Freeware Garden: Heroine’s Quest

This is what the beginning of a beautiful adventure looks like.

In our year of Quest for Glory (a.k.a. Sierra’s Hero Quest)  revivals, re-imaginings, revisits and remakes, Heroine’s Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok is the adventure-RPG I have unashamedly fallen in love with. A beautiful game about selfless, old-fashioned heroism that brilliantly captures the spirit of Quest for Glory. An adventure, that unlike the saga’s very own final installment, proudly stands up to its progenitors’ lofty standards.

Having thoroughly played Heroine’s Quest for this write-up, just looking at my recent notes makes me giggle. Everything is amazing this, excellent that, lovely other, brilliant something else. They are useless as notes, of course, but an honest testament to my enthusiasm. I haven’t got a single “but” in there. Heroine’s Quest is a marvelous game indeed.

Amazingly, it’s a monumentally complex one too. As the titular Heroine can be a warrior, sorceress or rogue and each of the classes can be customized with varying skills, spells, stats and attributes, puzzles can be tackled in a surprising variety of ways. What’s more, your class also affects the side quests you’ll be bumping into, hence providing the game with the replayability trait that’s so rare and elusive for the genre. Heroine’s Quest is one of the few adventure game throughout the history of pointing and clicking at things worth enjoying three times in a row. Or, well, two at least.

And just to make things even tougher for themselves, the devs have made sure that everything is accompanied by the appropriate animation. Each spell for example has its very own pyrotechnics and even the lovely character portraits move. Actually, the attention to detail is staggering and includes the game’s difficulty settings, that adjust combat difficulty and the easiness with which you can die from hunger or frostbite.

Confusing fantasy creatures is always a delightful thing to do.

Frostbite, you see, is what happens to people who expose themselves to extremely low temperatures and Viking mythology inspired settings do tend to be icy cold and snowy. This particular setting also comes with an epic and very appropriately Wagnerian soundtrack to go along with the heroic plot it serves. The Heroine, after being ambushed by a two headed and not particularly bright minion of a dark lord of sorts, finds herself in a frozen and famished town in need of a true hero. A place where the people initially only trust your heroic intentions, but not so much your abilities themselves and only start respecting after you prove your worth.

It’s touches like these that can make a game world feel alive and sensible. Even a huge and dynamic one like this one. A world where an amazing cast of fully voiced characters that includes nymphs, trolls, giants, kids and pun-loving sorcerers moves realistically around. They might be found at the tavern in the afternoon and locked up in their homes at night, though tracking them down never gets frustrating.

It’s a world filled with ideas, whimsical places, quests, side-quests, mini games, dialog, wild ideas, M.C. Escher-esque locations and more than its fair share of humorous bits that usually work. A not particularly spoiler-y example would involve Ratatosk the mighty. A talking squirrel who claims his teeth can cut the mighty branches of Yggdrasil. The original doom squirrel.

In a nutshell, Heroine’s Quest is a glorious adventure-RPG hybrid. It’s on the same level with the classic Quest for Glory games; it’s comparable to them — something not many games, let alone freeware ones, can claim. Even where Quest for Glories traditionally stumbled, in combat, the Heroine handles herself okay-ish. It’s such a rich experience I would gladly pay quite a bit for it actually. Yes. It’s a 10/10. And if you ever enjoyed a Sierra game you’ll adore it and its incredible polish. The thing even comes with a lovingly edited PDF manual, DVD case and CD jewel box cover and, of course, a label.

This is what a labour of feverish love looks like.

Heroine’s Quest is available for Windows, DRM-free and complete with all its goodies over at the Crystal Shard site. Handily, you can also grab it via Steam.

24 Comments

  1. mlaskus says:

    Fear the mighty Doom Squirrel!

    I loved the game, it’s ridiculously charming throughout.

  2. JonasKyratzes says:

    Can’t wait to play this.

    However, I did adore Quest for Glory: Dragon Fire. It’s flawed, but it’s also beautiful, and actually my favourite of the series to revisit.

  3. fenriz says:

    beautiful.

    my only, very very very unimportant quarrel is with the graphics, they don’t look very sierra, they’re more simon the sorcerer’s. but who cares.

  4. GameCat says:

    This game looks 1000 times better than most of so called indie games and it’s free.

