Behind every great hero stands a figure clothed in robes and bathed in light. Patient, determined and often derided the healer is an essential part of any RPG team. As a walking fountain of vitality it is the healer’s duty to ensure the survival of their comrades no matter how in-experienced or mentally deficient.
Healer’s Quest is a light-hearted tribute to all the clerics, shamans and druids of the RPG world that allows players to “Walk a mile in their shoes” and experience the suffering that is being a healer. The game’s comedic tone is set from the beginning with the player being questioned about their play style and willingness to accept failure. Depending on the players response the game will either select the easy, normal or hard difficulty and a literal troll will appear to mock the result. From there players can customise their hero or heroines outfit and appearance before selecting a name (which always ends with Y) and picking one of three categories known as “Karma” the result of which determines the players powers and how the world and characters interact with them.
The customisation options are simple and straightforward and I really enjoyed the compliments the game gives for certain style combinations. The range of “Karma” powers is diverse without feeling bloated and accommodates a range of play styles which imitate the many personality types of healers that players may encounter in MMORPG’S, such as the slave driving manager or the quiet but supportive mascot.
Once players have created their healer the game presents a short tutorial that familiarises players with the mechanics of the game and introduces them to a team of non so heroic heroes: Tanky; an aptly named knight on a mission from the king, Grumpy; a barbarian/Lumberjack with an attitude as big as his axe, Darky; a spell caster with a penchant for the opposite sex and Count Rupert von Leetenchtein A.K.A Beauty; an “Elven” ranger along for the ride. Cutscenes are dialogue based, presenting players which a selection of three responses based on their “Karma” category while combat is a real-time game of resource management requiring the balance of team HP against the healer’s mana. Success results in progress while failure results in your team mates delivering insults and derision.
Party members abilities are upgraded through the purchase or looting of better gear while the healer can upgrade their spells by selecting improvements from an ability tree through the use of “stars” that drop at the end of every encounter. The range of spells is concise, covering all the basics from healing to damage reduction to party enhancement while only allowing the use of four spells at any one time.
The demo presents little in the way of story: a young boy discovers a wand and sets out to become a hero only to discover the only power the wand has is the ability to heal. In spite of this lack of story there is much charm in the dialogue. Players that select the “Evil” option will find that their hero is often goaded into healing the party members in spite of their distain for the role and will deliver as many insults as kinder players will receive. Those that select “Good” have a positive outlook in spite of the teams lack of confidence in their abilities and attempts to leave them behind while those that select the “Victim” option are doomed to insults, backhanded comments and snide remarks without reward.
The digitally painted graphics of Healer’s Quest, painstakingly created by Belgian designer and Smurfs animator Pablo Coma (aka Rablo Games), are rendered in a minimalistic, hand painted style are reminiscent of both children’s books and the artistic stylings of online comics such as “Order of the Stick” and “Cyanide and happiness” albeit with greater detail. The backdrops of the levels and world map are vibrant and colourful with a palette almost pastel in its softness. The soundtrack is a classic with beautifully constructed loops inspired by traditional fantasy composers such as Dragon Quest composer Koichi Sugiyama.
While not his first outing Healer’s Quest is a project of passion that combines both Coma’s artistic vision with his love of video games into a project brimming with beauty and humour unseen in the traditional gaming scene. One part artwork, one part meta-humour it tells a story without taking itself seriously or deviating from genre boundaries in an attempt to be unique. As a long time MMO player and part time Healer I appreciate the detail in which the game goes into to present the healers plight and the struggles that they face for the sake of loot and glory.
Healer’s Quest has recently finished a successful fundraising campaign on Kickstarter in addition to successfully receiving Steam Greenlight approval in only eight days, with an estimated release set for January 2017 on PC. If you’re curious, you can check out the Steam page for more, or go download the demo and try it for yourself.
Chris Senz is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2.