From the start there was something about Quest for Infamy that bugged me. Something that reminded me of a previous game I reviewed, one I didn’t enjoy. Then it hit me; it was published by the same people that released Face Noir into the world, one of the worst games I’ve ever played. In many ways, Quest for Infamy is similar – the environments look great, are rich with atmosphere and the story holds its own amongst bigger flashier offerings. But it falls down in many ways and, while the potential is there, it never quite reaches the lofty heights its set itself.
Quest for Infamy was created by developers Infamous Quest but its uncanny how they’ve fallen into the same traps as Mad Orange, developers of Face Noir. Quest for Infamy plays homage to classic PC RPG’s, mainly Quest for Glory, and this is apparent in almost everything, from the retro pixel art to the tongue in cheek humour dotted throughout the epic story.
Point and click adventure, RPG, turn-based combat, puzzle solving, exploration – Quest for Infamy claims to have it all. And it almost does. Set in the Kingdom of Lonaria, you play as Roehm, a charming rogue with a penchant for getting himself into trouble. The prologue tells you all you need to know about his character when he is chased from a large house for sleeping with a Baron’s daughter. Hitching a ride on a conveniently passing cart, Roehm finds himself in the town of Volksville, your hub for the remainder of the game. After an informative chat with a local vendor, Roehm heads into town and begins his quest.
The controls are fiddly to begin with and traversing the static screens successfully often results in frustration when Roehm takes a path you didn’t intend. The rascal that he is! Such a scallywag! Actually he’s not really, more like an unwilling anti-hero who will do anything for some cash. This makes him shallow but not interestingly so, in a way that you would love to hate. He just comes across as being a bit…meh. I did grow fond of him towards the end but it took a while.
Right clicking on your mouse button will allow you to select one of several actions – walk, use, talk, look and attack. Left clicking on your target will cause Roehm to perform said action. You can also use the mouse wheel to select an action or the keyboard shortcuts. Moving your cursor to the top edge of the screen reveals a menu with these interactions as well as buttons to check your inventory, character stats, time of day, book of magic spells and the help screen. Try to remember to click inside the game screen as well. I over-enthusiastically tried to send Roehm to my desktop a few times. Thankfully he wasn’t up for it, the lazy git.
After witnessing a delightfully gruesome public execution, three paths are open to your apathetic anti-hero; if he can be bothered he can become a sorcerer, a rogue or a brigand. The benefit to each of these is pretty self-explanatory and standard fantasy trope. If you like magic, choose the sorcerer; if you like being sneaky, choose the rogue; and if you just want to smash stuff, choose the brigand. Because in real life I have all the grace and elegance of a ballet dancing baby elephant, I tend to choose the stealthy option.
The main storyline is the same for each path but how you develop your skills is down to your class. Unfortunately some of this is determined by grinding and repetitiveness. It’s true the more you do something the better you’ll get at it but it feels rather unrewarding to master climbing a wall or opening a locked door by simply clicking on it again and again.
In fact the general action elements of the game feel tedious and uninspired. This could be intentional; repetitive combat and lacklustre RPG elements may all be part of the old school vibe, with a certain cynicism and satire weaved into the game cleverly. But I couldn’t help feeling it was a bit lazy and that more could have been gained from creating something that was compelling to play. Those with misty-eyed nostalgia-itis will probably shed a tear at the faithfulness of the crappy combat but a game really needs to deliver more to be taken seriously these days.
The overall tone of Quest for Infamy then, while firmly tongue in cheek and satirical, is one of seriousness. It takes its homage to its idols earnestly and this is touching. Then it gets confused and thinks that bawdy toilet humour and crass sexism counts as satire. It doesn’t and because the rest of the game is written so well and executed to a high standard, these parts really stand out. They don’t fit with the tone, which is otherwise thoughtful and entertaining.
Humour is all through the game and seems to be an important selling point so let’s look at it for a moment. Everyone has differing opinions on what’s funny and the same people can also find different things funny, depending on the situation. For instance, South Park is crude and nasty and brilliant with it because it knows what it is and sticks to it. Quest for Infamy, for the most part isn’t like this so it is unnecessary for it to try to cater to all. This is the same problem I had with Face Noir where it was racism that was taken lightly and crudely and didn’t fit with the rest of the game/story/characters (the Chinese cab driver still makes me cringe).
Stepping down off my soap box, let’s continue with the game. Combat, as I mentioned, isn’t anything to get excited about. You select a physical attack, a potion, defence or magic and use it against whatever nasty beastie you’re pitted against. Different enemies have different strengths and weaknesses and often there’s a case of trial and error to figure out what will defeat them. But there’s not a lot of strategy involved here. Higher class enemies will simply require more hits to kill rather than a different approach and by the time you meet anything that will actually be challenging, you’ve stocked Roehm to the gills with the readily available health potions.
It’s as if the thought that’s gone into the game has been focused on story, character and scenery, and the important parts of adventuring and RPG-ing have been added as an afterward.
Exploration is fun and generally rewarding, as is talking to the NPC’s, of which there are many. This is a big game and the devs get points for making such a thriving world come to life. Everyone has a backstory and is interesting or entertaining to talk to. This is also where I began to like Roehm better because the dialogue and witty banter is very effective. Unfortunately it’s let down by atrocious voice acting. I’ve mentioned before that nothing pulls me out of a story quicker than bad voice acting. If you can’t get it right, don’t do it. I’d rather read text boxes and imagine the voices myself than have poor acting ingrained in my memory when I see a certain character. It’s not just the acting itself, the sound quality is also bad, with echoes making some dialogue sound like they were recorded in a bathroom.
However the pixel art is stunning and you have to appreciate how much effort has gone into making this game look so lovely. (No wonder they couldn’t afford good voice actors) And the music will definitely appeal to adventure gaming fans. It has a cinematic quality that works well with the epic story and the beautiful world, each score fitting its environment perfectly, whether it’s the shining white city of Tyr or the warm bustling pub.
Quest for Infamy is a game that’s completely divided down the middle for me. On the one hand is a beautiful, well written, character-driven exploration game that pays homage to the great adventure games of the 80’s and 90’s. On the other hand is a crass, unfunny, poorly designed adventure RPG that falls short of the entertainment value of the games it tries to live up to. There is much here to commend though and hopefully any further games will be better rounded. If you pine for the days when adventure was pixelated and didn’t take itself too seriously, you will probably enjoy this.
MLG Rating: 5/10 Format: PC Release Date: 10/07/2014
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Quest for Infamy by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of a week on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.