    I’m always amazed how people can do such hard work and then just release the finished quality product for everyone.

  5. Sarble says:

    Anyone know if there’s anything in this that would make it unsuitable for under-tens?

    • mlaskus says:

      Difficulty perhaps, I doubt a child under 10 years old would figure out some of the puzzles.
      While there is combat it’s not particularly graphic, the sprites mostly swing their weapons at eachother until one of them falls to the ground, I don’t remember any swearing.

      • Sarble says:

        Thanks mlaskus, that’s the sort of info I wanted :) Swearing, gore etc. is the sort of thing I want to avoid. Waving swords at things until they fall down is fine.

        Difficulty isn’t an issue in as much as I’ll be around to help – assuming I can do the puzzles myself of course ;)

        • Screwie says:

          Also worth noting, there is a huldra – a nude nymph-like creature – in one section of the game. She’s wearing black bars over her bits and her ‘seduction’ of a male NPC is clean and never depicted or described in explicit terms.

          And don’t be afraid to reach for the guide if you get stuck! At least, be prepared for a lot of trial and error in places. I couldn’t complete it without a little cheating…

    • ribby says:

      I haven’t played much of it but I’m fairly sure it’s meant to be for all ages. There’s a joke at the start where you can go and get a drink from the bar and they ask for your ID, then respond to your protests that this is the medieval era and ID probably hasn’t been invented yet with a whispered “yes, but this is supposed to be a game for all ages so we can’t promote rampant alcoholism”

  6. Velko says:

    “….The original doom squirrel.

    In a nutshell,…”

    Yay!

  7. tomimt says:

    Heroine’s Quest is a great game, of which I would have gladly even paid for. It pretty much puts most commercial retro-themed adventure games in shame with the amount of content as well as in style.

  8. tehfish says:

    I must try this again. I tried it quite some time ago, yet there is a quite considerable learning curve initially and i don’t think i ever made it past the forest outside the starting town without starving/freezing or dying horribly. I then got distracted by another game and had forgotten all about it…

    I could tell there was a decent game lurking under the initial learning curve, i just need to spend more time on it…

    • Bodylotion says:

      Indeed this looks like a great game. Back in the days i had no trouble playing these kind of games but nowadays it seems I have to re-learn everything which is why this game is still in my backlog.

    • Fizzii says:

      There is a difficulty slider which can be used to make the game more gentle. On minimum difficulty, the RPG elements (cold mechanic, combat) take a back seat and you can focus more on the adventure part of the game. Hope you enjoy when you get around to playing it!

  9. Mezmorki says:

    I played the Quest for Glory games growing up (along with other Sierra Quest offerings) and loved them.

    I have a 3-year old daughter and we started playing Quest for Glory 1 together, me reading the text and helping her move around, but I’ve been letting her to all the decision making. It’s been a fun experience.

    I grabbed Heroine’s Quest a while ago, and we’ll get to this one – I want to go through it together. What excites me the most is that, per the name, the hero is a woman – and I’d like my daughter see women being the hero/adventurer too. Anyway, great write up! Thanks!

  10. Det. Bullock says:

    I tried it but every time there is real time or timed turns combat in an adventure game I tend to panic and my few working neurons refuse to do their job, I fear I’ve been spoiled by Lucasarts games in this matter.

    • Fizzii says:

      Det. Bullock, I recommend using the difficulty slider in the game options and turning it down to minimum. It effectively acts as a god-mode in combat, where you can two-shot enemies. Hope this helps :)

  11. benexclaimed says:

    Really glad this is getting a little bit of coverage. It’s pretty incredible that this is available for free. If Wadjet Eye were to produce a game like this they’d charge $15 for it and it’d be absolutely worth it.

  12. alexheretic says:

    An excellent game, let alone free game!

  13. Fizzii says:

    Hi there, I am one of the devs who worked on this game.

    Thank you so much for writing this article! We are honored, and very happy to hear that you enjoyed playing it.

  14. sophof says:

    How can this be free? Seems like an absurd amount of time and love went into this. Anyway, thanks for this one, it looks like the exact thing I’d like.

  15. Frank says:

    Thank you, Konstantinos. For your appropriate approbation of this game, you are now my favorite RPS writer.

  16. Haborym says:

    Wait what, this game is freeware?