Among the first questions I am asked when first meeting other gamers is what my favorite game is–a trial by which to ascertain what type of gamer I am, and if I have valid taste. Or perhaps a common point of conversation on which to jump and nerdily compare notes. It is rare that I receive the latter response when I explain that the Quest for Glory series is my favorite of all time to this day. What I wanted to do now is explicate why that is, with my clear enjoyment of Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Flower, Shadow of the Colossus, and many, many more (Note! I am not saying older games are better than newer, and I find many of the newer games much easier to both comprehend and play than their predecessors).
Part of QFG’s appeal is its simplicity. While it meshes two genres, both the point-and-click adventure games of old, and the stat-driven RPG, it adheres wholly to neither. This was a bit confusing to me when I first played the game (I believe I was all of seven at the time), as it meant I was not only looking around for various items to use in puzzles and interacting with NPCs, but I was also engaging in combat and working on my stats with either my fighter, wizard, or thief (later paladin as well). Since my mother loved Sierra’s adventure games, and my father the SSI Gold Box series, I was knowledgeable of both, so it did not take long to catch on how this worked.
QFG had no levels, which seemed an oddity to me at the time. Instead, if you wished to become a stronger fighter, you exercised, climbed trees, fought, trained, or any of a myriad of physical activities. To get better at magic-use you used magic. It was a system that was largely intuitive (though some stats were less so, or sometimes had few opportunities open to progressing them).
This system could sometimes become a grind, but it was a welcome one by which you could distract yourself if you couldn’t figure out a puzzle. Excepting the second, Trial by Fire, there are relatively few time constraints, so if you are stuck at a period in the game, you can go off, fight a few goblins, cast some spells, and then come back after you’ve given your mind a bit of a break. Rather than asking you to put away the game once you’ve hit a progression block, there are often more options available.
There were also typically multiple options for solving any given puzzle. If I recall correctly, Lori Ann Cole has been cited as not really enjoying the game of making her players guess what was inside her head when she designed a puzzle. If you are a mage and need to get past a door, you’ll likely have a spell that will aid you. Warrior? Bash the door. Thief? Pick the lock. There are some item-based interactions that are specific, but I cannot recall any that were so painfully ludicrous as the penultimate example in how obscure those became.
Perhaps among the biggest allures was the ability to both export my character from one game and import him into another. While it did not have quite the story-choosing impact that BioWare’s latest two franchises have had, it still allowed me to grow attached to my character, and why I was disappointed that the expansions to Quest for Glory V: Dragonfire never saw light (in which case, those decisions that BioWare chooses to make an impact in sequels would have made such an occurrence in choice of wife (furthermore, who one rescued from Hades) and whether or not one became King or Chief Thief).
The games also walked a fine line between comedy and tragedy, with the earlier games being much more jovial in mood, and the stakes raising as the series progressed. I imagine this was likely due to both learning to write for a new medium, as well as taking more risks in such storytelling. After establishing certain characters, it is also easier to make one feel more involved with their plights, and their connections with the player character.
Among the reasons my favorite remains the fourth installment, Shadows of Darkness, is that it seemed to balance both equally, having a mixture of tragic figures alongside silly antwerp puzzles. Its Avoozl imagery managed to both be silly in its tentacled goodness, and still grow to be a menacing Cthulu homage.
At some point or another I’d like to do a more in depth analysis, but I wanted to at least put these thoughts out there, as I’ve been kicking them about my head for some time. There are definitely flaws, and I wish to more closely examine those as well, to see why the games succeed in spite of such (and bugs in the fourth title are a given).