For the uninitiated, which included myself prior to playing this game, Beast Quest is a popular series of books aimed at children around the age of 7. I’ve not read the books, although I can’t help but assume that the transition from paper to video game has done anything other than tarnish the brand.
Beast Quest gets off to a rough start, a jagged sequence of tutorials providing a rude awakening as to what lies ahead. You play as Tom, whom has been tasked with saving the kingdom of Avantia from an evil magician (whose name escapes me). To do so, you must rescue 4 beasts who through enchantment are acting to destroy the world, a world which as envisioned by this game hardly feels worth saving.
The game gets started in the village of Errinel, and as you stride towards the villages center you’ll quickly realize just how lifeless the world feels. Characters are motionless, nothing more than static statues scattered randomly around the town placed with such little care or attention, and doing nothing to breath any life into this world. Despite their lifeless nature a few do at least serve some purpose, dishing out side quests such as collect x number of a certain item or defeat a certain number of beasts. But beyond a marker on the mini-map, it’s really impossible to determine who is worth engaging with vs those that are simply filler. Step out of town, and your first task will be to seek out one of the legendary beasts which requires you to march through a sequence of linear corridors battling various monsters who, like the villagers, stand statically out in the open simply waiting for you to walk up to and defeat them.
This leads on to the games combat system, which is an interesting but flawed blend of both real time and turn based mechanics. Tom’s attacks are real time, with presses of X and Y dealing out a combo of fast and slow attacks each of which can be charged to hit multiple targets. Enemies however simply stand idle until a timer expires at which point one of them will attack. Incoming attacks can be dodged with a skillful swing of the joystick in the correct direction, however determining which direction to dodge requires you carefully watch your opponent, and based on their movements take avoiding action. It sounds OK on paper, but the reality is that the visual cues for some enemies are a lot clearer than others. Spot a swing from the left, and dodge right, straight forward enough right? Sadly, this ethos works for some enemies, but not really for others. No matter however, as the games somewhat unresponsive controls coupled with abstract timing windows ensures that you’ll simply resort to just raising your shield, straight forward hold B, which is happy to soak up 90% of all attacks making combat a dull and mindless breeze.
There are some incentives to try and persuade you to engage with the combat system, for example taking no damage rewards you with bonus AP points – the currency you can use to unlock some additional skills or boost some of Tom’s stats such as health or damage. But the clunky implementation and lack of depth really fail to compel you to try anything other than simply mashing attack and then holding your shield up when an enemy starts to move. Magic adds some variety, allowing you to buff your attacks or attack multiple enemies with various elemental effects. But again they are generally too effective, allowing you defeat all the enemies before the fight has even begun. A final summon, for which you can call upon any previously rescued beast, allows you to deal a huge amount of damage, but even that suffers from issues with the game often mistaking your intent and raising the spell selection wheel owing to both inputs sharing a button.
As you progress through the game, the lack of any will to continue starts seeping in, but I think that it is fair to say that the developers also felt the same. Environments are zealously reused, ensuring that you’ll seldom feel like you’ve really been anywhere new. Monsters vary little beyond their skins, each town has the same side quests as the last and even 2 of the mythical beasts share the same model. Nothing captures this downward spiral of arsed-ness more than a repeating side quest that tasks you with recovering a piece of art dropped by an NPC, which at the third time of asking literally requires no more than a 10 meter round trip to collect and return. The whole thing smacks of a lack of will, desire, passion or pride. And it’s hardly surprising that the fruits of such labor simply engender those same feelings in the player. In the end I myself threw in the towel after getting lost trying to seek out the route to the 4th and final beast, where even the game’s inbuilt tool to highlight the way to go was unable to make up it’s mind after transitioning between areas.
Overall, Beast Quest really only challenges your patience, pitting you against a linear repeating sequence of entertainment mediocrity. It has all the hallmarks of a game produced as a final year project for a Video Games Programming course, but without any of the focus or creativity. It’s £30 asking price is frankly insulting, and your money would be better spent on the books, or anything else for that matter.
Beast Quest was provided to us by Xbox for Xbox One. It was reviewed on an Xbox One S and X.