Sunday, June 19, 2011

Questron II: Final Rating

This game has the least effective copy protection of any game I've ever played. You can figure out the answers without even glancing at the manual. Another one said something like: "Which of these creatures lives in a dungeon?" with answers like "1. Cloud Soarer; 2. Wood Nymph; 3. Giant Shark; and 4. Deep Dweller."
Questron II
United States
Westwood Associates (developer); Strategic Simulations, Inc. (publisher)
Released 1988 for Apple II, Apple II GS, Atari ST, Amiga, and DOS
Date Started: 12 June 2011
Date Ended: 18 June 2011
Total Hours: 7
Difficulty: Easy (2.0/5)
Final Rating: 26
Ranking at Time of Posting: 17/59 (29%)
Ranking at Game #453: 233/453 (51%)
I honestly hadn't intended to play Questron II beyond my six hours, and then I found that six hours was almost enough to win (I said I was under six yesterday, but when I tallied it up, it actually came to seven). 
Here's the GIMLET:
1. Game World. Well. Questron II gets some points for originality for sending me to another planet, even if that doesn't really make sense. The time-travel angle is also unusual, but again poorly implemented. The world itself is a collection of towns, castles, and terrain features no different from Britannia or Ymros. You do have a lengthy history and lore in the manual, they're just not all that interesting; "stop the evil wizard" had already become a cliche by 1988. And the looting castles and slaughtering guards bit bothers me. Didn't Ultima IV teach us anything? Score: 3. 
2. Character Creation and Development. The only real option you have when creating your character is the name. Leveling occurs at fixed intervals and in response to progress on the quest, not slaying monsters or building experience. You have no choices when leveling. You can increase some of your stats in dungeons or by purchasing training in castles, but basically every player ends the game with the same character as every other player. Score: 2. 
3. NPC Interaction. No games are really rocking us yet with NPC interaction, but Questron II still feels like a throwback to a few years prior, when NPCs gave a single line of exposition. It's even worse here because most wandering NPCs say something worthless ("Me not like you") as if they were straight out of Ultima II. You do get some plot points from barbers, innkeepers, and publicans, but not enough to really advance the plot--most of the stuff they tell you, you'd figure out anyway. There are no dialogue options, not even when dealing with the main quest NPCs. Score: 2.
And if you're going to make a Treasure of the Sierra Madre reference, at least put it in some kind of context.
4. Encounters and Foes. We just came across a game--Pool of Radiance--that advanced the concept of "encounters" light years, and in this game, we might as well still be playing Akalabeth. Despite descriptions in the manual and interesting names, the monsters are utterly unmemorable, and there are no episodes in which you have to make any kind of real decision. Usually I like games that offer random encounters and respawning, but only when there's some point to fighting, and there's no point to fighting in this game: you don't get any experience, and you get more gold from gambling and dungeon exploration. Score: 1.
This kind of encounter wasn't even fun the very first time.
5. Magic and Combat. Combat consists of hitting "F" over and over, and the magic system offers exactly four spells. I'm seriously contemplating giving this game a 0, but the only game I've done that for is Braminar in which you literally make no decisions in combat. I guess that here, you at least have to pick the best out of four spells. Score: 1. 6. Equipment. We've seen lots of games with limited equipment, but this is the only game I've played in which your available equipment is tied to your character level, which makes no sense even on the surface. The best I can say is that at least you can tell, based on the price, when you're getting an upgrade. If I consider transportation as part of equipment, though, I have to give the game some points for the flying eagle. Score: 3.
Keeganac's gear at the end. The game's best weapon, as far as I can tell, is the broadsword.
7. Economy. There are quite a lot of things to buy in the game--stat upgrades, healing herbs, weapons and armor, spells, hit points, food, transportation, information. And I like the gambling mini-games; there aren't many games that feature mini-games in this era. But the game unbalances itself with high returns on gambling, making it pointless to accumulate treasure through combat or dungeon exploration. Having tens of thousands of gold pieces likely made the end game much easier for me than the creators intended. Score: 5.
Gambling is not supposed to absolve you from actually playing the game.
8. Quest. There is one relatively boring main quest but no "side quests." There is only one outcome to the main quest, and no opportunities for role-playing at all. Score: 2. 
9. Graphics, Sound, and Inputs. I'm almost scared to rate anything in this category now. The graphics are a nice upgrade from Questron and Legacy of the Ancients, but the sound is still primitive and I mostly kept it off. The keyboard commands were mostly intuitive enough, but there's no excuse, in this era, for disallowing diagonal movement--especially when your enemies can both move and attack you on the diagonal. I'm going to give it an extra point for the automap, probably the game's only innovative feature. Score: 5.
10. Gameplay. Questron II is completely linear. You have to visit each dungeon and castle in a particular order. Towns are an exception, but the game's dozens of towns are essentially interchangeable. Although I admire its quick resolution (again, I think the creators intended more monster grinding and less gambling), the game is a bit too easy. (Among other things, resurrection is immediate and guaranteed upon death.) There would be absolutely no reason to replay it. Score: 2.  
The final score of 26 almost seems too high. I think I might revisit my system soon to allow for a "discretionary" category where I can add and subtract points based on particularly well-done (or hated) features. It's time for an updated GIMLET review anyway; the one I keep linking to is from over a year ago and it talks about The Bard's Tale in the intro. 
    Note: Nothing this ad says is actually true.
Earlier today, reader Macnol was kind enough to link to the issue of Computer Gaming World in which Questron II was reviewed. The review's last sentence (p. 50) sums up the game perfectly: "Bottom line: Not equal to the original; best for the beginner, not the experienced." Next up: I couldn't find a working version of the 1988 edition of Rogue Clone (which, by all descriptions, was pretty much a clone of Rogue; who would have guessed?), so it's on to Scavengers of the Mutant World.


