Lock's Quest (PC) Review

By Ian Goldberg 30.05.2017

Review for Lock

With backwards compatibility on its way out and the technological gulf between generations only growing more pronounced, remasters have become a popular way to bring beloved titles back to audiences. However, the essential question remains: how much should be added and how much can be scooped out without tampering with a game’s essential formula? THQ Nordic and Digital Continue’s Lock’s Quest seeks to answer this question by updating its tower defence/real-time elements with new features and art assets. However, the end result is hampered by a control scheme clearly built for handheld devices and nearly decades old gameplay that becomes incessantly grating.

Lock’s Quest follows the tale of the young boy Lock, whose village is besieged by an army of clockwork automatons given life by the appropriately sinister Lord Agony. With his home reduced to rubble and his sister (predictably enough) MIA, Lock must enlist with Kingdom Force, to bring heel the mechanical menace, and presumably rescue his sister from the machinations of the masked villain.

Lock’s Quest puts a lot of emphasis on its narrative, perhaps an undue amount, as the story does little to deviate from the above premise. Even when the narrative does present the occasional spurt of genuine intrigue, it is undermined by the tepidness of the cast. Lock himself is such a blank protagonist cipher that it becomes virtually impossible to sympathise with him on any human level. His almost nauseating selflessness and unquestioning heroics don’t leave a lot of purchase for the player to find common ground or relatability. The world of Antonia, too, is a reflection of this exquisite blandness, rarely feeling like an actual place inhabited by real people. For example, as an ice-breaker, an old man character blandly intones to Lock, “Did you know so-and-so blames himself for his friend’s death?” It was jarring. The writing is so stiff in places, it is half-expected that if Lock were to peel back the faces of his comrades he’d see the same glowing red eyes and mechanical-rictus-grins of the opposing clockwork army.

Screenshot for Lock's Quest on PC

Although credit where credit is due, the clockworks make for effective villains. There is a sequence that produces a genuine laugh, where a clockwork soldier hesitantly mentions that the heroes escaped, only to then get instantly smashed by one of the evil generals. Not exactly breaking new ground in the villain handbook, but the comic timing was there. The designs do a lot to help matters. Each of the clockworks are distinct in their appearance—balancing goofiness with intimidation—all while keeping their function in gameplay clear. The art style as a whole is enjoyable to look at, with varied environments and memorable character designs accompanied with an absolutely delightful score.

New visual portraits have been added to characterise the cast during dialogue. Although sometimes a degree of intermediate expressions could have been drawn to flesh out conversation. This is typified by an exchange where Lock’s sister lightly teases him about his workmanship and our protagonist’s face contorts into an expression of unbridled fury.

Screenshot for Lock's Quest on PC

However, despite the commitment to an impressive set-dressing, the gameplay is the main focus here. Lock’s Quest is a mix of real-time strategy and isometric tower defence. You are given resources to construct fortifications, traps and turrets and then set loose on your besieged positions to defend them from the clockwork horde. There is a limited amount of time to construct, and the maps have clever, asymmetrically positioned terrain. The emphasis is less on creating the perfect defensive line, and more on quickly putting together something that will hold off a sustained attack, because no matter how intricate your turret fusillade, the clockworks are too numerous to be defeated without your personal intervention.

This is where the real-time battle elements come in. Lock’s Quest blends these elements together well, creating moments of real tension. Lock dashes breathlessly between saving vital assets and designating especially deadly units to the scrapheap. Moment to moment gameplay can create reactions of genuine dread, as you’re routing a robotic force only to hear the tell-tale sound of clockworks having broken through your defensive line. The new endless mode is a welcome addition as well, allowing one to hone their talents or enjoy the raw gameplay.


 
Lock’s Quest can deftly craft situational awareness and more methodical tower defence strategy into a single package. It’s a shame, then, that the controls are so obviously built around the DS. While in the tower defence phase, the game is crying out for numerical key bindings as to quickly shift from item to item. Instead, one has to sluggishly click on each item in the hotbar, wasting precious seconds. And if you want to sell something? Instead of simply, say, right-clicking to dismiss objects, one has to click on a separate sell button and then click on their item to disengage the sell effect from their mouse cursor, elsewise risk banishing another item to the ether.

It’s the real-time battling that suffers the most from control issues, though, leaving the combat gluey and ultimately frustrating. Lock is moved across the map by clicking on where you want him to go, although he is the kind of free-spirited protagonist who likes to stop and smell the roses, and will often take the most circuitous route possible. Watching him stumble through a heaving, robot mosh pit while trying to click around the big, burly fellow with a hammer is an exercise in immense frustration. The worse part is, all this could have been fixed with a simple use of the WASD keys - but alas, one-to-one directional movement is not to be.

Screenshot for Lock's Quest on PC

The combat itself, on a mechanical level, is just tragically dull, as well. The sound of hitting a robot is like a rusty gurney being squeaked along an underfunded hospital, and the way you damage opponents is through a series of dull quick time events. Let the battle begin! By clicking on a succession of numbers, or dragging the mouse across a slider… or (most egregiously) clumsily turning a gear by rotating the mouse. The unimaginative combat is compounded by the controls that have clearly not been adjusted to PC. This is only made worse by repetitive missions. Oftentimes arenas are padded with identical fights filled with biblical amounts of clockworks streaming in to get mulched (or mulch the party in turn).

There is one level in particular that really tests the patience. The scene: a boss is fleeing across the map and Lock has to stop him. The problem being that a bunch of his friends start kicking Lock's shins whenever he gets close, so he has to wait for his health to regenerate while the boss just waltzes away, sending his gormless face to the game over screen. In general, the combat becomes overemphasised, leaving the clever tower defence by the wayside for which the game suffers as a whole.

Screenshot for Lock's Quest on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

The game is inoffensive enough and certainly a value proposition to those nostalgic for a Lock’s Quest remaster. Frustratingly, a commitment to PC centric controls could have given a far more pleasant play experience. However, there lies more insidious issues beneath the varnish of this remaster. The real-time combat becomes interminable after a while, and the story, while presenting an occasional flicker of the unexpected, is mired by dull characters and a static world. Despite these issues, though, there’s still a still a solid enough core to recommend here. If you’re a fan, or at least able to tolerate tower defence, it might be worth a look.

Developer

Digital Continue

Publisher

THQ Nordic

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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