Defender Chronicles blends two distinct formats - tower defence and RPG - to produce a fantasy-themed concoction which is near perfection.

The two main ingredients which make this game are not ones I would have thought of combining, but somehow the unique end result just feels right.

A while back I was captivated by Puzzle Quest, which brought something completely fresh to adventure gaming.

That game merged the match-3 puzzle format with RPG elements, which pleased players in both camps and also created a third camp of players who loved the new sub-genre that was born.

Defender Chronicles, a new iPhone/iPod game from Gimka Entertainment and published by Chillingo, follows a similar combo route, producing an equally enchanting hybrid of two different styles which creates an original experience.

Most games players will already be familiar with RPG, the concept of taking a hero on an epic adventure, building his skills through battle and acquiring useful items and other secrets or spells which will help fulfil the quest.

While Defender Chronicles: Legend of the Desert King (to give its full name) is not a full-blown RPG, much like Puzzle Quest it does still have RPG elements such as using skill points to improve your commander and using gold to pick up items from the shop or Great Library such as weapons and armour.

There is also an RPG-style storyline woven into the game, set in the kingdom of Athelia, which is under attack by an army of orcs and undead. You are a warlord who must defend the land. There are epic battles to be fought, princesses to be rescued, artefacts to be found – it’s good old fantasy stuff.

While most gamers will have played an RPG at some point, the tower defence format might not be so familiar.

Tower defence basically involves stopping enemies from invading your base. The enemies can be soldiers, aliens, pirates or, in the case of Defender Chronicles, fantasy creatures. Your base might be a castle, a planet, an island or, as is the case here, your headquarters.

Enemies tend to come in waves, which you must defend against by strategically placing towers or units which will do enough damage to the invaders to stop them reaching their target.

As you destroy the enemies you are given credit with which to upgrade your towers.

There are two styles of tower defence (TD) games. One is open plan, where you have a blank field in which to create a maze of towers that forces the enemy to take a certain route. The fantastic Fieldrunners is the benchmark title for this style.

The other TD format is fixed path, where the route the enemy will take is already laid out and your job is to carefully place your towers in positions along the path to ensure maximum damage is done.

Fixed path offers less freedom but arguably more strategy as you need to be more efficient with your tower placement.

Defender Chronicles doesn’t just fall into the fixed path category, it takes the category to a whole other level of excellence.

One of many impressive aspects of the game is the side-view perspective. Rather than crawling along a top-down path, the invaders either descend the path or climb from the bottom to the top depending where your headquarters is based on each of the five beautifully drawn battlegrounds.

This means the paths takes the form of a hill, which creates a fresh challenge when placing towers.

Another dimension comes from winged creatures attacking from the air rather than following the path.

Most attacks see speedy but relatively weak monsters trying to reach your base. The strength of the attacks lies in their intensity. Fighting the enemies involves installing a variety of six defence towers (warrior, archer, berserker, ranger, halfling and mage) at specific points along the path. Each tower has different capabilities.

You can strengthen your units as each battle progresses, an important part of the game as you will come up against boss monsters, such as ogres and golems, which take more firepower to defeat.

Whether free or fixed path, tower defence is a gaming genre well suited to the iPod/iPhone platform. It’s perfect for short bursts of play and the devices’ touch controls.

Since Fieldrunners set the standard early in the life of the App Store, there has been a flood of new TD games which have tried to advance the genre. Most have fallen flat and merged into one mediocre mess, rehashing the same format with some changes to the look or style which add almost nothing to the gameplay. geoDefense is the only other TD game I would recommend.

With its RPG twist, Defender Chronicles comes along and completely freshens up the genre.

The game boasts gorgeous design features, including detailed maps and creatures, which provide eye candy aplenty. The general presentation of the game is top-notch.

Defender Chronicles offers a deep and entertaining challenge which will absorb you for hours, its replay value increased by several modes of play and difficulty levels.

This is one of those rare games that when you stop playing you think you've only been at it for five minutes when it's actually more like two hours.

It’s hard to find fault with Defender Chronicles, but nitpicking there are a couple of things to mention.

First of all, I think it would benefit from more instructions or a more in-depth tutorial. While TD players will feel at home with much of the game and the casual difficulty setting should be easy enough for newbies to be able to get to grips with what’s going on after a while, I think some more information would be useful, such as what the different towers do, how the upgrades work and what kind of monsters will be coming your way.

Secondly, the game’s audio – while I do like the medieval-flavoured soundtrack and there are some other nice sound effects, the voice acting in the game is horrendous.

Overall, Defender Chronicles is a fantastic game. It is highly recommended for fans of tower defence and fans of RPG – though much like Puzzle Quest before, the superb blending of different genres should win it its own set of adoring fans.

Verdict: 9 out of 10

The good:
- Beautifully designed maps, towers and monsters
- Enthralling mix of tower defence and RPG
- Deep gameplay, lots of replay value

The bad:
- Horrible voice acting
- Newcomers to tower defence games may struggle at first