After completing Undercroft I went on a bit of a quest myself to find another game which had similar gameplay. The Quest is the closest competitor to Undercroft for those looking to recreate a little of that old school computer RPG feel on their iPhone. The Quest seems to have more fans online than Undercroft, though I’m firmly in the Undercroft is better camp.
Why is Undercroft better?
Well the UI feels mores polished. Both have a bit of a retro look, but I like the look ‘n feel of Undercroft more. Undercroft is easier to get into, I had to start three characters before I finally had any success in the Quest. Undercroft has the classic RPG plot, some people meet in a tavern and take on a quest, in the Quest you are recruited and dropped off somewhere and instructed to save the kingdom. The Quest more resembles Avernum in that you play an agent of the crown. The Quest is first person, there is no party, there is just you. Undercroft also has the better puzzles and the writing is more representative of those old RPG and Adventure games you played as a kid.
What else don’t you like about the Quest?
Well the graphics seem lower quality than Undercroft and I think that is because the designer Red Shift is really indy and seems to be a two person operation out of Hungary. There is also some grammatical mistakes in the text, but this is all nitpicking. The biggest problem with the Quest besides a lack of in-game instruction or tutorial is, the combat. Basically the combat especially in the beginning is you hit then I hit. There is no tactics at all. You can choose how to hit, via bow, or sword, or even spell. But basically combat comes down to hit, be hit, hit, be hit, hit, be hit, hit, be hit, hit, be hit, hit, be hit. This and the fact you’re not in a party means a lot of early discouraging deaths. Basically you can win if you just have enough potions or cure light wounds spells. That is how I based my third character, he had Alchemy and Healing Magic and I relied on both heavily to get me to level four or so. Undercroft right from the get go had more options in combat thanks to the fact you can have a party with various skills. Avernum has a much more tactical combat one that was present in a lot of old school RPGs such as the Gold Box games, I’m waiting for someone to implement that on the iPhone. Rimelands is close but it has enough flaws of it’s own.
So what is good about the Quest?
Well the thing it’s fans will point to is the size of the game. It has many expansions and out of the box may offer up to 50 hours of gameplay. Of course early on I spent most of my time finding lost children and picking flowers and mushrooms. So if your idea of high adventure matches that experience… Eventually if you’re stubborn or bored you’ll get some better missions. The Quest has more missions than most other RPGs you’ll find, again like Avernum so if you’re a completest or you like playing through a game more than once taking other avenues, the Quest is for you. The plot is still roughly linear, but you can skip too far ahead and get killed. The world once you toughen up is very large and made even larger by expansions. You can wander for a long time, but the world map is not to scale, some distances seem less epic. So besides missions, the size of the world, and never ending options, what does the Quest offer, unique fantasy races.
There are five or six races in the Quest, none of them are Dwarf, Human, or Elf, though you could do some one to one mapping to those races. There are classes, but the system is actually skill based so you can have any combination of skills you want, though the first 8 (or is it 6) you pick at character creation are your primary skills you can later learn every other skill pretty much. Through trial and error I discovered that it takes twice as many points to upgrade a non-primary skill. That said you can get extra training from some people for gold and even cheaper is to acquire books you can learn from. Books are quite valuable in the Quest it is how you learn spells and increase your skills without leveling up. When you do level up you get five points to spend on your attributes, which includes Personality, which I’ve neglected perhaps in my character as I got tired of dying, and ten points to spend on a wide variety of skills. Every skill I’ve since learned is based off an underlying Attribute, and can only ever be as high as double that Attribute, though magic can get around this some. This wasn’t a problem early on, but now after much gold being spent on training I need to be more strategic in which Attributes I increase as I want to improve my lock picking and persuasion skills more.
Well enough about this game, there is a lite version you can try, though I just bought the Gold version as it was supposedly a good deal. It takes a while to get into the Quest and I appear to be stuck despite having a half dozen ongoing Quests I’m either too weak, too unskilled, or just too dumb to complete them. Leveling up by fighting random monsters appears necessary to a small degree, but mainly you just get in enough fights completing your missions to gain power in the Quest. Crimes and your reputation, even the quality of your clothes matter in the Quest. Some missions are mutually exclusive, I think I may be too much of a goody two shoes to find the Thieves Guild for instances, though I’ve been tricked into committing crimes by NPCs.
Another weakness of the Quest compared to Undercroft and Avernum is the auto map. It doesn’t mark where I have to go or even let me know much about where I’ve been. It is really hard to see, I’m thinking of rotating my iPhone as that is how the manual is written. Well enough typing it is bedtime and that means some questing while lying in bed…
Quite a lot of time has passed since I started this post, a bunch of it spent playing the Quest. I have lots to do, so this will be my last blog posting about iPhone gaming for a good while, and I’ll be taking a break from the Quest and Avernum until the New Year or at least the holidays. Gotta try to find a job, try to rebuild my life…
I still recommend you spend your money on Undercroft first and I can’t recommend lying in bed playing iPhone games late into the night, but the Quest can definitely make a ferry ride pass quicker, have fun picking flowers.