Relive your Quest for Glory days
There’s a simple test to decide if Heroine’s Quest is right for you. If you played, enjoyed, and pined for more Quest for Glory games, you’ve passed the test. You should be playing Heroine’s Quest right now. As a spiritual successor and homage to Sierra’s RPG-slash-adventure series, Crystal Shard’s modern installment feels right at home amidst its inspirations, and could easily slip into a library of their ranks unnoticed. It brings with it a full-sized world and story, updated gameplay (a point-and-click engine, not the original text parser), and plenty of charm and tongue-in-cheek humor that would have matched wits with Sierra back in the day.
Gamers unfamiliar with Quest for Glory may need a bit more direction in their decision tree. Although Quest for Glory and Heroine’s Quest look like standard point-and-click adventure games at first glance, this is far from the truth. They are role-playing games, with random encounters, battles, side quests, armor, and skills to contend with. Your Heroine will fight trolls, level up, grow hungry, agree to help villagers, sometimes fail to help villagers, and explore a large, open world. Point-and-click adventuring still comes into play, though, and there is plenty of item collecting, puzzle solving, and dialogue-branching throughout the game’s more active—and open-ended—quests.
Besides the obvious and direct comparison to Quest for Glory, these features and Heroine’s Quest as a whole often feel like a precursor to many Western RPGs, such as The Elder Scrolls series. You begin the game by choosing one of three classes—Warrior, Sorceress, or Rogue—and assigning training points to your Heroine. She begins with a certain level in stats like Strength, Endurance, and Agility—which directly affect Health, Mana, and Stamina—as well as class-related skills such as Acrobatics, Magic, and Stealth. Stats and skills come into play in all aspects of the game, including battle, exploration, and solving quests.
This means that playthroughs will vastly differ depending on your class and chosen attributes. Warriors typically prefer the direct approach, rarely shying away from confrontation. Rogues are sneakier and go behind characters’ backs as needed. Sorceresses fall somewhere in between, using magic for both offense and avoidance. Your class approach and available skills will determine the puzzle solutions available to you. A Heroine with enough points in Animal Ken can persuade a lost cat into her arms, while one without this skill will need a fish to serve as bait. A sorceress can make her own wind or fire when needed, while other classes must carry a tinderbox or identify a gusty area of the world. The variety of solutions available to the same puzzles—or slightly varied ones—is staggering, and provides a true sense of open-endedness to the adventure.
This open world concept is also present in the dozens of sidequests available for your Heroine to pursue (or completely ignore). Also similar to The Elder Scrolls series, the main story in Heroine’s Quest is not exceptionally long. There are only four main goals to complete, most of which can be approached without lengthy sidetracking. Your Heroine arrives in Jarnvidr, at the city of Fornsigtuna, during the “fimbulwinter,” a seemingly unending stretch of snow and cold. The jarl tasks her with ending the fimbulwinter by defeating Egther, the frost giant whom has caused it. Along the way, Egther and his two-headed troll attempt to foil the Heroine at any cost, while simultaneously wreaking havoc on Jarnvidr and its villages.
The Heroine’s main goal is to stop Egther, but along the way she is free to explore Jarnvidr (and another location we won’t spoil), solve problems for its citizens, and build her skills and equipment as she sees fit. There are whole sections of the world that aren’t even necessary to visit to finish the game, but which play into hours of optional sidequests of varying complexity. Random encounters pit our Heroine against everyone from a blurrily-naked woman to a doom squirrel, which are all—amazingly—accurate pieces of the borrowed Norse mythology, but with a charming twist that sets the perfect stage for a Sierra-like adventure.
The biggest challenge with Heroine’s Quest is exactly that: its challenge. Crystal Shard has generously offered hints on some puzzles once you’ve flailed about enough—a crystal mini-game, for instance, will make a different suggestion every time you exit it without success—but they are frustratingly silent on many others. It’s the nature of a point-and-click adventure, and even an RPG, to feel lost at times. But because of Heroine’s Quest‘s format, confusion can arise from not just “what item to use on what,” but where or even when to go next.
Some quests will only progress once you’ve slept for a night, but with no indication that this is necessary. Others may require the input of a character that lives in a different village, but there’s little reason to consider this person for the task at hand. Luckily, the main quest provides map markers for primary goals, but this doesn’t help amidst the hair-pulling frustration of other obtuse tasks or sidequests. For fans of classic point-and-click adventures, this difficulty might be a positive trait, but we would prefer an optional in-game hint system that doesn’t simply link to the Crystal Shard forums.
Most of Heroine’s Quest, though, is worth the occasional frustration. Its open-ended structure, unique combination of RPG and point-and-click features, and impressively detailed lore work together to create an experience that is epic, engrossing, and complete. Every detail, from the voice-acting to the “you can’t do that” type messages are polished and shine with the love that Crystal Shard obviously has for the genre, its history, and all players of Heroine’s Quest.