To end our Sierra retrospective, I decided to do something different. Instead of reviewing another typical graphic adventure, I decided to review the first of one of my favorite series: Quest for Glory (originally known as Hero’s Quest).
Corey and Lori Ann Cole were two designers at Sierra who are avid D&D fans and one day, they pitched the idea of creating a RPG game using the SCI0 engine. But as development went on, they ended up creating a hybrid graphic adventure/RPG game.
Hero’s Quest: So You Want to Be a Hero was originally released in 1989 for DOS, a year later for Atari ST and Amiga and in 1991 for the PC-98.
But a year after the original release, Sierra was forced to change its name to Quest for Glory to avoid confusion with the board game Hero Quest by Milton Bradley (which was adapted into a different computer game).
Quest for Glory I was supposed to have more RPG elements, like a deeper character creation with multiple races and also the ability to play as a female, but due to time constrictions and difficulties with the engine, these and other options were cut from the original concept.
But let’s look at the cover, shall we?
The cover shows our hero-to-be fighting a Saurus Rex, one of the hardest monsters in the game. It’s a good cover with decent artwork and conveys exactly the tone of the game.
But let’s boot this sucker, shall we?
Despite the intro showing a dragon, unfortunately you won’t find any (living) dragons in the game. You’d have to wait further along down the series for that.
The game doesn’t have a lot of backstory; you’re just a recent graduate from the Famous Adventurer’s Correspondence School, recently arrived to the valley and town of Spielburg, who are in dire need of a hero.
The game starts with you creating your protagonist, first by choosing a class (Fighter, Magic User or Thief) and then relocating your points to your preferred stats and finally naming it. The character’s appearance however is always the same.
The Fighter is an expert in combat and the most direct in his approach towards the puzzles and quests. The Magic User cast spells which you’ll have to look for, learn and use to solve the puzzles and the Thief has to use his abilities to solve said puzzles. Take a locked door for example: the Fighter would simply smash the door open while the Magic User would cast a spell to open the door and the Thief would simply pick the door’s lock. Because of the latter, the Thief class is my personal favorite due to its gameplay being closer to a traditional graphic adventure.
While it is possible to create hybrid characters by allocating points in different stats (like giving the Fighter the ability to cast spells), the game will always treat you as the class you’ve chosen. For example, you can still use a spell to open a locked door but you won’t get the points the Fighter would usually get for smashing said door.
And those aren’t the only RPG elements in the game. Your character won’t level up like in most RPGs; instead you raise your stats by repeating the same action several times over. Fighting with your weapon raises your Strength and Weapon Use stats, throwing a dagger raises your Throwing and Weapon Use stats or casting a spell raises your Intelligence, Magic and that specific Spell proficiency stats and so on and so forth. You can raise your stats to a maximum of 100 points each (except for the Experience stat which always increases along with any other stat).
You also have Health and Stamina points that when depleted, it’s game over! These are linked to your Strength, Vitality and Agility stats and when these stats are increased, so are your Health and Stamina. Magic Users also have Mana points linked to your Intelligence and Magic stats, although if depleted, you’ll just lose the ability to cast spells.
To avoid your Health and Stamina (and Mana) to drop drastically, you need to eat and sleep, so you’re always need a steady supply of food and potions. While there is a specific place in the game where you can get free food and rest, potions aren’t free and you need money to buy them, therefore you need to solve quests and kill monsters in order to make money (although the Thief has another alternative).
Also you can’t just sleep anywhere. There are a few safe spots to do it, like the inn or the castle stable for beginners, although there are also a few safe spots in the surrounding forest for you to find.
The game also has a day/night cycle in which some places (like the town and castle grounds) are close and inactive during the night, while other places become active.
Another RPG element is the ability to export your character to the next game of the series, maintaining all the stats, money and items you’ve collected.
You begin your game in the town of Spielburg, but shortly after, you need to explore the entire valley. The map is somewhat reminiscent of the one found in King’s Quest I (with the exception that it doesn’t revolve around itself) and you are free to travel anywhere inside said valley. This gives the game a non-linear aspect also reminiscent of King’s Quest I.
