In the midst of my health insurance crisis, there was one thing that made me feel a little better. It’s nice when facing financial problems to find a really awesome game that is totally free.
I had heard of Heroine’s Quest in retro adventure game circles, but lost track of it. Then I stumbled on it on Steam. The game is an homage to the classic Sierra game series Quest for Glory (originally called Hero’s Quest, but changed after D&D sued them). The Quest for Glory games are some of my favorite games ever. They are hybrids of classic adventures and RPGs with traditional quests and random monster encounters. I love the stats system of these games, since instead of earning XP and leveling up to increase your skills, you just practice them. Need to get better at climbing? Try climbing some trees. Magic skills too low? Practice your spells.
Heroine’s Quest sounds like it might be some kind of statement piece about female video game characters, but actually it just means your player character is female. End of deal. No one even comments on your sex, they just call you heroine and move on. Otherwise it’s extremely easy to believe you are just playing another entry in the Quest for Glory series. It even includes lots of in-jokes for fans of the series. The quality of the game is extremely high, absolutely up to the classic games.
There are a few differences from the QFG games, though. Heroine’s Quest is set in Midgard, and the story revolves around Norse mythology. Fimbulwinter has set in and Ragnarok is at hand, due to a frost giant’s machinations. The game therefore includes a new problem to contend with: it’s freaking cold. Your character can only be out in the snow for a limited time before they freeze to death. The cold eats away at your stamina, making basic survival a challenge at times. In fact, the game opens with your first task to find food before you starve, which is made more difficult by the fact that you can’t take much cold exposure. My poor rogue died a couple of times before I finally managed to beg food off someone.
It is possible to turn off the cold and hunger penalties by setting the game difficulty to easy. I’ll admit that I did this at the beginning of the game because my rogue could barely walk around the woods. I found there was a pretty big gap in difficulty between easy (which is actually way too easy: two hits and everything falls over) and the next step up, but eventually my rogue got skillful enough to handle combat.
One fault I found with the game is that it doesn’t seem to have been designed for playing hybrid characters. My first choice of character in QFG games is a magic-using thief, and although I was able to give my character magic and find some spells, I couldn’t use those spells in combat. I also couldn’t complete some mage-only quests because I didn’t have access to the right spells. So my magic ended up being useless.
The thief specific activities were also really difficult. I only managed to successfully pickpocket someone when I was about 90% done with the game. Otherwise a fail is instant death, so that sucked. Also they make it very difficult to burglarize any buildings by having guards and dogs outside all buildings almost all of the time. If I hadn’t looked online I would have never gotten past them.
Another difference of this game from the classics is that all the NPCs move around all the time. Which means that if you need a healing potion, oops the shop is only open at certain times of day. I spent way too much time walking around waiting for people to be where I needed them to be to do what I needed to do. Like, I need the thieves guild guy to be INSIDE the thieves guild so he can fence a stolen item, so that I have the money to then go to the potion store (the next day at the right time) to buy my potion. It got annoying. The end of the game got a bit tedious as a result of needing these kinds of specific interactions.
But don’t listen to my nitpicking. Overall this game is EXCELLENT and highly highly recommended for anyone who liked the Quest for Glory games. And since it’s free I encourage others to try it out. I’m looking forward to replaying as a mage at a later date. (I never play as a fighter. Hitting things is boring.)