Oh no. It's happened again. I've started playing a Tower Defence game. My email inbox and To Do list are not going to be happy, because out goes any sense of doing any work today in favour of upgrading and recharging and next wave and circle placement and what's this? It's got an RPG-based levelling up your party metagame? That's it. I'm done for.
Defender's Quest comes from a quartet whose website trips over itself in it's enthusiasm for what is wanted from one of these games. Check out how happy these guys sound! Why thank you, I do want varying difficulty levels, cross-platform support and no DRM while at the same time not wanting artificial padding, endless busywork and byzantine menus. Gimmie!
So it's a tower defence game which works really well. That's the core of what you'll be doing, but ontop of that is a Really Quite Good, Actually story about a librarian called Azra and her struggle to escape a lost and diseased land, hounded by various ne'er-do-wells. The game begins with Azra, dying of a terrible plague, being chucked off the side of a cliff into a pit of rotting bodies before being tempted into hell by Satan and one of his minions. Which is, you know, quite a stern beginning, but one that swiftly sees her escaping from death's clutches and back into the real world by use of her previously unknown magical power of tower defenceing.
The towers, such as they are, are Azra's friends and companions she meets along the way. I've met a Barbarian and a Huntress so far, melee and ranged towers respectively. To be able to place more towers, you have to hire more soldiers to your party from taverns and towns. These extra party members can in turn have their weapons and armour upgraded from buying inventory at shops, as well as the colour of their outfits. Which lends itself to moments where I've thought "time to unleash the pink barbarian and his +3 sword!" You can rename the little guys too, and it's charming to watch a real team you've put together help defend Azra with all their gusto.
Once you've beat the roving hordes you gain difficulty-dependant XP and currency rewards. I've not even begun to attempt the higher difficulties, as a full three star ranking seems to require a team of mighty proportions and my level 4 archer isn't going to cut it right now. When Azra or one of her party members levels up, you can choose from a simple skill tree to specialise specific soldiers into different kinds of tower, from poison damage to slowing effects, so you have total control over what kind of army you want to deploy. Come on, that's great!
The actual defending also makes thematic sense as well. As in, you'll buy some wares at a town and carry on, then be attacked by zombies made out of that town's downtrodden people at your out of town campsite. Or the enemy army that's been after you has finally caught up with you. All the battles so far have had a logical internal consistency, which is saying something for this kind of game. That carries over to the world map, which shows the effects you've had on it, so the prison you've just broken out of now has a huge gaping hole in the side of it. Neat!
And for the first time, it's a tower defence game where the plot is driving me onwards just as much as the next arena. I've been playing this to see what happens to Azra and what the power-hungry enemy's next move will be next just as much as seeing numbers go up and monsters fall down, which again is saying something for the genre.
You can try it out too: the charitably large demo is hosted on the website, and torrents are available for it as well.
Defender's Quest is slated for a November release.