All the monster encounters (except in specific screens and locations) are random, and during the day, you’ll find the easiest ones to fight. The hardest ones come out at night, so be careful if you find yourself at night in the middle of the forest. Also the majority of the night monsters start to appear during the day after achieving 1000 points of experience.
All the fights are shown in an over-the-shoulder POV and are fought using the keypad arrows. The controls are tight and easy to master. You can even run away from a battle (except the main ones)!
But my favorite part of the game is the NPCs, which are all well written and fleshed out. It’s impossible to hate them. Almost all the characters and by extend, the fantasy elements themselves, are based in Germanic folklore.
While the game isn’t a parody, it still has a lot of comedy sprinkled out through it with lots of easter eggs. But the story isn’t afraid to get serious and somewhat dark when needed.
The game’s EGA graphics are very well detailed and colorful, with great animation throughout. The soundtrack is quite appropriate with certain main NPCs getting their own theme. The main title theme would later become the series’ main theme, with some differences in each entry.
But unfortunately, the game also presents some flaws. Because of the nature in raising stats, some grinding is inevitable, forcing you to develop a daily routine for your characters at the beginning before their stats are high enough to tackle the harder quests.
And while the Thief might be the hardest character to play in a graphic adventure perspective, the Magic User is the one that, for me, has the most grinding, due to the fact that you not only have to grind all the necessary stats linked to spell casting, but also have to repeatedly cast all the spells in order to increase the proficiency of each individual spell.
But spite these little flaws, the game not only has great replay value, but also due to the grinding, a considerable gameplay length.
Then in 1992, to coincide with the rest of the VGA remakes Sierra was making, the Coles decided to remake Quest for Glory I using the SCI 1.1 engine, with VGA 256-color graphics and a point-and-click mouse interface.
Quest for Glory I: So You Want to Be a Hero VGA was released in 1992 for DOS and in 1994 for Macintosh.
And with it, also a new cover:
While I like the stained glass type artwork, I don’t like the image’s content, which shows the Hero facing a dragon and scared after said dragon broke his sword. We’ve already established that there aren’t any dragons in the game. So why depict a dragon instead of any other monster that’s actually in the game? Because of this, I prefer the original cover.
Anyway, let’s boot this sucker:
The intro’s a bit better, using clay models and stop motion animation, which was also used in the rest of the monsters and characters.
But unfortunately, using said techniques made the animations look a little jerky sometimes, especially during the fights.
The remake not only has better graphics and resolution but the night/day cycle has been improved because this time, you can actually see getting darker at sunset and brighter at sunrise. However the remake uses a brownish palette, so even though it has 256 colors on screen, it looks less colorful than the original. There are even 1 or 2 locations that don’t look as detailed as in the original.
Because of the mouse interface, the dialogues now have a tree scheme, with topics to choose from a menu. This make the dialogues somewhat shorter, but more to the point.
The fights are now in a sort of isometric perspective, with icons in the corner for fighting, which makes the battles also easier.
The stats now rise faster, reducing the grinding and therefore the game’s length.
But story wise, the game remains the same. All the characters maintain their characterization and with the new graphics, they also sport new character portraits during dialogues (except for the Hero).
Both versions had a tremendous success, with the original version selling over 250,000 copies shortly after its release.
So, which version do I recommend? Both, actually! It depends on your personal preferences: if you prefer a more colorful game and don’t mind the text parser, then go for the original. However, if you prefer an easier experience, the mouse interface and a better resolution, then go for the remake.
Whichever version you play, I recommend this game as an entry point for the RPG genre, due to its intuitive and easy gameplay. And I also highly recommend the rest of series.
Quest For Glory I’s (and consequently, the rest of the series) influence was extremely important and it’s still observed nowadays because not only it popularized the crossing over of genres in future video games, but it also encouraged the use of RPG elements in other types of games and the use of adventure/action elements in RPGs.
And so it ends our Sierra retrospective. Did you like it? If so, leave your comments below and tell me which are your favorite Sierra games and moments. And while you’re at it, tell me if you’d like to see more Sierra games reviews or other retrospectives.
Join us again in March, where we’ll take a respite from graphic adventures and go back to our regular reviews.
Till then, keep on playing.