Right, who remembers Heroquest then? For the uninitiated – or those that just haven’t watched Bardic Broadcast’s transcendent video – Heroquest was slightly dungeony, mildly dragonish 1989 board game released by Milton Bradley, in conjunction with Games Workshop. It used simple rules and concepts to get kids hooked on miniature gaming early, so GW employees could later push overpriced plastic sprues of steroid marines like crystal meth barons with terrible social skills. Also, it completely worked, because it was awesome.
Dark Quest 2 pays loving homage to Heroquest. The grid based movement on interlocking dungeon tiles. The invisible dice rolls. The typical party line up of hench, dumb bastards with axes and svelte, smug bastards with bows. The monster art. The main bad wizard dude. The name. I could go on. It does offer a considerable advantage over Heroquest, though, because you need neither space nor friends to play it. So, how does it hold up?
It’s actually surprisingly relaxing. Not that you can’t get carved/magicked/bouldered/spike-trapped to death if you’re not careful, but the penalty for dying is so low that exploring these miniature dungeons never feels particularly punishing.
During quests, you’ll collect gold, treasure, and small blue vases. The small blue vases are used to grant your characters extra abilities such as spells and damage boosts. Gold is for everything else. New equipment, potions, healing between quests, you know, hero stuff. If you need to resurrect any fallen heroes, you take them to a cheery lad named The Gravedigger, and he takes some of your gold. It’s always a percentage – 20% for example – so you can always afford it. This gives you a bit of breathing room to explore without too much worry of failure, and it’s honestly pretty chill. Move around. Click on some goblins. Cast some horrific, cursed magic. It’s nice.
The aim in each dungeon is to find the exit. So you kill things, navigate traps, pull levers. You know, dungeon stuff. It’s about as paint by numbers as fantasy gets, but it’s not trying to rewrite the rules, and I’m honestly down with it. It gives the impression of having a sense of humour about itself without trying to fling any sort of meta into your eyeballs like a sticky mess of self awareness.
The soundtrack occasionally veers into ridiculously self indulgent epic guitar solos and you’re all like, yes, yes I did just score a critical hit against this orc, I deserve this fanfare, I deserve to feel this good about my clicking abilities. Again, it’s nice. There are ‘skulls of fate’ on pedestals littered around that have random battle effects like healing you or hurting your enemies, and there are also traps, so dungeons can be pretty varied. There are occasional secret rooms with treasure. You know, dungeon stuff. It’s nice.
There’s a level editor included alongside the main quest, so it makes for a pretty nifty little package altogether. There’s also multiplayer, although it’s pretty fun just to click on things alone. If you’re in the market for some Heroquest nostalgia, or just something to play on a coffee break, it’s an enjoyable distraction, with a surprising amount of depth once you get into the various hero abilities. It’s loveable, in a word. You can feel the love that went into it, and get a sense of love emanating from the decomposing skeletons and murderous goblins. Lovely.