So how do you make a casual, rogue-like RPG? QuestRun is a game that sets out to answer that very question. It boldly ditches story and carefully planned battle tactics in favor of a simplified scheme with a brutal difficulty curve. It’s light on content, but it’s the kind of game that will still find an audience anyway.
In QuestRun, you have no main party or plot to worry about. What you have instead is a map of different challenges to overtake. These are dungeons and side missions. Dungeons let you make up a party out of various low level characters in different classes. Then you’ll go through wave after wave of enemies until you’ve cleared them all or your party is wiped out. Winning will unlock more challenges to complete, while losing sends you back to the drawing board.
Side missions are shorter than dungeons, but they offer specific challenges. You won’t be able to edit or customize your starting layout one bit, and the challenges will be the same every time. The trick is to see if you can figure out the right strategy to make it through to the end.
There aren’t very many challenges, buy you’re meant to replay them in order to get more gold and crystals. These resources can be spent in the shop to unlock new options, such as extra classes or pets. You can even unlock the option to manually create your party for dungeons, rather than relying on the randomized teams.
Apart from that, the game offers nothing else. There’s no multiplayer or leaderboards, or even an options menu. It’s a stripped down single player experience that offers little value to those who seek more from their games.
The game’s presentation is colorful, but leaves something to be desired. First off is the cartoon style look. The character designs are cute, if uninspired. More animations would be nice, as there isn’t enough here to really breathe life into the characters. The backgrounds are also colorful, but static, and become boring after a while. It doesn’t look bad per se; it’s just not going to be something that sticks with you after you stop playing.
For the sound, get ready to hear a lot of repetitive music and sound effects. It’s mostly the sound of swinging swords and dinging bells. A game session can turn into a monotonous aural experience after only a few minutes. While the music is tolerable, it’s nothing special. Generic fantasy music is all you can expect. You might be just as well playing with the sound off. Sadly, there is no option to mute the game. You’ll have to think of something else.
Once you start a game of QuestRun, you’ll discover that it’s more about managing your resources than displaying supreme tactics. Your party of three will face off against up to three enemies. Your guys can only attack enemies across from them and vice versa. You don’t get to choose between attack, defend, item, and special in this game though. Each character has a turn meter than fills up over time. When it’s full, they attack with their equipped weapon. It’s a simple as that.
There are a variety of classes in the game, and they feel different enough from each other so that you can create a unique team. For starters, they all have different starting stats such as health, attack, defense, and magic. Warriors are strong but slow, clerics are magically gifted but useless with a sword, etc. Each class also has a special ability that charges as enemies attack them. The rogue can give you a random item, the cleric can heal, and the bard can charm an opponent. These only charge when the characters are attacked, so someone on the sidelines doesn’t get any benefit. Each class also comes with a stance that can be turned on or off. These stances convey various stat bonuses and debuffs. A paladin can raise the party’s attack at the expense of some defense, for example. It’s really too simple a system, but it’s functional.
Perhaps the game’s biggest problem is the way equipment is handled. There are melee weapons, magic weapons, shields, and guns. The only difference between two swords is a plus to attack. It’s just a basic stat bonus. You can eventually find elemental badges that add bonus damage to your attacks, but these don’t seem to matter all that much in terms of exploiting weaknesses. Items are gifted to you at random, and during events. Each character has a few different slots to fill out, but beyond that you can carry four other items. When a new item is added, it takes the top slot and pushes the rest down the order. An item in the fourth slot at this time will disappear forever. You can’t sell items or anything, so you’re going to have to spend a lot of time managing this to make sure you don’t lose important items like potions.
Where the strategy for this game comes in is gaining levels. Characters only get experience by getting kills. So, if you keep moving your warrior around to take down baddies, only he will level up. This is a kind of system I’ve always hated. A healer should become better at healing by healing people, not by punching a goblin in the face. This means you have to find a way to level up your weaker characters, or they will become major liabilities down the road. This often means taking extra time to let someone whittle an enemy down so that another guy can swoop in and get the final shot.
When one battle ends, the next begins almost immediately. If you level up, you get to increase a random stat, and you might need to do this during the heat of battle. The game goes until you beat them all or everyone in your party dies. There are no retires. A game over is a game over. You get some gold for your troubles and get pitched back to the menu.
This game is hard. It starts off fairly easy but quickly ramps up to the point where enemies are one-shotting you. Most strategies and party make-ups will fail every time. There are very few winning strategies, and most of them involve making use of an exploit. There’s a pet you can buy that will give you experience whenever you give it an item. Combine that with the rogue’s ability to steal items, and you have a way to quickly grind for experience. Even using this trick, you will die a lot. The developers want you to die in fact. The game’s website even encourages players to whine on message boards about how cheap the game is. Well, they got their wish.
The big problem here is that the game has the difficulty and temperament of a hardcore title, but the mechanics of a casual style game. Those looking for a hardcore RPG experience want challenge, but they also want strong tactical combat and party building. This is simply too simple for them. As such, I’m not really sure who this game is supposed to be for. I’m sure it will have it’s fans, but they are grossly outnumbered by detractors.
Short Attention Span Summary
QuestRun has a few interesting ideas, but he execution is ambiguous. It wants to be both hardcore and casual at the same time. Sadly, that is something that is perhaps impossible. While it has the challenge level that some players are searching for, the depth isn’t there. The simple presentation, lack of options, and lack of polish will scare off most of the people who would be into this game as well. There is a very small audience out there for this game. For the rest of us, this is an easy pass.