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We'll take tea in the conservatory, Jeeves.

  • nhubi
  • 07/14/2015 07:14 AM

Butler Quest is a game with an unusual premise, borrowing its primary quest from the Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) manga and anime series it tells the story of a young unnamed (as are all the characters in the game) layabout who meets a young woman obsessed with getting her own butler, and not just a butler but a demon butler. Wanting to avoid the Faustian contract that is a major plot point in the Black Butler series she decides to go to hell to capture her own in a Pokémon ball (who knew Kuroshitsuji/Pokémon was a thing), and the hero shrugs off his traditional lackadaisical ways to accompany her.

Personally I'd just I've give the local job placement centre a call and avoided the visit to Hades portion of the evening, but that's me.

The game however doesn't start as you would expect with the young man moping about doing little, or mysteriously running into the woman who is about to lead him into a quest to hell. No it starts from the perspective of the person I can only assume is the villain of the piece, if for no other reason than his opening statement is a glee filled proclamation about throwing obstacles in the way of the 'heroes' whomever they are, though the fact he's described as the 'villain' in the menu is a bit of a give-away too.

Hey, I had to name him and his hair is blue, give me a break...nice menu interface though.

The first small section of the game is from the perspective of this character up until he is attacked in his sleep by a rogue assassin, whom he dispatches with laughable ease and pontificates about his invulnerability. We then cut to the home of our lazy protagonist, whom as I am now on a roll, I've called Verdi, because he has green hair. Verdi is awoken and provoked by his friend who appears to be a parent/drill sergeant hybrid because he orders Verdi out of bed and then tells him to do 100 push ups. The penalty for not doing so is an impromptu battle with SpongeBob. Really, it is. The ridiculousness level of this game has already been dialled up to 11 and I've only been playing for 5 minutes. I do not consider this to be a good sign. Though the reward for actually doing the push-ups, or attempting them is a +1 to your strength, so kiss the floor, soldier! Luckily for Verdi it seems that Azurean the villain is happy to share his ill-gotten gains because the broadsword that was pilfered from the hotel in the first section is available to be equipped in the hero controlled section of the next. Though really you do have to ask what sort of self-respecting villain type needs to check into a hotel, where's his menacing castle or secret lair?

Still it's time to learn a little of the game's mechanics, starting with magic. This it appears is not an innate ability, but one that can be purchased. Now that is a statement on consumerism if ever I saw one, 'If don't have the natural talent, don't worry we can get it for you wholesale.' However before you can that mysterious girl, Auburn (go on, guess her hair colour) who isn't actually that mysterious and apparently has lived in your village all her life, accosts you outside your home with her plan to get herself a demon butler. So with no argument from you and I mean that literally she joins the party and off you go to find out just how to get yourself some magic and some weapons too. Given where you are going you are probably going to need them. However you really don't need to buy any as this little village is lousy with hidden weapons and armour.

Exiting the village and you come face to face with the butter nutter known from this moment on as Noir who informs you that all the rabbits in the appropriately named bunny forest must die because they stole his butter. He then joins you, with once again no protest on your part or even an inkling that medication is perhaps in order.

Why are you attacking the cute rabbit girls and their fairy grandfather?

Battles are the classic turn based, without any additional bells and whistles apart from the as mentioned lovely enemy battlers, sourced from the ever talented Thalzon. Magic is not yet available to you in this early dungeon, but that isn't missed since it takes just one round to dispatch the enemies each time. This is fortunate since the encounter rate is quite high, so much so that by the time you make it from one end of the single map forest to the other you've gone up three levels.

There is a very weird dynamic going on with the music, it appears that the fairly nifty menu has its own theme music which means when you stop to save or exchange equipment before a fight, you go from whatever menacing and scenario appropriate background theme is playing to the generic theme4 and then back again, it's remarkably off-putting.

Speaking of the aesthetics, with the exception of the battlers everything in the game is RTP, and whilst it's not used with any particular aplomb it is serviceable, except in two visual areas, one comes towards the end of the game and can be summed up in a short phrase; there are no such things as square caves. The other raises its head much earlier. There are a plethora of inaccessible houses, and by that I don't mean that the doors are locked to prevent the casual pilfering that is de rigueur in RPG's I mean they are simply inaccessible to the people who supposedly live there. Unless there is some sort of hidden tunnel system or Hogwarts style concealed doorways I really don't know why half the houses in the city are there.

There is something very wrong with this picture, and no they can't enter from the side. Damn lampposts

So once in the city beyond the now bunny bloodied forest you finally have a chance to wrap your head around how magic works in this world, and it's a little complicated, so bear with me. Magic must be granted by a spell-caster, visit the local magic shop and fork over 200 G and you will be imbued with an element of your choice by the local representative of the Mage Guild. However you can only contain one of the nine available disciplines so once you've chosen you are locked into that regimen of spell for the rest of the game. In order to access these now unlocked abilities you have three options. Purchase or find a staff or sceptre which will unlock the ability to cast magic any time the weapon is equipped. Find or craft either an evil or enchanted weapon which has the same ability but also has the added twist of regenerating MP in the case of enchanted or feeding off HP in the case of evil. Or option three which requires you to build up your TP in battle and when you have enough use it to unlock magic casting. This will enable you to cast an elemental spell without a magic aligned weapon equipped, but will only allow you to do so if you've chosen an element. However since it takes 50 TP to activate that skill you have to be hit or guard a lot in order to get there. Basically until you get an enchanted weapon, magic is just painful because of the time it takes to activate the TP option or the offset of equipping a low level item like a staff or sceptre isn't made up for in the limited palette of magic made available, either in offensive or defensive capabilities.

