The first Quest For Glory game (retitled after initially being released as 'Hero's Quest' due to a lawsuit by the Hero Quest pen-and-paper RPG people) is a mostly fun hybrid of RPG and adventure, weighted down with just a dash of tedium and repetition. You step into the role of a newbie adventurer (fresh from the Adventurers Correspondence School) who follows a Help Wanted ad to the mountain village of Speilburg, which is beset by brigands marauding from a secret base on one side, and the curse of an evil Ogress witch on the other.
The game allows you a choice of character class - Fighter, Thief or Magic User - which affects both your abilities and how a number of puzzles in the game will be solved. You start out with 50 experience points that can be dumped into any ability, allowing you to create hybrid classes like magic-weilding Thieves and lockpicking Fighters, but you are penalized with extra points for giving a character an ability they do not naturally have (despite the penalty, it is possible to create a character with every possible ability by choosing a Thief and giving him Magic and Parry points, though in Dungeons and Dragons style these hybridized classes start off at a disadvantage compared to the others).
Instead of grinding for experience points through random battles, characters improve their abilities by actually using that ability in-game. This system would be evened out a bit more in later games; here it can become a bit tedious, as the only way to raise Climbing is to climb random trees and rocks endlessly, likewise Throwing usually involves you throwing random stones around for long stretches of time.
The game mostly plays out like a typical Sierra adventure game, with the text parser in which you enter commands. Attempting certain actions related to your stats (such as forcing a door or climbing a wall) may run a check against them, however, and if you are not quite up to snuff you fail at the task, which can range from simple embarassment to damage and even death. While wandering the woods of Speilburg you may also find a monster charging you from out of the bushes, and there are a number of other predetermined combat scenes. These switch you over to a unique combat screen, in which you face off in first-person perspective against the foe. The combat system is functional, and has it's good points - the monsters are large and well-animated, and the game allows you a range of motion such as dodging, parrying, and casting spells as well as attacking. It's a bit clunky, though; it's hard to time dodging and blocking, and thus the most effective battle strategy tends to be holding down the Up arrow to just stab as fast as possible, and this is particularly true if running the game on a modern system without any speed throttle, in which case the combat moves too quickly to handle (though the rest of the game tends to run fine). One nice touch is that approaching monsters can be whittled down by throwing spells and projectiles at them before they reach you to engage in close combat; however this does lead to one silly situation where an ogre who stands guard over a cave can be killed gradually over a period of days by simply returning every few hours to lob a volley of fireballs at him and then running away. The combat system, like the stats, would be tweaked to function a bit better in later games. Here it's annoying at times, but passable.
The character class that you pick determines primarily how you approach the puzzles of the game. Fighters can expect a lot of fighting and generally bursting through things, Magic Users will need to comb the land to flesh out their spell repertoire, and Thieves use a combination of sneaking, subterfuge and knife-throwing to get around problems. Characters aren't locked to a particular path, though, and in most situations one can do things in the manner of the others if you want. Thieves are really the only class that have "bonus materials" available only to them in this game, as if the Thief is not your primary class, you cannot make the Thief Sign which is needed to access the Thieves Guild, rob houses in town at night and fence your stolen booty (no one said you had to be a particularly moral hero).
Even though this game has the smallest world and amount of side quests of the series, it is still head-and-shoulders above other RPGs of the period in freedom to approach situations however you care to (even if it be a less-than-Herolike way), and also in a depth of completely optional things to find and do along the main route of your quest. Really, there wouldn't be another RPG to compare in this way until Fallout was released several years later. This is also one of the only games in this particular series that has no overall time limit, so you can gallivant about Speilburg for however long you care to, maxing out all the Hero's stats if that is your thing.
The atmosphere, writing and characters are likewise not as fleshed out as they would be in later entries, but this is still a fairly charming universe. Though it has plenty of dangerous situations and instant death-traps, the tone of the game is largely tongue-in-cheek and frequently silly. It's humorous, warm and memorable, and the soundtrack by Mark Seibert is quite good and adds to the overall experience.
It mostly works well, combat aside, but there are a few kinks present here that didn't get worked out until later in the series. For example, the game's time cycle moves rather slowly - it's neat to have a full day-night progression, but you often hit situations where you have nothing to do for a long stretch, and the only way to make time pass is to exhaust yourself somehow and then Rest over and over, or simply wander about from screen to screen for a long period of time. There also just aren't enough ways to raise certain stats, and the few options that are available are incredibly tedious. Also, a couple of incidents in the game where passwords must be used are prone to glitch up and become either a major headache or a total game-stoppage.
All those things aside, the game is still more than worthwhile to play through. It stands up well enough on it's own, and then it gives you the option upon completion of saving your character to import into the later entries of the series, a relatively rare instance of direct continuity from one game in a series to the next.
* Quest For Glory music at Quest Studios
* Gameplay Video