  1. Kind of unrelated, but I was just checking out your master game list, looking for the next game I've heard of, and I just notice you have the oregon trail coming up in the next couple of years. I can't wait for the roleplaying that'll come with that. I'll still be here!

  2. I'm still reading you too.

    I just did 2 articles on roguelikes for my blog, and I'm not sure which "Rogue clone, 1988 version" you had in mind, but I have seen two or three games that are Rogue ported so as to be playable on modern systems. Donnie Russell is one who has done this, but I actually prefer his 2008 version to the latest that he has come out with.
    BTW in my part one, I mentioned you in my Omega discussion - I'd love to link directly to your first Omega article, if that's okay with you. (Not that I'm getting tons of page hits, lol)

  3. I think Questron II might deserve an extra point or two in some category for having a Big Bad who actually impacts the world in some way during the game. Usually the evil wizard just sits in his castle until you swing by and whack off his head, but in Q2 he's actually out destroying towns and killing NPCs. That's innovative, particularly for the era.

  4. "Note: Nothing this ad says is actually true."

    And check the price!

  5. Excellent review of a mildly bad game. I'm not terribly disappointed that you won't be playing the epically named Rogue Clone. Keep up the good work regardless.

    Oh yeah and...

    You rated Questron II within a point of DM's graphics!!!!!11!11! RAEG! *head explodes* EXPECT fifty replies questioning your system!!! Everything is ruined now forever and ever!

  6. Bleaghhh, someone on MobyGames tagged it as a CRPG, and since I've never played it, I figured I'd at least check it out. If I remember correctly, I screwed up the year on that one, though.

    It seems to me that games have always always hovered around the $40-50 range, although in recent years we've seen a few climb much higher. I remember my mother balking at $39.95 for Pool of Radiance.

    Duskfire, I was referring to this one:

    If you can shed any light, I'll appreciate it. Naturally, I don't have any problem with other sites linking to mine.

    Kyle, I agree that was an unusual and positive feature of the era, although both Shard of Spring and Demon's Winter did it a little better.

  7. I quite liked the C64 Legacy of the Ancients (I liked the Museum / coins device) and always thought I'd enjoy the original Questron but I remember thinking when this came out it didn't look too good. What I find so hard to believe is how identical this game is to the previous games.

    I'd also noticed the Computer Gaming World game prices seemed really steep.There's an Ultima V advert on the last page which I've never seen before which is coming up soon I believe.

  8. GRAPHICS, SOUND, and INPUTS. DM had better graphics (but remember: this category maxes out at "good enough that it's not distractingly bad") and sound, Q2 better inputs. Plus it got an extra point for the automap. Let's not go through this again.

  9. I was joking. I thought it was apparent after I complimented your review. I was more or less mocking the guy who got so upset about it before. I definitely wasn't trying to spark the same "debate" again.

  10. Wow, it does seem like every version of Rogue Clone on the internet is either non-functional or only available as source code. The only one I can find is this recent Win32 build of the 1993 version.

  11. Sorry, Elijah--I actually got that you were joking, but I could see it happening again anyway!

  12. Regarding price point, I remember Origin games climbing quite high during the last hurrah of floppy disks... anyone else remember paying upwards of $70 for Serpent Isle? Gosh, I hope that wasn't just me.

