Hello, gentle readers, and welcome once again to the RPG Reload, our weekly quest to revisit some golden RPG classics of the App Store. Each week, I take a look at a different previously-released RPG to see how it holds up these days, or just to do a little deeper dig than we normally have a chance to do in our reviews. I try to cover a variety of RPGs from various times and places, but just to keep me from going mad with power, once a month I turn the task of choosing the game over to you, the readers. In fact, what you are reading on your screen right now is the very first Reader's Choice RPG Reload, and your deadly mob justice has proven to have some spectacular taste. Nevertheless, that means it's time for you to do your thing again and cast a vote for the topic of RPG Reload 008 in the comments below or in the Official RPG Reload Club thread in our forums. Feel free to also chime in with your thoughts, anecdotes, and fresh humor.

This week, by your request, we're going to be taking a look at a true mobile classic, The Quest Gold [$7.99]. Plumbing the past isn't a new thing for the RPG Reload, but when it comes to mobile gaming, it's hard to find a more vintage example than this. Making its debut on Pocket PCs somewhere around late 2006, The Quest [$4.99] was created by the Hungarian developer Redshift, a team of just two people who had been developing fantasy RPG games for mobile devices as far back as 2001. Of course, the gaming scene on mobiles wasn't quite as lively back then as it is today, but from what I can gather, the game enjoyed quite a bit of acclaim within Pocket PC circles. The more relevant story for iOS gamers is when The Quest was ported to iPhone in March of 2009. Given its age and relative lack of fame compared to games like Final Fantasy [$8.99], The Quest had to earn every fan it got, but that's something it seems to have no trouble doing.

Photo 2014-09-03, 21 50 30I'm not going to be delving into the game's many expansions in this particular article, as there are literally not enough hours in a week to even cover half of them, but I do want to mention the praiseworthy fact that even this far down the road from its release, The Quest still sees fairly regular expansion packs released courtesy of developer Zarista Games. The newest one, Elemental Asteroids [$2.99], released early this year, and there are still more on the way. Each of these expansions is easily a full-length RPG on its own, and there are 16 of them available on iOS. A person could pretty much fill their gaming urges just by playing The Quest and its various expansions, if they wanted to.

The version I played for this article, The Quest Gold, includes the main game and the first three expansions, Islands of Ice & Fire [$2.99], Hero of Lukomorye I [$1.99], and Hero of Lukomorye II [$1.99]. At only a few dollars more than the game on its own, this is definitely the way to go if you're looking to give The Quest a shot. It offers up around 200 hours of gameplay, and if you're still hungry for more after that, well, it's out there. There's no iPad-native version, but it is optimized for retina displays and the larger screens of the iPhone 5 and up. All told, for such an old app, it's in really good shape in 2014. My hat's off to the developers for maintaining it so well over the years.

Alright, enough talking around The Quest, let's talk about the game itself. If you haven't played it, maybe it's because you've seen the screenshots and though it looked antiquated, or maybe you were scared off by all of the expansion packs, but let me assure you that this game still holds up just as well as ever, and remains one of the best RPG experiences on a mobile device. It feels sprawling and epic, yet perfectly suited for the pick up and play nature of mobiles. You start off by making your character, with quite a few details to choose, then are dumped in or near the first town with your mission in hand. The governor of this land has disappeared, and you've been sent by the king to find out what has happened. That's your first quest, but there will be many more to come before you get a chance to see it through.

Photo 2014-09-03, 21 50 44The Quest is more than a little imposing when you first start. It's hard to know where to begin, and it's easy to get yourself into trouble if you wander in the wrong direction. I know the first-person view is a little scary for some, as well, because it's harder to find your way around compared to a bird's eye or even simple behind-the-back view. At its core, though, The Quest couldn't be more simple. It's all there in the title. You need to seek out quests by talking to people, and solve them. Fill your little book with things to do, then start crossing them off one by one. If you can't seem to survive against the monsters you face while trying to complete a quest, or you can't persuade the person you need to, go do something else for a while. It's okay. There are plenty of other quests to take care of. When the quests start to dry up, you know it's time to move on to the next town. If you're enterprising, however, you can always head to the next town early. Nothing is stopping you except some potentially deadly encounters.

This quest-based structure is both engaging and satisfying. If you have a lot of time, you can hunker down on take on a bunch of quests, or work on a more complex one. If you've only got a little time, you can handle a shorter quest or simply make preparations for something bigger. Even heading outside of the town and finding a monster to kill will be beneficial in some way. You can save anywhere, you can plop down a tent and heal almost anywhere, and with multiple save slots available, you can make tons of saves without worrying that you're painting yourself into a corner that you'll forget how to get out of by the next time you play. All of this adds up to something that is easy to take out and play anytime, and for this last week, that's pretty much what I did.

