Lately, I’ve been slowly working my way through Sierra’s old Quest for Glory series. I haven’t finished it yet, though, so I can’t really write a proper retrospective, but it’s such an interesting series that I still wanted to express my thoughts on it.
Quest for Glory is a series of five RPGs released between 1989 and 1998 for PC. Most of them are a unique hybrid of classic point-and-click adventure games and Western-style role-playing games, although the fifth game apparently strays more into action-RPG territory. They follow the adventures of a young aspiring hero (a recent graduate of the Famous Adventurer’s Correspondence SchoolTM) as he travels across the world doing good deeds to make a name for himself. While each game tells a standalone story, they link together to form an overarching narrative.
When thinking of classic Western RPGs, names like Ultima, Wizardry and Might & Magic are likely to come to mind. The Quest for Glory games don’t have quite the same recognition as those pioneering titles. Perhaps it’s because they’re categorized more as adventure games than RPGs, but the presence of character classes, stats, and even a combat system clearly separate it from a straight adventure like King’s Quest, and place it comfortably into RPG territory.
They also don’t have quite the same scope as a game like Ultima or Might & Magic, in which each game gives you a gigantic world to explore. Rather, each game in the Quest for Glory series focuses on a smaller, more contained area, with each one based on a different real-world location and culture. This may make them seem like they’re not quite as deep, but it does make them more accessible for people who may find a game like Ultima to be a bit overwhelming. (Like me.)
Gameplay-wise, Quest for Glory manages to find a balance between its adventure and RPG elements that works way better than it probably should. The puzzles often have multiple solutions depending on your character class and abilities. This makes it one of the few adventure-style games to have genuine replay value, as you can replay the game with a different character class and find new solutions to the puzzles.
Another area in which the series balances itself is its combination of dramatic storytelling with a preposterous sense of humor. The series is filled with corny puns, references, cartoony sound effects, and an occasional fourth-wall break. Each game also contains silly characters that are very obviously inspired by classic comedians, including the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, and Laurel and Hardy. (Quest for Glory III even has Sanford & Son.) At the same time, there’s no shortage of dramatic tension, and the games can get somewhat dark at points with some morally ambiguous situations.
In a way, the contrast between those two tones somehow manages to enhance them rather than undermine them. The goofy jokes are that much funnier when they catch you off guard during a sober situation, and the lighthearted atmosphere helps the serious parts carry a little more dramatic weight. The way they play off each other could have been jarring, but they end up working together brilliantly.
Quest for Glory really has a charm all its own. It creates a fantasy world filled with mystery and wonder, as well as several memorable characters. (Not to mention some great music.) While it could be said that it helped influence some modern RPGs, there really aren’t too many games quite like Quest for Glory. Fans have largely taken it upon themselves to carry on its tradition with games like Heroine’s Quest and Quest for Infamy. (The former is available for free on Steam, while the latter is available for purchase on both Steam and GOG.) Meanwhile, the original creators of Quest for Glory, the spousal game design team of Lori Ann Cole and Cory Cole, have been working on their own spiritual successor called Hero-U.
Currently, the Quest for Glory series is available as a bundle on GOG. There’s also an impressive fan remake of Quest for Glory II from AGD Interactive that can be downloaded for free. (They also created some impressive remakes of the first three King’s Quest games.)
It’s a series that’s well-worth looking into. If you’re a fan of RPGs or adventure games, I highly recommend checking them out.