Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Defender’s Quest! You Got Your Tower Defense in my RPG!

Posted by Rampant Coyote on April 9, 2013

dq_battleI’m a sucker for Tower Defense games.  It’s sort of a subgenre of Real Time Strategy games (which I’m also a fan of, but I don’t have the devotion to play very competitively). In fact, I have heard that they got their start as user-created mods / levels for Warcraft III and other RTS games. Has anybody NOT played one of these? (Here’s an old but entertaining one that kinda got the ball rolling for the flash-based TD craze).

I suppose, with Role-playing game “elements” being added to pretty much every other genre, it was only a matter of time before someone did a mash-up of RPG and TD. If not the first entry into this mash-up, Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten is the best (that I know of). When I first heard about it, I thought, “dumb idea.” And then I thought more about it, and thought, “Well, okay, maybe it can be done well…” IMO, the developers of Defender’s Quest did it quite well.   I got hooked on it during it’s early beta-release last year, all the way to completion. I blame my failure to complete Legend of Grimrock because of this game.

The web-playable demo is available on Kongregate for those wanting to check it out. ‘Cuz playing it is better than reading about it. But I’ll keep writing.

Anyway, the game has you playing a character named (by default) Azra, a royal librarian who has contracted a horrible worldwide plague and is cast into “the pit” (a walled-off valley) to die. As it turns out, the plague is not a naturally occurring thing, and the plague victims often turn into nigh indestructible “revenants.” But Azra finds herself in possession of a unique power that allows her – and others she summons – to fight these monsters on their own plane of existence, destroying them utterly and potentially averting what seemed to be an inescapable doom for the entire world.

dq_cutsceneBecause allies must be summoned to this plane, they (and Azra) are stationary, and in fact need her to ‘boost” them so that they can achieve their full potential. But their equipment and skills come with them, so experienced, well-equipped allies are more valuable even if they require more psychic energy to allow them to fight to their full potential in each battle.  In addition, Azra can obtain a number of spells fueled by psychic energy allowing her to directly affect the battlefield – from doing direct damage to enemies, to speeding up all allies, heals, etc.

Certain allies arrive as part of the story, with default names (but they can be renamed). Others can be recruited in various towns and… other places within the Valley of the Forgotten. You really cannot succeed without hiring additional help, and making sure they are adequately outfitted. During conflicts, you may have to choose between summoning more allies or ‘boosting’ the existing allies. Allies cannot be permanently killed, but damage can cause them to be unsummoned – they disappear and will have to be summoned again, back at their starting boost level. As with any good tactical RPG, combat is a balancing act of trade-offs and risks.

dq_equipThere are important decisions to be made with leveling. Your allies have skill trees they can navigate as they level up. What I like to do is have some allies go to the highest levels of the skill tree, so they can take advantage of the very powerful highest-boost-level powers. Others, I focus on maxing out their low-level powers. These are the ones that can do quite well without requiring the psi energy to boost them to the top levels.

Unlike most other TD games, all of your allies are unique, so there’s no guaranteed single strategy to winning.  And as usual, every arena offers different challenges. As a bonus, the game does allow you to revisit battles at higher difficulty levels (generally after you’ve gained a few levels and / or new allies) to face greater challenges for increased rewards.

The end result is a very nice blend of Tower Defense and RPG. Defender’s Quest: Valley of the Forgotten is not a TD game with “RPG elements” – it’s really a full-on RPG with a TD-based combat system. And in that, it kicks butt.

I’m a fan.

Have fun!

Filed Under: Impressions, Rampant Games - Comments: 12 Comments to Read

  • Alma Perry said,

    I’m going slightly old school with this one, but I’d love to match an RPG with a pinball machine. With the open sourced pinball being introduced my http://www.multimorphic.com, I think it would be the perfect matchup.

  • Matthew P. Barnson said,

    Well, you might get accused of nepotism if I win. But the next time you have us over for dinner, show me the gameplay!

    I am a big fan of tower defense games, particularly mixed with RPG. Dungeon Defenders qualifies as one of my all-time favorite games for this reason: RPG elements, min/max powergamer elements, first-person shooter elements, and tower defense elements. Admittedly, at higher difficulties and Monster Bash DD becomes much more a shooter than RPG, and with all the zillions of hacks going around it’s tough to find an honest game outside of the Steam ladders. But very, very fun nonetheless if you play with people you know.

    Does this support multiplayer in any way?

  • Califer said,

    Jay, remember Sensory Sweep? Nepotism is bad. Sorry, Matt.

    I’ve got two ideas. One is mixing RPG elements with a top down shooter. Say you could choose from different skillsets, and killing enemies netted you XP. You follow a quest starting with killing rats and ending with fighting Pig Wizards shooting fire and bacon at you on the moon. I already finished this one last year. Check it out! http://www.califergames.com/marchtothemoon/

    The second one is the one that you mentioned in the post. Japanese Arena: Kana. I’m perhaps taking the idea of “knowledge is power” a little too seriously and facing you against traditional Japanese monsters at the end of each lesson. You level up, learn new attacks, and get Japanese weaponry. Also, Dirk from Frayed Knights is in it! (Thanks for letting me use him, Jay!)

