Progress Quest (PC) review
"I had no idea what to expect when I was ushered into the world of Progress Quest by a couple of online acquaintances. I had been told, however, that it was a game unlike any I'd ever played and that the super-fast download was well worth the time. After unzipping and opening my 300kb file, I opened the game and saw that I was being treated to an MMORPG of sorts. The list of occupations and races was there and seemed fairly normal ..... but then I got to really looking at it. And I knew beyond a ..."
I had no idea what to expect when I was ushered into the world of Progress Quest by a couple of online acquaintances. I had been told, however, that it was a game unlike any I'd ever played and that the super-fast download was well worth the time. After unzipping and opening my 300kb file, I opened the game and saw that I was being treated to an MMORPG of sorts. The list of occupations and races was there and seemed fairly normal ..... but then I got to really looking at it. And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that when I saw those Bastard Lunatics, Double Hobbits, and DemiCanadians gracing the lists of forms to assume, there was no turning back.
After registering my character and becoming the 54,640th member of the invisible realm of Expodrine, I had the foreboding vision that many before me had experienced, gathered my wits, and headed out into the world to make a name for myself. As Baumol XIX, a Panda Man Shiv-Knight, it was time to do what every great hero must do in order to make sure the world knows who he is, and that was exterminate the nefarious Multicells. Lord knows what that entangles; I would have no hand in it. How I went about exterminating these vile Multicells was not up to me.
As anyone who sticks with the ''game'' for a minute or two will figure out, you have no control over, for lack of a more succinct and creative term, the progress of your quest. Here's where this game is going to make or break itself for you. Obviously Progress Quest isn't your typical MMORPG. Rather, it's a satire of everything they are about. Progress Quest embodies all the fun parts about RPGs and never-ending adventures - such as collecting spells, building statistics, and claiming your slain enemies and the spoils they leave thereafter as trophies - and eliminates the tedium of it all. With a game like Asheron's Call or EverQuest, you're stuck in front of a computer screen, watching everything happen in the frustrating slow dredges of real time. Several hundred thousands (nay, millions) have been drawn in by the online camaraderie and unparalleled sense of adventure these games instill in a person.
As a result, however, these people become catatonic zombies who can barely be bothered to pry their eyes from the ogre being assaulted by the five-member guild they started five months ago. I've seen them in this state, and I've also seen them rehabilitate themselves quite nicely.
Leave Progress Quest to sit minimized on your taskbar though, and you've just freed up hundreds of hours to run a number of productive errands. While Progress Quest levels your character up, you can go get an oil change on your car, go on a date and impress that new girl you just met at the coffee shop, and play a game of hoops with the guys only to come back and find your character's levels have increased drastically. Strangely, even though it's the least interactive game ever made, it's quite a bit of fun, and it's only when you begin to investigate into what it's actually doing that you see that this, the definitive game for lazy people, is simply a stroke of genius.
PQ basically follows the same cycles over and over again and pretends to possess the basic skeleton of an RPG. When your character heads out into the killing fields, they will execute a number of monsters, which at first are minor annoyances like swamp elves and mermaids and later progress to great beasts like hell hounds, stirges, and something called a jumpskin. With the collection of the typical spoils comes encumbrance - in other words, being weighed down by all the items you've collected. When your encumbrance meter is full, you go to the shop and sell your items in the hopes that you will rack up enough gold to purchase something. Nothing you get is of much consequence except for the items you ''get'' by ''scoring'' ''player kills'' on ''passing'' ''players'' who are ''playing'' at the same ''time'' as you. The game throws jargon around like nobody's business and manages to strike a balance between that which could be an item in any game and something so totally off-the-wall that I would have made it up. Once all this is done, you lather, you rinse, and you repeat.
None of this will be entertaining to you if you are a rigid mainstream gamer. That is because you have been told what to imagine your whole life. In essence, the man really has been holding you down. This game feeds on a strong visual sense of imagination. If you are looking at the Progress Quest interface and seeing menus and meters in constant fluctuation, you are missing the entire point. Imagine if you will slaying a half man inner mason and taking his Cruciate Candelabra of Envy. Now you don't know for a second what that means, but isn't it fun to picture it? You can let your mind go nuts as you see in your mind's eye your mission to seek out the Ostentatious Tiara or a quest of diplomacy in which you are to placate the apparently antsy Cockatrices? To the person whose mind hasn't been totally debilitated by the ravages of television and mass media, Progress Quest can be their way of exercising the mind and engaging in some healthy D&D-spoofing fantasy. Never mind the ape asses and the kobold [male reproductive organs]; if you can't enjoy this, you are a mentally sterile lump of carbon.
PQ gladly skirts anything that gets too specific, like using magic to execute enemies (all you ever see is the maximum amount of magic points you have - it's up to your imagination to decide if they're being used), the usefulness of statistics - they're just numbers that are meaningless except on the official site's bragging rights list - and best of all, death. That's right, your character cannot die, which eliminates the hassle of re-spawning in an inconvenient area and returning to the place of your death only to find that several unscrupulous players have looted your best items. No RPG, no matter what it is - not even Final Fantasy Mystic Quest - can match the simplicity of Progress Quest, an exercise in satire and good old American laziness that must be left alone on your taskbar for a day to believe.
When it comes down to it, though, Progress Quest is no different than the text adventures of yore. There's just a lot less interactivity and intervention on your part. Nobody determines the ultimate path of Progress Quest, and no one can tell you if it has an ending - the top players are recorded to be on Act 58 with no signs of an end in sight. Your ability to enjoy PQ is dependent on your ability to see past its bland facade and recognize it for the great satire that is. Progress Quest's unwillingness to stop its ongoing tirade on the fundamental uselessness and tedium of RPGs is hilarious in itself, and with new versions, weirder monsters, and more humorous novelties being released on the unsuspecting masses all the time, there's no way a sane person could ever tire of it.
If you aren't the RPG type at all whatsoever and want a long and arduous journey that doesn't require any direct involvement from you, the player, then by all means go for the worthy minute-long download of this game. And be sure to drop me a line and thank me when you are rolling in the floor with uncontrollable laughter while delivering a teratoma, placating the Dragon Turtles and fending them off with a Plexiglas shield, and learning Level III Cone of Annoyance. The best things really are free, and the simple pleasure to be found in this eternally running background application has no equal.
Community review by snowdragon (December 09, 2003)
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