Review by Kane
"A vast conspiracy to make you happy"
Deliver this cookie. Save this chicken. Exterminate the Gelatinous Cubes. Fetch me a toothpick…
This is an accurate summary of what you do in Progress Quest, a free download* that was advertised as the first of a new generation of games –I kid you not. But beware, that’s just what they want you to believe. Read on before rushing to the site mentioned at the bottom of this review however, because you may be in for a huge surprise, folks.
In fact, Progress Quest is just a MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Role-Playing Game) for lazy people, or if you prefer, a virtual time-waster.
After a very short download, the player soon finds himself in front of the character creation screen. As expected, an initial choice between races and classes is required before the program asks you to click on the roll button. Doing so will automatically generate random statistics for the newborn character. Welcome to the wonderful world of Progress Quest.
Yet, once you’ve shaped your character, you don’t really have anything left to do: just load the game and surf the web. How much fun my Half-Orc had annihilating foes with his broken bottle +1! For five minutes. When you’re really bored, you can even leave the game window open to watch your creature’s progress and witness such exciting action as (word for word) ''executing a ape'', ''executing a crippled Hell Hound'' or ''executing a Veteran Green Slime''. Sadly, Repetition Quest should have been the name of the game.
Sometimes, when his inventory is full, your character will go to the nearest town and sell all the useless stuff all by himself. Such variety and control completely defy the laws of gaming. To be entirely honest, few people are going to get any sense of achievement here, because the level of your character is in direct relation with the length of your online time.
While you have to admit that the half-randomized names used in the game are rather hilarious, laughing at neologisms such as “DemiCanadians” only goes so far. Learning spells is a great addition, but it makes the player’s inability to use them even more frustrating. No, really, there's no point in fooling around: you don't do anything at all in this game.
As a satire of other online role-playing games, Progress Quest is brilliant. Titles like Phantasy Star Online and Everquest do sometimes end up becoming pointless and incessant quests for experience. One could also see in this tiny program a parody of most recent role-playing-games -in which you watch more than you play. But as a game, it's just not interesting at all. Yes indeed, the developers got rid of the parts people usually complain the most about, that is to say leveling up and selling items. But the problem is that this process of character building is half of the essence of online rpgs.
It’s commonly accepted that the other important element of this kind of game is composed of various social aspects that are totally absent here. You don’t need any companions to slaughter the most dangerous monsters. You don’t need to trade items with other players. The only interaction with other humans takes place on a hall of fame list available online. Playing offline offers no major difference, except that the pride factor slightly suffers since your progress isn’t relayed on the website. In other words, if you’re a lonely mortal who hates socializing (and if you’re reading this, chances are this description is relatively accurate), Progress Quest may very well be the perfect game for you, my friend.
Besides being so straightforward, the game is a text-based adventure. Therefore, the visuals aren’t exactly beautiful. There’s no graphical representation whatsoever apart from a blue bar representing your experience progress. Similarly, there are neither sounds nor music. While it's nice to see Progress Quest goes back to the roots of role-playing games with such a modest shell, much of the traditional medieval imagery is lost in the process.
Is Progress Quest addictive? Not really. The fact that your character literally can’t die ruins most of the fun –although it’s a nice way to avoid all the player kill problems often encountered in other online games- but one could wonder if the game was ever meant to be fun in the first place. There’s obviously no point to the game, but on the other hand this baldness is an integral part of the game. When all is said and done, the enterprise is strictly remarkable from an intellectual standpoint and teaches us a nice lesson: that games can be just as boring and alienating as real life when they lose their purpose.
Bottom line, Progress Quest is an experience worth trying but a terrible, terrible game. It barely even qualities as a game. In a world inhabited by couch potatoes who are afraid to waste any second of their precious time, it’s almost ironic to see such a symbolic program appear out of nowhere and raise the question of meaning.
* Progress Quest is currently available at http://progressquest.com/
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 02/27/02, Updated 02/02/03
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