It’s not often indie developers churn out role playing games when compared to the vast number of games in other genres like platformers or 2D shooters. This ratio is even more pronounced within the Xbox Live Indie Games marketplace because of the time involved with creating an epic game versus the odds of being a commercial success. I recently had the chance to interview Chaosoft Games about their title EvilQuest. Naturally they were excited about the game, but I had some trepidations considering I hadn’t played what I considered a great indie RPG on the Xbox since the last Zeboyd Games title. After playing through EvilQuest, what I found was a game that while a bit repetitive at times, also offers old-school RPG fans a lot to enjoy.
EvilQuest immediately turns players on their heads by planting you in the role of the antagonist, a ruthless conqueror named Galvis. The game begins with a rather inspired cutscene showing the downfall of the one the people call “The Bastard”. This sets the stage for the rest game where you, as Galvis, attempt to escape your captors, regain your power, and conquer the world. I really enjoyed the fact that Galvis remains a cold-hearted murderer throughout the game rather than see him waver or soften. You can often see the backstabbing coming from a mile away, but that doesn’t make it any less humorous. For the most part the dialogue is well-written, I just wish there had been more of it. There were only a handful of characters that Galvis actually had any kind of conversation with. This was true of many RPGs made back in the 80s and early 90s, but it’s one throwback I wish had been bucked in order to make the world feel more alive and dynamic. The story is a bit shallow, though enjoyable for a game that runs about 3-5 hours.
EvilQuest is an action RPG meaning you’re constantly on guard for incoming attacks. As you explore the world, you’ll come across a variety of weapons, armor, potions and other helpful items that will aid you in defeating the ever-present enemies. In this particular game, enemies will respawn once you leave an area which can be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, having to backtrack can be made tedious by the fact that you’re having to fight the same enemies over and over. At the same time, if you’re a skilled player you can quickly rack up experience points by grouping foes together and unleashing a powerful magical attack.
Periodically in the game you’ll come across people or locations that will grant you new spells. There is a wide variety in both the visual representations of the attacks as well as the way they behave. Some will shoot out in one or two directions, some will directly attack the enemy regardless of position, and others will unleash the full brunt in whatever direction you point it. It’s a good thing that magic is so varied and fun to use in the game. With the number of enemies you’ll face, you’ll often be forced to resort to magic rather than use your melee weapon. Your melee attacks are strong, and the charge up shot is a pretty fun mechanic with its own merits, but physical weapons are best used against one or two enemies at a time at most.
While you will spend a majority of your playing time fighting, that’s just an end to your means of finding four seals which must be destroyed in order to reach your ultimate goals. The world in EvilQuest consists of a wide variety of environments to explore, however the game does maintain a rather linear path for the player. Most of the time the enemies are simply too powerful if you head in the undesired direction and other times you can’t access an area until you’ve found a particular item. Within each region of the game there typically exists what could be called a dungeon if we want to draw the already common comparisons to the Zelda series. These dungeons are themed after the region and contain multiple floors full of enemies. I was a little disappointed in the dungeons because the most difficult part was typically fighting your way through to the next staircase that would take you to the next floor. I would’ve liked to have seen more puzzles or traps which, while a common element of the genre, lend some variety to your goals. The enemies themselves could have used more distinction as well because there was basically the same set within each dungeon, though with a pallete swap. That nitpick gets a little better towards the end of the game once you’ve broken the four seals and encounter some environments with new mechanics and enemies.
The real prize of EvilQuest are the numerous boss battles you’ll engage in. Every dungeon ends with one of these fights, and you can tell the developers really put a lot of effort into this part of the game. The bosses are often enormous compared to Galvis, each is thematic to the dungeon, and their attack sets are pretty unique when compared against one another. Most of the earlier battles are fairly easy as their attacks are easy to avoid and there’s not much variety in their abilities. The latter stages of the game really crank up the difficulty though as the bosses mix in that are a lot more difficult to dodge. The design really hearkens back to the classic era of console gaming when pattern recognition and quick reflexes were the key to victory. There’s certain to be a nostalgic affinity for old-school gamers.
When it came time to sit down and evaluate EvilQuest, I immediately knew what worked and what didn’t. I could easily fault the game for a lack of variety in elements like enemy types and dungeon design. However, it was also apparent that a lot of the blood, sweat, and tears of the developers went into incorporating elements in the game that set it apart from other RPGs in the Xbox indie marketplace. The boss bottles were fun and interesting. The cutscenes, while cartoonish in artistic design, made EvilQuest feel more like a complete game rather than a collection of RPG conventions. I deliberated for awhile on whether to give the game a score of 3 or 4 out of 5. It really could have gone either way, but in the end I went with 4 because I enjoyed the game from start to finish and felt that it was the perfect length to accomplish what the developers intended. If you’ve already played the Zeboyd Games RPGs and are looking for something new in the 360 indie market, I’d wholeheartedly recommend giving EvilQuest a try.
This review was based off of a review copy provided by the developer.
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