Wot I Think: Quest For Infamy

Isn’t it just typical? You wait sixteen years for a new game that picks up where the Quest for Glory series left off, and suddenly four of them come along at once… or close enough, anyway. Hot on the trails of Heroine’s Quest, with Mage’s Initiation and the original creators’ Hero-U: Rogue To Redemption still to come, Quest for Infamy wants to take a rather less heroic approach to its mix of RPG and adventure. But do the bad guys really have more fun? Here’s Wot I Think…

Quest for Infamy is what happens when a joke gets completely out of control; the gaming equivalent of waking up one day with a headache and a fuzzy tongue to find that you actually own a pancake shop called Wholly Crepe and that this is a thing that has happened. It’s a satire of a series that had its last real hurrah back in 1993 (Quest for Glory IV, one of my favourite adventures ever), but which is closest in theme to the original, 1989’s Hero’s Quest. That makes it a riffing twenty-five years in the waiting, if not making… only to just get pipped to the post by Heroine’s Quest! Ouch…

(And, technically, Quest for Glory 4.5, but the less said about that one the better…)

Playing it though, it’s a wonder we got it at all. The words ‘labour of love’ are horribly over-used, but there’s really no other word for any adventure that dares to take on the Quest for Glory template – a hybrid of adventure and RPG that demands, just as a starting point, huge sprawling worlds, a hero with stats as well as stuff, shitty combat (it’s traditional!) and at least three paths through the game to cater for fighters, wizards and thieves – here, Brigands, Sorcerers and Rogues. Each class isn’t simply given a different weapon and special attack either, but their own stories, locations the other characters might never see, and radically different puzzle solutions. The Rogue for instance gets to join the local thieves’ guild and raid the town’s houses for goodies, while the Sorcerer spends much of the early game on a scavenger hunt for reagents to cast spells and the Brigand… does fightery things. Faced with a challenge like a thick bush blocking the path, the Sorcerer might fly over it, the Rogue set it on fire, and the Brigand simply chop the damn thing down with his bastard sword. The overall story is the same for all of them, but the distractions on the way change dramatically.

Quest for Infamy completely understands the big picture here, and the amount of work that went into it is genuinely impressive – the pathing, the animation, the sheer scale of the world; a valley that takes in two sizeable towns and stretches out through deep atmospheric woods to mountains, caves and beyond, almost all with unique, lovingly painted backgrounds instead of just filling the map with a big grid of flip-flopped trees pretending to be forest. Aside from the truly wretched voice acting and production, where half the cast sound like they’ve never been near a microphone before and a good half of what’s left should never be allowed to again, everything seems to be in place for Quest for Infamy to be both a modern successor to Quest for Glory and an indie classic in its own right. And indeed, make no mistake, it is absolutely one of the best and most ambitious adventures in quite a while, indie or otherwise, especially if you’re a fan of the original games.

So why doesn’t it work as well as it feels like it should?

One big reason is, unfortunately, its entire reason for existing – leading man Mister Roehm and his titular Quest for Infamy. This game has no more interest in exploring the less heroic side of the alignment pool than Samuel Beckett had in what Godot would say if he ever showed up. At worst, Roehm is an opportunist, starting out by bedding a Baron’s daughter in the intro but then largely limiting his roguish behaviour to being a little bit rude. Mostly, he just comes across as bored, with every situation met with little more than a shrug of “Whatever.” Become a sorcerer? Whatever. Beat up a guy? Whatever. Shift crates on the docks for cash? Whatever. Occasionally he’ll say something like “You’ll beat me up if I sleep with your daughter? Might be worth it!”, and there are a couple of moments where you can or have to be a bit of a dick, but for the most part you can’t even do anything even slightly naughty if you want to. The narrator acts like the most indecisive devil on your shoulder, constantly droning on and on about how cut-throat and ruthless you are, but stopping most attempts to actually live down to it with a “What? You can’t do that! That would be wrong!

