Ever wanted to sneak out a castle window after being caught with the baron’s daughter, forced to flee town while buried beneath a pile of musty hay, the scent of a trail-weary mule choking out what little breathable air there is as you’re painfully bounced over every pothole in the back of an old wooden cart? Well, Quest for Infamy gives you that opportunity. And it is every bit as glorious as you might imagine.
If you’ve ever played King’s Quest you’ll have a good sense of what’s in store for you here, where the pointing and the clicking and the snarky remarks of pixelated characters were the norm back in Sierra’s heyday. Infamy does a good job of supplementing that old formula, but not as good a job at avoiding the pitfalls inherent in the genre – in fact, some attempts to freshen things up introduce new problems.
Playing as William Roehm you’ll gain Infamy points as you perform various tasks around Volksville, biding your time until the Northern bridge is repaired so that you can flee even further from your previous transgressions. But where the developer gives you a surprisingly open world to explore straight from the beginning, what they don’t provide is guidance or direction.
There’s a certain quality and consistency to the artwork and animations of the game, where something as simple as having your character sneak looks intentionally hilarious. But as with adventure games of yore, there’s little distinction between objects. And in a world where nothing really pops out at you, the hegemony of the artistic style leads to the inevitable furious clicking on random environmental objects, just to see if maybe you were off by a millimeter the first time (and that’s why you’re stuck on a puzzle). If only the interface issues ended there.
The cursor itself changes depending upon the action you’re attempting, and it’s rarely ever clear which end of the various icons are the pointers. Not only can this be needlessly frustrating when attempting to do things like hand inventory objects over to quest givers, but the simple act of walking (or running) between screens is a chore. The game itself runs in nothing other than windowed mode, and multiple times throughout my playthrough I found myself accidentally exiting the game, due to the fact that the margins on the left of the Run icon are significantly smaller than on the right (and the cursor isn’t locked into the game).
There is no quest journal to speak of, so any critical bits of information will need to be written down on your own piece of paper. For some that may sound attractive, but the lack of this feature does just as much to break the immersion of the game as the need to adjust your desktop wallpaper so the colors don’t jarringly contrast with the screens in the game.
As mentioned before, the world itself is impressively expansive, and the majority of it is open to the player immediately. But that works against you initially, where creating a bigger haystack just makes needles that much harder to find. All of that may sound harsh, but it’s important to understand that in order to enjoy Quest for Infamy, there are significant hurdles you’re going to have to overcome. If you can get past all those, you’ll enjoy the game.
After working through the above frustrations (or simply resigning to them), you’ll discover a world that’s rich in character and story, with tantalizing RPG systems. The combat is brutally difficult no matter what challenge level you set it to, but there’s a reward in simply hacking away at goblins, wights and wolves, where each swing increases your usage skill over time. (Still – get used to hearing your character say “Dammit” a dozen times per battle, as you’re likely to miss most of your swings.)
There is a class system, which allows you to choose a path of brute force, magic or stealthy deception as the default way of problem solving. And as you adventure across the world there are other general skills you’ll inherently master – as a prime (and impressive) example, early on you’re tasked with getting back into the city under cover of night, where attempting to climb the wall results in repeated failure, yet these failures increase your skill just enough to eventually let you succeed.
That element of trial and error, of growing progressively stronger, is something new the genre hasn’t really seen. But Quest for Infamy just asks too much of its players, trying their patience too hard, too soon and too often. Consequently, despite the novelty and genuine appeal of significant portions of this game, it’s sad that it does so much to dissuade you from experiencing it.
SCORE: 6.0 out of 10
A code for Quest for Infamy was provided to Pixel Related for review.