"A clever concept can only take a game so far..."
How many of you have played an online RPG? How many of you have been your party's healer in an online RPG? Were there ever times you were taken for granted or victimized for being a healer? Do you like lowbrow humor? If the answer to these questions is yes, then an irreverent little game called Healer's Quest may amuse you for a day or two.
You're a healer (default name: Jimmy or Jenny) coerced into a bungling RPG party consisting of a boastful knight, a potty-mouthed barbarian, a reluctantly bishounen archer, and a lecherous mage, all of whom are unappreciative jerks who don't realize they'd be toast without a healer. There is a rudimentary plot, but it's merely a vehicle to string together comedic hijinks that poke fun at RPG tropes with puerile humor and vulgar language. Healer's Quest is more for grown-ups who still laugh at fart jokes than mature literati who want a poignant treatise on the wrenching struggles of a misunderstood healer. Although I guffaw at my share of bawdy jokes and toilet humor, I found the gags in this game rather trite.
Healer's Quest features a nice little character creator that not only allows you to tweak Jimmy's or Jenny's appearance and name, but their alignment as well. You can choose between Good, Evil, or Victim alignments and select one of several alignment-innate skills to go with it. Dialogue and some gameplay subtleties differ depending on the alignment and/or gender given the character. I tried out both an evil-aligned female healer and a victim-aligned male healer for the first hour of the game, and found the former with a snarky attitude far preferable to play as.
Jimmy/Jenny can learn a wide variety of fantastic spells but can only equip four at a time, giving battles a strategic element. Spells have progression trees, so it's up to the player to decide how to build their character. There is even an option to cancel your most recent spell-tree upgrade to experiment further. The frequent random battles have the appearance of traditional turn-based JRPGs, with heroes on one side and enemies on the other, but everything occurs in semi-realtime similar to Final Fantasy XII. You can only control Jimmy/Jenny's actions and AI controls the other party members. The AI is incompetent, but that's to be expected given the game's theme of being a healer for a party of buffoons. Not only is it important to maintain your MP and be quick on the draw with skills, but you also have to take cooldown and charge-up times into account to keep the party alive.
The game has three difficulty levels (Easy, Normal, and Hard), but even Easy mode is no free ride since random battles can decimate the party if you're careless at resource management. Dying doesn't carry any significant penalties and the game has some convenience features to aid progress, but I did have to grind a fair amount both for EXP and equipment because some boss battles were either downright cheap or only winnable through grinding or dumb luck. The annoyingly frequent encounter rate and lack of a dash button made the game's length feel artificially padded, and it wore out its welcome after a weekend. I had to force myself to spend a few more weekends with the game to see it through and would rather have spent that time doing other tasks. The entire game is not very long, clocking in at about 11-13 hours, but it feels more cumbersome than that length would suggest.
The keyboard and mouse control scheme is a little unconventional and takes some getting used to, but it works for this game. There is no gamepad support, but the more I played the game the more I felt that a gamepad would only be a hindrance. The interface gets the job done, though it should be noted that the game only records progress via auto-saves. While auto-saving is nice, I wanted the ability to manually save as well because I like to save in multiple slots.
Healer's Quest is not an attractive game to look at, due to a washed-out color scheme and downright ugly character models. I know this is a game that doesn't take itself too seriously, but did it have to be so disagreeable to look at? The only graphical detail that amused me was a background sprite of a drunken peasant peeing on the castle walls during the first battle while a guard waited with consternation for him to finish before attempting to arrest him. Other than that, the nondescript locales and painfully repetitive battles looked rather stale to me.
Healer's Quest had the potential to be a brilliant game, and I really wanted to like it, but ultimately I did not. The tired jokes, excessive grinding, high battle encounter rate, laborious progression, and unappealing graphics became unbearable after one weekend. I also have nothing to say about the utterly forgettable music and sound effects. A clever concept can only take a game so far, and unfortunately Healer's Quest lacks the accoutrements to rise beyond mediocrity.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.