|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: 5th Cell||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 8, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Joseph Catalanotto
A lot of gamers have been keeping an eye on 5th Cell's newest project, Lock's Quest, and I was certainly one of them. It presented an interesting concept, a hybrid between combat and strategy, and it's one that appealed to me and many others. Despite some trepidation along the way to release, Lock's Quest is finally here and I'm happy to say that it's a solid game. It's just what I hoped it would be and no DS strategy fan should pass this title up.
The setup of Lock's Quest is quite simple, but it hides a surprisingly deep gameplay system. You play as Lock, a budding archineer (a mix of an architect and engineer, apparently) as he defends his homeland against the aptly named King Agony and his invasive army of Clockworks. It's a simple story and feels more in the vein of 5th Cell's previous game, Drawn to Life. There are a few twists and turns throughout, but it's not much of a reason to keep playing (luckily, the gameplay provides that motivation). However, the plot does have a presence and despite its simplicity, it is fairly well-done.
The real fun to be had with Lock's Quest is the lengthy 100-day campaign, as you take the role of Lock and fight the army of Clockworks. The plot doesn't even really kick in until several hours in, but luckily the gameplay is addictive and engaging enough to keep you going. Lock's Quest stands out because despite featuring 100 days of the same core gameplay mechanic, it successfully mixes things up and, as a result, the title stays quite varied and interesting all the way to the end.
But before I get ahead of myself, it's worth it to explain the unique way in which Lock's Quest actually plays out. The game is divided into two main phases: build mode and battle mode. Build mode has you constructing your defenses against the enemy by building walls, turrets, traps, and a variety of other structures to repel the foe. The interface can get a bit clunky (not being able to move the camera can be a bit annoying at times) but overall it's simple enough to use and generally well-implemented.
That said, there's a lot of depth while building and despite there being a few issues, it's the more enjoyable aspect of the game. You've got a handful of different types of building materials (a la Harvest Moon), several cannons, bots, and traps. Helper bots work together with the cannons, and traps generally inflict foes with status ailments that work to your advantage. There's a lot of customization and constructing your ideal defenses is the most engrossing part of this package.
While this "role-playing" aspect of the game is nicely fleshed-out, actual character customization is a bit lacking. You can't upgrade Lock himself much at all, which is a bit of a disappointment. Considering the game is constantly throwing new content at you, it's surprising you're not given many options to upgrade your fighter. That said, the actual combat sections aren't quite as impressive as the building segments, and fighting feels quite repetitive. Still, the mission types are varied enough to keep things interesting and watching your defensive strategies play out in battle is quite satisfying.
By far my biggest fear going into Lock's Quest was that it would feel like a DS version of Defend Your Castle. I saw the potential for the game to go down that path; I even played the flash version on the official website and was more worried than ever that Lock's Quest was going to flop. But luckily, the development team did things right and, as a result, Lock's Quest is a smart, intuitive strategy title. It does have a handful of flaws, but even outside of the solid gameplay mechanic most aspects of this game are down correctly.