Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer: 5TH Cell
Wireless DS Multi-Card Play
Recently I had a chance to delve into a new Nintendo DS game from the creators of Drawn to Life. This new game, called Lock's Quest, is about a diabolical mechanical army devastating a kingdom. Nothing is left as village after village fall under their wrath. A young, brave hero, aptly named Lock, is the kingdom's last hope to survive the oncoming invasion. As a trained Archineer (a combination of Architect and Engineer), Lock must utilize his skills to build customized towers, traps, walls, weapons, and other defenses in order to preserve the precious source artifacts. The game is pretty deep as you build and battle in 100 different areas with varying terrains. So does this newest strategy/RPG hybrid fit the bill? Read on.
The game’s presentation is pretty nice and reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. The in-game graphics are on the simple side as the 2D renderings are somewhat bland and can lack the little details we’ve come to expect in todays videogame world. On the flip side, character stills throughout the game are nicely illustrated, and the overall production of the game is quite polished. The cinematic experience both on and off the battlefield is also excellent, and what seems to be missed (e.g. the aforementioned small details) is made up in the cut scenes and dialogue moments. For example, I really enjoyed the fairly lengthy animated intro; it reminded me of the good old days of RPG gaming at its best.
The sheer amount of action happening on screen during the game is also very impressive. Although I noticed some framerate issues during play these were not that prevalent. Overall I was really impressed with the game's graphic engine. I had only one issue with Lock's Quest visuals, and that was with the camera. The slightly isometric view the game employs works very well until you try to build thing and you end up placing materials off the mark and annoyingly in places not wanted. You cannot scroll around any objects in the game and the camera makes it tough to judge the depth of objects. Furthermore, the same camera angle can inhibit your movement as you end up by bumping into things more often than you want to. Over time you will tend to compensate for this shortcoming, but until then it will be frustrating. I must say on whole the game is incredible to look at despite the problems I speak of. Huge props need to go to development team for cramming in as much as they have into the DS cart.
On the audio side, Lock's Quest is again a pretty impressive package overall. The music is well made and suits the sometimes hectic and intense gameplay. I also thought it rivaled the symphonic feel of some of Square Enix's best works on Nintendo’s DS. That awesome intro I was talking about earlier is also scored very impressively as the game periodically reflects back to it with a blend of epic music and beautiful art. The inspired music makes for a great gaming experience. In terms of any differences in the overall music, the build music stays the same for the duration of the game, while battle music is based on the particular area, with little variation to it. I like to use the DS’s external speakers, but as with most DS games the headphones are the way to go as the sound effects and music are so much nicer to listen to when you have a crystal clear sound.
Lock's Quest fits between a few gaming genres. It can best be described as an action game that blends a few real-time strategy elements and some RPG elements together. As noted in my introduction, you follow an Archineer named Lock. He is the pride of and joy of Kingdoms defensive force. Lock battles against a mysterious group of living machinery known as the Clockworks, and ultimately hopes to face off against their evil leader Lord Agony. The story can never be that simple though and you will be taken on some rather unexpected twists and turns as the story unwinds. During my time with the game it also had what I like to coin as a few 'fake-outs' as well. Lock's Quest feels a lot like a classic RTS game in spots (e.g. Warcraft II) blended with a lighter story driven game sans Square Enix or Atlus. The game plays out pretty much mission to mission, but the story really pushes you to keep going.
The game is made up of a few different chunks, as Lock goes from a normal young boy living on the outskirts of the world, to learning the true way of the archineer, to eventually pushing along the front lines of Kingdom Force. Without getting too in-depth, the first third of the story are full of missions and it will drive players to keep going, as there really isn't much to the plot. Fortunately, Lock's Quest continues to give you such things as new special skills, new enemies to fight, and even new allies to trust. These are just a few things of what will keep the game fresh as you play.
All in all Lock's Quest runs about 20-30 hours depending on your skill level and it does a nice job mixing up the missions. This all happens within the games 100 days of battle. You'll go on the offensive with Lock, and of course lock down (Editor's note: pun not intended) and fight wave after wave of enemies in classic defence missions. You will also deal with multi-front battles, guarding up to three areas at once while working on an offensive mission, and protecting key players in the battle. The game gets increasingly intense and very involving. During play it is easy to forget the details of war and make mistakes, but that almost helps with the intensity. It really makes you think of how to defend against attacks and how to plan offensive pushes. It reminded me of Military Madness on the Turbo Duo as the enemy would have a decidedly better position and more troops, but you had to deal with it. Lock's Quest is rare in that the gameplay actually pushes the story and vise-versa; the result is an extremely satisfying gaming experience.
That being said, the gameplay is not without it’s a noticeable flaw. As with almost all real-time strategy games on the DS there are issues with 'pathing' (where you go). Lock’s Quest is based greatly on a Tower defense-style of gameplay and there are plenty of obstacles on the field for Lock to navigate. He will often get stuck when trying to move about. This issue is sometimes easily remedied by manually guiding Lock out of whatever areas or obstacles he might be hung up on, but it does slow things down a bit. In some of the later missions however the 'pathing' can get pretty bad and make for some truly frustrating moments. Since the game also utilizes both screens the differences between the two can get a bit confusing. With so much happening you will find that you may inadvertantly use your stylus on the top screen and have no effect on your movements.
Another ace in the hole for this game is the multiplayer mode as these matches are relatively deep and somewhat fun. On the flip-side they seem lack the variety found in the story mode. Still, matches can turn into entrenched battles with each player chipping away at their opponent’s defences. They are a great way to spend an afternoon if you’ve got a friend with the game.
Lock's Quest for the Nintendo DS combines the right amount of story and battle driven gameplay to satisfy most gamers. The game may look a bit bland and dry at first, but after some time with it most should find it highly addictive and very tough to put down. The 2D art is simply fun and suits the games theme perfectly. Fans of this style of game will really enjoy Lock’s Quest, and I don't blame them as it is an impressive package and another title to add to one's DS collection.