I tend to mentally divide CRPGs into two categories--"new" and "old"--with the dividing line being the six years I took off for college and my first job, and thus didn't play any games. I wish I could say this was because I was focused on my schoolwork, but the truth is that my Commodore 64 died just before I started school, and the Mac that I bought to replace it had limited gaming options. It wasn't until about 1998, when I got my first PC, that I bought my first "new" games, and I remember that they were Might & Magic VI and the Quest for Glory anthology. I was blown away by what had happened with games in the years since I had been playing.
Quest for Glory is the name by which Hero's Quest came to be known after Milton Bradley beat Sierra to the trademark. The original version was released in 1989, but most players (me included) are more familiar with the 1992 re-release, under its new name, updated to VGA graphics. I hear there are a few substantive differences, so I'm going to play them both in their respective years, using the opportunity to try different character classes.
|Setting up a mage character.|
I remember liking the series a lot, even the fifth, which usually gets a lot of grief for switching to action-based combat. (Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire served up one of the most difficult role-playing choices I've ever seen in a CRPG, and I look forward to covering it when I get there.) Even though it's been 16 years, and I think I only played it once, I still have a vague memory of the spatial landscape, and I remember how to solve a lot of the puzzles.
|The quest board in the adventurer's guild.|
What I didn't appreciate, playing for the first time, is how groundbreaking the series was for both RPGs and adventure games. We've had some examples of quasi-hybrids on this blog before. Beyond Zork was the first, and I played B.A.T. just a few months ago. But these games were fundamentally adventure games that incorporated "RPG elements." Hero's Quest (which may in fact precede B.A.T.; they were released the same year) is the first hybrid whose RPG credentials are incontestable. Unlike the previous two games, it has a true character creation process, by which you select a class, set attributes, and name the character. (And unlike B.A.T., the statistics matter.) It has a skills system in which the skills develop based on use. There are both adventure-game-style puzzles and random encounters with monsters against whom you can grind. Best of all, the puzzles generally have multiple solutions based on class.
As such a landmark game, it would be worth playing even if being a "hybrid" was its only innovation. But Hero's Quest doesn't just adeptly blend RPG and adventure game elements; it also excels as an RPG. It has an interesting tactical/action approach to combat and flexible dialogue with a host of memorable NPCs. With the three character classes--fighter, thief, and mage--there are honest-to-god role-playing choices; it's the first game I can think of where the character class really matters for more than combat tactics, and it's one of the few games of the era with side quests. I love that the plot isn't the standard save-the-world fare, but rather involves a series of quests to help out a troubled town; It has the same early-level humility I praised in Pool of Radiance.
|I remember that Antewerp gave me trouble.|
The game also features a sense of humor and whimsy reminiscent of the Zork series. I won't lie: there are times that it makes me groan. But it's generally done with wit and intelligence.
|Before The Elder Scrolls series gave us Khajiit, Hero's Quest had Katta.|
I'm not actually going to be playing the game until later this month, and in playing, I'm going to try to coordinate with Trickster over at The Adventure Gamer, after he finishes his porn game. I'll be curious what he thinks of it as an adventure game as I write from an RPG perspective. I'm also hoping we can play different character classes so you can get a sense of how the game varies based on that initial choice.
The reason I'm writing the initial posting now is to tell you that Lori Ann Cole and Corey Cole, the designers of the Quest for Glory series, have an active Kickstarter project for a new game called Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. The game is described as a "turn-based PC RPG with adventure game puzzles and an immersive story," blending the hybrid approach that made Quest for Glory famous with more in-depth NPC relationships. The project closes on November 20, which will probably be after Trickster and I begin Hero's Quest.
It's one of the better designed Kickstarter pages that I've seen, and their ideas for the game sound like a lot of fun. If you're not familiar with Kickstarter, you can pledge any amount you want to support a project, and in this case anything above $20 gets you a copy of the game. You only get charged for your pledge if the project reaches its goal.
I wish Lori and Corey the best of luck, and I look forward to getting into their first game in a few weeks! For me, it's back to The Dark Heart of Uukrul.