Quest for Infamy (Xbox Series S) Review

Quest for Authenticity!
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Quest for Infamy – developed by Infamous Quests and published by Ratalaika Games – is an unabashedly-authentic throwback to Sierra On-Line’s classic point-and-click adventures, specifically 1989’s Quest for Glory. That authenticity, however, is a double-edged sword. Despite some modern assists – hotspots, combat difficulty settings, an in-game manual, and a hint system – Quest for Infamy is a game that reminds me of both the best and worst of that era.

You take control of one William Roehm, a smooth-talking, scoundrel who fancies himself a ladies man. His fondness for a baron’s daughter sees him fleeing westwards in a hay-cart, only to get stuck in the Valley of Krasna until a local bridge leading north is repaired. The sheriff of Volksville is a stern and unforgiving man (with a penchant for public executions), the mayor of Tyr is an idiot (albeit equally quick to deal with threats to his rule), and a crazy cult is trying to recruit new followers to their mountain citadel – but all is not lost!

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The setup is simple enough and it can feel aimless at first, but you’ll soon pick a specialisation and progress along a more structured questline.

The starting town of Volksville houses potential mentors to guide Roehm in the ways of the fighter, sorcerer, or rogue – all of which offer a (mostly) unique path through the three acts. Although you’ll always experience several major – and typically time-sensitive – narrative beats, each specialisation offers unique questlines, novel solutions, different allies, and trips to unique locations. Although each playthrough is not particularly long for an RPG, this structure provides a great incentive for replays.

For better and worse, another “authentic” element in Quest for Infamy is the writing. You can expect truly stupid dialogue, snarky narration, and crude humour that misses the mark as often as it hits. It is undeniably charming if you accept the idea something can be “so bad it’s good”, and there are some legitimately absurd and funny moments, but many of the jokes or quips could be taken as offensive. Despite a few jabs at modern events and memes, Quest for Infamy feels like it was written by juvenile developers in the late ‘80s for an audience of post-pubescent boys. As someone who was once a post-pubescent boy and still has a clear memory of my youthful idiocy, it played into the nostalgia aspect. For everyone else, consider yourself warned.

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This is a simple but representative example of the humour you can expect. Unfortunately, much of the narration is too wordy and undermines the gag.

When it comes to the gameplay, Quest for Infamy is a late ‘80s/early ‘90s point-and-click adventure through and through, not some modern reinterpretation. You’ll traverse a sprawling region, screen-by-screen (well over 200 of them) talking to NPCs, scouring the environment for quest items, and engaging in infrequent combat. The dated interface means there’s little real “action” to speak of, so progress is driven primarily by dialogue choices and puzzle-based roadblocks.

Figuring out who to talk to, what items to combine, where to use them, and – perhaps most importantly – in what order, makes up the bulk of your playtime. Of course, Quest for Infamy could be a brisk experience if you’re a veteran of the genre with an understanding of the puzzle logic, but new or casual players will likely find themselves running in circles, trying to trigger scripted encounters, scouring each location for something they’ve missed, interacting with everything possible, and systematically trying out combine or use every item they’ve found. As the world is also designed around three specialisation paths, it often feels like you should be doing something in an area but specific interactions are often be reserved for another questline.

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The world is surprisingly big and those looking to systematically explore and experience every observation or interaction are in for a lengthy adventure.

Unfortunately, and unlike the “Quest” games of old, trying your luck with random interactions usually results in snarky narration, rather than a myriad of entertaining deaths. There seem to be very few situations in which you can actually “die” and have to reload – random combat deaths will see you revived in town at a minor cost – so you can typically brute-force your way forward. Just when I thought I had discovered a few, I was rather rewarded with a humorous scene and a quest item. It’s worth noting at this point in the review that these games and their illogical puzzles are the reason modern walkthroughs exist – so you should never feel bad about making use of one if you get stuck for too long.

Despite a limited number of quests per playthrough, Quest for Infamy features RPG elements: think attributes that increase the more you use a skill or unique items that allow you to traverse parts of the world. Improving physical or magical attack types is most useful (improving hit-chance in combat), but you can also increase your stealth, thievery, and climbing abilities. You can find or buy gear to equip and sell monster parts to specific NPCs to supplement quest rewards. Perhaps most important is your Infamy level, which goes up based on your story decisions and a few secret interactions. It’s a surprisingly deep system that, by the very nature of the game, often feels superfluous. Fully levelling up your attributes – some locked behind specialisations – requires repeating basic actions for hours or grinding the infrequent random battles.