    Also, I love the advertising copy for Questron 2. It reminds me a bit of the back-of-the-box bullet point feature lists for some of the early Ultimas, which I somehow find disproportionately amusing; among the highlights:

    Ultima 3:
    Full color visuals throughout
    Sound on/off toggle
    New navigational strategies
    Adventure style verb entry
    New astrological influences

    Ultima 4:
    Two full game disks, front and back
    Multiple range weapons
    Dozens of combat screens (this, incidentally, is not in reference to the dungeon chambers, which are mentioned separately, but to the various terrain types in which you fight.)
    Dozens of unique shops to explore

    Ah, shop exploration, the crowning jewel of the Ultima 4 experience...

  13. I still think its a fun game. Different weapons are effective against different monsters (best/most expensive weapon is not always the best choice!).

    sailing between the two different continents..

  14. I do think more RPGs of all stripes could do with a giant eagle you can ride on command.

    1. The "Lord of the Rings" games certainly could. ;)

  15. I've been using the CGW archives as the main source for my own retro playthrough - I'm really enjoying getting the extra context for each game and seeing which ones were hyped at the time and how well they were received. I'm up to March 1989 which has a review of "Legend of Blacksilver", the sequel to Legacy of the Ancients. The review seems to indicate it's not much better than Questron 2 and points out how ridiculous it is that available equipment is (still, apparently) tied to experience.

    Loved your POR review, by the way. It's convinced me to play Curse of the Azure Bonds when I get up to it. My current game is Wizardry 5 and I'm actually enjoying it despite not being much advanced over the first Wizardry. It's still clearly an Apple 2 game but at least it does have real encounter options and combat strategies. I'll be interested to see what you think of it.

  16. Duskfire, you're blog looks good and I will have to go back to it when I have more time.

    Addict: Keep on keeping on my good man.

  17. Given that Questron featured both innovations and throwbacks, it makes me wonder how much lateral communication went on between game designers of that era. Did the creaters of Questron ever play Ultima IV or know about Pool of Radiance, especially as it is also an SSI product.

  18. CRPGAddict, I found Rogue Clone based off Google searching the authors on the sidebar.

  19. CRPGaddict: Do you really have to play Rogue Clone? Really? Even if it is just a clone of Rogue? Its not like you are going to have a rogue-like shortage...

  20. Stu, I thought it was a fun game too. However I also enjoy bad music and bad movies. :)

  21. There ought to be an Interent slang shortcut for, "I was very amused by your statement--I laughed for several minutes, and it will probably bring me amusement at various indefinite points in the future, when I recollect it--but I can't think of anything else to add to it that it is sufficient to explain the full extent of my enjoyment." rpk, if there is such a term, consider it applied to your final sentence.

    Stu, my problem is that the combat are so meaningless that it barely makes sense to carry multiple types of weapons and swap them in and out. But hey, to each his own. I do admit that there are few games that alll you to explore more than one continent. And even fewer that allow you to explore the shops in more than one continent.

    Sid, Faery Tale Adventure and this game. If you can think of more, let me know.

    Bunyip, if the fifth installment of still hasn't updated the graphics, sound, and gameplay....I don't even want to know.

    Jason, I found that site but the game doesn't work. Try it. If you figure it out, let me know. Something about ANSI. Lame Brain, I didn't get the impression that it was an exactl replica--although I had a very humorous opening pre-written, with a reference to "Arrested Development," if it was.

    Keir, I maintain there's a difference between "so bad it's good" and "so bad it's....#*$% this." If Questron II wasn't so short, it would be the latter.

  22. @CRPGAddict: Sorry to be slow to follow-up, but this took a little figuring.

    (I'm using the cbip_rogue.arc version.)

    First (and it sounds like you got past this part) you need to set the environment variable, like so

    SET TERM=ibmpc-mono

    you also need to have the ANSI.SYS file somewhere in the directory, it's flying around the Internet and you can just nab it with Google or your other search engine of choice.

  23. Jason, thanks for the info. It actually turns out that the file I downloaded from that site WASN'T this version of Rogue Clone, but the one you mention is. Now my problem is: every .arc unzipping utility I download says that the file is corrupt. Feel like telling me which one you used? (Or, for bonus points, just .zip the files and e-mail them to

  24. Did you try 7-zip with the ARC addon?

  25. I used xacr to extract the arc file.

    I tried to send it zipped but I'm getting a return to sender on your email.

  26. I'll give it another try with one of those two.

  27. With regards to a new axis to the GIMLET rating, I for one would greatly enjoy a personal slant score in addition to the existing elements. Something you can use to indicate your feelings about misc. intangible aspects of the gameplay that might not fit cleanly in other categories.

  28. I started giving myself a little more leeway in Scavengers of the Mutant World.

  29. Now this game looks like Questron! Oddly enough, on the Amiga and Atari ST, my attempts to play Questron II landed me with a strange game where I mostly burgled places and picked locks. I had played a similar game before that was some kind of SSI spinoff game where you play a D&D thief, but I have no idea how Questron II ended up on the label.


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