  • Darius said,

    A little while ago I made a little game that added RPG mechanics to tetris. The tetris blocks are pieces of a tower that your character climbs, fighting monsters and leveling up along the way. I hope to flesh it out one day, but you can play the concept here: http://gamejolt.com/games/puzzle/tetratower/5761/

  • Lazaro Cruz said,

    I would like to see an old school shoot em’ up RPG. Think Galaga or space invaders with RPG elements.

  • Damon Smith said,

    Tetris RPG!

    So you are a little 1×1 square, running along a simple platformer world, and fitting yourself into holes in walls/floors to “solve” the row and remove the obstacle.

    As you gain experience and “level” up, you slowly acquiring more 1×1 squares until you can form a final 4 square tetris piece (allowing you to unlock more areas that require that particular piece to pass).

    It could be a “Thomas Was Alone”/”Lost Vikings” game too, where you control multiple tetris pieces, and must level them ALL up and work together to pass certain sections.

    Enemies would be characters from other old school games like pacman, centipede etc…

  • McTeddy said,

    Doh. Sports management is what I wanted to say. Can you imagine running an Adventurers guild… outbidding rivals to hire Conan and Dresden to your team. Seriously… I’d loved to play that.

    But because you clearly stole my idea I’ll say that I’ve been trying to create a functional Racing RPG for years. Not an action game… but a console style RPG that focuses on racing.

    As you gain levels you can take corners at higher speeds and maneuver on tricky corners. Put some points into defensive driving to prevent enemies from passing or maybe take a few points to ram your opponents off the road.

    Win races to earn money and parts to upgrade your car… maybe even party up with another driver or mechanics.

    I don’t know why. But that idea had always appealed to me.

    (N/G) TD’s aren’t really my thing.

  • Anon said,

    This isn’t a competition entry:

    What we definitely need are more RPGs placed in our times – and sports are only one, very specialized, example. Everything happens either on the playing field, the management offices or the dressing rooms ;-).

    What we have enough of is gangster simulations (GTA, Godfather, Mafia, Omerta etc.) but crime-solving RPGs are kinda rare.

    What I therefor would like to see is a “Dirty Harry” CPRG where you play as Harry Callahan, roaming the streets and the massage parlors of 1971 San Francisco.
    You shoot bank robberies with your trusty .44 magnum (“The most powerful handgun in the world!” – at least in 1971…) while munching hot dogs.
    You harpoon baddies against wooden shacks, drive all sorts of vehicles (motorcycles, buses for senior citizens, but not in real time as everything is turn-based!). You can hone your skills on the firing range (don’t blow the grannies away!), have casual free sex with the sexy neighbour (or hear the lamenting of your ex-wife).
    You tell people that opinions are like assholes – everybody has one! and to the mayor that your policy is to shoot people who are running around with a knife in one hand and a dildo in the other!
    You also team up with a partner but be prepared to learn new names as they don’t last long…
    Later missions include serial killers that shoot random vics like the Zodiac/Scorpio killer (with torture opportunities!) and vigilante cops (plant a car bomb in your superiors car to solve the mission!).

    Bonus points if you manage to kill a mafia boss by causing heart-failure through accusation!

    You are Dirty Harry – you only get the dirtiest jobs in the city!

  • Binh Nguyen said,

    Role playing games have been combined with pretty much every game genre, first person shooter, real time strategy, turn based strategy, etc. However, there are a lot of themes to explore.

    This combination is admittedly not clever but I would love to see more combinations of role playing games with Mech games, ideally turn based and tactical.

  • bvg said,

    I think there are different ways to merge rpg’s with 4x turn based strategy games then the heroes of might and magic route.

    For example, a 4x game could have a kind of rpg game for the court and rulers of the realm, with intrigues and such. Crusader Kings is halfway there, with it’s focus on inheritance. But it is still rooted in a managers mindset, and thus not a rpg at all.

    Another way to do that could be the way that the empire works, needing to send envoys on quests to keep cities in an empire, with factions and adversaries that need figthing. The envoys could then gain experience and loot. The total wars series is almost there, but it focuses completely on the battles, and all the little minions and generals are mere pawns, not characters.

  • Colm said,

    I had to laugh when I saw this snippet on the app store description for King Cashing 2:
    “The idea for the first King Cashing came while playing Kairosoft’s Game Dev Story. When making a Slots/RPG hybrid in the game, I wondered what that would look like in real life and thus King Cashing was born.”

    So, here’s another RPG + setting combination from the options Game Dev Story gives you: RPG + Train

    You _are_ a train. Equipment = train cars (also allows customisation). Levelling up = improving your locomotive (allows more cars as well as overall statups). Quests = travelling (on rails.. haha). And so on!

