Quest for Glory I: So You Want to Be a Hero - Staff Review  

No Experience Necessary
by Tyler Willis

5 to 15 hours


Rating definitions 

Wanted: Hero. No experience necessary. Visit beautiful Spielburg, fight monsters, defeat brigands. Reward and title "Hero of Spielburg" to the successful applicant.

As a recent graduate of the Famous Adventurer's Correspondence School, Spielburg's offer seemed perfect. Especially that part about "no experience." Unfortunately, the poster may have exaggerated a bit. Spielburg's current state of affairs is rather sad, and most of the inhabitants have given up all hope, leading to an overall decay in the atmosphere. Fighting monsters is part and parcel of the hero's lifestyle, but no one said anything about a forest chock full of deadly fiends hungry for hero sandwiches. Brigands? Yeah, there's brigands… a full company that's managed to choke off all trade and kill every other hero sent against them. That reward had better be pretty big…

Quest for Glory I: So You Want to be a Hero is a VGA remake of the 1989 Sierra classic Hero's Quest. Having run into trademark trouble with the original, Sierra released this updated version with new graphics and interface. While most of the plot and story remained the same, the input was switched from text driven to mouse driven as seen in QFG III.

The story itself is fairly simplistic. By asking around the town, the Hero quickly gets a grasp of key local events: the brigands have locked down trade, there's a bunch of monsters around, the Baron's children have disappeared, and a hideous ogress named Baba Yaga is causing all sorts of trouble. Clearly, a Hero's hand is needed.

Nice to meet you too. Nice to meet you too.

While that summary may encompass the vast majority of the story, the real key to QFG I's success is its personality and presentation. The valley of Spielburg is host to a wide variety of places and characters, each with their own distinctive aura and character. From Erasmus the kindly wizard and his familiar Fenrus (or maybe it's the other way around) to the colorful and bouncy Meeps (who say… meep!) to the reclusive yet garrulous 'Enry the 'Ermit, Sierra has stuffed the land with memorable characters. The writing will either be atrocious or superb, dependent on one's own view of puns, paronomasia, breaking of the fourth wall, reference, and other word-plays that go bump in the night. Much of the fun lies in simple discovery through poking around to see what secrets the valley has to offer.

Before beginning, the player is asked to select one of three classes: fighter, magic user, or thief. While each character has its own particular emphasis (ie, fighter is the only class to get a sword and shield, the thief has access to the thieves guild), it is possible to build a hybrid character by allocating points in the initial creation process. Gaining a new skill costs fifteen points from the pool of fifty, as opposed to simply bumping up a characteristic/skill which costs five points.

These classes not only have a direct bearing on the starting stats/equipment but also greatly affect the method of play. When confronted with a dangerous monster, the fighter will most likely rush in and slay it, while the magic user could either Calm it, Dazzle it and run away, or fry it with Flame Bolts. Of course, the thief was sneaking around and was never seen in the first place. Puzzles will require different solutions, and accessible areas/equipment may depend on one's class.

Each character comes with six base stats, up to seven skills, and two or three pools (health, stamina, mana); each individual asset ranges from 0-100 in level. Unlike many other RPGs, QFG I does not incorporate a traditional level system. Instead, stats are increased as they are used: pick up a few rocks and toss them around, and the character's throwing skill will increase. This is in turn might affect an increase in a base stat (such as agility) which might in turn increase one of the base pools (stamina). Thus it becomes quite necessary to practice any skill that needs increasing but trying to perfect a skill can be quite trying.

Big, bad and rather ugly. Big, bad and rather ugly.

QFG I is also unusual in that it doesn't place a great emphasis on combat, unless one is playing a fighter; most of the game can be completed without ever entering into an encounter. Still, most players will opt to wreck some havoc, and all three classes are well equipped. Various monsters will appear on screen and follow the character around; if the monster touches the character, then combat is initiated. Characters can either thrust, swing, or dodge. The fighter can also block with his shield, and a magic user has access to a few combat spells. The Hero will lose the battle if the health or stamina pool is reduced to zero; health is lost due to being hit, and stamina depletes with every action.

Aurally, the game has done well with the limited hardware that was available. A nice variety of effects and soundtracks add to the atmosphere. This VGA remake also shows a beautiful attention to detail in the visual realm, with modeling that looks like it was based on claymation. The graphics have aged very well and provide a charm all their own.

The game itself is relatively short if one runs straight through it, but most of the charm will come from taking the time to explore the environment through the mouse-driven interface. Of course, the answers to puzzles are not always obvious, but discovering the myriad of ways to die is all part of the fun. A few mini-games exist to pass the time and increase the skills, and there is replay value due to the differences in the classes.

Overall, QFG I comes recommended to any RPGamer who enjoys exploration and a good, old-fashioned graphical adventure with RPG elements. The pacing and structure may seem simplistic by today's standards, but the game retains much of its original charm.

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