Pixel Quest RPG: Slow and Incomplete
By reading the description for Pixel Quest RPG, you can tell that the developer had some high aspirations. Advertising itself as an “retro RPG game with modern sandbox gameplay experience” you could be forgiven for thinking Pixel Quest was an attempt to make an 8-bit Elder Scrolls game. If that was the intention, or even if it was to simply make an interesting RPG, Pixel Quest fails miserably.
There is a large open world, in that there is no guiding force telling you where to go and what to do, but the sandbox aspect is a paper thin facade. A lack of direction does not equal a sandbox experience. During my attempts to play through the game before a game killing bug prevented any further progression, I was never once let loose on the world, nor did I ever have more than two quests at a time. In order to advance as far as I did (which took a ton of time due to an extremely slow “grinding” system) you have to complete quests in the exact order you receive them (technically you can choose the order of the first two quests you want to complete, but they both must be completed before you can get the third quest, and that quest must be completed before the fourth quest and so on.) Simply because the game forces you to figure this out on your own instead of giving hints on what you should do next does not make the game an open sandbox experience in any significant way, it is almost completely linear. A constricted world by itself wouldn’t be a game breaker, but an overly simplistic battle system, a lack of player progression, a frustrating reward system, an overall feeling of “incompleteness” and a multitude of bugs both large and small prevent Pixel Quest from capitalizing on its big game ambitions.
First, calling Pixel Quest an RPG is slightly misleading. Granted, you do fight in a turned based system, you do take quests and you do obtain items to improve your character. It is what you don’t do, however, that makes Pixel Quest incredibly shallow. There are no experience points in the game. Save for the items you equip, your character never becomes more powerful than it is at the start of the game. This would be fine except that there are hardly any items in the game, and the items you do buy can’t be sold back later, creating a very linear progression. Since each battle in the beginning areas of the game only nets one or two pieces of gold, getting a powerful enough weapon to advance beyond the first area is tedious. If there was some sort of EXP system that rewarded you for your efforts, it might not feel as repetitive but, without that progression, it is difficult to not feel as you are doing the same thing over and over.
The battle system lacks depth or uncertainty, you have a set amount of cards that can be clicked on to use. Your basic attack starts out with 100 uses and can be freely refreshed, all other cards have to be obtained by purchasing them or completing quests. There are no randomization elements to battles and if you have defeated an enemy previously, doing the same thing will cause the battle to unfold exactly as the previous one. This causes battles to boil down to mindlessly mashing a card until the battle ends with no questions as to how it is going to turn out. After a battle you will be rewarded with an arrow spinner “mini-game” that will determine how much gold or diamonds, the game’s other currency, is obtained. This hardly exciting, but is often the only unknown aspect going into a battle.
There are a few interesting aspects to Pixel Quest that could be interesting if they the balancing issues were rectified. You can mine for gold or bronze ore, using the same spinner system used for battles, that can then be sold for cash or forged into golden and bronze bars, which are slightly more valuable. The problem is the risk/reward system is out of balance. Each gold and bronze ore is worth four and two pieces of gold respectively, each bar is worth ten and five pieces of gold, but each bar takes two ore to produce, and since each attempt at making the bars has a good chance to result in failure you are basically risking eight or four pieces of gold to gain two or one. There is a crafting system and it is the most intriguing part of the Pixel Quest experience, but there are far too few recipes, they are difficult to find and gathering the materials requires more tedious grinding.
The game feels unfinished, the developer claims the world is “vast and alive” but the few places that you can visit are filled with two or three static characters who will either say one thing or give you a quest and then never say anything at all again. There are random invisible walls that require you to move around them, as well as more serious glitches that break the game entirely. The developer has been promising a “big update/patch” that will add more quests and fix some of the problems, but I have my doubts. Regardless, the Googleplay marketplace isn’t meant to be a Beta testing ground for developers, especially if you are charging for the game.
There have been some who have defended the developer based on the price of the game and the disclaimer that there is an update coming soon. That does not excuse releasing an incomplete and nearly empty game and claiming that it is, and charging as if it were, a finished product. The world isn’t filled with people asking for your help, and the crafting and forging aspects aren’t interesting, they barely work. Pixel Quest is not a good start to something the developer can fix later, it needs another year of full development and is at best a $1.50 Alpha version of a shallow RPG with a shallow battle system. If you are completely out of other games to buy on the Google Play store, and you are determined to get some entertainment, the game could take up a lot of your time, but its more likely you will quit playing before long.