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Despite all the attributes on offer, you need to make a concerted effort to repeat certain actions, train at your mentor’s base, or grind out random encounters to raise them significantly.

Talking of combat, it boils down to picking the right attack type for the enemy you’re facing and using specialisation-specific abilities on a timer. Sometimes you’ll want to block attacks to buy time to chug a health potion. Assuming it’s not a scripted encounter, you can sneak about and try preemptively “attack” a random enemy to get the upper hand before initiating the turn-based combat. It’s simple, intuitive, and unspectacular but you can drop the combat difficulty if you want to breeze past encounters and focus on puzzle-solving.

The final gameplay element to discuss is the gamepad control scheme. Quest for Infamy follows the classic design of toggling between movement, observation, interaction, and attack cursors, coupled with plenty of menu-ing combining inventory items and selecting them to use on an NPC or part of the environment. On consoles, the thumbstick acts as a virtual mouse and several common functions can be cycled quickly using the gamepad buttons. However, these games are designed around keyboard-and-mouse input, so playing with a gamepad is not intuitive and rarely feels fluid. Part of the problem is a lack of simple optimisations, like defaulting to the “talk” cursor over NPCs, the “interact “ cursor for doors, or the “observe” cursor for objects you can only inspect. Sure, there are some legitimately funny comments for illogical interactions, but ease-of-play considerations needed to take priority.

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Combat is fine and rarely a roadblock during the primary questlines. That said, optional quests and some random encounters might require you to grind out a few levels and gain some new gear first.

So long as you appreciate the intent, Quest for Infamy looks great. The chunky pixel-art backdrops, sprites, and menus are striking – with variations for daytime, dusk, and night – but there are also a ton of era-appropriate rough edges (think limited animation frames and inconsistent scale). Unique designs and colour use ensure characters and creatures are easily distinguishable despite their pixelated appearance, while talking-head facial animations are exaggerated for effect. Interactions sounds and ambience are a little limited, but the soundtrack is diverse and perhaps the one truly modern element in Quest for Infamy. Most locations have their own theme – think quiet forest paths, creepy ruins, and bustling cities – which enhances the atmosphere beyond what the limited visuals can achieve.

There is a ton of voice-work in Quest for Infamy despite the size of the developer – both dialogue and narration – and it’s as variable as the writing but often entertaining. Some lines are short and witty, others just juvenile, and some mind-numbingly stupid, but too many are overwritten and fail to land their jokes. There’s an eclectic mash-up of accents – both real and faked – that manage to remain compelling by virtue of being the right kind of weird. Despite his leading role and Irish brogue, Roehm is by far the most reserved, whereas most NPCs have reams of dialogue. The problem with so much voiced content is inconsistency. Recording quality varies between characters and even the narrator’s accentuations can change from scene to scene. That said, it has more charm than the overwritten and utterly inane commentary in many bigger budget games.

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Despite the low-resolution, great art design and an excellent soundtrack make for atmospheric locations.

I’ve enjoyed my time with Quest for Infamy and plan to try the other specialization paths… but it’s still a difficult game to recommend. It’s clunky, compelling, and charming, but there’s a difference between a low-budget passion project and a general lack of polish in some areas. Ideally, you need to have a strong nostalgic hook or a love of recent retro-inspired point-and-click indie games to appreciate the experience. You also need to endure potentially offensive jokes, crude or stupid humour, wildly variable voice work, and the wonky gamepad control scheme. Ultimately, Quest for Infamy, in its quest for authenticity, recaptures everything good and bad about the origins of the genre.

A review code for Quest for Infamy was provided to gameblur by the publisher

Quest for Infamy (Xbox Series S) Review

Quest for Infamy (Xbox Series S) Review
7 10 0 1
7/10
Total Score
  • Story
    6/10 Normal
    There's an overarching story but the three specialisation paths provide plenty of diversity and replay value. Unfortunately, the writing is hit and miss.
  • Gameplay
    7/10 Good
    Authentic and compelling but the limited gamepad support drags down the experience for console players.
  • Visuals
    8/10 Very Good
    Legitimately great... so long as you appreciate the developer is aiming for authenticity.
  • Audio
    7/10 Good
    The wildly variable voice work falls into the "so bad it's good" category, while the soundtrack is diverse and adds to the atmosphere.

The Good

  • Authentic presentation and gameplay
  • Three specialisation paths provide a good deal of quest variety
  • Some legitimately entertaining quips from Roehm and the narrator
  • Voice work that’s “so bad it’s good”

The Bad

  • Authentic presentation and gameplay
  • Offensive and/or crude humour that might not be to your taste
  • The wonky gamepad control scheme
Total
1
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