The overall feel is that having decided to make a game called Quest for Infamy, the team suddenly realised that cartoon villainy is usually a pretty useless way to get things done, and so dialled down first from villain to inadvertent hero to just plain antihero, to reluctant hero, and from that down to Roehm, a scoundrel so flat that his special thief ability should be sliding right under locked doors. He’s a man with no drive, no passion. He certainly wouldn’t say no to a roll in the hay with a pretty girl or the promise of treasure, but he doesn’t give the impression of a man who wants anything, except to be left alone to stooge around the world until the game of his life becomes “Bum Quest”.

Did Quest for Glory have a deep backstory? Of course not. But the thing about a guy wanting to be a hero is that it’s a worthy enough ambition to stand alone. Here, the lack of motivation is a problem. Roehm needed at least some larger goal, if only to fill time before the story proper kicked off – like say, wanting to stealing the king’s crown and become the most infamous outlaw in the world, only to find himself in a bigger plot that forces him to be a better man. Or, maybe, he arrives in town, gets rolled by the corrupt sheriff and decide that ho, he’ll show him a real villain! Something. Anything! It’s not until the third, final act that anything happens to make him give a crap about anything except leaving town, and about twenty minutes later the end credits are rolling. Talk about a waste of a premise that promised wine, wenches and wild adventures on the wrong side of the tracks.

As if trying to compensate, the rest of the game bends over backwards to try and put some edge back into things, from characters randomly saying things like “You’re a bit of a bastard” and the indecisive narrator declaring things like “You have no desire to be polite”, despite Roehm typically being smart enough to be exactly that to avoid getting into unnecessary trouble, but it doesn’t work. At all. It’s just a childish, out of place throw-in, like when Roehm randomly pisses on a rug, or the narrator lovingly describes a beautiful location and casually tacks on “Then you fart.”

Also deeply eye-rolling are most of the female characters, from the bartender whose cleavage the adverts seem to consider an honorary main character, to the two actual female leads both showing up in skimpy bikinis and cloaks that neither fit the tone of the rest of the game or the rest of the world (which is played very straight, aside from a few thrown in puns) nor ever actually get around to the ‘satire’ thing that Quest for Infamy seems convinced it’s doing simply by having mentioning it. Volaris, chilly captain of the city guard, is especially bad, not just for her chainmail bikini and the lack of a joke or the context to make it work, but for the fact that even her own troops at least get bathing suits.

All this stuff achieves is to be juvenile, desperate, and worst of all, not funny – Quest for Infamy trying to act like a bad boy with nothing to back it up except occasionally saying ‘bollocks’ and sometimes showing boobs. Gracious! Fetch the smelling salts! Or, indeed, not. Sigh. Disappointing.

So, that’s one issue – not that Quest for Infamy’s stories and puzzles are bad in themselves, but that they mostly wouldn’t have been that out of place in an actual Quest for Glory game and the bits that aren’t are typically no better integrated here. Lest we forget, we are talking about a series that gave Thieves the ability to fund themselves by robbing both old ladies and the Sheriff, and still call themselves heroes. Running out of steam about as early is such a waste of infamous potential; the chance to take something like the intro, where Roehm is caught with the local Baron’s daughter, and turn it into a sequence where he has to sneak naked back through town for instance, or must meet a prisoner in the dungeon by causing trouble and getting himself arrested, or work with brigands and outcasts instead of them being the usual enemies in the woods. So many opportunities.

Ignoring the infamy side though, the design is usually solid and often excellent. It nails, mostly, what made Quest for Glory work – that feel of being able to explore a world, albeit one without as much of a defining sense of place as both that series’ world-spanning later games, as well as populating it with opportunities to use class skills, minor RPG elements like the need to eat and buy rations, hunts for monsters and treasure, and multiple solutions to problems, some offering the chance to earn irrelevant Infamy points and others the scope for common sense/less dramatic solutions than burning down a tree to get a feather. It’s a very impressive world, a little short on hotspots at times, but a place that feels rooted and breathing and alive, with excellent spot effects and gorgeous scenery that massively improves on the bland Quest for Glory forest mazes of old.

