Defender’s Quest Attacks Tower Defense Genre

Defender's Quest: Valley
Of The Forgotten
Reviewed On
Available For
Mac, PC

Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten is one of those rare gems where an indy developer is able to come up with a magic formula for a game that entraps its players for hours on end. The combination of tower defense, RPG elements and a pretty good plot complete with some nice little cartoons is a refreshing twist on the old genres.

The plot of the game is that you are Azra, the royal librarian. Unfortunately, you become sick with the plague. And that means that the guards load you up on the plague cart and dump you into a giant pit with other sick folks to die. Talk about a broken health care system! Thankfully, you fight off the disease, and become one of a fairly large community of people who thus become immune to the plague, and end up living in towns and cities inside the pit.

The problem is that most people who get the plague don’t survive. Instead, they become zombies under the control of some mad god. Azra must recruit allies, defend herself in countless battles with the dead, and ultimately try and save the world.

The game is played on two levels. First there is the overview map which shows all the different places inside the pit that you’ve discovered. The path for the most part is pretty linear, and you simply click where you want to travel. Most likely the path will end in a battle, which must be fought and won before you can move beyond.

The second part of the game is the actual battle. Azra has a special power, brought on by her plague sickness, which allows her to travel into the spirit world and fight the zombies directly. This is the only way to actually "kill" them, so it’s a handy skill to have. A battle is basically a tower defense game. Azra is placed on one side of the screen and there are several winding paths that the monsters will take to try and get to her. To stop them, Azra spends psi points to bring troops into the spirit world to fight. She can also spend psi points to level her defenders up, giving them access to new and more destructive powers. Psi energy is gained each time an attacker is killed, so the player must balance spending psi power with the expected income from kills that units will generate. There is a nice tutorial that explains everything, a nice touch in a game that blends genres a bit.

In addition to spawning in troops and leveling them up, which are placed on walls along the various paths the monsters follow, Azra can also affect the battle directly using several powers like lightning bolts. This can be handy because even with a great matrix-like defense of overlapping fire, monsters can sometimes slip through. And this gives the player a way to pick them off and earn a perfect defensive score, which normally gives a better bonus at the end. Azra can take a couple hits from monsters that get through, but to achieve a perfect score, nobody can be allowed to touch her.

There are four possible difficulty levels for each battle, with the default being Normal. If you spend time leveling up your troops and recruiting new ones, the Normal level should be challenging but not overly so. There is also Casual if you need a break. Then there are two advanced challenges too, which generally increases the number of monsters that attack, raise their levels and also possibility the number of places where they enter the map. Completing the advanced challenges earns rewards like special items or more experience and currency.

The troops themselves, which are basically the towers you place, are all varied and do different things. You start with a barbarian who can sweep multiple foes for a lot of damage, but only in a small area. He’s best used at corners or along walls where he can get multiple swipes on opponents before they pass, or where they have to pass him multiple times. Then you can recruit rangers, which are long range fighters. They can pincushion most enemies from a distance, but can’t fire at anyone close up, and are not too effective against armor. There are also special troops like healers to keep your army healthy because some monsters attack your team in addition to just trying to get through the maze to Azra. And there are mages who can slow fast opponents down, a helpful skill. You will discover even more troop types as you play.

Each person recruited is an individual, and as they earn experience you need to level them up, just like your main character. I found that I could specialize my units to perform different functions, even within a class. For example, for the rangers, I made one group skilled in rapid shot, which sends a volley of arrows at an opponent, but requires that they be leveled up in a battle to their third tier of power, a fairly big psi expenditure. But then a second group of rangers got points dumped into their bleed trait, which is always on, even if they have just been placed on the map. Bleeding makes opponents take more damage from all other sources for a few seconds. When placed together, my "cheap" ranger causes foes to bleed, while my expensive one riddles them with arrows for a really good coordinated defense. The game has more than enough variety to allow for hundreds of these different strategies, so strategic thinkers will be sure to come up with some really good ones.

It’s also worth noting that troops earn experience just for being in the army, even if they don’t get employed in a battle. So it’s good to recruit a couple extra troops when you can, especially of a class you really like, so that they can level up as you travel. You will probably need them on more advanced maps moving forward, so be sure to keep a nice reserve team leveled and ready for action.

You also have to equip your army. The currency of the pit is scrap, which is earned after each battle. A barbarian might hit for 20 points of damage on his own, and be able to add 30 more on top of that if they are carrying a great weapon, so equipment is important. Items can be bought and sold using scrap at towns, but the best items in the game are earned by completing the Extreme challenge level for battles. You often won’t be able to do that when you first get to that point on the path, but the game lets you backtrack as much as you want, leading to some nice replay value.

In between battles, you are shown little cartoon cut scene movies. They are actually really well done too, and pretty funny to watch. This helps to flesh out the plot of the game, and adds some humor as well, a nice little touch.

The graphics are nothing to write home about, but not bad either. They are functional and kind of cool in an old-school way. They are pleasing to look at, and it’s easy to tell where the path is that monsters will take, even the ones that special monsters will follow, such as aquatic zombies that can shortcut through water for a nasty surprise if you’re not careful. The advantage of the lowered graphical tier is that Defenders Quest will run on almost any system and any graphics card. If you can drive the Steam service itself, you can probably run the game.

The soundtrack for the game is original, composed by Kevin Penkin. It fits in really well with the overall game, and it’s really nice to see an indy developer going the extra mile with something like an original soundtrack that would be cool to listen to even if you weren’t playing. In terms of actual game sounds however, it’s a bit generic, with a lot of hitting noises mostly. Also, it might have been nice if the characters in the cut scenes had voices, but then the developers would have run the risk of the voice acting being bad, so it’s probably best that they made it a text-only experience.

Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten is a solid entry into the tower defense genre. There’s a lot to love about the game, not the least of which is the minuscule price. For about $10, depending on what sales are happening on Steam, you get a fun, funny game with great strategic depth in a friendly interface. I loaded the game up, thinking I would play for about an hour so I could review it, and ended up playing for over six hours, before going back for more later.

Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten earns 4 GiN Gems and yet another fan. If you play the game or the free demo, you will probably become one as well.

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