ABSOLUT GAMING #3: Quest for Glory 1


AKA Ass-Bandit
We love stories about heroes. We make movies, novels and games about them. We role-played them when we were younger (and some of us still do when grown up). Sometimes we idol them. So it was considered a sure thing when, in 1989, Sierra released the first in a series of computer games that let you take an average Joe and mold him into a hero of legend. This was the Quest for Glory series, and while there were a few hiccups, it was considered to be a series of some success.

The basic story of this first entry (subtitled: So You Want To Be A Hero) goes as follows; you're this bloke, and you've just graduated from the "Famous Adventurer's Correspondence School for Heroes", making you an official would-be hero. Searching around your local adventurer's guild you find a poster asking for a hero ("No experience necessary") to visit the town of Spielburg and see off the local brigands. The reward? Roughly 90 gold pieces and the title 'Hero of Spielburg'. Sounds easy, what could go wrong? Well, there's also the fact that the Baronet and the Baron's daughter have gone missing, the brigands are led by one tough son of a bitch, there's a multitude of monsters in the forest surrounding the town, and there's an ogress named Baba Yaga hanging around who seems to have cursed the baron. Oh, and the fact that the only path out is now completely blocked, preventing you from chickening out. So you have your work set out for you.

The game itself is actually a mixture of adventure and RPG, with stats & skills, experience & fighting. From the start you're asked to choose one of three character types to play as - fighter, magic user, and thief. Each has their own initial skill sets and stat points, and each has their own way of solving puzzles. And for the fighter and magic user, they have their own little quests. After choosing a character type, its over to the character sheet. Here you have 50 points to spend on your skills and stats, which can be improved in increments of 5. But through this, it's also possible to create hybrid classes by spending points in a skill you don't have. This allows you to create, for example, a thief who casts magic or a fighter that can pick locks. It's not required, and you won't be able to do the class-specific quests, but it's a nice way of fine-tuning the character to your liking.

Being one of Sierra's earlier adventure games, it does use the Sierra text parcer (albeit slightly altered). For those who have played the Police Quest series, the Leisure Suit Larry series, or other similar games, you'll instantly recognise the control system, with a twist. For those who don't, the text parcer uses a system where you move around the screen using the arrow keys or number pad and any commands you wish to perform are done by typing in what you want to do (for example, get rock, throw dagger, climb tree). This has the upside of letting you tell the game exactly what you want to do. On the downside, finding out exactly what command is required to do a specific action can be annoying, and sometimes the parcer will not recognise exactly what you want to do. This version of the parcer, however, allows the use of the mouse for movement and looking. While I preferred the number pad for movement, I found that using the mouse for looking allowed for more pinpoint examining in certain cases. I also quite liked the mouse easter egg where if you look at a specific spot or area with no description, it comes up with something like "The pixel you have clicked is unavailable. Please check your mouse and try again."

The game area is made up of a little town with four or five exterior screens and a fairly large forest of around 60+ screens. With the exception of a few screens of interest, most sections look like one another, so you're going to need to learn how to draw a map or get yourself a mapping program, otherwise you'll be wandering around hopelessly lost. Thankfully, compared with the map of the sequel "Trial by Fire", it's not really that complicated. North is always up, and the only ways to move are up, down, left and right.

In regards to the quest, apart from a slight order in which you must complete certain tasks, the game lets you go about your business doing whatever you want. You can decide to have a crack at the bandits first, or you can look for the Baronet. For the wizard, you can play a game of Mage's Maze with a fellow wizard (which also serves as a tool for practicing your magic), and you can go about fighting all the monsters and bandits wandering through the forest...which leads us to the poor combat.

When a monster enters the screen and comes within close proximity of you, you enter a behind-the-shoulders view of the enemy, with your vital stats on the top left (HP, MP & Stamina) and the enemy's HP on the top right. Combat is performed with the keyboard, and you have three options available to you: thrust, parry and dodge. But you'll quickly learn that combat is a little buggy. When attacking, I often found that for whatever reason, the thrust was delayed, causing me to attack when I'm about to get hit with no chance of defending. And when dodging and parrying, there's no actual indication of if it'll work. The same also goes for attacking. In the end, it appears that the stats play too much of a factor in combat, so it usually ends up in a race to see if you can hit them more than they can hit you. I also find it gets quite boring a dull after a period of time, so I always end up running away from everyone after a certain point.

Thankfully, combat is mostly optional in this game, however going into it is the only way to build up your combat related skills, and there is always the possibility of combat playing a huge part in later games. For the thief and wizard, on the other hand, there are a number of combat skills that can only be trained outside of combat. For the thief, the throwing skill. As thieves prefer to stay away from combat, they generally carry a number of daggers which they can throw at their enemies. This weakens them, resulting in a quicker fight. For the wizard, you have your magic. While certain spells are for combat-use only, there are spells which momentarily distracts your foes, letting you run away, and spells that weaken the character down before they reach you. And of course, the fighter gets nothing because he's a man of steel and made completely of muscle.

A final complaint comes in with the thief's side tasks. It's possible to rob certain houses in the game, however, this is only about two or so. It's good that they put these in, after all, thieving is what a thief does. But I would have much prefered if there were a little more targets for me to find and hit.

Overall, for the first game in the series, it's a decent attempt. Compared to other games, there are no random deaths (and if you do die, it makes it plainly obvious why you died), it has a good sence of humor, and the fact that completion rewards you with a character save to take into the next game is a good incentive to see the game through to the end before going to the next game.

And for those who don't like the look of old EGA graphics, there is a VGA remake which adds a few extra features, improves the graphics, and makes combat a little more interesting. Both can be freely downloaded from Abandonia.

Link: abandonia