How many games have you played today? In the past week? The past month? You could name a handful, I'm sure, but ultimately there would be at least one or two you had forgotten. After all, "unforgettable" is a pretty bold claim, and there's a reason few games are proud enough to make it. They may be pleasant enough diversions while you're experiencing them, but are ultimately as transitory as the scent of orange blossoms on the breeze. Quest for the Crown, by contrast, is not a breeze but a gale — racing down from the frigid peak of a mountain to blast you wide awake from your gaming funk and make you realise the brilliancy of the world you've been missing all along. And maybe — just maybe — change the way you look at the RPG genre forever.
Quest for the Crown is an incredible achievement, on many levels. The simple title — so evocative of the simpler times we all yearn for — is deceptive, for therein lies a behemoth of an adventure, ready to pull you under with the implacable force of a tidal wave. A tidal wave of fantasticosity. In the tradition of Tolkien, Quest for the Crown is a story about an unlikely hero up against incredible odds, thrust out into an unforgiving wilderness with only his sword — and his faith — to stand against the forces of darkness that would overrun the land like ink spreading across the pure white linen of a nun's whimple.
Perhaps to make up for the at times overwhelming story and break-neck pacing, Quest for the Crown has made it's controls as simple as possible. You navigate with the arrow or [WASD] keys, and hold down the , [ctrl], [L], and [NUM LOCK] keys to execute your special Worldbreaker attack, which should be saved for one of the many climactic boss battles, which are set to occur based on the questions you'll answer at the end of the game's extensive tutorial. The downside is that while there are six different weapons to acquire throughout the course of the game, you'll likely find that the sword the game starts you off with will be just as effective as the Planar Thunderhammer, if not quite as flashy.
Analysis: Quest for the Crown is not exactly a new game, coming quietly onto the scene in 2003, and a lack of budgeting for advertising meant it saw little play beyond it's dedicated following. It was also hindered by the fact that it was more than a little ahead of it's time, and even some newer machines had trouble running it. Even today, I find my processor still chugs with effort on some of the more graphic-intensive cutscenes.
One aspect of the game that might frustrate more casual players is the creator's apparent inability to make any fight anything less than a teeth-gnashing, bloody-knuckled, scraped-knee challenge. Even standard monster encounters on the map require a degree of strategy and occasionally what appears to be blind luck. It's good to feel like you're working for your achievements, especially when the end result is as satisfying as Quest for the Crown is, but the difficulty curve starts off the scale and stays there, like a cow in the middle of a dirt road.
Thankfully, combat is secondary in the game to the plot itself, which is often sorely neglected even in other so-called RPG titles. I can't remember the last time I grew so attached to a cast of characters, and the depth of characterisation put into even the main villain — here voiced by the always wonderful Ian McKellen, whose performance practically oozes sepulchral menace from your speakers — is really impressive. Unfortunately, most of us will see the plot-twist midway through the game coming about a mile away, but it still doesn't take the emotional impact away from a truly inspired scene, scripted, of course, by the well-known A. Bear.
I know I've been more than a little vague in regards to some aspects of the story, and I almost feel like I should apologise for it... but I can't. We've all had things spoiled for us in the past, whether it be the end of a book or someone telling you that the Cadbury bunny isn't really leaving that candy all over your yard every year, and I can't be responsible for that this time. Quest for the Crown is one of those rare games that actually feels important — not just because it sets a new benchmark for quality, but because of the things it's brave enough to say about life, love, friendship, and courage. It requires a bit more of a commitment in time than most other games we feature here, but ultimately, I think, you'll find it well worth it.