HIGH A fantastically compact faux-boardgame experience.

LOW Struggling to find an optimal use case for the Dwarf.

WTF That’s really how it ends, eh?

Back in 1990, I came across a board game from Milton Bradley called HeroQuest. Everything it required came in one box, it had a lot of cool-looking miniatures, and its design was simpler and more approachable than Dungeons & Dragons – a huge plus when the only person I could regularly play with was a little brother four years younger. Although I haven’t gotten it out of storage in many, many years, I still look back on it quite fondly.

Jump ahead 29 years.

I started playing Dark Quest 2 on a whim – I knew nothing about it, but the screenshots suggested something turn-based that might be good on the go. Within just a few minutes of playing, I was strongly reminded of HeroQuest even though I hadn’t thought about it in ages — an extremely good quality, and I was hooked immediately.

Imagine my surprise when I did a little research and found that the similarity was no accident – it was intended as a direct homage to that wonderful boardgame from so long ago. However, appreciating Dark Quest 2 isn’t dependent on familiarity with HeroQuest — it’s more than capable of standing on its own as a micro-scale tactics RPG, and one that feels right at home on the Switch.

There’s not much of a story here, so let’s get that out of the way first — an evil wizard has taken residence in a nearby castle and a group of heroes need to go and roust him. The end. Suffice it to say, narrative is not a reason to come to Dark Quest 2, but that’s quite all right since the gameplay is strong enough to support the entire experience.

Dark Quest 2 is broken down into two main areas. The first is a central hub town where the player can buy items, choose their starting character, later recruit others, and take care of a few other matters like stocking up on health potions and such. It’s slight but functional, and meant to get adventurers back into the other half of the game — the dungeons — as quickly as possible.

Once in a dungeon, the action is shown from an isometric perspective. The first few forays will be solo, starring whichever character the player initially selects. The starting group consists of Barbarian, Knight, Archer, Wizard and Monk (PROTIP: choose Barbarian) with a Dwarf available after being unlocked via the adventure.

First and foremost, what I like about Dark Quest 2 is the elegance. Everything is wonderfully small-scale and discrete, mirroring the qualities of the boardgame that it’s inspired by. The player’s party is never larger than three characters at a time, the skill trees for each character are quite simple, and the general idea of ‘kill everything that moves’ is easy one to grasp. However, what makes it such an enjoyable play are the characters.

While each one initially seems like a generic fantasy stereotype, there are little twists to each of them that make playing with party composition and planning individual actions interesting and satisfying. The Archer has an ability that often lets her get free attacks on enemies when first entering a room. The Knight tanks damage, and for every injury, she heals a teammate. The Wizard can clone multiple copies of himself and pelt enemies with magic missiles from across the room, and the Monk… Well, he utters a magic word and the chosen enemy simply falls down dead.

There’s no random generation here — each level is handcrafted to put the player in specific combat scenarios. Kill all enemies here, rescue survivors there, find an object or figure out a way through a labyrinthian set of hallways. The variety in dungeoneering is solid, there are a multitude of little surprises scattered throughout, and what makes it even better is that the rules of play apply fairly to both the player characters and enemies alike. If the big bad of the next dungeon is too tough for a straight fight, finding a loophole by bringing the right character, equipping a combo of gear or drinking the right potions feels as rewarding as getting one over on an arch Dungeon Master in real life.    

While Dark Quest 2 holds an extra level of appeal for people who played HeroQuest back in the day, it’s still a wonderfully compact package perfect for those who enjoy virtual boardgames or bite-sized adventures on the go. I actually kept playing once I’d rolled credits, and for me, that’s just about the highest praise I can give.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Brain Seal Entertainment. It is currently available on PC, PS4, XBO and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. This game offers local co-op on the Switch, but no time was spent in that mode.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Violence, Blood and Use of Tobacco. Monsters get whacked with swords but nothing is especially bloody or gruesome, it’s pretty standard fare for the fantasy genre. If a kid can figure out how to play this, I think they’re safe to do so.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the entire game on mute and had no problems. All dialogue comes via text and there are no audio cues necessary for play. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable, and there is no control diagram. The cursor is moved by the left stick or the d-pad. L and R switches between characters. A confirms choices, B cancels, X brings up a spells/abilities menu when in battle. ZL ends a player’s turn.

Brad Gallaway
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