Cat Quest (PS4) Review – Purrfect Indie RPG
Platforms: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android
Developer: The Gentlebros
Release: Out right … meow!
Cats, a species that dominated the internet since its beginning, either as cute pictures, videos or even games. After being tormented by hundreds of games solely relying on the cuteness of those furballs rather than good gameplay. While the first trailer made it look like such a type of experience, despite it being published by PQube, playing it for a bit on Gamescom, I quickly saw what makes this game so marvelous and it keeps on impressing until the end.
Given, Cat Quest isn´t particularly strong on the main story, revolving around the catnapped sister and the appearance of dragons around the world, all done by evil, white Drakoth. Having to save his sister, the hero cat goes on an adventure. accompanied by a little, blue guardian spirit. Yet, the game isn´t primarily about beating Drakoth as soon as possible but about the stories forged throughout the journey, be it by side quests or dungeons.
Early on, the game frees the player of all chains, letting him the choice between following the plot or purrsuing the dozens of quests. Even though it´s required to complete at least some of them, in order to get a high enough level, a necessary ability and much more, which surprisingly isn´t bad at all.
The world is clustered with little towns, each containing 4 optional quests following a little storyline. Using tons of tiny dialogue scenes, they tell tales about magic, history, personal misery or even reveal more information about the main cast. Taking only a few minutes, every adventure is short, hence resembling the very essence of adventure games, fun combat, combined with mysteries. Completing something in Cat Quest doesn´t only make a lot of fun but quickly act as some sort of drug. The actual gameplay feel is very similar to something like Skyrim, when it comes to dragging the player into their worlds with an overload of interesting, fun things.
However, the result of such short-lived design are long walks, either to reach the mission area or simply to backtrack. Following a track to a dungeon and having to re-run the same exact track again doesn´t quite resemble the dense, addicting atmosphere The Gentlebros tried so desperately to create. Towards the last third, the game may grant the ability to fly, hence speeding-up those slow, repetitive design. Unfortunately, at least I already completed most of the side things in my level range (~50), making it way less efficient. I just wished there would´ve been a better middle way between repeating the same walking-paths for hours and being able to fly over everything in an abnormal speed.
Besides the dense missions, another big part of Cat Quest´s fun factor is the combat itself. Completely playing in real-time and consisting of a very basic, simple approach to the genre. There´s an attack and dodge button as well as the ability to cast up to four spells, obtainable by purchasing them. On the other hand enemies are more limited, only able to attack physically, cast spells or sometimes even both. Since cats aren´t the most durable fighters, dodging as many attacks as possible is crucial. In order to avoid those, every enemy features red attack range symbols, filling up as they prepare to attack, often giving more than a few seconds to prepare. Yet, because of the animation priority, button spamming until dodging in the last second isn´t an option, forcing the player into a more thoughtful approach. In order to master melee, it´s necessary to time each button press, giving it a little bit of deepness.
Magic is also a valuable asset for every cat, allowing to deal some extra damage or offering a whole new way of combat. Fueled by video game-typical mana, which recharges by hitting enemies interestingly, every obtainable spell offers an own unique type of use. From healing, AOE, line-damage or ground traps, think of a one, it will be here. Additionally, every one of them is upgradable by spending more and more coins on them, enabling you to play as a mage, knight or something in between.
Unfortunately, as easy to pick-up the combat may be, as limited it is. There is only one melee combo, no additional moves, no unlockable variety or anything at all except raising numbers of damage. Since every spell has to be leveled-up individually, the game slowly forces us to decide for certain spells and ignore the rest, resulting in even less otpions to change-up the system. Cat Quest has such a simple combat, that it may be played at anytime and offer enough to harmonise well with the overall simplicity but could never work for dozens of hours in a row.
When there´s no side quest to purrsue the only option, besides exploring the quite big open world or kill enemies for EXP farming, are dungeons, little areas with their own level cap, enemy hordes and also the only place to find new loot. While the main way to gain levels are still the side quests, clearing dungeons is just as essential to gain higher gear. Due to the fact duplicate items increase each other´s levels, finding new stuff is always a pleasure. Nonetheless, The Gentlebros are only a small studio, hence the world doesn´t offer much more than side quests or dungeons, living off it´s huge density to drag the player into it.
In combination with the horrible, forced, bad but ultimately entertaining puns purred all over the game in form of names like Pawt City, Cat Quest really embraces its theme in every way. Nevertheless, the art itself could work just fine without them, presenting beautifully drawn landscapes, dungeons or character portraits to underline the innocent, cute tone. Despite the lacking enemy or character portrait variation, it´s a damn beautiful game. Accompanied by the theme park-like music, the game is nothing less than a lovely experience.
At first glance Cat Quest might not look like much more than a pun-infested cat overload, yet somehow manages to deliver one of the very best indie RPGs since some time. Creating a beautiful, charming world full of creative writing, an addicting soundtrack and things to do. Once the game sucks you into its densely packed world, throws its dozens of side quests, along the simple but fantastic working combat at you, there´s no escape for quite some hours. The lack of variety in its combat, enemy designs or the lackluster main story are throwbacks but never manage to interrupt this addicting experience even for a few seconds. Hence, Cat Quest delivers one of the very best action indie RPG experiences out there, especially for that price. You don´t want to miss this pawtner!
[A Review Code was provided by PQube]