Title: Beast Quest
Platform: PS4. Xbox One (reviewed)
Publisher: Maximum Games
Developer: Torus Games Pty
Release Date: Out now
PS4: £30/$40
Xbox One: £30/$40
TL;DR: An empty shell of a game I’m not sure even kids would enjoy.
Family Friendly? Click here for more information

We seem to be having a trend of books being adapted into video game adaptations. Beast Quest originally is a staggering 110 strong series of novels, and according to its Wikipedia article, is aimed at boys aged seven and over. And so, as you might expect, attempting to work this into a game that I finished in five and a half hours, didn’t really go so well.

You play as Tom, who’s a regular villager until one day, a wizard pops out of the ether and tells him that Avantia’s beasts are being enslaved by another evil wizard, Malvel, and that Tom has to go and save them. So off Tom trots, to all four corners of the world, and picks up another friend, Elenna, who fires a mean bunch of arrows, and her pet wolf, Silver. You’re essentially travelling from area to area, saving each beast, and doing a few sidequests along the way.

This all sounds great on paper, and the trailer’s art style reminded me of Fable, so I assumed this was to be a whimsical RPG where you got to talk to dragons and hit things with swords, albeit aimed at young children. Unfortunately, Beast Quest is bizarrely lacking in absolutely everything. The gameplay literally consists of you running through one of four reskinned environments, which are so empty and repetitive, they may well be called dungeons. Enemies are strategically placed in your path, meaning unless you get lucky when you’re hugging the walls, you’re guaranteed to run into them, artificially padding out the gameplay. The worlds are low poly and scarce apart from the four tiny hub towns, which consist of a cluster of buildings you can’t enter, and NPCs standing around spouting the same one line of dialogue. It’s here you can pick up sidequests, but they’re all the same fetchquest – go get eight of these, or two of those; either enemies will drop them, or they’ll spawn around town.

I’m sure you’re devastated.

There’s literally nothing else to interact with. You’ll enter a town, ignore or pick up sidequests, then run in a straight line until you fight the boss, and this repeats three times. While out in the field, you can unlock the chests with keys you’ve amassed, but otherwise, the only thing to do is climb up certain rock faces to reach the next area, jump, or solve a basic puzzle by sliding stone blocks around, chopping down trees, or jumping from platform to platform, which is an ordeal in itself. The jumping is awkward and Tom almost seems to float, making you unsure if you’ll actually hit the next ledge or not, and woe betide you if you try and take a running jump.

Combat is another one of the things that doesn’t seem too bad at first, but quickly becomes repetitive. It’s that weird mesh of turn based and free roam, locking you into a specific screen to fight, but you don’t have to wait for the enemy to attack – however, you can only move left to right by holding down RT and LT. You’ve got a block button and three attacks – a short combo slice you can spam, a long distance charge attack, and a close up charge attack, which you hold down the respective button to unleash. The problem with this is that it’s far too easy to get overwhelmed, because enemies can charge at you and knock you out of the charging stance, and quickly repeat this for the duration of the fight. So, the next best thing to use is one of your skills.

The skills are recharged by your Stamina bar, the yellow one on the right of the screenshot above. These are basic elemental attacks, and an incredibly useful debuff which cuts enemy defences in half for a little while. These, along with attack, defence, and health, can all be upgraded via the skill tree in the menu, with AP,  your reward after battles and completing missions. The trouble is, there’s very little AP dropped from regular fights, so if the game was particularly difficult, it would railroad you into doing the tedious sidequests, but there’s no challenge at all to Beast Quest. I finished it in five and a half hours, but if I hadn’t been mucking around with the sidequests, I could have probably finished it in just under five. I only lost boss fights because they knocked me out of my charge attack, and they never took more than a couple of tries to beat, mostly because I kept missing the quicktime events. By spamming the debuff and Elenna’s arrow attack, you’ll easily take out half their health in one go.

There’s the option to play after you free the last beast, but from what I can tell, there’s not really a lot of point. The sidequests don’t vary into anything interesting, and finding all the chests will net you with coins nine times out of ten, which can only buy you the ability to carry more health and stamina potions, or equip an item that gives you a buff during battle. This is another thing, along with the skill tree, that the game never mentions until you go poking around in the menu, which is a bit weird, because it’s something that adds the tiniest bit of depth to very shallow gameplay.

The plot is splintered and barely there at all, popping up in random cutscenes that don’t link together all that well. Elenna appears out of nowhere, insists on coming along, then does absolutely nothing for the rest of the game apart from a special attack when you hit enemies enough to fill the meter. The main villain never appears apart from standing on a rock and saying things like “Turn back!” or “You’ll never be good enough!” to Tom, who is quite possibly the most irritating protagonist I’ve ever seen. Apart from finding out random things about Tom’s dad and a brief legend about the beasts of Avantia, there’s nothing to make players keep going. The characters have no depth to them at all, and could really be generic player avatars. Bear in mind this is based of a book series with 110 entries, there’s no substance to this game at all.

The whole thing feels unpolished. The graphics and character models look at least two console generations behind, there’s no background music for the majority of the game, and the linearity really brings the game down. I know this is obviously a game for small children, with a 7+ rating from PEGI, but I don’t think even little kids would be entertained by this, because there’s so many better alternatives to offer them. Overall, while it’s great to have something on the market that’s age appropriate for kids, the lack of content makes it hard to justify the price tag

The Good

  • Something for kids to play in a market saturated by 18+ titles

The Bad

  • Little to no gameplay
  • Incredibly poor voice acting
  • Dull linearity

Family Friendly?

Beast Quest is rated PEGI 7 and E for Everyone for mild fantasy violence, and violence towards humans. Dull, but absolutely safe for kids.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by Xbox UK for the purposes of this review.