Defender's Quest: Valley of the Forgotten - PC Review

One of the worst feelings as a game is having your hopes up about a game, only to come away horribly disappointed. Dungeons was one such game for me when I panned it in my review. What is even better however, are those pleasant surprises you just never see coming. Defender's Quest is one such title for me.

I picked this up when it was on sale over at Good Old Games a while back, more or less just on a whim. The description was solid, as were the player reviews on the game. One of my earliest Tower Defense titles was Defense Grid: Awakening. It, like this one, is a tower defense game that actually tries to tell a story at the same time. Honestly, most of the time a story does not really fit what is happening on the screen as you pummel waves of creatures to try and protect your 'tower'.

Defender's Quest handles that somewhat cleverly though, but actually putting together a decent tale and focusing it around a character and not an inanimate structure. The premise is that your main wizard was cast into the Valley of the Forgotten, but instead of dying of the plague like others, transcends into someone far more powerful.

She then happens across allies who are also in the Valley as the group delves deeper and the darkness as they try to stop hordes of evil enemies bent on your group's destruction. Tucked around this are cutscenes, RPG elements, different levels of challenge and more to create a game that really is an example of something that came together to become something more than just the sum of its parts.

Defender's Quest initially came out earlier in the year, but has gained some exposure once it was housed on Steam and Good Old Games. It is the type of game that probably is not for everyone, but Defender's Quest is actually quite accessible while being quite reasonably priced.

Graphics - 6:

This is not a pretty game. In truth, Defender's Quest has a sort of tile work that reminds me of the older RPG Maker programs. The character sprites are actually fairly detailed, but there is nothing about the fairly plain-looking levels that is likely to "wow" you. The cutscenes really do not fare all that much better, as they are low on detail. Animation is generally a handful of frames as enemies slowly march toward the heroine and your units shoot, slice and zap them. Everything looks clean and easy to read though, from units to the interface.

Sound & Music - 7:

The sound effects get the job done, and the music is generally pleasant. Neither the effects or the soundtrack are amazing, and there is no voice work here, but everything is functional without being grating. A few of the sound effects, like the cleric spells are actually somewhat useful too - distinctive enough to stand out from the others as you battle creatures on their winding paths. The music is good enough that I found myself wearing my headphones while playing.

Gameplay -10:

This is a very well-balanced tower defense game, and it has a wealth of menus and options, yet all of them are easy to navigate. It is very easy to pick up and play as Defender's Quest guides you through the basics, including new types of units and attacks. The game never felt aggravating to me,  in large part because each scenario has an adjustable difficulty setting. Even if you get stuck on the easiest, you can go back to play other ones you have already beaten. In doing so, especially at higher levels, you can farm experience, gold and earn special items. While this is the very definition of grinding in a video game, because of the handy speed adjustment options in the lower right corner, you can play the game at several speeds or even pause events, allowing you to churn through waves of enemies quickly, but also to halt the action and make some strategic decisions without too much pressure.

Intangibles - 10:

So, this has pretty much everything I could have wanted from a tower defense game, and provides things I never knew I wanted either. The RPG elements are a hit with me. Earning experience and gold, providing shops in towns to buy and sell gear, having unit levels open up skill trees and more - there are a lot of persistent elements, which are appealing to me. In strategy and tower defense titles, one of the things that causes me to eventually lose interest at times, is that no matter how well I perform on a level, that success generally does not carry over in some tangible way to the next level. The fact that it is all wrapped up into a fairly cool story just makes the experience that much more fun for me.

Overall - 8.25:

Simply put, this one came out of nowhere but is my kind of game. The visual and audio presentation lacks punch, but the game itself is both accessible and deep. It definitely puts a few distinctive twists on fairly well-established formulas, and the development team deserves kudos for that as well. Definitely an easy recommendation for fans of tower defense games, or who like to see RPG elements get mixed into other genres.

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