While the voices can be painful, the conversation writing and plotting is also pretty good. Roehm’s lack of drive aside, he’s an amiable travel companion who snarks without really being mean to anyone who doesn’t deserve it, and the people of the valley lovingly written even if they are only there to sell potions or be a foil. Roehm tends to approach people in a sensible enough way; he’s civil and friendly and with enough roguish charm to bring people to his side even if they should know better, and Quest for Infamy makes good use of that… even if again, it rarely involves anything the Hero of Spielburg wouldn’t have done, unless you count going around with a beard that looks like a chin covered with gravy. The Narrator too is, despite a few wincingly awful descriptions now and again, exactly what the game needed, carrying the action with an infectious enthusiasm.

Early on especially, another cool part is how much takes place on a daily basis – a town execution on the first day, a group of cultists visiting town on the second, the nearby city of Tyr being locked off early on due to some internal problems but then opening up again once they’ve been dealt with, without any need to solve a puzzle or otherwise sneak in. While these events do completely drop off after the first in-game week, and more’s the pity, they’re more than enough to help breathe life into the valley while learning the lay of the land and give the impression that the NPCs have more to their lives than standing around and waiting for Mr. Roehm to bless them with his presence.

There are some unfortunate implementation issues though, which really get in the way of the good times. Some are small, like the fact that death is usually a cheap slap on the wrist and teleport back to the Healer, unless it’s suddenly not – dying to a giant spider in the South Woods for instance not counting, but dying to a highwayman in the same location, or forgetting to eat for a couple of days, being a drop-dead Game Over. These rarely matter much though, because you have to try to fail when you have fast teleport via a map, free meals on a daily basis, and an economy that lets you earn 100 coins in a couple of clicks in a game where health potions are practically free, and then loses interest in even that and just hands over enough cash to fill a swimming pool with the things and make Roehm invulnerable to everything save perhaps diabetes if they contain sugar. There isn’t even a cooldown on swigging them or anything else that you need money to purchase by that point. I had tens of the things when I faced the final boss. It was a less than epic duel.

But that’s ignorable quibbling. Combat sucked in Quest for Glory too, and has sucked in every single adventure game that has ever tried to have a combat system not built around telling people that they fight like a cow. A far more annoying problem is how Quest For Infamy handles its puzzles – specifically, the ones that involve the RPG side of the game rather than classic adventuring.

Part of what made Quest for Glory unlike other adventure games, and what Quest for Infamy generally does a decent job of emulating, is that solving puzzles isn’t simply about having a bag of random objects. Instead, you get tools. Lots of them, designed to cater for any problem an adventurer might encounter. If you’re a Sorcerer for instance, you have a spell called Unlock, just like in the original games. When these work, they really contribute to the feel of dealing with problems rather than solving straight-up puzzles, and there’s a sense of satisfaction that only comes from walking up to what another person might find an obstacle and dealing with it as a walking badass, thief amongst thieves or master of magic to whom such mundane rules do not apply!

Quest for Infamy only goes so far with this though. If you’re not supposed to use a skill, it all too often won’t even acknowledge that it should work; Unlock being more accurately called Unlock The Doors You’re Supposed To Use This On. Others will simply show a generic ‘nope’ or be ignored completely, much like Take Inanimate Object unless there’s an Inanimate Object you’re intended to Take with it, expensive climbing gear only works in a couple of places, and there’s only one acceptable reagent for the Sorcerer spells you have to learn regardless of how open the demands seem.

Quest for Glory of course didn’t allow free reign either, but it was usually pretty good about giving a reason why, like a locked door also being bolted on the other side. Quest for Infamy just slams down its boot, sometimes in the weirdest of ways. The Sorcerer for instance can’t cut down that bush I mentioned earlier due to it not being “your style”, despite wielding exactly the same sword and only having been a sorcerer for a week or so by this point. It’s such a needlessly petty restriction, and it doesn’t take many such slaps for the charm of the RPG elements to be washed away.

