The Quest takes me back to simpler times when tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons were very much the du jour, Nintendo’s Gameboy was the pinnacle of cutting edge technology and when ghetto blasters and Reebok Pumps were a thing. Many an hour of my youth was spent deciphering the labyrinthine tomes of Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks and despite the often daunting feelings that one gets from learning a new language, my mind and imagination strived on, keen to immerse itself in something otherworldy, something magical, something different. Redshift’s open world indie RPG opus somehow magically scratches that very specific itch and it’s with great pleasure to, hopefully, bring any like-minded gamers into The Quest’s wonderfully imaginative and well thought-out fantasy universe.
Before you set off on your adventure, The Quest offers players a choice of race and class. There are five different races to choose from, and as you may have guessed, each race have their own natural strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Etherim are hunters who offer boosts to dexterity, light armour, light weapon, endurance, accuracy and disease resistance skills, however, they are unfortunately susceptible to magic attacks. Luckily, the Etherim are decent with magic and start with a rather handy Cure Light Wounds spell for when the going gets tough.
The six different classes range from the traditional Fighter, Mage and Thief options, to the more exotic Priest, Battlemage or Ranger classes. So far, so Skyrim, though I honestly mean that as a big compliment to The Quest. It really does have a lot in common with The Elder Scrolls franchise, Daggerfall in particular. The game is vast with tons of characters to meet, quests to embark upon and monsters to slay. It’s also a very dynamic and story-driven experience, which shares more in common with a choose-your-own-adventure book than your usual RPG staples. It reminds me a lot of early 90s floppy disk RPGs such as the aforementioned Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall, The Bard’s Tale and the fantastic Gameboy Adventure RPG The Sword of Hope II.
The story is fairly solid stuff and is compelling enough to push the player forward; the Governor of Freymore is missing and has left the island in chaos. Many believe he has been poisoned by someone who wants control over the island. The mages prophesize a dark shadow looming over the kingdom and the King of the realm has chosen you to investigate these matters of great importance. Thus, it is your job to find out what has happened to the Governor and to help bring peace to the troubled island of Freymore.
What’s really impressive about the game is the fact that many of the numerous quests are pretty dynamic and can be completed in a number of different ways. At times there are choices that lead to their own distinct outcomes, similar to Dragon Age: Origins which is really ambitious in an open world RPG coming from such a small indie studio.
One thing that may irk some players is a pretty simple one; the lack of a discernible quest marker. Forget following a directional arrow to your next objective as this is a game that does not want to hold your hand, and to be honest, I respect that, but it was still a little jarring, especially coming in after playing RPGs like Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3. Instead, you’re going to have to use the quest logs and actually, you know, read where to go. It’s actually refreshingly realistic, but may scare newcomers to the genre away, which is understandable. I wish there was a toggle in the menus that could switch some sort of quest marker on or off, but to the game’s credit, the lack of quest markers works surprisingly well and does not hurt the overall experience. It’s rewarding to find your way in The Quest and I really dig the organic way the game’s many quests unfold. You do have a map and you can use the helpfully placed signposts scattered around the world to give you direction to the nearest town or place of interest, but like I said, exploring in The Quest is way more organic than most other RPGs you’ve played this year.
Combat in The Quest is turn-based and fairly basic, however, the solid sound design and enemy variety help offset the run-of-the-mill combat. It’s very much a story-driven game rather than an action-driven one. The combat is serviceable, but very much like the Elder Scrolls games, is not the reason you play them. I didn’t notice any respawning enemies; kill them once and you don’t have to worry about them again. The enemies also have their own designated level. Stumble upon a high-level enemy too early and it’s game over. However, like other games that employ a similar system, it’s really satisfying to return when you’re at a higher level and with better gear, only to steamroll the nasty beast that had wronged you earlier in the game.
Presentation wise, the game is very old school and runs in, what feels like, an engine borrowed from the Doom era. I’ve got a feeling, however, that if the game went for photorealistic graphics over its retro old school style The Quest would lose a lot of its charm. On the whole, the colourful sprites are delightful with beautiful hand-drawn artwork that really evokes a sense of classical fantasy that is rarely seen in games in this day and age. The dynamic weather effects, along with its own day and night cycle, also add a considerable layer of atmosphere to the world. At its core, The Quest has a classical D&D spirit in its monster and world design that really resonates with the kid in me; or more specifically, the kid who stayed up way too late playing D&D worrying about acronyms such as AC (Armour Class), AoE (Area of Effect) and DoT (Damage over Time). Good times.
The music is simplistic fantasy fare that, fortunately, hits the right balance between pleasant and cheesy; it’s a little repetitive sure, but it never got on my wick after the hours upon hours I spent exploring Redshift’s fantastic world. There are also no load times, which is very welcome, especially in an open world RPG in 2016.
What some may see as archaic, dated design, I personally see as charming and refreshing. The Quest strives to plough its own unique furrow and in an ocean of charmless copycat clones, The Quest stands out as a pretty unique throwback to the old school RPG days of yore; it’s a game very much comfortable in its own orcish skin. Though, some may be perturbed by The Quest‘s old-fashioned exterior, there is a deep, addictive and rewarding adventure to embark upon if given the chance.
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