App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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When I dipped that first toe into Dark Quest I had the impression that it was some sort of roguelike/board game hybrid. Possibly influenced by some of those classic “back in the day” RPGs. In a way I think I was spot on with that initial assessment but I soon realized that there was another incredibly unexpected inspiration at play.
A barbarian has to navigate his way through a perilous dungeon in an attempt to stop an evil wizard who’s been threatening the land. Not interested in being slaughtered but still one for sport, the wizard allows the barbarian a specific amount of time (i.e. 150 turns) to complete a given level’s tasks and find the exit. This is where I got that old school vibe. It just feels like a classic scenario. Players must tap their way along the dungeon slaying various monsters, avoiding traps, uncovering secret passages, and collecting gold while keeping a constant eye on the hourglass. Of course that jerk wizard isn’t going to make things easy and every so often he’ll “cast the die of fate,” which can have various effects that are both positive and negative. The brutal turn-based dungeon exploration is where I got rogelikes from. The third and most surprising element comes by way of two more party members (a wizard and a dwarf), each with their own special skills that can be incredibly useful in and out of combat. It’s kind of like Trine in a way, only instead of a puzzle platformer it’s a dungeon crawler board game.
As crazy as all of these elements might sound they actually work really well together. When each of the hero’s abilities is used smartly the group can overcome all manner of seemingly impossible scenarios. The added party members also make turn use a bit more strategic since a turn only counts as over once the barbarian has finished moving. With a little forethought something like clearing a room full of gold could be finished in a mere one or two turns. I also thought it was pretty cool that I could spend gold in between missions to upgrade each character. Now my dwarf has a giant shield and usually walks in front.
Though the heroic trio does function as a well oiled machine of death, they aren’t invincible and certain situations can be incredibly difficult without the right equipment handy. The problem with this is that players can’t return to town to rearm themselves. Instead they basically just have to tough it out and keep trying.
I’ve really been enjoying Dark Quest’s bizarre mixture of mechanics. Accidentally adventuring myself into a corner isn’t all that great but it’s rare for things to get quite that bad. And as with any roguelike (or roguelike-like), there’s always the next attempt.