Lock´s Quest Review – More than nostalgic Memories
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Digital Continue / 5th Cell
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Release: 30th May 2017
Disclaimer: Review Code provided by THQ Nordic
Lock´s Quest, a game launched nearly 10 years ago on the good old Nintendo DS, (finally) gets a remastered PC and current gen release. The fact I own a DS since years, yet never even heard of this critical acclaimed strategy/tower defense game, made me wonder if it´s still worth the time. So, let´s take a look at this old but truly unique little gem, shall we?
Lock´s Quest tells the story of a world, solely revolving around the mysterious Source, a substance able to construct everything. The so called Archineers were established, a group founded to create humans, able to use Source. When the most powerful of them gets banished, due to his experiments to create life through Source, he takes over the name Agony, bringing armies of Clockworks and war over the world. After years of fighting he eventually gets overwhelmed, sent back to the realms of death, or so it seemed. We play as the name giving Lock, a young Archineer living in a small village, when one day Agony eventually returns, ready to bring war and destruction once again. Can we defend the world against the giant Clockwork army or will Agony win once and for all?
As expected, Lock´s Quest decided to go for a very classic good vs evil plot, linear and easy. Throughout the whole game, the above described is pretty much the end of the rope, when it comes to story or character development. With a concept that interesting, giving the potential to question life itself, I just felt like it never used its potential in any way. Rather throwing throwing it away, to focus on boring and stereotypical dialogues, abandoning its initial potential. Some may remind me of the quite surprising twist at the end, which honestly is pretty cool and at least uses the potential in a way. However, I don´t think a simple twist, how good or surprising it might be, is sufficient in carrying a ~8-10 hours long game, leaving me somewhat disappointed with the story.
Luckily Lock´s Quest can shine in a far more important aspect, the gameplay, it´s simply great. At it´s core it could be described as a Tower Defense game but with a ton of new systems. Instead of the standard rounds, with a set amount of enemies running down a simple line, Lock´s Quest went with a day-system. Meaning you have to survive a certain amount of time, while enemies are swarming to your base. Every day starts with a conventionel building phase, allowing you to build walls and towers, in order to survive the Clockworks. After each day, you´ll be awarded with a little conversation, before everything starts from new with you´re already built defences.
Yes, you heard right, you´re keeping your structures throughout the days, as long as it´s the same map, meaning you have to plan for the future. During the first dozen days it sounded like a pretty cool thing, yet the harder the days are, the more limited your resources become, the more likely it will be, that you have to reset the map and defences. Trust me, repeating 2-3 days again, including all the converations, to fix the mistakes you´ve done during the days, isn´t fun, especially in the later 4-5 minutes days. For sure, the biggest and only downside of this concept but able to ruin up to 15-20 minutes of progress and fun.
Luckily the building phase and its depth can reawaken your love to Lock´s Quest nearly everytime. Not many games can offer such a great balance between accessibility and tactical freedom. By building the whole gameplay around walls and their smart placement along turrets, to boost their health, optimising your value per dollar (or Source here). Said optimisation is the core of Lock´s Quest, due to very limited resources spread over the days and the need to repare your defences, your Source will quickly be drained. Resulting in a game, actively motivating you to place walls in the right direction, connecting them with corners and trying to optimise every single bit, squeezing out the last bit of bonuses out of your walls.
During the fighting phase you gain control over Lock, granting you different spells and abilities, like repairing your towers, fighting Clockworks or frying them with thunder spells, if all hope seems lost. Since Lock isn´t particularly strong or resistent you´ll often find yourself completly relying on your turrets, to survive the hordes of Clockworks, using him primarily as an Engineer, rather than a soldier, fitting if you ask me. The fact these two phases are so contradicting, going from a slow building- to a much faster and overwhelmingly fighting phase, creates a fresh gameplay experience, because not many games implemented it as well as here.
While it certainly tries to keep itself interesting over the 8-10 hours long campaign, after the 2nd third Lock´s Quest just can´t offer you something new anymore. By giving you structures in different materials, granting them more health but also raising their price, it creates a really rewarding unlocking system, along with added strategic depth and possibilities, yet it isn´t a system able to solely carry a game for such a long time. Once you´ve seen all the available defences and maybe some variations you´ve seen everything. Traps or other special buildings may help bringing some diversity, however most of the time turrets and walls will be your way to go. The gameplay may be great, it just gets repetitive over the time.
Graphic-wise Lock´s Quest went with a very detailed pixel-artstyle, even to date. Due to the limited processing power of the DS it had to deliver as much detail and atmosphere as possible through its pixelart, creating some great sprites and objects. In a time in which the market is overhwelmed by indies and their pixelgames Lock´s Quest can stil shine with a great dynamic and amount of detail. Combined with a Soundtrack, only describable as stunningly beautiful, Lock´s Quest delivers one of the most beautiful and ear-gasmic (I´m not proud of it) experiences I´ve seen in the past months or years.
The enhanced version builds upon this already great base, improving the sound quality and resolution. The interface itself is also pretty good, stuffing all these different mechanics and buildings into a clean and fitting costume. On the other hand it copies a lot from the original interface, like the big buttons of special attacks, obviously made for the DS touchscreen, making them seem a bit out of place, considering everything else was revamped as well. Technically the remastered is pretty polished, I never experienced any bugs or crashes, even tho the controls took a while to get used to it, with the only downside of it being the fact, it´s only supporting resolutions up to FullHD.
Overall, Lock´s Quest is still a truly great game, especially considering its age. Be it the still fresh gameplay with its day-system and strategic placement of defences or the beautiful presentation, with songs I remembered for hours after playing. As every other game, it suffers from various things like a mostly boring story or the tend to repetitvity.
Yet, these won´t change the fact Lock´s Quest offers unseen and unique systems, even 9 years after its releas, leaving me no choice than to love and recommend it to anyone interested in a neat little strategy game.