The Quest could have hung its hat on these basic mechanics, called it a day, and still come away as a pretty fun game, but what makes the game feel truly special is all the work that went into making the world feel alive. Heroes are often judged by their appearance, so you'd best make sure your gear isn't just practical, but also fabulous. Various plants and flowers grow all over the place, waiting to be plucked and ground in a pestle to create various potions and concoctions. The innkeeper is all too happy to play a game of cards with you if you want to do a little gambling. Sometimes your cunning plan to recover health by camping out can be spoiled by a rainstorm. Day slips into night, when shops are closed, citizens are off the streets, and dark windows at the rear of buildings can be smashed by the less scrupulous for the prizes contained within. Perhaps you want to partake of some of the many ladies of the night who populate the cities? You can, but you'll likely catch a disease, so be careful. Oh, and if you run afoul of the law, you'd best be ready to pay the fine or spend some real time in jail, tarnishing both your reputation and your stats in one fell swoop.

Photo 2014-09-03, 21 50 17The game gives you a great deal of agency in how it unfolds, and you'll often come across quests that are at odds with each other. You'll have to throw in with one party or the other, and there's no going back once you've made a choice. I mean, unless you kept an extra save file. There's often more profit in doing the wrong thing, and doing the right thing can sometimes hurt your reputation if it appears to be the wrong thing to the general populace. Certain choices can block off your access to other quests, too, so you might want to think very carefully about bedding that Amazon Queen you were sent to kill, for example. Your choices can even influence what equipment you can make use of, with certain artifacts meant only for the pure or stained of heart.

Speaking of equipment, that's another thing The Quest excels at. There is an absolutely staggering amount of items in this game, including various types of weapons, armor, magic wands, scrolls, potions, food, books, jewels, ingredients, and more. This great spread of treasure makes for great motivation to kill monsters or explore dungeons. There's a lot of cool stuff to be found if you poke around in the right places, items that will give you a serious leg up on some of the more challenging fights in the game. On the other hand, if you can't find a cool magical item, you can always make one yourself by paying an enchanter to give a piece of gear the boost of your choice. Just make sure you don't slack on keeping it all in shape, because worn out gear isn't much use to anyone. You can either pay a blacksmith to restore it, or learn the skill to do it yourself.

Another thing I enjoy is how tense the battles can be in this game. The monsters sometimes have a very stiff advantage over you, and you need to plan accordingly if you expect to survive. Mages are squishy, to be sure, but only if you get close enough to squish them, and magic hurts really badly from very far away. Make sure you quaff an magic resistance potion in advance. If you plan on going toe-to-toe with a cyclops, you're going to find out why they've stuck around so long in myths, so pack plenty of health pick-me-ups. You might think your armor is tough enough to survive a confrontation with an undead skeleton champion, but you should probably give yourself a casting of stoneskin, just in case. Know your escape route, try not to get cornered or ganged up on, and in short, be smart if you want to live. The enemies aren't all that bright, but what they lack in brains, they tend to make up for in numbers and sheer relentlessness.

Photo 2014-09-03, 21 50 06If that's all not enough, we've even got dungeons, beautiful dungeons, full of monsters and puzzles, all with a nice automap feature so you can leave your graph paper at home. So many RPGs these days skimp on the dungeon designs, and it leaves a hole in my heart, friends. At least in the base game, The Quest's dungeons rarely go too big, but they're still enjoyable tests of your abilities to survive in dangerous conditions and piece together clues. There's a certain feeling of claustrophobic dread that creeps in when you set foot in a dungeon in this game, even if it turns out to not be a particularly dangerous one. Finishing any of these is almost always worth your while in terms of treasure, on top of simply being a good time.

I could probably keep going on here, but let's keep this to a reasonable couple thousand words or so instead. The Quest is basically a massive RPG adventure sandbox, with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of things to do. It lets you make your own way through the game, and provides enough things to play around with that you really will feel like your game is your own. On top of that, it's been well-supported, and there's an unreal amount of extra content to pick up even if you do manage to finish up Gold. The engine's a bit old and the graphics aren't the type to win you over in stills, and maybe not even in motion, but the actual nuts and bolts of the game are still well beyond what almost any other RPG on the App Store offers. Once I got into the rhythm, I truly could not stop finding excuses to play it this past week, and when I wasn't playing it, I was often thinking about playing it. In my opinion, The Quest Gold is a very strongly recommended RPG reload.

