Defender's Quest: Valley of the Forgotten Review
Available on Steam here
Defender's Quest originally came out on January 19th. An enhanced version of the game with better graphics & new features was released on August 30th at a few places (mostly the developers own site) and today, the game is finally coming out for widespread release at a number of major storefronts, including Steam.
Just a warning - I'm friends with one of the developers of the game, have been playing various beta versions of the game from before it was released, and am even mentioned in the Special Thanks section. To say I'm biased is an understatement. With that said...
I love this game!
Defender's Quest is a hybrid between a Tower Defense game & RPG. Take a traditional tower defense game, replace all the towers with heroes that you can boost in battle and permanently upgrade between battles with skill points & new equipment, throw in a fantasy story with some fun characters, and you have Defender's Quest. The basics are all well done here (level designs, enemy & hero balancing, user interface, etc.) but adding some RPG elements to the traditional tower defense formula really takes things to the next level.
Unlike most tower defense games, your hero "towers" in Defender's Quest have multiple abilities, each of which has its own cooldown timer. The game does a pretty good job of using abilities automatically but you can assign various AI settings to individual towers if you want.
Surprisingly enough, grinding isn't a problem in Defender's Quest. The various stages are interesting and well balanced, but beyond that, if you find yourself needing more power, there's no need to just repeat the same stages over and over for XP & gold. Rather, each stage can be played on a number of different difficulty levels, each with its own rewards. The advanced difficulty levels don't just increase the power of enemies and number of waves - they frequently throw entirely new enemies, and new enemy spawn points with the result that the same stage can feel very different on a higher difficulty.
The game should take around 5-10 hours to complete, depending on whether you go straight for the ending or whether you try to beat all the stages on the higher difficulty levels. In addition to the main story stages, there are also a handful of bonus stages that are unlocked as you get perfect scores on the higher difficulty levels. Beyond that, the game features a fantastic New Game+ mode where you get to keep your stats & equipment from the main game as you return to fight much harder versions of the original stages. The New Game+ mode gives all enemies new abilities (like regeneration or temporary invulnerability), offers some new equipment (and the chance to upgrade old equipment into legendary equipment), and even offers a bit more story in the form of unlockable diary entries. And in a nice design decision, New Game+ mode and the regular mode can be switched back and forth on the same save slot, so you can do a few New Game+ mode battles and then go back and finish off some of the harder battles in the regular game if you haven't already. I've only just started New Game+ mode but I look forward to playing through it in its entirety.
I really enjoyed Defender's Quest in its original form, but with all the improvements they made to the game in the Gold version (bonus battles, New Game+, enhanced graphics, mod support), I can say that Defender's Quest is quite possibly my favorite tower defense game of all time (narrowly beating Defense Grid & Pixeljunk Monsters Deluxe). Oh and they also added Steam achievements for those of you who like such things. It's $15 but it's on sale for $10 at the moment. I highly recommend a purchase.