Quest for Infamy Review
When I was but a wee lad in the early age of the home computer, my father bought my brother and I our first PC for Christmas. It was, by modern standards, an absolute junker - but we loved the crud out of that box. One reason for our love was perhaps the first game we ever played on it, the point-and-click adventure King's Quest IV. We never got anywhere in it, because the King's Quest series practically required a college degree and we were just kids, but we loved it all the same.
Quest for Infamy brought me back to those early days maybe three minutes after I started playing the game. It's that close to adventuring games of old, for all the good and ill such a thing entails.
In Quest for Infamy you play as Roehm, a wandering vagabond with a love of wine, women, song, and occasionally getting in trouble with the local constabulary. He's not a bad guy, per se, but his pursuit of the fine life can occasionally drag Roehm into gray-area predicaments. He will kill, he will steal, he will lie, he will cheat, he will generally do terrible stuff. Roehm's life is complicated during a stay in a small town, and a Hot Fuzz-esque plot of suburban improvement draws him into a conflict that he'd much rather avoid.
The writing is Quest for Infamy's greatest strength. It's witty, it's believeable, and it never strays too far into the grandiose. Roehm is always willing to ground other characters who might otherwise wander into epic fantasy territory. Yet the black humour and cutting jibes of the protagonist don't necessarily detract from Quest's more serious plot, and that's a fine line many writers struggle to toe. The plot is made all the better by the fact that virtually every line in the game is delivered by voice actors, and though a few of the performances are shaky, by and large the cast does an admirable job of telling their tale.
Story aside, Quest for Infamy is a point-and-click adventure game. It consists of wandering a large, semi-open world, talking to people, picking up items, and solving puzzles. Typically the puzzles are based on real world logic. In one case, you need to start a heavily-smoking fire to drive a nest of wasps out of a chimney. To do this you'll have to gather equipment to start fires, material that's flammable, and an additive that will generate smoke. Put them all together in the right order and the wasps go bye-bye. The puzzles are buffered by clever hints that will eventually point players in the right direction, but there's significantly less hand-holding than most modern games employ. I approve of this, as the sense of accomplishment after trouncing a difficult puzzle is near-intoxicating.
Unfortunately, this jump to highly-difficult puzzling may be a shot to the foot of Infamous Games, the producers of Quest for Infamy. This game is infuriatingly difficult at times, and I suspect many players won't stand for the mental gymnastics necessary to plow through Quest's plot. It's a niche title, in short, and though I'd love to claim otherwise, I don't know that Quest for Infamy will have an enormous audience. (Hopefully it's large enough to prompt a sequel. I'd love to play more.)
The presentation may also turn some players off. Quest for Infamy recaptures the aesthetics of its genre with attractive, but purposely-pixelated, retro-style art. Having grown up with these games I love the way Quest looks, but younger gamers? Perhaps not. It doesn't help, either, that navigation through this world is sometimes a bit tricksy, with Roehm bumbling off in directions you may not want him to go, or certain paths requiring odd finessing of mouse clicks to reach. Love the environments, in short, but don't necessarily love walking through them.
Quest for Infamy adds more depth than the average adventuring game by also incorporating elements of an RPG into the mix. Near the beginning of the game Roehm can choose one of three classes - Rogue, Brigand, or Sorcerer - and this path will dictate his worthiness in combat, and how he'll progress past certain challenges. As far as puzzling goes I love how the three classes each boast semi-unique storylines, but their respective roles in combat... not so much. Combat for the Rogue is a bit too easy, for example, while Sorcerors have a veeeery difficult time bringing down opponents. For the most part I tried to avoid combat, as it seemed a slog not worth the effort. Mercifully, you're only forced to fight a handful of times.
Coupled with the combat is a stat system. Each time Roehm performs an action - swinging his sword in a particular way, trying to climb a wall, casting a spell, and so forth - he gains experience in a related stat. Gain enough experience and he'll gain a point in that stat. This sounds like a great idea in theory, but in practice many of these stats push you to grind for long, boring minutes. Can't climb that wall? Just click on the stupid thing until you can. Eventually it'll work. I would rather see Roehm improving significantly through one related action of great importance than forcing him to fiddle with a door for half an hour until he gets it open.
Overall I think Quest for Infamy is a game that suffered from an excess of good ideas that weren't thoroughly executed. Point-and-click action? Check. Day and night cycle? Check. Combat? Check. Stats? Check. Lots of NPCs? Check. Large world? Check. All good on paper, but stuffed together by an indie team lacking a large budget... perhaps too ambitious. Throw out one or two elements and more thoroughly polish the rest and I think Quest for Infamy would have turned out a lot better.
Don't get me wrong, though! Despite the drawbacks, Quest for Infamy is a fantastic game. It captures the spirit of the clicky-clicky titles of old very well, and the ability to play through the game multiple times and receive a different experience each time is awesome. I hope that Infamous Games uses the knowledge gained cobbling this gem together to create something even better on the next go around, as I really, reeeeeally want to play as Roehm again.