Mad Nords: Probably an Epic Quest is a console-style roleplaying game from indie developer, Dragon’s Games. It’s been on Steam in Early Access since August and based on the initial four to five month estimate, should be released sometime in the next month or two. It’s currently in a very playable state.
Status: Early Access
Developer Dragon’s Games
Publisher: Dragon’s Games
Genre: Old-school parody RPG
Release date: 23rd August, 2016
The game plays like any console-style RPG, with world, town, and multi-level building maps (dungeons), random encounters, attack gauges, abilities, and an inventory with a handful of different slots in which you can equip items. If you’ve played an early Final Fantasy or any other traditional console RPG, or any of the plethora of RPG Maker games on Steam these days, you’ll be familiar with the options available to you. Where Mad Nords differs is in its sense of humour.
You begin by selecting one of nine classes for your character, three classes based on each of the three professions of warrior, rogue, and wizard. I chose to be a Cornomancer — one of the wizard classes — but some of the others are equally weird and silly. The game proper begins then, and I found myself in a conversation with my lovely wife, who demanded that I not only clear out the cellar of some rather dangerous worms, but that I also go and find some cucumbers so that she could make her mother a nice cucumber salad.
Although not exactly the sort of quest I’m used to in a role-playing game, off I set on my quest for cucumbers, which, it turns out, are not that easy to find in the world of Mad Nords. Now, hours of game time and a handful of equally odd side quests completed, I don’t really feel any closer to finding the elusive cucumbers, but my Cornomancer has become a lot more powerful, and met some interesting characters along the way.
The game is played entirely with the mouse, although you can use the keyboard for hot keys if you really want to. Clicking the left mouse button on the ground or map moves your character there, while clicking on a person, item, or other interactive object interacts with him, her, or it. The interface works well, but unfortunately there’s not a whole lot of variation to what you’ll find in the various locations, so you’ll quickly work out that you can ignore most of the flavour items on screen. It’s worthwhile chatting to everyone at least once, though; you’ll have some intelligent conversations.
Combat is timed, with you and your enemy having certain attack gauges that fill up and become available with time. You have an attack gauge and an ability gauge, the latter of which uses mana, and clicking on one of the gauge icons either launches the relevant attack if the gauge is full, or wastes some of the time in the gauge if it’s not full, so it pays to wait and learn the timing well. You also have a defense gauge that fills up much more quickly, with the idea being that you can activate your defense as the enemy attacks, thereby blocking the attack. I’ve managed to do it sometimes, but the timing can be tight and some enemies don’t have very obvious tells to indicate when they’re about to attack, so it can be pretty hit and miss (haha). Combat is quite fun, though, especially once you’ve gone up a level or two and have some abilities, equipment, and potions in your inventory, so each encounter doesn’t feel like so much of a life and death gamble.
Inventory management is made easy in spite of the relatively small inventory by the game telling you up front which items are just flavour and can be sold, and which ones can be equipped or used, or are quest related. Flavour items can be sold directly from the inventory, thanks to a handy gadget given to you by your merchant neighbour shortly after you start, so there’s no carting loot back and forth between dungeons and shops. Oh, and once you start racking up some gold you can buy some lovely items from the blacksmiths in the various towns, too.
The story is the main draw for me, though. I enjoy RPGs and have played them a lot, and comedy RPGs are fairly few and far between. Based on some of the comments NPCs make in particular, Mad Noords seems to have been developed by people with a similar love for RPGs. There’s a lot of text in the game, but I would guess that the developers are not native English speakers. The game can be played in Russian, Ukrainian, and English, and unfortunately the English text is rather rough and could really use the touch of an experienced editor or proof reader. There are countless grammar errors and not-quite-right uses of colloquialisms
The game information on Steam says that the Early Access version includes two episodes, while the full release will include one extra episode and more content. If the first cucumber-based episode is anything to go by, there’s reasonable amount of content here already, so if you enjoy the style of the game and the humour, it should keep you busy for some time.
Graphics have some charm to them. They’re sort-of ‘old skool’ pixel graphics, but mostly very clean and well defined, with minor animations that add flavour. The interface is simple and easy to use, and there are no graphics options to speak of: windowed or full screen mode (either bordered or stretched) is all you’ll see.
Mad Nords harks back to classic games with its music, too, with the mostly pleasant tunes reminding me strongly of the days of midi synth music. It’s nice and, although repetitive after a while, I found it easy to listen to and didn’t turn it down or off while playing.
Sound effects are fairly minimal, but suitable. It’s worth mentioning the NPCs’ ‘voices’, too, which sound a bit like slightly demented Sims — very well done.
– An enjoyable console RPG in its own right
– Good sense of humour
– Charming graphics and sound
– Writing quality; it could really do with a proof reader.
– Poor path following makes rooms with traps more frustrating than they should be.
– Some minor bugs: when in full screen, Steam notifications cause some graphic corruption in the bottom right, and the menu button in the bottom left stopped working for me at one point, as if it was opening and then closing the menu again straight away.
Mad Nords: Probably an Epic Quest is charming and humorous, despite the fairly rough writing. It’s a good effort at a tongue-in-cheek console-style RPG with a reasonable amount of content and with a little bit more polish will be a credit to the development team on its release.