The DS is arguably the best haven for RPGs. It’s impossible to name on one hand the amount of fantastic RPGexperiences that have come in such a small package. Recently I had the pleasure of playing Lock’s Quest, THQ’S latest entry into the DS library. Players follow young “Archineer” (those skilled with building) Lock into the midst of a war being waged between the diabolical Lord Agony and his droves of Clockwork soldiers. On what seems to be just another normal day, Lock is requested by his grandfather to begin building a wall by the sea. However, amidst his building, he is approached by a man who announces the arrival of several Clockwork soldiers intent on destroying the village and whatever gets in their way. With this, Lock is caught up in an intricate web of villainy and tyranny, and the player is dragged in as well.
Lock’s Quest spans 100 days of in-game time. Each day finds Lock and a multitude of warriors performing different missions that revolve entirely around building up defenses. In fact, the game can be summed up as castle defense sprinkled with strategic combat here and there. Moving Lock is done via the touch screen, sliding the stylus in the direction that you would like to travel. The camera is controlled easily by using the D-pad, and by locking onto characters with a shoulder button. It can be a bit awkward at first, since many are probably used to using the D-pad to cover movement and directions traveled in. However, with a bit of getting used to, using the stylus becomes second nature. It seems to be a growing trend, as evidenced in many of the RPGs that have been released as of late for the DS. It’s just a matter of what is familiar and what is not.
After the mission’s story is set, and the player has taken in the surroundings, it’s time to set up a defense around the battlefield. Doing so involves a few different phases: phase 1 is spent actually setting up physical fortifications around the area. A selection of wall sections can be utilized to toughen up external defenses that outside armies will do their best to try to get past. Sections can be rotated to fit exactly where you need them, and corner pieces fit snugly to connect straight pieces. The end result is a strategically-built special defense against advancing troops. If wall pieces aren’t enough, the game will offer certain pieces that can be built utilizing “Source” (the element that Archineers utilize to build and create), such as turrets, to aid in building defenses. As gamers progress throughout the game the builds for more special items will be made available.
Eventually, more components are added such as traps and additional allies to help get the job done. When new pieces arrive, it’s up to you to build them in Build mode. This entails dragging pieces to a box on the touch screen to match a picture of the item in question. This adds a bit of a puzzle game element to its present RTS aspects, and provides a fun alternative to when gameplay might get a bit stale during the 100 day in-game campaign.
Even though at the heart of Lock’s Quest is the focus on building fortifications to keep enemies out, they will get in. Lock can attack enemies with a tap of the stylus. I wasn’t especially impressed with the melee and fighting system since it can be a bit erratic – Lock and party members can run around the screen freely but since fighting is still turn-based, it can get a bit confusing. However, since that’s not the game’s primary focus it’s a small fault that can be easily forgiven.
Lock’s Quest, even in its small casing, is an epic tale. The creators put a lot of work and detail into every single character. Long after the novelty value of creating walls to keep enemies out wears off, gamers will be motivated to keep playing just for the story. The story is told via the usage of text, as in many similar titles, along with vivid character portraits to illustrate each character speaking. Drawn in a style closely related to anime, the influence on the game from Atlus or Square Enix’s efforts is obvious. Sprites are rich and vibrant, and even Clockwork enemies are surprisingly varied. However, there isn’t that large of a variety of different enemies to face after you’ve cleared about half of the game, so it can get just a bit old defeating carbon copies of the same person over and over.
Sweeping orchestral music accompanies an epic story that can hang with the “big guns,” fitting the mood just right, and complementing the game perfectly, right down to its fantastic opening scene and motifs throughout. It’s a regal score indeed that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Final Fantasy or Tales of… game. However, there is no voice acting, which was sorely missed considering what DS games have done with voice clips in the past. It would have given a lot more personality to the game, but hey, I’m not really complaining. This is one of the few DS games that I would want to seek out a soundtrack for – it’s that good.
Lock’s Quest is an admirable entry into the DS’s RPG/RTS repertoire. It can take roughly 20 hours to fully complete, though it is a bit difficult at times, so it can actually take a lot longer than that. It’s a fantastic RPG effort from 5th Cell, and if you only previously knew them for Drawn to Life, Lock’s Quest is the title that signifies you should be paying close attention to future releases – this is the stuff that sequels are made of.