Early on in EvilQuest (80 MSP) (as is wont to happen when you’re an insufferable prick), our antagonist Galvis finds that the army he raised to conquer the world can’t be relied upon. In fact, they split and leave him to fend on his own, much to his detriment and surprise. But really, Galvis? You didn’t see this coming? You mean your equally-malcontent, second-in-command-of-asshole-forces pal betrayed you and turned out to be a really bad guy, one that’s even bad to other bad guys? Decimated and captured in the ensuing battle, he’s tossed and left to rot in a prison sewer for years.
Not that you should have any sympathy for him. Instead of lifting weights or finding a higher power while behind bars, Galvis hones his old tricks, plotting a direct course for revenge on anyone and everything. One too-trusting confidant and one conveniently inept guard later, that plan is set in motion. And after a brief detour to find your armor, you’ll look the part of being evil. Unlike other morality games that give you a choice of sides to play, in EvilQuest you have one route and it’s not an act; Galvis must have swam in the river of slime under New York circa Ghostbusters 2, he’s that bad. If you’re meeting him, you’re already dead, and if tables are reversed, trying to ally yourself with him or teach him a particularly nasty spell to add to his evil repertoire? Count yourself lucky he doesn’t make you dig your own grave first. Oh, and that bit about conquering the world? No longer the goal. He’s set his sights a little higher. With the promise of absolute power once he acquires the fabled Chaos Axe, he’s bent on outright destruction and the murder of a few Gods.
No, Galvis, go ahead. Tell me how you really feel.
That resident evil aside, EQ plays a lot like an indie Zelda (Shadow Link version), slashing and casting through a huge and varied overworld while finding plot-moving items and destroying magic seals in complex dungeons. Each new area holds an item vital to progress in the next. Small gaps making the area impassable? Come back when you find some Leap Boots. Volcano too hot to explore? Get yourself a Fire Cloak. Though that gives the impression of being open-world, really the adventure is quite linear, but for the better. There are towns you explore for hints and to purchase new armor and spells, but with carefully-structured advancement, you’re sent on the right path without exactly being hand-held the whole way. To that end, the private journal Galvis keeps as he explores and finds roadblocks is a nice idea. Keeping track of active quests / clues and who dies next is a humorous breeze. Also worthy of a mention is the mapping system that fills in as you go, greatly needed for the maze of paths contained in each dungeon, and (mostly) preventing excessive backtracking.
Want some solid advice from your pal Hurley? Invest in the ‘Warp’ spell at your earliest convenience. Oh, and ‘Water2′ is the only offensive magic you’ll ever need. You’re welcome.
Deepening the core action is a very well done inventory and level up system, granting you points to upgrade Galvis in whatever devilish manner you choose, and perfect for RPG stalwarts who love to grind their character into an omnipotent force of nature. Plentiful equipment and accessory options (some bought, some found) also allow you a little play in how you build up. Combat is enjoyable, but some points are lost here for the color-swapped reuse of a rather small enemy setlist. And though the combat itself is not broken, continually dealing with an area’s repetitive grunt forces that respawn as soon as you take a few steps in any direction makes for some annoying jaunts to find the right path or staircase to the next floor. It’s tolerable when trying to level up (a good idea, normally), but on your way out or looking for a save spot while chased by an angry mob, not so much.
This is what happens when you rub the lamp the wrong way. Get it? No one? Robin Williams. Aladdin. Awww, come on. Totally looks like an evil genie. He’s even blue.
Capping off each dungeon spelunking, the boss battles in EvilQuest are easily the game’s highlight. Each has their own unique style of attack and pattern, designed to fit the dungeon’s theme (with the exception of one oddly-timed and confusing (mini-)boss that seems like it was ripped right out of the George Lucas universe; you’ll know it when you see it). Brute force and magic spamming are the order of the day in these fights, but the bosses, despite being drastically overpowered and occasionally cheap (final boss I’m looking at you), provide a good challenge and bring a definite sense of epic-ness to the storyline.
Galvis may not be a ‘people person’ or even all that enthralling of a character, but the world, writing, and nostalgic 8-bit gameplay (and yes, its occasionally flat-footed humor) pick up the slack. In an indie action / RPG where playtesting is at a premium, with this amount of scope and gametime (5+ hours for me), there’s plenty that could have gone wrong, my quibbles with combat and dungeon layout considered. That it maintains its pacing and fun throughout, that there’s almost nothing of serious note to drag it down too heavily, is an achievement to practiced and exacting design. I feel a lot of love was put into this one, and you should get that same love out of it. Kudos to Chaosoft Games.