Defender Chronicles: Legend of the Desert King

Defender Chronicles: Legend of the Desert King

What we liked:

+ Hand-drawn art
+ RPG and puzzle elements
+ Scalable difficulty
+ Replayability and multiple modes

What we didn't like:

- Voiceover work is goofy
- Fixed tower locations may kill the thrill for some TD enthusiasts

Rating
8.0
DEVELOPER: Gimka   |   PUBLISHER: Chillingo   |   RELEASE: 07/27/2009
Verily I grow stronger.

Defender Chronicles is 2D TD, with puzzle, strategy and a dash of RPG as you battle the forces of evil in a fantasy kingdom darn near overrun with dragons, slime and orcs. You are the Hero, a general that must defend the kingdom, rescue the princess and generally save the day from the invading evil forces. Between each epic battle in the Quest there is a narrative filling you in on the finer points you may have missed in the struggle, setting the stage for a dynamic tower defense fun-fest.

Backgrounds vary between the seven levels, though each is centered on a tall, narrow map with winding paths. I like the decision to have the creeps progressing up, down and across the vertical map, particularly when observing Archers attacking enemies two levels below their post. Additionally, attackers move in different patterns, with flying enemies often rejecting the paths required to scale the vertical climbs and just taking a more linear route. All creeps progress upward in formidable waves, and the game’s Hero is the last line of defense before they break through the guard.

Controls are very simple, and you can flick around the screen as well as zoom in and out with ease, not to mention the ability to flip the screen (yay!). Tap a station and a row of options for Guilds (towers) appears in the lower right. Tap the appropriate Guild and then confirm by tapping Build at the chosen location. Tapping a constructed Guild prompts the upgrade or sell options. After towers were built I enjoyed taking advantage of the double-time fast forward option. What can I say, I like a sense of urgency.

Perhaps the most pivotal element of the game is that the Guilds can only be build at the fixed station points along a map, infusing the game with a dose of puzzling power. You begin with only Archer and Warrior Guilds, later unlocking the Mage as well as an additional defender. Warriors use swords and will effectively detain most ground enemies, while Archers fire away and do well placed near warriors so they can unleash fire while the warrior keeps the creeps tied up in swordplay. Archers are also very consistent at targeting the front-most creep within range. Each Guild can be upgraded five times, at which point the Warrior and Archer can be upgraded to Berserker and Ranger, respectively. The Guilds function by sending out members, with more Guild members at high levels of upgrade. If a guild member runs out of health it returns to the Guild and is replaced in a couple minutes. Each Guild hut is very distinct, and a number over them clearly indicates their level.

The combination of fixed-path maps and very static tower placement means you need to choose your towers and upgrades very wisely to defeat the eight different enemies you come up against. From the goblins to slimeballs to a golem that can only be defeated by magic, each enemy and boss packs a particular punch, and since they attack in droves even the wimpy ones cannot be underestimated. As an additional line of dense, the Hero is customizable and can be leveled up, earning points to be distributed amongst skills or defenses and stars earned by successful matches can be used to purchase items in the Trade Shop or the Great Library. If you are dissatisfied with the difficulty, each stage has four different options from novice to heroic, making for a very scalable experience.

In addition to the main story campaign there are four game modes. Extended and Freestyle allow you to pay with you own hero and artifacts. The former is a survive or die trying mode, while Freestyle pits you against randomly generated waves. Both Classic and Classic Extended mode use a standard hero without artifacts, with the latter otherwise mirroring the Extended Mode.

The hand-drawn art is great, and the bosses receive special attention. With nine original tracks in game, the score is fittingly epic in scale for these grand battles in defense of a kingdom. This is a game that – while it offers the feature – it would be a waste to listen to your own library while playing. It’s too bad the voiceover makes a bit of a joke out of the game. The advisor sounds like an awkward impression of Sean Connery, and while I want to encourage voice work in mobile games it cheesed up this title a bit too much.

Replayability is immense, with plentiful modes, compelling gameplay, secrets to unlock and RPG elements. That the game becomes more of a puzzler with fixed points for towers increases the amount of trial-and-error gameplay. Tower Defense diehards may take issue with the static, predetermined, placement of defenses, but if you like your TD blended with puzzle it’s the perfect equation for fun.

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