Rage Quest: Disciple of Peace (John Ayliff) is a Twine fantasy game about an orcish monk.
It’s designed in a very Choicescript-like way: all the options are rendered as buttons at the bottom of the text, and character stats, displayed as percentile bars, are a big deal. (By having relatively few stats, it makes stat-checking a lot simpler than would be the case in Choicescript – which also draws the stats into the foreground and makes you think about them in their own right, where Choicescript generally encourages you to focus on narrative choices rather than min-maxing.) Even the font choices feel vaguely Choicescriptish. It feels very much like something designed out of a frustration that Choicescript didn’t quite fit the bill in terms of presentation.
I was bored by this game. Really, really bored. It seems the kind of thing that should ideally be replayed a few times, but I didn’t want to deal with a second run.
It doesn’t fail in any big conspicuous way. It’s competent on every level. It doesn’t have cack-handed writing or serious bugs or unfathomably wrong-headed design choices. It’s just that it’s a very conventional fantasy game with one Big Idea that never really grabbed me.
Premise: orcs are a race that are inherently violent and angry, but through lifelong effort they can overcome their basic nature and be peaceful. (This highlights the more racism-derived parts of the orc trope, without really making them any better.) There’s an orc monastery for the purpose, but the humans have attacked and slaughtered everyone but the protagonist.
Rage Quest has one big question, and offers it again and again: give in to your basic orcish nature of anger and violence, or suppress it with monastic discipline? The protagonist doesn’t really have a personality outside that choice. We don’t really get much about the people and the life they lost at the monastery. This made it really hard to care too much about Vengeance, because I don’t really have a sense of personal loss, just of carnage.
And – OK, look. Games violence is stupendously overinflated and has been for a long-ass time. So for example, among fantasy games, Skyrim is generally perceived as a pretty middle-of-the-road tone-wise – not a light cheery game, but not really grimdark either. But it’s also got mutilated corpses everywhere – not just in the lairs of exceptionally bad demons or necromancers, every two-bit bandit has to have an impaled cadaver or five as home decor. You can use gems that capture the souls of your enemies to use as magic batteries, or turn into a werewolf and eat them. The point is that the great majority of its players aren’t regularly horrified, or even particularly disturbed. So a game that’s about anger and violence in a fantasy setting is a kind of difficult thing to pull off; you can’t really make it work by conventional methods, because everybody else is already doing that and nobody cares. And Rage Quest‘s approach is very conventional.
Rather than anger and vengeance, the main feeling I got from Rage Quest was the feeling of being between two cultures and despised by both. That’s potentially more interesting to me; but having introduced it, the game doesn’t really do much except re-iterate it.
A straightforward 4 (from my standards: “represents decent technical and craft skills but the content is really boring”).