Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten Review
Developer: Level Up Labs
Genre: Tower Defense / RPG
A review for Defender’s Quest should have been completed a long time ago. But, this game was too hard for me to put down to give myself time to the write review it deserves. Now that I feel like my addiction is slightly under control, I can take a little break and actually review it.
Initially I heard of Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten through a recommendation from someone I follow on Twitter. Always looking for a good tower defense style game, I quickly snagged it up and gave it a go. The result was an unforgettable, addictive journey.
The game has a simplistic, linear navigation style from getting to one round to the next. Once you complete a level, the next area opens up and lets you travel there. As you can see from the photo above, it’s more or less like a connect the dot style navigation. What I love about this is I can progress through the game, easily see which levels I need to go back and improve on, and focus solely on the gameplay itself.
There are four difficulty settings in the game: Casual, Normal, Advanced, and Extreme. You can progress through the game and complete it just on a lower difficulty setting. However, it is the higher difficulties that reward you with more experience, scraps (money) or unique weapons and armor. In the New Game Plus, you will also be rewarded with skulls which are used towards upgrading those unique items.
The beginning of every level starts with the placement of your troops. You have an overall amount of Psi (based on your level) that essentially is the amount of resources, determining how many troops you can place and boosts you can use. Each character class has a set Psi cost when placing them. You will also see their attack range before placing them, so there is no guessing. Some of the classes increase in attack ranges with each boost, but not all. Boosts, (also spends Psi) unlocks their next ability and increases their overall stats. These boosts do not come cheap and are used as part of the strategy to complete a level. You must make a choice on whether or not you should add another character to the map, boost a single character all the way, or evenly distribute your boosts.
There are 6 character classes in Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten: Berserker, Ranger, Healer, Ice Mage, Knight, and Dragon. You will not have access to all these classes at once. Once you are introduced to the next character class, you must recruit each member by purchasing them in towns with scraps. Every time you purchase a party member, you can customize their colors and name. Each troop will cost more than the previous. You can always go back and change the color customization of your characters later.
You can also recall troops back even after placing them on the map to regain some of your Psi. This does add to the strategy, and also helps in case you are in a bind and want to quickly move a troop.
Each class in the game does have its own set balanced skills. You can’t just randomly place your party just anywhere. For instance, an Ice Mage’s frost abilities will be canceled out by the Dragon’s fire skills. Though if you really wanted to, you can select a specific ability on a character on your map and make sure they never use that skill. So for example, if you want your Healer to skip the Ether Flash skill, which damages foes, and focus on healing, you can make sure that skill is never used.
If you’re ever in a bind and are having troubles progressing, you can backtrack to previous levels and replay them for experience. Getting a perfect on a level is the objective when trying to acquire the unique items and skulls, which can only be done by making sure your group leader Azra (you are allowed to change her name) is not injured once. Though you cannot heal Azra, she acquires special abilities such as Lightning, Frenzy, Healing, Crystal, Push Back, and Dragon Fire. These abilities all have a separate cooldown, can be leveled up, and use up your overall Psi.
Failing a level depends on Azra’s life. If all of her HP is depleted, the round ends. Most enemies only take away a small portion of her health when coming into contact with her, but some enemies (such as the Super Sheep) will be a one hit kill.
At the end of each completed round, your party gains experience. If you level up, you gain a skill point that can be used in a basic skill tree. Each tree unlocks different stats and skills based on the character class. Azra also has her own skill tree, which levels up all the abilities I listed above.
The game has a pretty good story that is worth paying attention to. There are some serious moments, but it is also filled with a lot of humorous dialog and character interactions. The game does, however, allow you to Skip scenes. This is good for the gamers who want to get right into the action, or if you’re doing New Game Plus or replaying it completely and don’t want to go through the story again.
If you really want to blast through a level quickly as well, there are different speeds you can set the game at. You can pause when you have to stop and think about your troop placement, or speed up the game by 4x if you feel comfortable with the level.
The graphics may not be the most state of the art, enhanced visuals you have ever seen, but they work. The cutscenes are colorful, and the character expressions change based on their conversations. During the actual gameplay, each character class and enemy have a unique look that sets them apart from one another. Though the graphics aren’t flashy, I think they’re just right to what the game is set to achieve.
The game runs extremely well on my laptop, with little to absolutely zero load times. I played it almost exclusively in Windowed mode, but you can run it at fullscreen settings. And my laptop is not in the slightest a gaming machine. This makes Defender’s Quest available to more gamers to enjoy, as you don’t need a powerful machine to run it. The game can run on Windows XP, Mac and Linux.
Another quality in Defender’s Quest that stuck out to me was the music. I felt like the entire soundtrack of this game was top notch, and worth being noted. Every score was very fitting to each scene, and was easy to listen to during long rounds of enemies.
What’s great about this game is on top of its addictive appeal, it’s set up to play time and time again in both short spurts or long play sessions. As I mentioned before how easy it is to backtrack, the game also has a high replay value. There are bonus levels unlocked only after acquiring enough stars, the Super Sheep (which has 1 billion hit points), and a New Game Plus after beating the game. But, if you aren’t interested in any of this, you can just blast through the game on casual or normal settings in a short amount of time.
Defender’s Quest really tailors to your play style. If the game hooks you (I almost guarantee tower defense fans will be) and want a challenge, there’s plenty to do. However if you just want to see the end credits as soon as possible, that’s also doable. Although I really feel like you’d be cheating yourself if you did. I chose sticking around and playing as much as I could. I defeated the Super Sheep, but still haven’t completed all the difficulty settings on New Game Plus yet, and am nearing 50 hours into this game. The great thing about the New Game Plus feature, is if you find it too difficult, and you missed some unique items, you can still hop back to the normal game map, level, and then head back to New Game Plus with saved progression. It’s just another really nice feature I appreciate.
Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten can be purchased straight through their website, or on Steam and GOG. If you buy it through the official Defender’s Quest website, you will get an additional Steam key on top of the DRM free version.
This game is a must have for any tower defense, strategy, or RPG gamer. It definitely was one of the best (if not THE best) games of 2012 I played. Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten was quite the love affair, and I do plan on coming back to it again.
If you are unsure about this title before purchasing, demos are available. This game does occasionally go on sale, but it is still worth the full price of $14.99.
Watch the trailer below: