We’re all familiar with tower defence games right? They’re hundreds of variations on the genre both freely available as flash games and as fully fledged titles for various gaming platforms. Today I want to review a tower defence game on the DS called Lock’s Quest, which isn’t technically a full tower defence game but is more like a real-time strategy game with tower defence elements. There’s also some RPG like elements as there’s a lot of story progression as well as standard conventions like levelling up and unlock new defensive structures. As well as having solid and engaging gameplay mechanics, it wraps it all up with a reasonably compelling story and the huge variety in maps, enemies and structures keeps every level feeling fresh and innovative. Lock’s Quest was overlooked by many, but it received great reviews and is definitely a game you should consider picking up if you’re a fan of RTS games or tower defence games, as Lock’s Quest pushes both of these genres forward in new and original ways.
Most of the gameplay takes place on an isometric battlefield, usually a fairly grassy area with trees and paths. You control Locke, a spiky haired blonde anime ‘archineer’ who wields a spanner. The first thing you do is Build Phase, which as its name suggests, is when you put down all your structures and plan out your defences like turrets, traps, mines etc. You have a limited amount of time to do all of this. Once time is up, you enter Battle Phase and enemies will start entering the field. During this phase, you can either repair buildings or fight enemies in a sort of short minigame sequence.
Your enemies are these mechanical soldiers known as ‘clockworks’ who were created by an archineer called Agonius who was banished for creating these robotic automatons. The main story revolves around Agonius trying to take over the kingdom with his clockwork army. As a result of one battle with Agonius’ troops, Lock’s younger sister Emi goes missing, so Lock sets out on a journey to recover her. As far as storylines go, Lock’s Story does not revolutionise the genre and there are stronger RPG stories found elsewhere. But it is all presented in beautiful cutscenes with genuinely witty dialogue and a lot of tongue-in-cheek humour. Lock in particular is a very well developed character, who is slightly roguish and highly likeable, but can also be highly emotional when it comes to recovering his sister and saving the kingdom. Plus, there are some fairly clever twists to the story which I definitely did not expect and add an extra layer of complexity to the overarching story.
Overall, the game is presented beautifully. The sprite art for the main gameplay elements is very distinctive and it is one of the greatest assets of the game. For such small, pixellated characters, the art really brings it all to life. The music is also very impressive, although it is very repetitive. Plus, there are some gorgeous cinematic parts which really enhance the story and are present throughout the whole, 20 hour experience.
Furthermore, as far as gameplay goes, it is all very smooth and executed well. The build phase feels solid and I never had problems setting things down where I wanted them. Plus the build variety is astounding. There are several building materials (each with their own advantages and disadvantages) as well as an enormous amount of different turrets/cannons, walls and traps with various status effects. The amount of customisation available means that every level allows for a huge mixture in strategies and every player can find their own favourite way to tackle the hoards of enemies. Enemies too are interesting and diverse, as there are a lot of different types all with several special attacks. Lock himself is not as customisable, but he does learn more abilities as the game goes on and has quite a few attacks at his disposal.
Most of the gameplay is fairly fast-paced, and as the game progresses, battles ramp up to epic scales. At some points in the game, you can have something like 50 walls, 20 turrets, a dozen traps and you’ll be fighting off 80 – 100 enemies in a level. It can get incredibly hectic and crowded on the battlefield. It manages all of this without any lag as far as I can tell, and performance on the DS is overall very impressive.
The only real downsides to this game are that it is a bit old and it runs on the DS which limits its scope somewhat. It’s a fairly decent length at about 20 hours, but it does feel like it could be expanded upon. There is multiplayer available but I never managed to find anyone who I could play it with as the game doesn’t seem very popular.
In conclusion, Lock’s Quest is one of those games that I would wholeheartedly recommend for fans of the genre. Although it’s not the most polished that it could be, I do think it pushes the genres that it exists between in ways which are incredibly innovative. The way that building is tackled is incredibly smooth, the battles are fun and addictive, and the story is exceptional for a game of this type. Too many games like this focus too much on one particular aspect. Lock’s Story is an all-rounder, so whilst it doesn’t shine in any particular area, the overall package is extraordinary.