While I realise I’ve spent a lot of time picking at Quest for Infamy – and not with any pleasure – I did for the most part enjoy my time with it. It’s a brave, brave game that takes on the Quest for Glory challenge, and that the result has a few cracks is as unsurprising as most of them are forgivable. They’re disappointing, but you move on from them and there’s lots of good stuff to make up for it, including fun characters like Prospero the sorcerer trainer, the “Aha!” moments of remembering something at the other side of the map that now makes perfect sense, and plenty of moments where Roehm’s snark is exactly what the doctor ordered. It is, in most ways that count, a fine tribute to a fine series. Had it come out just a few short months ago, I suspect I’d have been raving far more effusively about it, as well as far more willing to overlook the understandable slip-ups.

Unfortunately, Quest for Infamy has the misfortune of coming in the wake of Crystal Shard’s Heroine’s Quest, which doesn’t look quite as nice or have as snappy dialogue most of the time, but does pull off the Quest for Glory adventure style far more effectively – a mix of feeling generally more confident about what it is, better implementing the tools and RPG side of things, and continuing the tradition of exploring a new type of environment and mythology. And most surprisingly of all, being free. It’s easier to cut an indie game slack when you’re not just off playing another game that managed to do the same things better with the same engine and more even more limitations – including not having had a $63,281 Kickstarter to fund its adventuring.

Be that as it may though, this is still a good crack at the Quest for Glory formula that, like Roehm, has little stomach for infamy but doesn’t do a bad job at reluctant heroism. If you remember the original games fondly, you’re almost certainly going to enjoy it, even if it doesn’t quite reach their level. If you’ve never played them, the whole set of originals can be had for ten bucks at GOG.com (with a VGA remake of the second available elsewhere). It’s impossible to recommend playing Quest for Infamy before or instead of those, but do keep it in mind for when you’re done, and enjoying the knowledge that there are, finally, more games like them both out and on the way.

Quest for Infamy is available now.


  1. frightlever says:

    I suspect the alt-text above is more entertaining than the game could ever be.

  2. Phier says:

    Also deeply eye-rolling are most of the female characters, from the bartender whose cleavage the adverts seem to consider an honorary main character, to the two actual female leads both showing up in skimpy bikinis and cloaks that neither fit the tone of the rest of the game or the rest of the world (which is played very straight, aside from a few thrown in puns) nor ever actually get around to the ‘satire’ thing that Quest for Infamy seems convinced it’s doing simply by having a couple of characters mention it. Volaris, chilly captain of the city guard, is especially bad, not just for her idiotic chainmail bikini and the lack of a joke or the context to make it work, but for the fact that her own troops at least get bathing suits. It all just comes across as juvenile, desperate, and worst of all, not funny – Quest for Infamy trying to act like a bad boy with the fact that occasionally you get to hear someone say ‘bollocks’ and sometimes see boobs! Gracious! Fetch the smelling salts!

    It wouldn’t be a RPS article without complaining about boobs at least once. Its like none of the writers ever went to a renaissance faire. Gratuitous cleavage as far as the eye can see. Fantasy be it RPG’s or LARP or just playing dressup for Halloween has a strong sexual component. Women take part in that quite willingly because its fun for them too. Sort of ironically at the renaissance faire we just went to my wife was looking at the chainmail bikini’s. I also knew two women back when WoW wasn’t stale that refused to play Horde because the female characters were not attractive enough.

    RPS Social Justice Warriors, commence attack!

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “Its like none of the writers ever went to a renaissance faire.”

      God no, I haven’t committed enough sins in a past life.

      And once again, it’s context over content. If your game supports that kind of thing, cool, go for it. This one doesn’t. The one in the green bikini is a member of a cult whose members all wear long green robes, as well as being a spy for whom being stared at the entire time would not be ideal regardless of a throw-away line intended to justify the outfit. The one in the chainmail bikini is from a town patterned more after Greece/Rome than the medieval level valley, with neither inspiration making it make any sense, and no justification for why she’d be wearing something that silly except that the Mayor is a bit of a perv.

      There is nothing wrong with games or characters being sexy if they sell it, earn it, justify it. A good starting point being “Does this person seem like they chose their own clothes?” When it’s stupid though, and has either no justification beyond “We wanted to draw boobs” or no stronger one than “But elves are nymphomanic nudists IN THE LORE” then I’m going to keep calling it out, sorry, because it’s dumb and I want my games to be smarter.

