A nasty virus, an unlivable atmosphere, and creatures from the deep that have emerged—life in the world of METRO QUESTER (“MQ”) is a rough one. Concepted by Kazushi Hagiwara of ‘Bastard!!’ fame and with game design by , this keyboard-focused dungeon crawling role-playing game (“dRPG”) developed by Thousand Games and published by KEMCO has a whole underground world waiting for you to have at it. From breakable walls that lead to secrets, safes with rare equipment potentially stored away, plenty of new characters to run into with multiple class types, and (more importantly) abominable baddies to fight—METRO QUESTER is a solid romp into the realm of the 80s dRPG.
For the Sake of Living
In METRO QUESTER, players take on the role of a party of five Questers, whose backstories you can only really surmise based on their looks and class. You’re job as a Quester is to scour the underground Metro and map out the whole region. You’ll run into baddies big and small, ready to be either one-shot by you or for you to get one-turned by a group of very deadly enemies. Food is important, too: you’ll need to find food deposits or ween ’em off certain groups of baddies before the in-game calendar runs shorts lest you suffer setbacks. The required number of foodstuffs you need will increase as you meet more Questers and, in turn, discover more bases to make camp.
Your Questers are tough, but not that tough. You’ll need to become familiar with the game’s combat system by getting roughed up a bit at first. See, as you explore the Metro you’ll find yourself walking into baddies, ranging from the colours blue to a very scary red and black. These signify difficulty relative to your character’s levels, but once you have your bearings down it’s not too hard to win these encounters. One nice thing about this game is that, unlike many soul-crushing dRPGs, MQ does not have status ailments, hit points, and consumed resources persist outside of battle.
Even better, when you find yourself in a pinch, you can easily escape from battle. You’ll accrue a penalty to your stamina based on lost HP and KO’d team members however, so ideally it’s better to run away before even starting an encounter. Run out of resources and you’ll need to retreat back to your tent sooner, which means less chances for food scavenging and, in the event you don’t meet the criteria, a total loss of all crafting supplies and gained experience. On the bright side, MQ does not have a fail state—it’s more than happy to set you back, but I appreciate this forward progression the game goes for.
Just like the aforementioned 80s DOS dRPGs like ‘Ultima’ or ‘Tales of the Unknown’, METRO QUESTER’s user interface is styled in the vein of offering as much detail as possible regarding your party members and very little to the traversable map on the right. Granted, I can’t really imagine what else you can fit into this sort of set up, given those games of yore were played on a 4:3 aspect ratio. Ergo, MQ’s UX doesn’t do much to improve on what came before, but it does play nice with a controller. Both sticks are used to navigate the world and your menu, though I ultimately spent more time with it on a keyboard. Sadly, icons did not adapt to match my keyboard, making for some brief fumbles as I tried to figure out menus. Some icons can be hard to see as well.
Now MQ’s will have you spend a lot of time in combat. As I mentioned, beating baddies gives much needed experience to your Questers as well as food and weapon/accessory drops. Strong gear is a necessity if you want to survive encounters in later game zones, but even leveling up what you have through the game’s crafting system can be more than helpful enough. You’ll also need to manage resources: stuff like medicine, gun powder, batteries, etcetera are needed for certain attacks. You can have characters amass used resources in exchange for stamina and a turn wasted, but more importantly you’ll also need to make sure these units aren’t the envy of the party.
A big mechanic that comes into play is the Hate meter. Enemies will typically direct their aggro at units with the highest level of enmity, so sometimes resource amassing may have to wait lest you want an area of effect-capable Quester to get bonked and make things a little trickier. This style of gameplay is pretty fun, and managing commands between all your units against baddies that could very well wipe you out quick becomes an engaging game of commandeering. Partnered with cool character and enemy designs, I found myself engaged in the game’s world—giant swaths of text need not apply for worldbuilding.
Though I do have to say, the actual dungeon exploration could be a bit of a hit or miss. Visual style aside, the map is pretty tight, usually there’s only one way through a particular zone and, depending on enemy spawns, the way through can be clear or fraught with baddies ready to surround you. This can get a little repetitive especially as you cross deeper into “here be dragons” territory. Moving away from a zone that has a lack of food depots costs food, which can tricky as you try to figure out whether its worth advancing or waiting back. And you can’t stockpile food either as once a calendar has passed the remaining food you’ve collected becomes crafting material.
When there is an alternative path, you can sometimes find bits of lore about the world which is pretty neat. It can be annoying, but despite getting pigeon-holed a bunch of times, I still came back to METRO QUESTER again and again over the week. I feel that all its systems mesh together really well and it’s definitely a unique RPG experience you’ll not often find on consoles. ∎
Windows PC / Xbox Series X
- Setting is really cool and fits the theme of the game mechanics.
- Solid character customisation and lots of ways to approach battle.
- Love the art style, enemies are creepy.
- UI doesn't scale too well.
- Dungeon exploration gets a bit repetitive.