The Quest for Glory series pretty much established the adventure-RPG hybrid singlehandedly back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. It did so by borrowing many of Sierra’s design trademarks, but also adding huge worlds filled with dozens of screens, character classes and skills, combat, and day-night cycles on top of that. It’s a beloved series, and yet remarkably, until recently it was practically the only member of the sub-genre it formed.
Lately, however, we’ve been treated to a sudden, unexpected revival of the QFG formula. First to the punch was the outstanding freeware adventure Heroine’s Quest, and now comes the first commercial offering, Quest for Infamy. It is not a remake, but rather a combination of part-clone, part-satire, and mostly faithful homage. The result is both admirable and perplexing. It follows the checklist very closely, which is exactly what QFG fans want, but the delivery in some key aspects, despite its best intentions, can be a little shoddy.
The story follows Roehm, a ladies' man rascal who ends up in the town of Volksville after escaping the rage of a Baron whose daughter he slept with. This amusing intro pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the game. As the title suggests, you are no hero in this game, but rather an anti-hero, if not a particularly notorious one. You assume control within the town gates following a welcome by the bizarre but friendly trader Udo, your first encounter with some of the atrocious voice acting that plagues the game.
The main plot that unfolds in the Kingdom of Lonaria is quite engrossing. Roehm’s arrival coincides with a series of events involving the death of a family cursed by a powerful jewel. Roehm is presented with the quest of recovering it on the basis of having no scruples: in other words, having such low morals and a general lack of respect that he can do whatever is required. The perfect quality for the protagonist of an adventure game.
And boy, does his quest require him to perform all kinds of tasks. Early on, after the events of the first day that include witnessing the execution of an alleged criminal in the town square, you have to choose a path by talking to one of three key characters in town. You can pick the path of the Sorcerer, the Rogue or the Brigand. Each requires you to solve an initial minigame like a drinking game for the Rogue’s path or a card-matching game for the Sorcerer, but once it’s done, it’s done. You can’t change paths after that.
In familiar Sierra style, you’ll right-click or use the mouse wheel or keyboard shortcuts to swap between the different types of interactions: walk, use, talk, look and attack. Each command is represented by its own cursor. You can then left-click a hotspot to execute the corresponding action on it. You can also use keyboard shortcuts to change your movement mode between normal walking, sneaking to pass by undetected in certain areas, or running to move more quickly around the screen. Moving the cursor to the top edge of the screen reveals a menu that displays these same interactions and movement options, but it also has buttons to check your inventory, character stats, a menu with the time of day, a book of magic spells, and a help screen that details the different shortcuts and the meaning of the icons.
Soon after you choose your path, you’ll have your first quest, and as you’ll learn from this initial enterprise, there’s a pretty even mix of inventory-based puzzles, combat and character skill (spells or stealth) development. In all three paths you’ll be required to defeat a beast, though what you must retrieve from the body afterwards and the manner in which you do it depends largely on the class you’ve chosen. You’ll have to collect different items and maybe even sneak past certain characters in order to succeed, depending on your chosen class.
While there are some side quests exclusive to each class, the main quests throughout the game are similarly variations of the same tasks that can be solved differently. Many other activities depend on skills that you can level up through repeated use. For example, at one point you have to descend a waterfall and get something from a gnoll that lurks beneath. You can use equipment and skills to get down, then barter with him to get the item. Or if you’re a Sorcerer, you can float down using your magic and then use another spell to… erm, persuade him.
Similarly, in other situations you can open a lock through lockpicking if you’re a Rogue, or with a special spell if you’re a Sorcerer. As a Brigand, you’ll be better prepared to tank your way into more inaccessible areas. Or maybe you’ll just climb your way out of the city. Classes share basic skills, but there are opportunities that are only available to certain paths. Such diversity is a bonus that still feels thrilling in a point-and-click adventure, adding a whole different layer of immersion.
Regardless of class, I found the puzzles to be well-conceived and generally very logical. Common sense seemed to work most of the time, and the game does a good job of giving you enough hints and guiding you towards your next objective, so you shouldn’t get lost. In fact the solutions may be too easy. Despite how different the approach may be between paths, the game is very rigid when considering alternative solutions and you may end up finding the low difficulty curve off-putting.
The RPG side of things suffers from some of the bad habits of the adventure genre. Just as in many other games where sometimes you get a resonant “no” whenever you try an item combination you deem perfectly logical, so Quest for Infamy simply refuses to let you use many characters' skills outside the specific scenarios it prescribes, no matter how reasonable it seems. Most likely, you were overthinking it and you have to simplify your strategy, which is fine if only you were told what’s wrong. QFG at least bothered more often to come up with plausible and creative reasons, thus feeling less lazy. I get that there are way too many variables to make every possible skill responsive to every possible element, but at least giving a sensible explanation to these limitations would reduce a lot of the frustration.
Fighting is inevitable for some quests, but random encounters can be avoided. Periodically, particularly in common traveller’s areas, enemies will already be “hiding” in a scene as you enter (pretty badly, like a two-year-old child playing hide-and-seek), and if you stay too long in that location, they will attack. So if you see a goblin behind a tree and you’re out of potions, start clicking to get yourself to the next screen, as it won't follow you in pursuit.
Combat scenes show a side view of the battle, and it’s pretty straightforward. You have three different types of attack that you can choose at the bottom of the screen: hacking, stabbing and slashing, each corresponding to a skill of the same name. Enemies are weaker against certain attacks than others, and it’s up to you to figure it out, either by trial and error or asking around among other characters who are experts on the subject – living bestiaries, basically. The more you use “stabbing”, for example, your “stabbing” skill goes up and becomes more effective.Continued on the next page...
What our readers think of Quest for Infamy
Posted by Antrax on Apr 7, 2015
Quest for Infamy is a labor of love, and its many shortcomings could be forgiven had only the price tag been considerably lower. As it is, the inescapable comparison to Heroine's Quest leaves it severely wanting. Roehm is a rather ill-defined protagonist. He'...