Defenders Quest Valley of the Forgotten DX originally released back in 2012 for the PC to a relatively warm reception. You would be forgiven, looking at the game, to write it off as a basic experience. However, there’s more to this game than meets the eye. The game is a tower defense/RPG hybrid, in which the store description asks you to imagine crossing Final Fantasy Tactics with Tower Defense. That comparison works, for the most part, but it’s not to say that Defenders Quest rises to the same quality of either. Sure, there’s elements in the game that can be drawn from both of those titles, but it’s best to come into this without any predetermination. Despite its very basic presentation and soundtrack, there’s a dark and compelling story thrown into the mix.
Taking on the role of a plague victim, the game starts out by casting you into the depths of a region-sized pit. The land overhead is riddled with said plague, and in an attempt to form order, victims are sent to this pit to live out the rest of their days. This particularly nasty plague eventually turns its hosts into fanatic monsters, hell bent on chasing down the living and bringing them to their end. The problem for you is, you haven’t yet succumbed the illness, you’re alive, and you’re now neck deep in trouble. Furthermore, these creatures answer to someone, or something, and it’s your task to bring them down once and for all. I wont spoil too much of the story for you, because this is certainly one of best aspects of Defenders Quest. What I will say, on the other hand, is that the story remains intriguing and somewhat meaningful throughout.
The game comes with a total of six character classes, all ranging from what you would typically expect to see from any given RPG; ranged characters, close quarter characters, and spell casting characters. The character that you begin with, a librarian, serves as the game’s tower. Other characters (or towers, if you like) can be recruited from towns, along with the ability to purchase weaponry and armor. Much to be expected, certain weapons can only be held by certain characters, but you are indeed able to visit the town often enough to keep checking in on stock. You can also customize the appearance of your party members, including; skin color, eye color, hair color, and clothing color. Currency in this game is known as ‘Scrap’, and as you climb deeper in, items tend to get more expensive and allusive, naturally.
Each character comes with their own skill tree that can be gradually unlocked throughout the course of the adventure. Characters will level-up as you engage in battles, allowing you to bump up their stats and capabilities in the process. Altering the difficulty of each battle will reward you with a set amount of stars, depending on how you adjust it. Gold stars will be gifted if you can complete a map without having your librarian take a single hit. Gold stars will collectively unlock challenges for you to tackle. Blue stars, however, will be served up regardless as to how you perform. Special items can be obtained from completing a map on expert difficulty, which helps to bump up the replay value. Not only that, but this is also a good way to grind the game for additional XP.
With the RPG elements of the game to the side, the combat is where the tower defense traits pull through. You’re tasked with placing your characters on the map in such a way that they will defend the librarian. These characters will automatically attack independently, constantly casting and hacking away at anything that passes by. If your librarian falls in battle due to being overwhelmed and attacked by the enemies, it’s game over. During combat, you’re free to alter the speed of play, or pause it altogether to compose yourself if you get stuck in a tight spot. It’s surprisingly accessible in this regard, which is a huge thumbs up from me. Oddly enough, despite not being a hardware-taxing game, I did witness some stuttering when speeding up the pace of combat. It’s not a huge concern by any means, but it does break the concentration from time to time.
I quite enjoyed the difficulty curve in Defenders Quest. Irrespective of what difficulty you switch your chosen map to, the game doesn’t alienate newcomers or genre veterans. This is a very tactical affair that has you carefully considering your options throughout. How you set your character behavior, how you set up your towers, how you tweak each character to your liking, how you make best use of each diverse map, it all makes for a strategic journey that doesn’t throw you in at the deep end. There’s roughly six hours worth of content here, with twice that amount if you want to go back and beat the higher difficulties or new game plus. Speaking of the visuals, there’s not much to boast about here. Defenders Quest resembles that of a NES or SNES game, and comes with very little detail. However, as aforementioned, to judge this game by its looks alone, would be doing it a disservice.
Defenders Quest is a solid RPG/Tower Defense hybrid that offers up hours of content, spread across a dark and compelling story. The visuals and the sound are the weakest points here, but to judge this merely on how it looks would be doing it a disservice. It’s accessible, it’s refreshing, and above all else, it’s well developed.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.