Not Your Kid’s RPG: The Quest – 3D Fantasy RPG in Review

Gentle reader, let me impress upon you illumination I have discovered: Redshift’s The Quest is the RPG we have been waiting for in the App Store. In fact, in my long searches I have found it to be the best RPG I have yet played on any portable gaming system. My friends, it should be considered the benchmark for RPG makers to follow: classic and deep; methodical and detailed; it is a true role-playing experience among portable RPG’s that are nothing but shallow hack and slash weapon-building adventures.

Quite frankly, The Quest is not your kid’s Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. It is not cutsey nor does it feature emo-haired avatars and finally, it stands tall even in comparison to RPG juggernauts such as Ultima, Might and Magic, the Elder Scrolls, Betrayal series and Eye of the Beholder.

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Graphics and Gameplay
The Quest is a golden-age quasi-3D game that features a melange of 3D maps, objects and well-rendered 2D sprites. It employs an excellent day to night transitioning engine with full weather effects that tire the traveller and obscure the eye. Caves are gloomy and monsters are appropriately scaled and drawn. It is a good looking game – one of the best 3D-2D modelled RPG’s I have played. Especially endearing are the sprite-based characters who are drawn with emotion-based facial expressions and scale well with distance and fade effects.

Like most quasi-3D RPG’s, movement is is a scripted world event and takes up a small amount of game-time as does any action be it combat or otherwise. Because every move takes up game-time, gameplay is beautiful and methodical. You will have time to plan your attacks and getaways but will always need to remember that each time you cast a spell or side-step or counter, your character will have to wait one more turn before s/he can attack again.

Though I have little bad to say about The Quest, its movement system needs tweaking. Tapping the arrow keys is intuitive enough but the iPod Touch user in me wants to swipe in a direction to move. Redshift have implemented a swipe to move system however it is buggy. You can make the same upward swipe and sometimes it will move you to the left or even back! I can use it without perturbance for the most part but in critical situations such as combat or escape, I trust only the directional arrows.

The sound is great and features a dramatic music track and good special effects. Redshift also had the foresight to allow iTunes music playthrough because as everyone knows, Trance and fantasy RPG’s go together like ham and beans.

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World
Friend, The Quest is huge. Though not comparable in size to a European country or Elder Scrolls Arena, the world of Freymore is vast, dwarfing and easy to get lost in. There are swamps, abandoned villages, large cities, graveyards, dungeons, caves and much more to overwhelm the traveller. Fortunately, Redshift included an easy-to-use automap which shows North-south-east-west directions, a full-sized topographic view and a great immediate surrounding view. If you can master the use of the map early, you will save yourself a lot of frustration.

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Several items will tip you off to the size of Freymore. One is that while exploring towns, you cannot just run perimeter in a few short dozen seconds, it can take minutes and with each step ticking away at the game clock, you can find that hours have passed in game. Another is that weather changes from place to place and time to time; the game world generates its own climate – an item to be careful especially if you are a ranger who stays outdoors often. Camping, resting and restoring ones mana, health points and strength are all affected by the weather.

There is a load of rain in Freymore. People from Vancouver may feel at home in its slushy bush but it overwhelms me. Fortunately, Shigzeo the Slayer is well-versed in the fauna of the land. The rains bring forth many varied plants from the earth which are good to harvest, to sell or from which to make home-brew potions. I am working on the assasin angle for my thief and have bought a mortar and pestle for conjuring up my own potions. I am however still an apprentice so other than healing potions, I am only really good at concocting beer potions(!)

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Denizens
Most of the folk you will meet are human stock – from poor farmers to pimpless whores, governers, aristocrats and thieves. But, you will also meet goblins and other races who want to interact with you or need your help thus, there are great interracial elements in the Quest that are the marks of a true RPG: your actions help shape the world. Conversations too are interesting and sometimes longwinded or witty. You will overhear whispering secrets, loose plot elements and even rumours about you! The Quest is full of rich text that surpasses my beloved Ultima’s -name-job-about the fellowship-bye routine.

