THQ was here in New York City this week to preview its Fall 2008 and holiday season titles, and to me, one of the most promising titles was Lock's Quest, a DS genre mashup that's a little bit real-time strategy, and a little bit action, due for release sometime this fall.
The first thing that caught my eye when it was shown to me was its old-school vibe: traditional-looking 2D sprites and animation plus anime aesthetic, a little bit of a surprise from a publisher who seems to have hitched its star on family-friendly titles with broader appeal.
So what's cool about Lock's Quest? Hit the jump for impressions and screenshots.
Lock's Quest's gameplay is part resource management and building, and part tower defense. The player's tasked with defending an objective on the world map, while little helmeted folk march forward to siege. The dual screen works well here, with your basic stats on the top half alongside a small map that shows where the enemies are approaching from and how many there are.
The game's primary resources are "source" and "scrap," and it costs both to build various types of defensive equipment, like protective walls, traps and turrets that you set up in realtime, to hold off the marching onslaught. More source and better scrap equals better defensive options, and you earn more with each victory you rack up. Your spiky-haired young hero can also leave the ramparts himself and go hand-to-hand against enemies on the field using various attacks, while the structures you built do their job behind him.
The player's individual attacks are played simply enough, while tapping numbers 1, 2 or 3 that appear at the bottom of the touch screen in the order indicated. When you're not attacking, you can continue to expand your ramparts depending on the resources you have saved up.
Your turrets, retaining walls and such take damage from the enemies, and you'll have to repair them continually as the battle wages on - it's cheaper in terms of scrap and source to repair an existing item than it is to forge and place a new one. The battles become more complex as the game goes on, building up to the kind of always-on, continuously hectic action that gives the genre its appeal.
The building mode isn't the only way to defend an objective, though - Lock's Quest also has a battle mode, where you fire your cannon at soldiers as they walk toward your wall from left to right in 2D. Similarly to how you can upgrade your turrets and defensive items in building mode, you can eventually earn upgrades and options for your cannon, and you can also buy little troops to help keep the enemies at bay. This mode is a little bit less interesting to watch, but the idea of having multiple modes in which to defend your towers is appealing.
A big plus for Lock's Quest as an RTS is the idea that you get to actually control the hero, as opposed to distantly managing your battlefield. Personally, I liked the idea of having a more direct sense of control, and to control a person instead of simply faceless objects. Interestingly, the game allows you to directly visit the villages involved in the ongoing narrative thread, talk with people in town and get tips or information on the storyline or the next stage of gameplay. This fashion of "personalizing" the strategy genre is what I liked best about Lock's Quest
Overall, it looks like it could turn out to be an ideal blend of nostalgic throwback and pleasing innovation - and in plain terms, it just looks fun! I don't even like real-time strategy games, and I found it promising. Let's keep an eye on this one.