Editorial: Indie Spotlight: Defender’s Quest

As I mused the other week, I am starting to consider myself as a tiny part of the indie development world. As such, it is very important that I look at the games made by people I hope to soon call my peers.

Four maps for the price of one!
Simple. Addictive.

Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten is a game recommended via Twitter by the indie RPG pioneer, Robert Boyd. I indulged in the Tower Defense craze with moderation and so I was not feeling sick of the genre. Plus, the RPG hybrid nature of the beast – customizable characters that level-up instead of buildings – had me at least sold on the demo.

It took me three minutes before I paid full price for the game.

I proceeded to log around 15 hours over the next few days, happily losing myself in the strategy and mechanics of the title. Defender’s Quest does so many things right, especially as an indie game.

First, Level Up Labs appears to be well aware that as a relatively unknown studio, they have to be as user-friendly as possible. The demo is extensive and easy to get into, the game itself has helpful but concise tutorials, and the difficulty system is so well-balanced for every type of player that even major studios should take note.

In this way, despite the website – like the game – not being very aesthetically pleasing, both are never overwhelming or confusing.

The game introduces new concepts and classes at the perfect pace and the game’s website is uncluttered and full of friendly, helpful, and amusing information.

This is a prime example of the right attitude to have as a developer. Level Up Labs shows the right balance of being dedicated to their craft while appearing wholly devoted to the satisfaction of their customers.

Level-up ALL the defenders!
So much (well-organized) information!

The game has all its bases covered too. While the order of maps is linear, the gameplay is anything but. Players can choose at any time to go back and play old levels to gain some pad on their levels or money, or attempt to challenge a higher difficulty for greater rewards.

Not only that, but while some new spells and characters are added at key story points, the vast majority of a player’s party composition is up to the player herself, along with the party’s abilities and appearance.

This mentality continues to the actual tower defense portions of the game. Despite there being a plethora of options, it is all well-organized and mapped to hotkeys for keyboard-centric players like me. Little convenient touches make all the difference to make the game feel very polished and user-friendly while still really deep.

Not only is it good design, but it is one-of-a-kind as far as I know. I cannot think of another tower defense game like it.

And while the visuals are not really up to snuff, the music certainly is. Defender’s Quest does faux-orchestration correctly by letting the focus be on melody and not just arrangement.

I have not fully completed the game (I keep on replaying it from the beginning instead), so this is not a review, but it is a game I recommend and am absolutely inspired by. This is an indie game done right from almost every angle.