Price: 80 MSP ($1)
Morality choices are increasingly popular devices in modern games. The light or dark side of the force, good or evil, drowning this kitten or giving it to the kindly old lady. From Star Wars: KOTOR through to InFamous (and its sequel) most action-RPG games in recent years have some kind of mechanic whereby you can choose to either do something benevolent or nasty. Unfortunately, these choices are often so heavily signposted that it feels clumsy, or you have no idea that you’re actually causing game-wide genocide because you didn’t ask a random NPC for some sugar in your tea. Thankfully, in EvilQuest, such choices are redundant. You are Galvis, and you are Evil.
As the anti-hero of this tale, you play a man with maniacal designs for the world, and everyone within it. After one such global conquest goes awry, you kick off the game looking to do it again, while languishing in a jailcell, nearly naked. From there an adventure awaits.
EvilQuest is heavily retro-flavoured, and would not look out of place on an 8-bit console. The sprites are all excellently rendered, and the game delivers a lovely dose of nostalgia on the eyes. A clear influence is Zelda – and especially the Link’s Awakening Gameboy outing. From the village areas replete with vendors in huts dishing out potions to that most unusual of game mechanics whereby you can only jump once you are equipped with a certain possession. For all the various debts that EvilQuest owes great games that have gone before it however, it is a game in its own right, and a game that does a lot of things right.
Inventory management, a fine art in action-RPGS where it is crucial to maintain the tempo (and conversely to stop it drifting into turn-based carnage), is done perfectly, with everything mapped to clear buttons and very little in-fight switching required. Enemies, though oft repeated throughout the game, are challenging foes who will never kill you unfairly. The learning curve, as well as your characters progression through the game and levelling-up, are generally well-balanced and in keeping with the enemies you fight and obstacles to be overcome.
The game is set in a world featuring around 15 diverse environments, and though you can move between most at will, the progress can be quite linear – though the game does not suffer for it. There is a formula of kill, collect treasure, utilise said treasure, progress to area previously blocked off thanks to now having treasure – but again, this is not an imposition on the game, as playing through these scenarios are fun, colourful events.
One of the key ways in which the game maintains its entertainment factor is that it is shamelessly silly. Sacrificial virgins from towns that produce TNT, needlessly abrasive dialogue (especially to peasantfolk), more casual murder than you can shake a chaos axe at, and more dragons to kill than in Skyrim. When Galvis emerges from one boss battle only to go straight into another, and the speech bubble reads ‘Oh shit’ you know that here is a game that never takes itself too seriously.
The boss battles themselves are some of the finest points of a good game, as they are long, taxing encounters. Whilst you chip away at the huge healths of various giants and dragons, scurrying about trying to avoid being killed, there is a lot of fulfilment to be had in delivering the killer blow. The last battle in particular is a 4-staged event that will take many, many plays to conquer successfully.
I had a blast reviewing EvilQuest – and think that here is an absolute gem of an indie title that for the tiny price tag, should feature on many an 360 hard-drive. That’s not to say it’s perfect – the music can get very annoying, some enemies have too much health and there is some slight lag in the latter stages of the game. It is also worth noting that when fighting the aforementioned final boss, if you’ve not stocked up with health potions at the last town you visit (some time prior to the actual encounter) you won’t get very far as several attacks are unavoidable.
However, they are small complaints. When taken against the sprawling dungeons (of which there are several), the hack’n’slash combat, a wide-ranging and balanced inventory of spells, armour and weapons and 4 solid hours of action-RPG silliness they are barely significant. Credit to Chaosoft for crafting a very tidy little game. Whilst it may not be to everyone’s tastes, it certainly was to mine, and comes with a hearty recommendation. Being Evil’s fun.
EvilQuest was reviewed with a copy provided by Chaosoft Games. You can download the game in the Xbox Live Indie Section for 80 MSP ($1).