Reviews

Quest for Glory II: Trial By Fire

This remake is such a precise recreation of the original, right down to all of the scenes looking exactly the same, that there are no real complaints to make.


Publisher: AGD Interactive
Genres: Action RPG
Subtitle: Trial By Fire
Price: Free
Multimedia: Quest for Glory II
Platforms: PC
Number of players: 1
ESRB rating: Not Rated
Developer: AGD Interactive
US release date: 2008-08-24
Website
Developer website

The original Quest for Glory II was the best in a series of adventure games for a variety of reasons. Each game in that series was an RPG/adventure game hybrid, but the second had just the right balance of unique tasks per class and exotic setting. There was the Arabian city to explore, Persian mythology to learn about, and fun activities like joining elite clubs to engage the player. AGD Interactive has taken that classic, removed what few problems it had, and somehow made an even better game for fans to re-experience for no cost.

At its core, Quest for Glory is a melding between RPG grinding and solving puzzles. Certain puzzles require you to have a certain stat, there's the occasional boss fight, and random encounters to contend with while traveling. Whereas a JRPG can have a stop and start flow of grinding before getting back to the plot, the Quest for Glory series was interesting because you instead incorporated grinding into your routine. Using a day and night system, you'd wake up and do some morning exercises. Then maybe explore and check up on a few clues for a certain puzzle. After that it was maybe time for a nap, question a few people in town, and practice a few other skills that needed work. What's remarkable is that it allows for a duality of gaming pleasures: the thrill of solving a puzzle and the satisfaction of having your character become stronger; a complex story with dialogue and nuance melded with combat and stats management. It's a mixture that relatively few other games have managed and none quite so well as Quest for Glory II.

By today's standards the AGD engine isn't so much a visual overhaul as it is an improvement in interface. The point and click method circumvented a lot of problems that come with text parsing: trying to guess what an object is called, what verb the game wants, or what thing to ask a character about can become very frustrating. Icons for "do", "talk", or "look" remove all the guessing, and instead the player has a simple means to communicate far more complex exchanges. This is not necessarily a good thing; I first learned how to read and write as a toddler because I wanted to play King's Quest, and demanded my siblings help until I could do it on my own. It also means players had to rely on a routine of looking for clues, studying their environment, and generally engaging with the game much more deeply. So the first piece of evidence that the people at AGD Interactive are die-hard enthusiasts of interactive fiction is that their remake of Quest for Glory II allows you to switch between parser mode and icon mode whenever you like. Tapping shortcut keys and asking more complex questions both enhance the game and improve the sense of control the original had.

That's a sentiment that is maintained throughout any comparison of the new version with the old. You can either simplify the overly complex city streets or keep them intact. The Rasier end-game is much faster and doesn't involve tedious time killing. You can play the old-fashioned way or use the more streamlined point and click system that is still prevalent today. It is still, except for a few minor quirks, the exact same great game that it was when it came out years ago.

There have been some tweaks though. Combat is a bit trickier now, and enemies are far more varied than in the original. Whereas fighting was generally a black screen with little-to-no strategy except hitting swing or dodge, this version creates a larger arena for the player to move around in. When pack animals like the Jackal Men attack they now do so all at once, meaning you have to dodge swords on all sides instead of the one by one method in the old game. Brigands can throw knives from a distance while ghouls have several nasty magic spells at their disposal. It's legitimately much trickier to metagame the system, because while certain creatures can be defeated by just attacking over and over others will make quick work of you. For those not interested in combat, you can always adjust the game to auto-pilot, so that dodges or swings happen without you pressing a key. Overall, it's a welcome improvement.

There are also countless little additions that round out the rough edges of the experience. When it starts to get late, Rakeesh will walk inside the Adventurer's Guild and wish you goodnight. Sometimes when you walk into the Inn in the evening, the Kattah owners will have stayed up and invite you to chat. A few extra scenes here and there may not seem like much, but they offer new content for veterans while making the game's characters feel more complete. This is key, because the game wants you to treat these NPC's with respect and there are many ways of doing that. The sadness one of your friends expresses when you miss their dance that night, missing a poetry reading, or just not saying thank you will eventually get on people's nerves. Although there's a stat for manners and kindness (Honor), the fact that being polite is even an option in the game shows how sharp the design is even today. In Quest for Glory II, the player can express a wide array of sentiments and emotions.

For the sake of discussion, there are a few minor nitpicks that are worth mentioning. You can now rest after practicing with Uhura and then spar for another round in the Adventurer's Guild. This means that you can spend the first five days grinding away and have combat mastered much faster than in the original. In my opinion, the original's decision to allow you to practice with Uhura only once a day led to a better flow and allowed my character to develop with the pace of the game's story. Instead, I spent my first couple of days just grinding, which is a line the Quest for Glory games usually never cross into. Throwing rocks for a few hours mostly feels like practice, not mindlessly tapping buttons until I can beat everything no matter what. Another complaint would be the insistence of making me watch certain animations every time, such as Uhura walking across the practice room to get her weapons. That gets tedious and the fact that I ended up watching it constantly because the game allows me to grind makes it all the more so.

Generally speaking, the game is such a precise recreation of the original, right down to all of the scenes looking exactly the same, that there are no real complaints to make. It's Quest for Glory II with all of the original's minor flaws rubbed out. And it's totally free. For this adventure game veteran, it was like going back to a favorite vacation site or memory. When I sat down for the first night after rediscovering my favorite Arabian city and ordering a meal, a descriptive paragraph that I still somehow knew by heart came onto the screen: "You have a wonderful meal. There are numerous salads, two main courses, fruit, hot mint tea, dessert, and all the bread you could want. You feel stuffed and content." Seeing those words again brought it all rushing back in ways that the music, art, or familiar characters alone could not manage; that whatever thing, whatever feeling it was that made me play games then and still do so today, continues on with this remake.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

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There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

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6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

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