      And when you say ‘social justice warrior’, it only strengthens my desire to keep annoying you.

      • Blackthorne says:

        Hey! I definitely went to a Renaissance fair before!

        Richard, thanks for the review. You’ve always been true to yourself, and I like that you really balanced out what you liked about our game with what you didn’t. You were fair and honest, and we can only get better when we get decent criticism like this. You’ve given me plenty to think about.

        Steven Alexander
        Writer/Director – Quest For Infamy

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          Thanks for taking it in a positive spirit :-) Sorry I didn’t like this one as much as I was hoping to, but it’s still an impressive game with lots of very obvious love and talent behind it that everyone involved should be very proud of, and I really hope does well for you. Very much looking forward to seeing your next project.

        • Truck_Rockpec says:

          Because you took the time to post here and didn’t bitch about the review, I’m picking Quest for Infamy up on GoG. I loved Quest for Glory back in the day, and it wasn’t perfect either.

    • Jac says:

      You seem to misunderstand the point being made about the game

      Where you read “oh no boobs bad social justice blah blah” I read “not funny” “juvenile” “no context”. Get a grip son.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        Right. If it fits, if it’s actually funny, if it’s justified, go for it, have fun.

        (Quest for Glory 4 for instance features a totally naked woman in a lake, a villain who visibly shows her increasing comfort with the hero by showing cleavage, and ultimately has said villain in bondage gear whipping him in a dungeon, along with a couple of other things. But none of them are a problem because the setting and way the character is written and handled as a tragic mermaid figure justifies the first, the character and relationship justifies the second, and the story and unspoken emotion justifies the third in a surprisingly tender way – all of them *are* to some extent fan service and shamelessly so, but they’re fanservice handled intelligently and in the service of the overall game.)

        I’ve got a piece coming up elsewhere at some point that plays devil’s advocate on this by looking at Bikini Karate Babes and talking about why it’s actually easier to defend on the usual SJW (yawn) grounds than many of the more respectable fighting games. As well as a couple of other games, like the often unfairly maligned Leisure Suit Larry series. Context. It’s key.

    • El Spidro says:

      While I can fully understand what you’re saying, for me it’s an immersion thing. When I see a woman in a game dressed in bikini armour I have this thing at the back of my mind going ” that doesn’t make any sense, no protection is being afforded here”. While you could make the argument that unrealistic armour is the least of the realism issues a game containing ogres and dragons has, small details tend to have a disproportionate effect of suspension of disbelief. I accept skeleton pirates in the first pirates of the caribbean movie, but when Jack uses his handcuffs to slide down that rope I die a little inside.
      Edit: using a phone keyboard is bad.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        It’s also notable here that while a few locations have pun names and so on, and there are a lot of jokes and snarky dialogues, the world is mostly played straight. It’s not like it’s a fantasy parody world that’s routinely playing with the tropes. I’m sure the intent was that it be either satire or a parody, but there’s a fairly thin line between that and simply doing the thing (see the entire of The Bard’s Tale for instance) and for me the result ended up on the wrong side, especially combined with a lot of the other bits of childish humour that just came out of nowhere and didn’t fit the general tone.

    • JFS says:


  3. Frank says:

    Heroine’s Quest will be making other early 90s throwbacks look bad for many years to come, I reckon.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Certainly Mage’s Initiation is in for a real challenge. I hope it lives up to it!

    • Valnar39 says:

      Seriously. I whipped Heroine’s Quest back out just to finish it up and move on to Quest for Infamy, now I’m not sure I want to til it’s on sale. HQ handled the whole QFG thing SO extremely well. Why, as Richard astutely poitns out, are we suddenly getting four of these things all at once? What a pain. I could’ve done with one of these about five years ago! Not that I won’t play them now. It’s just funny that the first out the gate is free, and is liable to make the rest look bad.

      • PegasusOrgans says:

        Welcome to the “crack effect”. First time’s always the best, and always free. But you keep on coming back nonetheless!!