What do you think about it? This was the overwhelming winner of the first reader vote, so I know there's a lot of love here for the game. Please share that love in the comments below, or in the Official RPG Reload Club thread. Also, don't forget to start voting for the game you'd like to see in the next reader's choice feature, RPG Reload File 008. No voting for The Quest again! We might revisit the game for some of its expansions down the road, but for now, let's allow some other games to get their time in the sun. As for me, I'll be back next week with another great RPG from the App Store archives. Thanks for reading!

Next Week's Reload Hint: September is here, time to go back to school!

  • lll Anubis lll

    Man. This is one game I'll always remember. When I first got my iPod2G, this was one of the first games I played on it. I've revisited this game so many times, it is a classic. I really wish they would make a Quest 2. I think I talked to them on a forum and they said they were, but I could've just dreamt that.

    • swisssk8er1

      They are making a Quest 2. It's coming next year!

      • lll Anubis lll

        Really? I wasn't dreaming? Awesome! I figure that even if I wasn't dreaming it would take a few years.

      • swisssk8er1

        Yes. It sounded unreal to me too that it's coming so soon. You can read about The Quest 2 on Redshift's forums. There are also some new textures and sprites from The Quest 2 posted there.

      • lll Anubis lll

        Awesome, thank you my savior!

  • PoloBaquerizoH

    Great article Shaun! Definitely an underrated but valuable RPG game, only for the true's RPg's fans

  • MrAlbum

    Sooo.... Solomon's Keep or Solomon's Boneyard for Reload 008, anyone? I have yet to find something on the App Store quite like what Raptisoft developed. They combined a dark visual aesthetic w/ flashy spell effects (which makes spells pop out from surroundings), a sarcastic tone to the minimal writing and plot, randomized character development that adds depth to a simple action RPG system, and one of the most RAEG-inducing and trollish villain voices I have ever heard. The games are hours of fun and are very challenging, especially when you get up there in terms of hours played, where you start to see the synergies between certain skills, start experimenting with fusing spell types, and do everything you can to be one step ahead of your ruthless enemies (POISON ARCHERS! GODDAMN THOSE POISON ARCHERS! ;) ).

    Plus, Boneyard's perk system is brilliant, and is balanced perfectly to earn exactly what you need to unlock your favorite perks by grinding in the game without using any IAP, of which there are three: 1 for 10,000 gold, 2 lets you bribe destiny and is very powerful, and 3 is a "tip jar" for the devs in case you like their game enough to want to pay more but don't want to gain a sudden power increase. The IAP is minimal, completely optional, and a great concession for players who do not enjoy the grind as much as other players.

    • LanceAvion

      I vouch for Solomon's Boneyard!!! Brilliant twin stick game. I haven't really given Solomon's Keep a chance, but Boneyard is brilliant.

    • Tonk Montana

      I would also love to see a review of either of these games, particularly Solomon's Keep. They still remain the gold standard for me for dual-stick shooters and RPG progression. There was no pointless grinding to advance without IAP, the enemies were varied and challenging and most importantly, the game skills and customization were so much fun to use and play around with. Please give this the review it deserves.

  • LanceAvion

    Good, good. I vouched for The Quest way back on the Chaos Rings RPG Reload. There's a huge paragraph there in the comments if you want to check haha.

    I surprised this wasn't mentioned, but The Quest is like an old school TES game, specifically Daggerfall. While some mechanics are different, especially combat, The Quest could have easily been a forerunner to Skyrim if it was released by Bethesda years ago (with their lore of course).

    • Shaun Musgrave

      I can't lie, although I did play Daggerfall a fair bit when it came out, most of that was just stripping my character naked and doing anything/everything I could to grief NPCs. Probably not the best thing for me to call back to in an article, haha.

      • anabolicMike

        I did that in wow. Made a gnome named mileycyrus and ran around naked. I got tons of free crap. This was like five or so years ago too

      • LanceAvion

        Haha I'm sure everyone's done something like that once in a while.

  • Atomos

    I have eyed this for years but never took the plunge. I am now sold. I vote for Zenonia 1 for the next RPG though.

  • http://www.tennoe.no/ Bjørn Tennøe

    Played the first campaign, loved it and played it again. Same double playthrough with the second campaign. I didn't dare trying the third one as I felt the Quest had already claimed too much of my time :-)

  • evildonald

    As an admin of the "The Quest" wiki, I invite you to come over for lots of tips, a complete map to the first adventure and tips on surviving the "Mithria Dash"!

