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Quest for Infamy Preview: The Quest for Nostalgia
Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness was one of the first PC games I ever played. Had I known it was one of the greatest adventure games of all time, infusing amazing CD-ROM voice acting and music with a gripping Gothic story and world with a fun skill-based RPG system, I probably would’ve started at the beginning of the series and worked my way up (which I eventually did, years later).
I wasn’t the only one that was so affected by Sierra’s unique adventure-RPG series, as the appropriately named developers of Infamous Quests launched a Kickstarter in the Summer of 2012 to create their own homage to the Quest for Glory series, and more broadly the classic Sierra and adventure games of the 90s. The modest Kickstarter was a success, and here we are two years later with the release date in late June. I’ve played a few hours of the Preview build of Quest for Infamy and was honestly blown away by how much it feels like a long-awaited entry from that golden age of Point and Click adventure games.
Quest for Infamy is modeled after its namesake series in nearly every way. You interact with the 2D world by moving screen to screen utilizing different easily identifiable icons – Look, Walk, Sneak, Talk, Use/Grab, etc. Conversing with the citizens in the starting town of Volksville brings up a large animating portrait, and everyone is voiced, giving me fond memories of the arrival of CD-ROM era technology (and space) around the time of King’s Quest V.
Like every Point and Click adventure game, puzzles are mostly solved using inventory objects or obtained knowledge, and QFI takes it a step further with random combat encounters in the wilderness, and skills that are increased through use, such as climbing and blocking.
The opening sequence shows our hero, Roehm, caught in a sitcom situation with the Baron’s daughter, and flees on the back of a donkey cart, arriving in the town of Volksville. With news of an upcoming execution, you’re left to freely wander the impressively large village, from the inn and pub to the tobacco shop, general store, apothecary, and more. It’s easy to get lost in, but exploration is one of the best parts of adventure gaming, and it’s very satisfying that QFI gives you so much freedom right at the beginning.
After a set amount of time you witness the execution of a criminal, and the next day you decide to make friends with one of the town’s memorable citizens – the brigand Kurdt, the rogue Ian, or the sorcerer Prospero. I enjoyed that the class selection (again, modeled exactly after QFG) is built into the story and gameplay rather than just a choice at the very beginning.
I chose the sorcerer because Prospero had a goatee and is a pompous asshole, which I totally dug. The humorous writing and 80s fantasy style character art walks a fine line between parodying its classic genre and making its own way through the often hilarious fourth-wall breaking narrator. Try examining each door you come across, and the narrator begins unleashing elaborate stories and jokes about what’s on the other side (“But due to our budget we can’t show you, so let’s just say the door is locked”). Every time I entered a new screen I made sure to examine everything of interest, mostly to hear what joke the narrator would pull next – “You see a pleasant looking young man, so you assume he’s probably annoying as hell.” The tone is pitch perfect and reflects the sheer enjoyment the developers have with the genre.
Before I could earn my magic spells I had to take on a roaming Beast outside town as initiation. It’s an unfriendly way to introduce the limited combat, however, as the Beast is extremely hardy and powerful, taking me several reloads to take it down. Thankfully the game does embrace at last one modern convenience – the autosave.
Combat is in real time though slowed down so you can easily pick your next move. Options are limited to three offensive maneuvers and blocking. Blocking restores a bit of your health if you’re successful, while striking with slash or hack seems to be mostly based on random luck (hopefully when you work the appropriate skill up, the blows land more frequently). Combat was never QFG’s strong suit either, but it’s a shame QFI had to painstaking follow in these footsteps.
Becoming a sorcerer meant I had the initial exploratory puzzles of locating reagents for Prospero. Some spells are used only in combat, like a standard fireball and self heal, while others can be used to help solve puzzles or complete tasks in the environment. One of my favorites involved finding three different kinds of water for the ice shards spell – old water, falling water, and water teeming with life. I was able to find all three through exploring the wonderfully detailed valley of Krasna surrounding Volksville.
In a nice improvement from the maze-like screens of Quest for Glory’s wilderness, Infamy packs almost every screen with something of interest. East of the village you’ll find a farm full of tools. To the North is the ruined home of the mysterious Killingtons, and even further North I found a gigantic, suitably creepy cemetery, complete with hidden switches to mysterious underground caverns. To the West is the monster-filled King’s Road, leading to the Grasslands. Finally in the Southwest I found the port city of Tyr – an entire second multi-screen city, which already makes QFI much larger than other similarity styled adventure games.
I had a general idea of what to expect from Quest for Infamy – a niche retro offering made to please nostalgic fans of a very specific genre. While Quest for Infamy seems to succeed at giving me those same fuzzy gameplay feelings, I was really impressed with the humor and breadth of content that was available. It kept me coming back for more, even with a very slowly unfolding main story involving some evil cultists. For anyone that fondly remembers those classic 90s adventure games, QFI looks like an easy recommendation when it releases later this Summer, but my real hope is that younger gamers (or anyone that missed out) can look to games like Quest for Infamy as a gateway to a wonderfully enjoyable retro world of adventure.