Beast Quest Review – All Bark and No Bite (PS4)
Beast Quest is yet another title in the long line of video games adapted from books. Having access to a veritable well of source material has been a blessing for some of these titles, and a curse for others; it’s not easy to live up to the expectations of fans who have been following these literary franchises for years. In the case of Beast Quest, it’s been kicking around in paperback form for over a decade, which should (in theory) set the groundwork for an incredibly compelling narrative. In practice, it’s incredibly obvious that most of the magic is missing.
I Walk A Lonely Road
Beast Quest is marketed as a role-playing game, but it feels more derivative than innovative. This could be because of the immediate Legend of Zelda comparisons that it seems to go out of its way to invoke within the first 5 minutes—you’re acquainted with the concept of four great beasts that have been corrupted, and your job is to don a blue tunic and to give ‘em hell. A long-dead father who was once a hero and the attentions of a scatter-brained elderly wizard are the usual stereotypes who make their appearance, but that’s about all the background you get before being sent on your journey.
And what a hell of a journey. It’s about as linear as adventures come, which is definitely not a bad thing in itself. However, what’s less captivating is how you’re forcefully pushed along through woodlands, ice fields, and jumping puzzles in pursuit of a single goal without more than your initial cursory explanation. The Beast Quest books are squarely aimed at kids, but they’ve got to be at least somewhat compelling for them to reach the acclaim that they have in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the game appears to be a much less meaty product than the original when it comes to exploring these tales of a wannabe knight.
For all the talk about you being the chosen one and a hero, there’s surprisingly little for you to do in the world of Avantia. You’re unceremoniously forced to pursue a number of elemental monsters, and from the word “go,” it’s one extended sequence of running and fighting that tops out at around 8 hours. The monotony is somewhat broken up by the fact that you can occasionally call on someone for aid when a pack of oversized lizards is looking particularly tough, but outside of a 3-second combat animation, you’re largely left to wander around unsupervised.
Beast Quest clearly hasn’t learned anything from Pokemon; the latter’s story about children roaming free without parental guidance wouldn’t have sold nearly as well if not for the fact that it had novel character concepts and fun combat. Predictably, neither make an appearance here. The last-generation graphics would have been excusable if they were an intentional aesthetic choice that added some sort of meaning to the whole affair. However, injecting AAA realism into these proceedings would have only served to draw unwanted attention to the many interchangeable characters populating the world.
Gotta Fight Them All
You’ve got the opportunity to traverse through many a worn-down town as the hero of the hour. These occasional pit stops would have been a great chance to learn a little more about Avantia, and about how people’s lives have been affected by the rampaging monsters that you’re putting down. Apart from a cute side quest about bringing someone’s pet rock out for an adventure, there was very little to be gleaned from talking to anyone. If glitching into the bodies of the people that you’re talking to wasn’t annoying enough, wait until you realize that they’ve got absolutely nothing of worth to offer you in terms of inspired dialogue or useful items.
If we gave Beast Quest the benefit of the doubt and generously assumed that the studio had spent its budget on coming up with compelling enemies, then we’d have had to prepare for disappointment yet again. You’re given a handful of basic enemy models to work with: wolves, birds, lizards, golems, and the occasional humanoid figure. The game sprinkles in elemental effects from zone to zone to add the illusion of variety, but that’s about it.
Adding to the chronic lack of enemy diversity is the fact that combat is a bigger snoozefest than a podiatrist’s waiting room. You’ve got the option to duck, weave (albeit clunkily), block, and to half-heartedly slash at the foes that throw themselves against your shield. You can get extra fancy and hold down button to charge up a whirling slash attack which once again evokes a visceral image of Link, doing Beast Quest no favours.
Once you beat up a couple of goblins, you start acquiring ability points to dump into elemental skills that will make quick work of pretty much everything else. Sure, they’ve slapped a skill tree onto combat for some semblance of progression but it’s not nearly as impactful as it should have been; you only really need two skills out of the twenty or so that you can unlock to ensure certain victory. Spending 80% of your time playing whack-a-mole with enemies that would be defeated by an errant leaf in the wind ends up being quite the letdown considering the lack of other activities for you to occupy your time in-game with.
Is This Just Fantasy?
Yes, the source material of Beast Quest is undoubtedly geared towards children. However, plenty of games can cater towards a younger audience without being entirely devoid of meaningful entertainment. The world of Avantia was initially quite captivating, even though the comparisons to other bigger franchises were omnipresent. It would have been nice to learn about the land before the monsters went wild, or about the motivations of the sole villainous figure. It would have been even better to have some sort of resolution for your character’s poorly-masked issues to do with father figures. Alas, that was not to be.
It’s not the dated graphics. It’s not the inexplicably long loading screens. It’s not even the fact the hammy voice acting, or the fact that the game has a pretty steep price point considering what it has to offer. The main thing that stands out in Beast Quest is the lost potential of what it could have been: a rich, engaging RPG about a young knight finding his feet in a magical world. It wouldn’t have reinvented the wheel, but it could have at least tried to give us something more to work with than the bare bones of a game from the 2000s.
Beast Quest review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on a PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.