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Sadly, I have not yet been able to sit down to a lively chat with an orc or a skeleton. Rather, they seem to favour swinging and hacking to verbal communication. Speaking of orcs: there is a large variety of monsters in the game each who fight with their own skill set and are hampered just as you are by their non-player character attributes – again, this ain’t your kid’s RPG.

Another interesting point about the denizens of The Quest is the spawn system which seems to be built upon a memory counter. I have cleared the graveyards and great swaths of the surrounding forests of archers, muggers and young-archers. When I go back to the same area, I am not harassed by anyone at all. Considering that my character has been hacking and stealing for only 11 days of game-time, I cannot tell you if the re-spawn is bi-weekly or monthly or even if there is one. What I can say is that this system has its advantages as it is more realistic and does not beset you suddenly with the very same ogre you killed not 20 seconds ago. However, it also stymies experience-mongers who go hunting for a living.

Role-Playing
Undoubtedly, like me, some of you came from a pen-and-paper background which is unparalleled by PC or console RPG for rich interaction with the world and characters. Neither the Quest nor any other digital RPG will ever match pen-and-paper games, however Redshift have brought heaps to the table. Classes are well-thought out and feature great character tweaking as you progress in the game. I am playing my favourite class: a thief so I chose the most pick-pocket savvy, a Seiry.

The five races:
Rasvim (undead)
Etherim (ranger)
Seiry (thief)
Derth (mage)
Nogur (warrior)

The five choices will keep most players happy and of course, as you progress, you can continue to build your character to your desire.

When you level up, you are upgraded automatically in a couple of attributes but afterward, are given points to allocate to skills that you want to tweak. For instance, if you are a thief and have a natural magical deficiency, you can choose to deflate the innability in magic by appending extra points in intelligence or work further on your strengths to hone a great assasin.

A unique addition to a portable RPG is The Quest’s fame system which will dictate how NPC’s will interact with your character. Of course, how you complete quests will also factor in your character’s development and fame. Being a thief, I have kept a hold of a few valuables that I promised to return to an NPC but found just too worthwhile keeping. The game is within reasonable limits, a wonderful sandbox full of exploring, character augmentation and deep a deep and involving plot.

Combat System
What would an RPG be without combat? Half the reason people play RPG’s is to ‘experience’ what it would be like to heave a giant sword and cleft the jaw of an orc so I am glad to say that Redshift have implemented a sufficent combat system. Probably stemming from the audience of mobile-phone users, The Quest sports a simplified combat engine that consists of move, attack, cast a spell, or apply a potion to yourself or enemy. It is that simple. There are few instances when you have a few choices or moves to make at once. Movement in combat is clumsey, but fortunately, it is as much so for the enemy as well as for your character.

Sadly, one last check against The Quest’s combat is that it follows the same over-simplified system that combat engines for RPG’s have since the dawn of The Bard and earlier. When you encounter an enemy, you fight that enemy or attempt to run away. If another enemy appears, no matter what race or type it is, it will join with the last enemy in attacking you. Are the two friends? I don’t know. Have they met before? Again, no idea. But somehow, they suss out that you are the bad guy and need to be destroyed. A little unfair and silly but that is pretty much par for the course.

Conclusion
From my very first glimpse at screenshots, I was impressed by The Quest. However, after playing Redshift’s masterpiece, I am addicted and regret only the time I have spent away from the world of Freymore to finish this review. The Quest has everything: a great character development engine, detailed role-playing choices and interactions, a huge map full of harvestable fauna, a turn-based engine that allows for deep gameplay and great text and storyline. Redshift’s port to the iPhone has only one hurdle to jump: movement bugs. When those can be addressed, mark my words – The Quest is destined to gloriously ascend to the ranks of my all-time favourite RPG’s. The Quest is pure bliss.

The Quest gets kissed by TouchMyApps.

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App Summary
Title:The Quest – 3D Fantasy RPG V1.1Developer:Redshift, Publisher: Chillingo
Price:$5.99App Size:8.9 MB
  • RPG!
  • Great graphics
  • Weather and time transitions
  • Deep role-playing and character customisations
  • Large world and harvestable fauna!
  • Great story
  • much much more
  • Movement needs work
  • Combat system is too simple

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