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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.

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Konstantinos Dimopoulos

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