  • Maklak said,

    That “Valley of The Forgotten” game is pretty awesome and I want one if I win. Archers rule the battlefields (well, not so much against very heavily armoured enemies, but still). Oh, and the first point you spend on some ability is often more powerful than points 2 and 3, so it pays off to save points before lvls 5 and 10 and buy 2-3 abilities at once. I also like the passive abilities almost as much as I like the extra attacks from active abilities.

    As weird as that sounds, I’m currently hooked up on a Dwarf Fortress mod that throws MLP and Fallout into the mix. I like two genres the most: RPGs and city builders (Sim City, Civilisation and the like), so it should be no surprise that I would like to see the two merged in some way. As to how that could be accomplished, well it gets more vague, but there are a few possibilities:

    * City builder or an RTS that has some “hero” units, whose main purpose is not to die and provide bonuses for nearby soldiers. This has been done many times, but an interesting twist would be that all your “hero” units form a family and it’s OK if some die as long as the family continues. The “Total War” series works pretty much like that, although to me it has too much war and too little building and economy.

    * In RPGs you often have a maximum party limit and a number (5-20) of potential companions who will talk to you about their backstories, romance with your main character and so on. This is all fine, but players usually hate to see them die and reload saves if it happens. What if the more important and story-related NPCs were leaders, traders, craftsmen and other stay-at-home types and most of your hirelings / companions were expendable redshirts? It would even be a valid tactics to lure them into dangerous fights and take their stuff if they die. Sure, if you convince a few people to go on a quest with you and return alone, their families and village will ask questions and react negatively to you, but your reputation will suffer mostly in that town. Well, I wouldn’t like those redshirts to be just nameless soldiers, like in X-com, but I don’t want long backstories for them either.
    I also don’t want any artificial limit on the number of companions (unless it is something meaningless, like 10-35), but instead I want the balance to be provided by other factors: Hirelings need food and water, which you have to buy and carry (possibly needing a horse and a cart or at least a packmule). At least some of them will demand regular payments for their service. Others may want a share of the profit. Some may be disloyal and steal from you. Some may get you into trouble when you go to a town, for example by having their way with some local woman without the consent of her father or husband. Most are motivated purely by greed or quest for fame, a select few may be just loyal to your family or to a cause. This may be a cause of arguments among them. Some may have their own weapons (or tools, if you bring along non-combatants), but if you just take a few random peasants or beggars, they need to be outfitted in something. Toss semi-suicidal / homicidal AI (A giant rat between me and my master? Full auto assault rifle!) and companions would balance themselves in that having more than a few elites would be more trouble than they are worth, but playing a charismatic leader with a small army of “zerglings” that you often have to replenish should be a viable tactics. Those hirelings that do survive, should slowly advance in the skills their use the most, but don’t have an unlimited potential for growth.

    * In RPGs by the end of the game, you often have a bunch of “mid-game” weapons lying in the inventory with no other use than shop fodder. What if instead, you could outfit the town you did a few quests for, so that they can defend themselves easier and will like you more? Maybe even send a few of their guards with you if you ask. Or it can be your town and you can use those weapons to upgrade your guards, royalties from that mine to build a granary or otherwise make your acquired wealth meaningful.

    * When I have a location of a bandit camp, I’d like an option to ask the guard for help in dealing with them.

    * When I help a town secure some resource or trade or free a nearby mine from minecrawlers or whatever should benefit them, I’d like to see the results: more people moving in, new buildings built, new items they have for trade, etc. If two communities now live at peace, it would be nice to see they have visitors from each other or that caravans are moving between them. Oh and my character should totally get royalties on it or have an option to negotiate “You want me to kill those Deathclaws so you can mine again? I can give it a shot, but I’ll want a share of the profit.” RPGs deal with these situations by the owner paying you once, then telling you to bugger off.

    * City builders are often kinda shallow in that most problems can be solved by throwing money at them. What if there were various other options for dealing with most problems? Use local guard or hire mercenaries? Import some resource or use a locally available substitute? Kill someone who is annoying, but kinda useful, let him be or perhaps send him away on a mission?

    * A rather nice feature of the new X-com are cutscenes when you get some new piece of equipment. A city builder can have that too, for example in post-apocalyptic world, building a copy of AMR could trigger a cut-scene where it is used against someone in Power Armour, killing him at long range. Or if you go the route of say, using slaves as resources to make cyborgs, some cut-scenes could be the stuff of nightmares.

    * In most RPGs the player should be able to own a house, if only as a base of operations and a warehouse for items. Customisation is more than welcome. So far the game that handled this best was Ultima Online.

    * Make it so that all people have to eat and they grow food, work, trade, collect taxes, whatever. If you steal from them, they may starve. If you steal the money to pay some workers, there may be a revolt. RPGs are getting closer to this, but “living, breathing world” usually just means that NPCs have some scripts that make them hang around different parts of the town, depending on the time of day and you can loot most things either without consequences or without consequences if you aren’t seen.

    * Things like this would definitely require some procedural content generation and AI complex enough to handle a lot of things you can throw at it.

    Well, pretty much all I’ve said is vague, but I would like “living, breathing world” and “your actions will affect the world” to be more than hype and marketing slogans.