Lock’s Quest is a mixed genre strategy title in which the mainstay of the game plays out over two distinct stages. Stage one has you build defences like walls, gates, turrets and traps. Stage two sees you take direct control over your character Lock and usually pits a hoard of enemies for you to defend your new construction against. It’s all packaged in a gorgeous pixel art style and presented alongside a fantasy story that is, frankly, a bit trite.
It’s important to know that Lock’s Quest, or at least the version I’ve been playing the last week or so, is a remastered port of a game that originally came out on the Nintendo DS. As a result, there are some elements that seem to have been lost in translation, as it were, and the attempts to fit what once played out on two screens with touch controls to PC hardware can be a little awkward.
You can play with either a gamepad or mouse and keyboard but curiously you have to pick which on launch and there’s no option to toggle between when playing. Neither control scheme represents the best experience either, with what feels like compromises made to both. Building with the gamepad is fiddly, and you’re given a time limit to do so, which can be utterly tedious if you’re attempting to make something coherent. The mouse and keyboard make building a lot easier but make combat and repairing a complete mess. Why am I having to wiggle this around? It just doesn’t feel responsive at all.
The build phase takes a little pinch of tower defence with a mix of different turret effects and trap options but where traditional titles tend to veer towards enemies with a strict, predictable path Lock’s Quest tends to task you with building a small fort or, more regularly, a wall of guns. Enemies come from all angles and will aggro onto your defences and you’re punished pretty quickly for placing them too forward where you can’t repair them. The best strategy is often just to dump as many turrets as you can in one impenetrable huddle so you wipe out any enemies before they have a chance to damage anything.
The action phase pits waves of enemies on your position and after your first few victories additional objectives get sprinkled in which go some way to justify the fusion of the genres. Having to micromanage repairing your defences with completing objectives is where the games challenge feels interesting and enjoyable. Unfortunately, it’s simply far too easy to become overwhelmed and the game’s difficulty spiked almost immediately. I was struggling to keep my defences through each wave well into my first hour with the game.
There’s a distinct lack of information being presented at the right time too, the game really needs some sort of glossary so you can reference how much damage and health enemies and structures have. There’s so much potential for depth lost by simply not giving the player any insight into how they could approach their defensive play.
On top of that, it didn’t take long for little bugs to start crawling out of the woodwork. Sprites would sometimes disappear at the edge of the screen as if they were expecting a different aspect ratio. Sprite overlap frequently malfunctions so it’s common to see half the art obscured by something supposed to be behind it and the bugs don’t restrict themselves to aesthetic untidiness, either.
Enemy AI regularly broke, menus wouldn’t respond, my towers sometimes stopped firing altogether and in one particularly memorable moment my character got pushed into a sign while I was fighting and I couldn’t get out. I had to wait for the mission timer to run down before I could continue… And then the menus wouldn’t let me restart anyway. I’ve played the game since launch day and there doesn’t seem to be a hotfix to address any of these issues. Sadly, this one needed more time to bake in the oven.
Lock’s Quest has a fantastic conceit. I love the idea of fusing a Tower Defence game with an Action RPG but in practice it’s a game that offers little depth in either direction. If it wasn’t also mired by glitchy port issues and obtuse design choices it might still have won me over, but as it is this remaster is neither playable or worth playing. Perhaps a patch could change that, perhaps not but If you’re really interested in trying Lock’s Quest out, I’d point you towards the original DS release.