    (http://thequest.wikia.com/wiki/The_Quest_Wiki)

  • KBPrinceO

    Closest thing to skyrim that you'll ever find on your phone.

  • pajman sarafzadeh

    Hi Shaun,

    loved your right up.

    This is one of the many games i bought, played for 20 minutes and moved on. It looked blah but played really well. I enjoyed the little time I had for it and found the writing and story telling really special.

    I so much wish I had had the time to give this thing a run for its money. Definitly more than meets the eye.

  • TrencH

    This kind of game reminds me if classics like the old school Might and Magic games, cloth maps and d & d. It's one of the big reasons I became a gamer and what started my loot hunts.

    A great game for this article and one of the MANY reasons why i love Touch Arcade!

    • Quickmix

      Dungeon Master and Bloodwych :)

  • curtisrshideler

    Great Reload. Got The Quest back in 2006 on my Pocket PC I think. Such a good game. When I got it again on my iPhone I forgot how hard and overwhelming it could be. Doesn't really hold your hand. But, I'm giving it another shot. I ended up beating QuestLord because it was a more pixely easier version of this.

    Since we're heading into Autumn, and you've already covered one of my Autumn favorites (Chrono Trigger), I'll also throw Costume Quest out there. It's not hard, or classic per se, but it's perfect for heading into October!

  • Ashish Singh

    Please download my new free puzzle game, and let me know the feedback

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/one-step-math-fun-challenging/id896411828?ls=1&mt=8

    • Marvin

      boooo, that's not how YOI get downloads

  • Billy Ocean

    I found myself spending a little too much time trying to overcome the navigational inadequacies. Like only being able to enter an area of a city from one way, and only being able to circle around to get to that entrance via one path, and taking multiple laps around a giant city in order to finally realize that. Also, some of the quests were a little obtuse - it's one thing to be tricky and require some thought to figure out what to do next, but it's bad when you know what you're supposed to be doing and something (like it isn't quite the right minute of the day) is preventing you from progressing. In my opinion, too many obstacles exist to actually playing the game. Mostly I'm putting in extra time digging past these impracticalities in order to uncover the actual game part of the game. I don't think that celebrating bad interfaces and game systems because they remind us of days of old is a good thing. I'd rather put time and energy into the challenges presented by the gameplay, not into overcoming bad design.

    • Shaun Musgrave

      Some good points there, especially with regards to the sometimes-obtuse puzzle solutions. As for navigation, last week I played through a dungeon crawler with a software keyboard, so this felt like a nice step up. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • Jinx1337

      Thats why there's a shortcut to the game's official forums in the upper right corner when you play.

      I love how active the community is in helping each other.

  • lr1919

    Great write-up. How about Mission Europa for a reload?

  • Annii

    I'm really intrigued by this. Does anyone know how it looks on iPad mini?

  • PlaystationPaul

    Had this and the expansions in my watch list forever, waiting till it goes on sale again or I've got the time to invest in it, whichever comes sooner.

  • Hex Blade

    I bought The Quest a few years back when i was looking for a Dungeon Master type game. I didnt get too far in back then, but ive only just gone back to it this week on my iPad, which plays surprisingly well considering the games not designed for the device.

  • thecomichunter

    Reload 008 vote = Ash

  • PerfectTommy

    I bought this game based on this review. Only a short ways in but not disappointed! Thanks TA!

  • Kenan2000

    Long live the quest!

  • doublezz

    I find myself has stopped playing any game without controller support

  • TimTim92

    Would TOTALLY throw money on this, if it was a bit cheaper! $4.99 on sale is SOLD!
    I only buy on sale now.

    • Shaun Musgrave

      Well, there's only ever been one sale on this app, and that was three and a half years ago, so I wouldn't hold my breath. Luckily, you can buy The Quest without the expansions bundled for $4.99.

      • TimTim92

        Very, very true, but I would love me some expansions! lol Ughh, the decisions of a cheap iOS gamer. :P

  • Shaun Musgrave

    One thing I love about writing these is learning about a couple of RPGs I overlooked every week. Thanks for comments, folks!

  • anabolicMike

    Keep it up Shawnita! These RPG posts are fun! Go check out king of dragon pass! Little different but hella wild. I bought this quest gold btw. Gonna pour some time in it!

  • TimTim92

    Well! Ladies and gents, I ended up buying this game (Gold Edition) and I will probably be stuck playing it for a long, long time now. :P
    I don't think the price is going anywhere, so you all might as well scoop this one up regardless, like I did. No regrets!

  • Andrew Fretz

    Finally got around to reading. UGH Stop making me want to play games, Musgrave!!