  4. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Top picture. TNG series 1 Uniform. Cannot unsee

  5. steviebops says:

    RPS sure picks odd games to review.

  6. Bobtree says:

    That rug really tied the room together.

  7. mawna says:

    I’m a fan of QFG, one of my favorite games. And I really like ‘Quest for Infamy’. I’d recommend it to anyone who liked the QFG series. I thought the writing was the funniest I’ve encountered since the old LucasArts games.
    Just want to add my personal thoughts:

    -The quality of the voice recording (sound) is not good, but I wouldn’t criticize the voice acting itself. It’s a raw performance which, surprisingly I like. In a way I prefer it to the famous voice actors.

    -Also I found the encounter with female characters, hot – slightly over the top but humorous. I didn’t think the cleveage / chainmail bikini was a ‘minus’ or out of context. IMHO it actually adds to the whole humorous fantasy world the writer created.

    -Solid funny writing. I don’t often bother to find the writer of a game, but this time I did.

    Of course I’m just one of the countless readers of RPS but I really hope, the older gamers from the DOS days don’t make their minds up after reading this article. There are already LP’s on youtube so watch them.

    Btw Mr. Cobbett mentions, in the beginning and end, how HQ is better than QFI. I find it classless.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    Richard Cobbett, excellent review as usual, putting the right ammount of context and not talking too much about yourself (only to explain why this game should or should not be appealing to you). Thanks for writing, honest.

  9. Laurentius says:

    Ok you didn’t like it much and that’s fair but there is also a big picture where RPS constantly mocks games from 90s and modern games that tries to capture their spirit and style and instead praise to no end 10 minutes games about driving through a fog or a ballon in the sky. What next ? Stating that Loom or Indy:Fate of Atlantis were shit ? Get a grip son !

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      1. Huh? This is the site that does columns like Gaming Made Me.

      2. Fate of Atlantis WAS shit. link to pcgamer.com

      • Laurentius says:

        Did you read Alec’s post above about “Youtubers are eating my bread” ?
        I know you love adventure games and want them to be good but this is no fairy tale land, you can’t play “level-headed” critic when there are barbarinas at the gates (hyperbole alert !!!), you’ve got to grit your teeth and defend your part of a wall.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          What are you talking about?

          • Laurentius says:

            If I want to read praise for Twine adventures game, there is plenty communities around blogs and Tumbler and forth who do it much better and often then you do. And if Richard Cobbett give a cold shoulder to the game like Quest for Infamy ( mostly for superfulous reasons ) i may as well jump ship and join channel of some spastic youth who will do the same but in all honestly ( by judging your videos ) in much more entertaining way. You are not acting out Petronius of adventure games here just delusionsl fool.

          • Laurentius says:

            Oh yeah ?
            And who made revival of space sims possible ? Game critics ? Bullshit. And of course this oozing apathy and general lack of ethusisasm for video games is the best weapon RPS has in rivalization with Youtube gaming coverage. Oh wait, it’s not , but it’s good you are doing your part on classic adventure front.

          • Gnoupi says:

            That escalated quickly.

          • pepperfez says:

            I do share his disappointment that no one is acting out Petronius of adventure games here.

        • dreadguacamole says:

          Thank you for the word Barbarinas, which immediately conjured pictures of Schwarzenegger in full Conan mode, plus a tutu. Made my day!

  10. cpt_freakout says:

    Great review, Richard!
    Given the sudden slew of games like these, I think I’ll have enough with HQ for now, and might pick this up in a sale. I’m a backer of the Hero-U KS, and it looks like it’s going to be right up there with QfG. At least I hope it is!

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Yeah, ditto. I really want it to be good. (Though I’ll admit that when I saw news updates like the Coles saying they’d taken out a loan on their house to continue funding it, my first thought was “Guys, I’ll happily write it off as a donation for the good times – don’t lose your home over this thing!”)

  11. Mechorpheus says:

    Richard wins several internets for that Wholly Crepe gag.

    • pepperfez says:

      I have drunk coffee at an actual crepery actually called Wholly Crepe.

      They did not have any crepes.