|Progressing the story involves choosing what tone to employ during conversations
|28 Mar 2023
Quest for Glory the Visual Novel
Back in 2012, a whole lot of Sierra alumni returned to the fold setting up Kickstarter projects to fund sequels or spiritual successors to games they worked on back in the 80s and 90s. Many were successfully funded, others didn't see the light of day (such as Jim Walls's Police Quest successor, Precinct). Ones that were successful and would eventually release games included Leisure Suit Larry Reloaded, Moebius: Empire Rising, Gabriel Knight 20th Anniversary Edition and Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. SpaceVenture is the only one that hasn't released yet but they announced in March that assistance is coming their way from Ken Williams's Cygnus Entertainment to give the game the necessary polish it needs.
Hero-U had a bit of trouble during its development, requiring two Kickstarter campaigns (the original in 2012 and an additional one in 2015) in order to raise the necessary funds to finish the game and it took 6 years to complete, but Quest for Glory fans were finally rewarded for their patience in July 2018. The Coles placed a sequel to Hero-U on hold and instead aimed for something less ambitious and costly for their next project but would still be set in the same universe. They came with an idea for a visual novel style game that was initially called Summer Daze at Hero-U. The Kickstarter campaign was a success raising $106,155 USD but Summer Daze, like Hero-U, also encountered some issues. Release of the game was delayed and ended up taking four years to complete (although to be fair, many companies struggled with development during COVID-19) and the game was split into two parts: Tilly's Tale and Ifeyo's Adventure.
|Navigation to the exterior locations of the Hero-U campus is achieved via this map
A Visual Novel that Could've Been More
When you first start Tilly's Tale you'll be greeted to some light-hearted music along with bright and colourful visuals. You play the role of a Half-Elf girl called Tilly Appleberry who hails from Spielburg (the town your player character visits in the first Quest for Glory game). She is a student studying to be a Rogue at Hero-U but due to her antics is dangerously close to being expelled, especially if Assistant Headmaster Terk has any say in the matter. She is given an opportunity to redeem herself if she can manage to organise a successful Harvest Festival within a couple of weeks. Your goal is to ensure that within these two weeks Tilly manages her time wisely, balancing the need to make new friends along with the need to pass exams.
Tilly's Tale is very similar to other visual novels out there in that you progress the game by conversing with other characters and choosing the tone of the conversation. For example, you can choose to be charming, intimidating or logical during a conversation and this changes how the conversation flows. It also appears to change your characters which are viewable in your student handbook (accessible at the end of the day) however, it's never clear if these stats have an effect on how convincing your arguments are later in the game or if they're even taken into consideration at all in determining outcomes. The handbook also gives no indication how close your friendships are. While one could argue that the opaque nature of relationships mimics real life, having some indication of how things are going seems to be the norm in most games (especially role-playing games) so hiding this information leaves players uncertain if what they're doing has any effect; even a notification letting the player know a character remembered a certain response, similar to how it's done in Telltale adventures, would've been better than nothing. Ultimately, the handbook doesn't seem to be very useful at all besides providing a bit of background information about the students and faculty staff or gauging how much time you're spending with different students during the fortnight (although this is also redundant for reasons I'll talk about later).
I've finished the game multiple times now and despite my best efforts in my first two playthroughs, I apparently didn't make any friends. Like most visual novels, depending on the choices you make you can have "good" endings and "bad" endings. While the endings I experienced, weren't "bad" per se, they would be classified as such since I never got any friends to participate with me in activities. You see, trying to be everyone's friend or even friends with a couple of students isn't going to work. It seems you have to devote all your time to one friend in order to even have a chance that you'll have a "good" ending with them, and this means the aforementioned calendar, showing who you spend time with during the fortnight, is pointless, since if you want any chance of making friends, you have to devote all your spare time to one of them.
|There are many puns
A for Effort but a C for Crashes to Desktop
In terms of polish, the game seems to be quite buggy on the PC I am playing on, a 12th generation i7 running Windows 11. I experienced a bug where clicking would not transition to the next text bubble: I would encounter this bug multiple times in each of my playthroughs. I even encountered a couple of crashes to Desktop. The only way I could manage to complete the game was by saving my progress whenever I encountered a dead end, restarting the game and restoring from where I left off. This would occur a few times for each of my playthroughs so while it's not insurmountable to complete the game, it's definitely not the smoothest of experiences.
So, is there anything positive I can say about the game? Well the backgrounds and character art are top notch and so is the voice acting (which was managed by Wadjet Eye's Dave Gilbert). The game is also loaded with puns (as you'd expect for a game by the Coles) and makes several references to characters and locations from previous Quest for Glory games (especially the Spielburg Valley) which means Quest for Glory or Sierra fans will feel right at home.
|The Student Handbook isn't much help
At times, Tilly's Tale feels like a high quality visual novel, with great artwork, voice acting and a punny story based on a universe rich in lore that Quest for Glory fans are very familiar with. However, it's debatable on whether this game offers anything new to visual novel fans in general and bugs can potentially ruin the experience too.
If you like this game, you might like…