The Quest is an impressive role-playing game which attempts to get ahead of the competition by tackling 3D graphics head-on, and by having many features of a full PC or console RPG. The latter attempt works out much better than the former, however, resulting in a great, story-rich game that requires some patience for its blocky screens and difficult controls.
The game begins with a conversation between a king and his adviser, which cleverly brings you to your character creation page. Here you can choose your name, avatar, race, and class. There are five different races, all original to the game, but most with standard fantasy-world equivalents, like elves, dwarves, and so on. There are also six different classes to choose from, all with a unique set of skills, though you also have the option of customizing that set, which we really like. The twenty different skills range from stealth to light weapon to alchemy, and they are accompanied by five standard attributes like dexterity and intelligence.
You begin the game in a backwater town, the perfect place to get your bearings. The Quest is played in a first-person perspective, just like the early Might & Magic games, and about a third of the screen is taken up by basic controls (the game can function in both portrait and landscape modes, which is nice). There are six directional buttons to press, which can be difficult to use, and even with the better alternative option of a ‘˜virtual d-pad,’ the controls can prove frustrating (e.g. paths can go diagonal, but you can’t). There are also four action buttons for attacking, using magic, using a potion, or resting. Lastly, there’s your portrait, with health and mana meters below it, and a very tiny map. Clicking on the latter brings you to the map screen, while the former brings you to the menus screen. The map (modestly) shows your immediate surroundings, but there is also a world map which orients you on a larger scale. And there’s always a compass at the top of the screen, which you will learn to love. As for the menus screen, we use the plural there for a reason. It opens up a screen with tabs along the top for stats, inventory, quest log, spells, and save/load (with four save slots!), all very useful.
There is a great deal of wilderness and a total of four towns to explore in The Quest. The number of towns means it is not the most expansive RPG ever created, but there’s enough stuff to get involved in that you don’t really notice. What we like the best about the game is its multifaceted role-playing. When talking to people, you always have multiple choices for what to say, and this dialogue does actually change with the world’s situations and your actions. Essential to good RPGs is morality, and this game has plenty of it: both good and evil actions are available to you, and your reputation will reflect which you choose, which in turn affects choices you have in certain places. For instance, a sufficiently evil character might get a part in a smuggling scheme, while a good character might be able able to walk past the town guards. There are also plenty of sidequests, though some do boil down to running errands for people (I just killed that sorcerer, and now you want me to search for a lost book?!). The shops in town are specialized, and offer training and other services besides just buying and selling. There’s even an Alchemy system, and you can read books filled with insights about everything from the various character skills to your own history.
Battle is based on your skills and attributes, but despite the graphics initially giving the illusion of real-time combat, it is entirely turn-based. This is one of the places where the game struggles, as you get to fight up close with a poorly rendered figure which twitches at you to attack. Fighting can also get tiring, because battles usually end up lasting a long time while you wait for the rough animations to play out. Strangely, running away isn’t really an option. If you do, your enemies will just run after you, even into the middle of a town; those same town guards who will put you in jail for stealing stand idly by as an orc chases you through the town.
The Quest is a game that surpasses its fellows in its affinity for role-playing and its creation of a rich fantasy world. However, it also has graphics and controls that can give headaches after prolonged play, and these are especially frustrating when compared to what we know the iPhone is capable of. So, there’s a lot to enjoy here, but there are also some thorns on the rose bush. We think that fans of old-school RPGS will find a lot to like in The Quest, but those who aren’t willing to put in the time to plumb its depths should probably avoid it.