To add another layer of complexity, you start the game able to equip a limited array of weapons and armour but you can visit with weapons trainers who will, once more for a fee, give you the ability to don heavier armour and wield more exotic and rare weapons. I actually appreciate that option to customise in a way that I don't feel towards the magic, in all probability because the weapons and armour growth feels inclusive. With time and training, and of course money, you can master all the available types, but with magic you make a choice once and are locked into it before you have the knowledge to work out whether the type of magic you've just chosen will actually be of any use. It feels much more restrictive and given the remarkably little information you are provided via the books in the magic shop as to the complexities of the various magic disciplines it feels like you are choosing blind. In the end I just randomly selected 6 of the 9 disciplines for my party and hoped I wouldn't need the other three in order to defeat whatever it was I was going to be facing. Though given you only have four active party members that was really hoping I wouldn't need the other five.

In addition the available pool of MP does not increase through levels, only via the equipping of certain staves, sceptres and items, though not all, and you never learn any other spells than the ones you are granted in that first instance. I can understand that the developer has included this system to offset the ability of mages to be overpowered, but it needs to be more balanced if it's going to be used effectively and with the desired outcome.

Max MP 150, MP needed to cast ultimate spell, 200. What?

So once you've done the equivalent of 'Eeeny, meeny, miney', in the magic shop, assuming you have the funds needed, it's time to move on to the next dungeon. Here you meet the two newest members of the team, one who apparently will work for food, given that and his hair colour, Ginger was added to the roster, and the other who appears to have a hot temper and bright red hair and Chilli joined the team. Yes I'm having a lot of fun with the naming, hey if the developer was kind enough to supply me with heroes of multihued manes what else can I do?

A venture through the oddly named haunted forest, since there is nary a ghost, wraith or spectre in sight, ends up being a mostly fruitless foray. Not completely fruitless, there are chests a-plenty and just as many opportunities to grind, but you are soon forced to backtrack to the city which gives you the chance to pick a magic element for your two latest recruits and to visit the adventurer's hero's guild. In contrast to your earlier visit to this illustrious establishment you are suddenly received with joy and welcome. It seems they have a fetch quest requested by a, let's just say less than savoury character, and you've become the patsy willing to take on the job. Well everyone except Verdi who still thinks that getting out of bed in the morning is too much effort and can't really reconcile quite why he is on this mission.

Err, ok, and anyway Ginger looks 25, so you've got the wrong demographic there, Sunshine.

To say the quest you go on is questionable would be an understatement and does step over the line into dubious if not actually offensive territory. I imagine it is supposed to be played for laughs but really isn't funny. In fact if you go back and talk to Craig the creep again before completing the quest it leaps right over that objectionable barrier to full on offensive. Still you have no choice but to complete if you want to get the Pokémon ball which is so vital for your main quest. Unluckily for Craig the object of his obsession can be recruited and therefore kept out of his paedophilic clutches, and with the addition of the grey coiffured youth forever known as Ash your party is up to its full complement. So after a quick visit back to the bunny abattoir forest and a detour into a hitherto unavailable grinding opportunity, the trigger for which requires yet another interaction with Craig so it's best to just move along as it actually gets worse than previously indicated, it's back on the main quest and a trip through a teleport cave. A quick cameo by that Azeruean guy again, and then a dimensional portal and we're off to hell to find and capture a guy who knows how to make a decent cup of tea. For which, truthfully, no distance is too great.

Actually I do need to go back to that grinding opportunity hidden in the second section of the now appropriately named haunted forest,, it's completely possible to miss, and nothing indicates that that particular stretch of shoreline is any more interesting than any other. Given the fact that you really need the boost to your experience and coffers that this renewable enemy can provide, in order to give your party the levels they need to surmount the difficulty spike in the dimension dungeon and also to gain the skills they require via the mercenary spell-caster and weapons specialists in town, having the discovery of it be reliant on not only arbitrarily pressing the action key on a nondescript patch of land but also simultaneously having a particular monster drop in your inventory is nonsensical.

There are some good points in Butler Quest and it is enjoyable in some areas, but it needs a serious recalculation in regard to balance in every regard. Battles are the most obvious since in almost all the non-dimensional dungeons you can wipe the enemy party in a round or two and in the dimensional ones you get wiped in the same manner. The mechanism for magic is needlessly complex and restrictive, and the method by which you gain better weapons is prohibitively expensive given the small sums you gain from the majority of monster drops. The storyline at its base isn't a bad one, but then if it wasn't Black Butler wouldn't be as popular as it is, but the execution in this game is sorely lacking, with little or no characterisation beyond a single word motif for each character, and no discernible motivation for any of them except the butler seeking Auburn. There are moments of humour but they are unfortunately overshadowed with sections of poor taste, as highlighted previously in this review.

This game would probably appeal to someone for whom grinding is the highlight of a game, because you need to do a lot of it to afford the levels and upgrades that will enable you to win. For myself I found it a tedious and in conjunction with the other flaws ultimately unrewarding experience.