Lock's Quest - PC Review

Nearly 10 Years On, How Does Remastered DS Title Lock's Quest Stand Up Today?

Game Info:

  • System: PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: THQ Nordic
  • Developer: Digital Continue
  • Release Date: 31th May 2017 [Steam]

Who it Caters to

Originally released in 2008 for the Nintendo DS, Lock's Quest earned critical acclaim for its unique mesh of tower defense and RPG genres, with players being able to battle alongside their towers with a mix of combos and magic. On top of that, it made great use of the DS's touch screen features for designing your defenses and battling your foes. Now the series has been remastered by developer Digital Continue for the PS4, Xbox One and PC, and today we'll be looking at the PC version.

Although obviously catering to players of the original game, with such a broad release Lock's Quest seems to be hoping to widen its appeal to more than just portable console fans and nostalgia junkies. With a reasonable, but not overly long, story, and an additional Endless Mode for added replayability, Lock's Quest could be a great pickup for those of you who are into indie games, or who just want a break from larger AAA titles.

What to Expect

With progression split up into "Days", Lock's Quest offers up a challenging variety of tower defense scenarios, slotted neatly between story sections that string it all together. When we say "challenging" by the way, we genuinely mean that. The first 10 Days on normal mode were actually surprisingly brutal for what we expected to be a fairly casual game, and the hard mode is not to be scoffed at. This challenge is largely created by the unique mix of tower defense and combat mechanics, which certainly take a little bit of getting used to, but once you do feel pretty satisfying when you pull everything off correctly. While the mechanics generally remain the same as the original DS version, the controls have been adapted for both keyboard and mouse, and controller set-ups.

The big differences between the Nintendo DS version and this remaster are the graphics and sound. Whilst the game retains its charming pixel art style, for the most part, the menus and character art have been given the high definition treatment, along with the soundtrack being remastered. In terms of feature differences between the new version and the original, there has been something of a trade-off: the multiplayer options have disappeared completely, but the game has gained an Endless Mode to really test your abilities.

Story

The story of Lock's Quest, to no one's surprise, focuses on a boy named Lock who has, for better or worse, been tasked with defending the Kingdom from the Clockwork Army. Set in a steampunk, medieval fantasy world, Lock's Quest's unique plot point is that of Archineers: experts in manipulating Source energy for various purposes, including making badass, acid spraying towers, and anti-magic fields. Clearly some kind of destined child, you control Lock as he hones his Archineering ability in hopes of defeating the Clockwork's leader Lord Agony. Along the way, you'll find a variety of other Archineers who will help or hinder you, guards that are both short tempered but willing to give you their first born son as an expression of gratitude, and also this little blue creature that we kinda want as a pet now.

Whilst the story isn't the most complex one you'll come across this year, combined with the fairly traditional fantasy setting it has a charm to it that makes you want to keep playing and find out what happens next. It also advances at a relatively fast pace, so you're unlikely to find yourself sighing as you click through speech bubbles, and there are enough little sub-plots and unanswered questions to provide some depth. As a side, although the characters feel a kind of simple and two dimensional at times, there are a couple we really warmed to, and the villains are evil in an almost comical way at times. Honestly, we were surprised by how quickly we went from "Eh, another generic fantasy story" to "I need to know why the weird blue munchkin is important!"

Gameplay

Mechanics and Controls

Let's start by explaining what exactly the tower defense mechanics of Lock's Quest consist of. Everything you make costs Source, some of which you get at the start of the day, some of which you collect from enemies. There are several basic towers, named turrets, which you can build: the regular turret, slewing turret, higher damage but short range turret, etc, the kind you expect to see in any tower defense game. As well as that there are traps that last one day, and later on some support towers to boost your turret range or reveal invisible enemies. There are also different materials which you can use, that unlock as you progress through the game, with the best materials costing the most Source.

One thing that stood out to us as odd though, was the walls you can build. Walls reinforce the defense of turrets next to them and are fairly cheap, but we often found ourselves thinking "why would I build a wall when I could just put another tower down?" You see, the tower placement works on a grid system, and enemies just run up and hit whatever they see first, so in a majority of levels, you'll find yourself just building a line of towers, and defending that line. Lock can run around in front of the towers to draw enemy fire, and effectively you can complete most of the game with this same simple tactic: build a line of towers, hit stuff in front of towers. On top of that, unlike turrets, walls don't have health bars, so it's a pain constantly checking to see if they need repair. So we'll say that while the tower defense mechanics are alright, it feels like sacrifices have been made so as to give Lock's combat elements some purpose.

On to Lock's combat now, and we'll start by saying one thing: use a controller, we'll explain why in a moment. Lock has an auto-attack which you initiate by running up to enemies and pressing X, and your Special Attack, which requires you to hit a series of buttons in the correct order or drag some sliders to do extra damage or heal. You also have a Super Ability, which charges as you fight, that you can unleash to perform feats such as damaging or slowing down every enemy on the map. Although fairly simple, the combat is actually the most addictive part of the game, and we found that nailing the button sequences stated the Guitar Hero addict that still lives inside us. As we mentioned before though: please use a controller. The combat mechanics on a mouse and keyboard are clunky, to say the least, and actually, make the game considerably harder.

