Defender Chronicles a visual smorgasbord for TD and RPG gamers

Posted: June 10, 2009 in Tower Defense

The tower defense genre has arguably seen a good deal of growth and evolution with many significant new releases this year. Defender Chronicles: Legend of the Desert King is the latest, and in my opinion delivers a solid fixed-path TD game with RPG elements offering gamers a new twist that should satisfy many. Whether or not you’re into the fantasy medieval theme, the gameplay itself provides enough challenge and depth that you may want to check out regardless.

Defender Chronicles is one of the more visually beautiful games you will see. From the 5 beautifully drawn maps to the equally detailed defenders and enemies, the details and effort from the devs is obvious so you won’t be short on eye candy. One unique aspect is the 2D side view in which the game is played. Think of it an elaborate staircase viewed from the side. One minor issue is that you won’t be able to get a full view of the map, and instead, you will need to drag and zoom. However, this doesn’t impact playabilty by any means.

With an epic soundtrack conveying the medieval theme, each quest is briefly introduced with voiceovers and text which is well presented and shows the polish of the game. The text may be difficult to read for some, but the accented voiceovers help that a bit. An additional feature worth mentioning (because so many devs seem to ignore this) is the auto screen flip so right- and left-handed players should have no problem with headphone wires getting in the way.

The objective is to defend the General Headquarters by destroying enemies which in turn earn gold. The gold can then be used to upgrade defenders, and in the case of Defender Chronicles, victories that can be applied to RPG elements. An optional tutorial is presented in the first quest, but to a certain degree I wish an overview of the different enemies and bosses were also included for reference.

As the Hero, you command 6 types of defenders—warrior, archer, berserker, ranger, halfling, and mage—each with its own unique abilities and upgradeable. Your defenders will battle a variety of enemies including Gnoll Captain, Orc Chieftain, and Queen Goblin to the fearsome Wyrm Rider Duo, Awe Inspiring Giant Golem and Meat Chomping Slimeballs. You’ll want to spend some time admiring the artwork before you get started.

The RPG elements I mentioned add to the overall gameplay and the replayability of the game. The Hero can be upgraded in terms of skills, powers and defenses. This comes of in the form of skill points and in stars earned. Depending on the level of difficulty and the success you have, you earn stars and points that can be used to upgrade your hero and unlock new quests, artifacts, and features. I’m getting ahead of myself, but it’s necessary to provide some background before getting into the game modes.

Maps and Game Modes
The maps—Great Sands, CloudPass, Marshwood, Breewich, Silver Keep—represent battles against the evil Orc Hordes and the rising Undead, which can be played in any of 4 difficulty levels: casual, veteran, master, heroic. In addition, there are 5 game modes – campaign, freestyle, extended, classic and classic extended.

Campaign—progressively takes you through the 5 maps
(Only maps unlocked in campaign mode can be played in these other modes)
Freestyle mode—random enemy waves where you can use your hero and artifacts
Extended—survival mode with unlimited waves where you can use your hero and artifacts
Classic—uses the standard hero without use of hero and artifacts
Classic Extended—survival mode with unlimited waves without use of upgraded hero and artifacts

Depending on the level of difficulty and the degree of success in preventing enemies from getting through, stars are earned.

Casual—1 star
Veteran—2 stars
Master—3 stars
Heroic—4 stars
Additional stars are awarded for not losing any lives or completing a map without selling any guild.

For example, the maximum of stars awarded from a single map is 6 in Heroic mode (4 from heroic, star from surviving with all lives, and additional star from not selling) which is represented with a gold star.

RPG Elements
Earning these stars opens the door to two things—Trade Shop and Great Library. They are unlocked once you succeed in completing the first two maps. With Trade Shop, items such as armor, swords, magical rings, and other equipment can be acquired to upgrade your hero. You can also spend these in the Great Library, which unlocks 8 secrets including an extra map, music and two additional defenders. It’s actually a nifty set up that many will enjoy fiddling with.

An overview is provided that charts the quests and battlefields. From the overview map, there are several things that come in handy, and these will vary depending on the game mode. First is the Log Book in the upper left corner which provides a summary of accomplishments, maps and items that have been unlocked, and the maturity of the Hero.

In the lower left corner is the Hero icon where you can view life skills and inventory items, apply skill points to a variety of attributes (e.g. spirit, cunning, morale) and increase abilities to command different defenders (e.g. bowmen, infantry, cavalry and mage). Finally, there is the High Scores icon in the upper right corner and keeps track of scores based on each map.

In the upper left corner is the gold count and pause button as well as the attack countdown timer. In the upper right corner is the fast forward/play button, the number of lives and the attack wave. The Hero is located at the end of the map, and he has certain defense capabilities which can be altered with the RPG elements I mentioned.

Tap on a build spot represented by a flag of a hammer and defense options appear; to upgrade or sell existing defenders, tap on the appropriate defender and follow the prompts. In the case of Defender Chronicles, the 2D view itself provides a different dimension. The game definitely involves quick thinking and understanding the enemy because the attack waves can be intense and rapid. In many cases, you will want to think through where specific defenders are placed based on the type of enemy which will attack by land and air. Also, plan ahead because when as a defender is upgraded, he is also temporarily unavailable.

Each enemy has a health bar, while defender heath bars appear later as the game progresses. If your defender is overrun, he simply won’t appear at his post which obviously is not a good thing. The voiceovers can be a tad overdone, but as you upgrade or rejuvenate defenders, accompanying voiceovers will shout battle cries.

Defender Chronicles is a fixed path TD with specific build spots for placing defenses. Fixed path vs. non-fixed path comes down to preference for many, but frankly, each offers enough differences in gameplay that I think you shortchange yourself by focusing on one over the other. Defender Chronicles combines a solid TD game with RPG elements all wrapped up in a polished presentation. While the tutorial could use additional work to explain certain elements, the game itself presnets enough variety in terms of upgrades, unlockables and replayability that make Defender Chronicles a standout in the genre.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (highly recommended for TD novices and advanced players and especially those wanting an RPG twist)

Check out my review at TouchArcade


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