytelling value to it, whereas RPG (role-playing games), while entertaining as a tale with an adequate amount of character growth, typically lacks the exponentially escalating strategic difficulty ladder that tower defense boasts. Defender’s Quest is a justification of the fact that it is possible to blend two wholly distinct gaming genres and expect spectacular results.
The game pits Azra, the main protagonist, against a mysterious plague which had killed plenty in the Kingdom of Ash and a growing population of evil creatures known as Revenants. Throughout the course of the game, more characters will be introduced, unlocking new classes to recruit into the typical tower defense layout, namely fighters, archers, priests, and dragons as well. Each class comes with their own advantages and disadvantages in the battlefield, the layout of which determines the units to deploy into battle. The game’s more intriguing aspect is its usage of a Diablo-esque skill distribution tree. As a unit levels up by gaining experience, you can choose to focus the distribution of skill points gained on any one of the two sides of its skill tree, giving it an edge in a certain aspect of the game. For instance, a player would be at liberty to set a healthy balance for his or her archers in terms of hitting one target at a time with multiple shots, hitting multiple targets with one shot and inflicting status effects on an enemy. Such depth of in-game customization preserves its own replayability value by enabling one to experiment with a variety of battle strategies using units designed for a specific role in battle. As the main protagonist, Azra also gains skill points by leveling up, which can be distributed any way the player would find appropriate across her own skill set. With almost the same level of customization, Azra can choose to concentrate on her offensive, which includes powerful damaging magical spells cast on the enemy; or defensive, which includes buff spells on certain combat attributes of every unit in play.
One other unique aspect of Defender’s Quest is its style of presenting various stages in the story. While the art is anything other than stellar, the game tells its story through something of a Powerpoint slideshow of comic panels, occasionally riddled with witty dialogues exchanged among a motley group of heroes with their own quirks, which serves to offer much needed comic relief to alleviate the tediousness of progressing through every battle scenario and the overall depressing tone set by the plague crisis in the story.
There are three difficulty settings for every stage in the game that you can go back to in order to earn mastery stars, as well as a list of challenges that can be unlocked upon meeting certain mastery star requirements, in order to satiate somewhat the inner hardcore tower defense player in any player. Given the game’s overlapping with the RPG genre, a player can choose to play at his or her own pace without being restricted to the typical tower defense brand of sometimes excessive economicality with the player’s own resources.
While there have been a number of attempts in the art of cross-blending genres, such as Puzzle Quest, Defender’s Quest stands out as an example that works out well in aspects of storytelling and gameplay. It is available for download on the game’s own website, or, should anyone be apprehensive as to the game’s quality, a demo can be found on Kongregate.