It feels like a good time to explain Why You Should Probably Play Quest for Glory, because 1) the complete series is available on GOG.com for $3.99 for one more day and 2) the Squadron of Shame just released a podcast detailing exactly why it’s awesome. You can listen to it in the player below and go leave a comment here.
Quest for Glory remains to this day an aberration in both the point-and-click adventure and RPG genres, in that it is both. For those who have no experience of the series, the basic gist of all games in the series is that you have the mouse-driven “walk, look, use, talk” interface of an adventure game coupled with the stat-based system of an RPG. You wander around, you find out about quests, you get into fights, you save the sleepy Germanic valley/city/African-style savannah region/world.
Sounds simple, right? After all, RPGs and adventure games already have a lot in common — mainly the fact that both often involve a lot of talking — thus it’s not much of a stretch to imagine an RPG with a point-and-click adventure game interface (or, in the case of earlier games in the series, text parser).
Except Quest for Glory doesn’t stop there, because it makes its games noticeably and significantly different depending on whether you initially choose to play as a fighter, magic user or thief. (It’s also worth noting that the “thief” class is a proper thief who breaks into houses and nicks stuff for personal gain, none of that namby-pamby “rogue” nonsense)
That’s right — join the quest as a fighter and, for sure, you’ll be doing a lot of fighting, but you’ll also be using your brawn to solve non-violent problems. Become a thief and you’ll be using your agility, climbing ability and stealthiness to sneak around and solve problems from the shadows. Become a mage and over the course of the various games in the series you’ll outfit yourself with a diverse array of spells, only a couple of which are of the traditional “throw fiery objects at opponents” variety.
Best of all, if you’re the sort of indecisive person who likes to play as a “hybrid” class, you can spend a few extra points on character creation to take a skill that doesn’t normally belong to that type of hero. Want to be a wizard that’s good at climbing? Go ahead. A thief with a good line in magic tricks? Sure! A fighter who knows what the word “sneak” means? Knock yourself out! All skills that are at higher than zero can be raised through grinding — the Quest for Glory series subscribes to the Final Fantasy II/Elder Scrolls mentality that skills should be raised organically as you use them rather than at arbitrary level boundaries. Crucially for the whole fun factor, though, it’s relatively rare that you’ll need to grind a skill, unless you’re specifically aiming to do and see absolutely everything the game has to offer. (And if you are, you’re a masochist.)
Then there’s the fact that the Quest for Glory series was one of the first series that allowed you to transfer your save file from one game to the next. Beat one game and you’d be invited to export your character ready to import once the next game released. This was remarkably forward-thinking (and confident) of the developers at the time — and also somewhat symptomatic of the different times back then. Now, sure, we have franchises like Mass Effect and Dragon Age allowing you to import your save file from the previous game, but each game in the series didn’t specifically include with a promise of the next one. In other words, whether or not a game gets a sequel these days isn’t necessarily preordained — it’s often dependent on sales. In Quest for Glory’s time, it was built in to the design from the very beginning, even as technology improved over time.
This is one of the other interesting things about playing through any of Sierra’s old adventure series. You can see how gaming technology evolved from game to game. Quest for Glory I and II initially used 16-colour 320×200 EGA graphics and a text parser, though Quest for Glory I was subsequently rereleased with 256-colour 320×200 VGA graphics and a mouse-driven interface. Quest for Glory II never got the same treatment officially, but a fan-made free remake (approved, but not funded or assisted by, the original team) brought it into the latter days of the 20th century rather nicely. Quest for Glory III then brought the series officially into the 256-colour VGA age, and Quest for Glory IV was the first CD-ROM based episode, featuring none other than John “Gimli and That Professor Bloke I Can’t Remember the Name Of from Sliders” Rhys-Davies on narration duties.
Quest for Glory V marked a bit of a turning point, however, not just for the series, but for Sierra’s fortunes and the adventure game genre at large. Being a CD-ROM only multimedia extravaganza with 256-colour 640×480 Super VGA visuals, polygons and a prerendered intro sequence that, while impressive at the time is utterly laughable if you watch it now, Quest for Glory V marked the point where, for many, the franchise lost its way. There are plenty of people who adore the game, of course, but those who grew up with the earlier entries in the series can’t help but mourn the direction it took with its fifth instalment and its subsequent demise.
This wasn’t the only time Sierra did something weird with one of its established series. In fact, almost all of Sierra’s classic, long-running series ended up as something completely different to their original forms — King’s Quest became a 3D action RPG with its eighth instalment; Police Quest became the tactical SWAT series after its fourth incarnation (later dropping the Police Quest moniker altogether); and Leisure Suit Larry just went off the rails altogether after its sixth episode (which, naturally, is called Leisure Suit Larry 7). In comparison to these other titles, Quest for Glory V‘s changes were actually relatively modest — but still enough to put some off.
Perhaps the saddest thing about the demise of the Quest for Glory series is that we really haven’t had anything like it since. We’ve had a resurgence of point-and-click adventures in the last couple of years, sure, but nothing that so deftly blends two genres together with interesting stories, a genuinely amusing sense of humour and satisfying gameplay.
However, there’s some good news for fans of Lori and Corey Cole — they’re working on something new called Hero U, and will be opening a Kickstarter funding drive some time later this month. More details here. I’m pretty excited — they’ve said outright that it’s not going to be a new Quest for Glory game, but it will incorporate some of the things they learned from making those games. Sounds awesome, right? Of course.
Hope you enjoyed the podcast. We certainly spent long enough recording it — and then I spent even longer editing it.