I love tower defence games, Defence Grid 2 was one of the first games I bought on my PS4; however, what component is usually missing from the majority of tower defence games? A story. You have the odd one here and there about an invasion or an attack of killer balloons, but they aren’t usually combined with humour, RPG elements and various weapons and armour to equip your ‘towers’. Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten DX, from Level Up Labs, has done an amazing job of combining all of the above into quite possibly the best tower defence game I’ve played this generation.
Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten DX begins with Azra, the royal librarian of the Ash Kingdom, and our protagonist, catching the plague and being banished. Shortly after, she gets ill and then proceeds to die. However, this isn’t your ordinary 18th-century plague, oh no, it brings the deceased back from the dead as undead Revenants who are not only undead but also fully controllable by mages. Azra discovers that she is immune to the disease as she is returned to the land of the living with the power to straddle the line between both worlds and bring forth allies to help her take on the revenants.
The story of Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten DX is quite generic when you step back and look at it as a whole upon completing the game, but what holds it together is the laugh out loud moments of humour and sheer wackiness of the writing. That being said, the quality of the writing in both the story and the dialogue is top-notch and not something you would expect from a tower defence game. The narrative never seems to get in the way either – it pops up between missions for a few minutes as you meet new people or interact with strangers and then it goes away for the next battle. The story helps hold the whole game together in my opinion as if the game only had the beginning part and then nothing but the missions until the end then you wouldn’t get anywhere near as much out of it as you do now.
The actual tower defence gameplay is amazing. Okay, so Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten DX looks like it was made in MS-DOS back in the 1990’s and at first glance, it looks really confusing and complicated (how I felt before I played it), but once you have put in 15 minutes or so then everything begins to click really easily. Each mission offers four levels of difficulty (with the easiest offering little to no rewards yet lets you progress, take notes games which require you to achieve many stars before progressing), which offers a lot of replayability and methods to gain experience later on. Once you have chosen your difficulty then the map will be loaded and you can begin planning your defence – word of advice, pause the game here as by default it begins with the enemies approaching!
Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten DX operates the same as any other tower defence game – you have a set amount of PSI (points) which can be spent on summoning towers (warriors) which can be placed on certain parts of the map. You must place these strategically in order to stop the hordes of enemies from reaching Azra and taking her out – she may be immune to the plague but she isn’t immune to pain. Your initial summons will be Berserks who attack with their swords and Rangers who use their bows yet later on you will unlock Dragons, Healers and more. Also, seeing as Azra is different, you have a few spells you can use such as lightning and heal.
The key to victory really is dependant on the layout of your allies – you don’t want everyone gathered right near Azra as that means you have little time to kill the enemy yet you also don’t want them all far away as if the enemy get’s through then they are on a path directly to her! It’s all about maintaining the right balance and using the right people for the job. Each unit has a different attack range as well, most of them are melee so will attack adjacent squares, but some will fire arrows or breath fire and won’t actually attack unless the enemy is a certain distance away from you. Then you have your healers who will only heal in a square block around them – it’s all about learning what each person does and how you can use that to your advantage in your defence. Finally, you can also ‘upgrade’ your allies by spending more PSI on them. This allows the individual units to use new moves which you have unlocked and also increase their attack and defence stats.
During gameplay you are simply overwhelmed with options and gameplay mechanics – it’s easy to get used to them, but there is a plethora of them available. As well as setting allies down, upgrading them and your own spells, you can define exactly what each ally does (attack the nearest, furthest, strongest, weakest etc…) as well as unusual options like attack the ones least likely to dodge or has the lowest resistance to you. You can truly customise and tweak each of your placed allies (as they are all individuals and not clones) as well as save the setting you chose for other maps so you don’t have to set them all again.
Upon winning a level, you are taken to your character roster screen where you will see all of the gained experience levels up your team. Every time they level up you get given skill points which can be used to unlock various new abilities or upgrade existing ones within the various characters skill trees. Just so you’re aware, even if you have six Berserks, they are all individuals – so separate skill trees, weapons and unlocks etc…
In regards to in-between missions, you traverse a rather big map as you go from point to point. Most of the time, the next point you land on will be another battle, but every now and again you will come across shops or towns (with shops in them) where you can purchase people and items. that’s right, you are given certain people as you go through the story and by the end, you will have one person from each role-type but if you want more then you must buy them at a shop. Not only that, because everyone is an individual, you need to keep them armed with the strongest weapons you can afford – which gets very expensive the further you get.
There are also a few special areas on the map which offer story cutscenes or even a puzzle in the desert along with side-missions to complete once you have completed the game once and have entered into the NG+ mode. Speaking of which, the game will take about 10 hours to complete on your first playthrough and upon completion, you are given the chance to move to the NG+ mode – I would advise against this until you are really ready as the enemies are much stronger and you carry over everything you have learnt, so you may as well learn more whilst it’s a little easier first.
Bloons 5 TD used to be my favourite tower defence game yet now I tell everyone it’s Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten DX. It just goes to show that not everything has to look all glamorous and pretty in order to be a solid game. Personally, I’m not a fan of the pixel art style in general, but with this game, I found it to be very charming and shows that the vast amount of development work went into its gameplay rather than the visuals – which still look good but it isn’t going to win an award for them. If you like tower defence games or even strategy games then you should check Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten DX out as I believe it’s one a lot of people won’t know about yet it’s so much fun and well worth its current asking price on PSN
Also, there is supposedly a PS Vita version coming soon which may be Cross-buy as well (Same trophy list though).
Defender's Quest: Valley of the Forgotten DX£11.49
- Very detailed and in-depth tower defence mechanics
- Mixes RPG elements into the game perfectly
- Funny and intriguing story
- Easy to learn
- Tonnes of missions and side-quests (once you complete the story)
- Graphics look dated, even for pixel art
- Some trophies will require you to start a new game if you don't read them first
- The Vita version isn't out yet