Now speaking of the controls, let's talk about those for a minute. Converting the controls of a DS game to a mouse and keyboard, or even a controller, is no easy task. While a mouse can kind of simulate the touch screen, and makes building your defenses easy, clicking Lock's combos with any amount of speed or dexterity is simply impossible, or at least incomparable to using a controller or touch screen. On the flip side using the controller is much smooth when it comes to the combat, and building your defenses is still reasonably easy, but having to control both Lock and the camera separately on larger maps is a pain, and you'll often find yourself getting caught on sticks and stones whenever you turn your attention away from the not-so-nimble hero.

Our last point regarding the game's mechanics is the stark lack of any tutorials or help throughout the story. Now if you've played Lock's Quest before on the DS, you have no need to worry, the remastered game functions in the same was as before so you're unlikely to have any trouble. If you're new to the game, however, check the controls in the options before you hit New Game, because it won't tell you what 90% of them are once you're in. As far as we could tell, there is no explanation as to your Special Attacks or Super Abilities either, and we had to faff about a bit to work out how they actually work. Lastly, the towers have no range or line of sight indicators on, or even any explanation of their defense or damage values. How far do your support towers reach? Who knows. Is the range on your acid bomb turret enough? Maybe. We got to Day 50 and realised each new map was about half guess work and half hoping that doing the same thing we did before would work again.

Art and Sound

As someone who is normally unable to play older games due to their lack of current gen graphics, I actually found Lock's Quest to be a very pretty game. The character sprites each have just enough detail to make them interesting but still retain a retro charm, and the same can be said for each of the maps. The one thing that stands out a bit though is the new art, with the clean, smooth characters looking a little out of place against the older pixel graphics. Honestly, though that's our only gripe, and overall it remains a great looking game.

The "Build" music is now stuck in our heads and will be for the foreseeable future. The remastered soundtrack is certainly better than what you'd expect from a DS game, yet retains that handheld, digital sound that gets caught between your ears and is both pleasant and never ending. The sound effects feel like they weren't given quite as much of a polish but certainly aren't something we'd complain about. In general, we'd say that the sound for Lock's Quest is exactly what you'd hope for from a remaster.

Content

Sitting at around 15 to 20 hours in length, Lock's Quest's Story Mode is a reasonable length for what was originally a portable title, and considering the remaster's cheap and cheerful price tag. You won't come across any side quests, which is a shame, but the straightforwardness of the game is perhaps part of its charm. On top of the Story Mode, Endless Mode will be sure to keep you occupied if you enjoyed the gameplay and want an extra challenge, and is pretty much a staple of any good tower defense game.

The challenge of the game is sure to add to your playtime as well, with the beginning being pretty rough and the introduction of gradually harder and unique enemies forcing you to change up your tactics, even if just a little. The difficulty curve is such that by the time you finish normal mode you'll feel fully prepared to take on hard, potentially offering up another challenge for those who are thirsty for more.

Honey's Gameplay Consensus:

All in all, Lock's Quest feels like it got some things just right in the remaster, but some other things simply didn't translate well from DS to PC. As for what we really liked: the gameplay is a little clunky on the controller but it remains highly addictive. We found ourselves saying "just one more Day and I'll stop", and then 5 Days later we were still sat there mashing away at combos. Additionally, we'll say again that the pixel art is really wonderful, and a style we kind of wish they had kept for the menus and character portraits. The length of the main content also sits in a nice Goldilocks zone: not too short, not too long, just right.

As for what we weren't big fans of, the standout problem remains the controls. Using a controller is okay, though the movement feels a little awkward, using a mouse and keyboard is a pretty horrendous experience. The lack of help or instruction throughout the game was also disappointing: one good example is when we accidentally clicked past a support turret explanation screen, and there seemed to be absolutely no way for us to check what the turret actually does afterward. We're still not sure what it does now.

Honey's Pros:

  • Very addictive gameplay.
  • Pixel art is very cute.
  • Surprisingly challenging.

Honey's Cons:

  • Keyboard + Mouse controls desperately need tweaking
  • Lack of tutorials means you don't even get an explanation of the controls, let alone how to use special abilities, etc.
  • High definition art and text look out of place.
  • Some odd, minor bugs.

Honey's Final Verdict:

While we certainly did enjoy Lock's Quest, we recommend it with a warning that there may be some bumps along the way. It really does feel like a treat for fans of the original game, giving them the chance to reply a beloved title in high definition. For newcomers though you may want to wait and see if there are going to be any patches to iron out some of the clunkier areas and bugs.

So, what did you think of our review? Have you had the chance to play Lock's Quest remaster, or even the DS original yourself? We'd love to hear what you think, so why not leave us a comment down below!

Kristian

Writer

Author: Kristian

British guy doing student things in Tokyo. Slice-of-life and moe anime are my speciality, though I think something good can be found in almost every show. Outside of anime I spend most of my time feeding on DotA 2 or studying Japanese in a quest to one day watch cute girls without subtitles.

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