Game Review: Depression Quest

“Depression Quest.” What kind of a game is this?!? There are no guns, no cars, no explosions, no air strikes, no invincibility mods, and heck, there are barely any graphics! In fact, the graphics are only just random pictures that pop up sometimes alongside the text that makes up the entirety of the interactive portion of the game. The whole thing is just a boring story about an average guy going about his day-to-day life and he never gets any superpowers or becomes an unlikely hero or finds out he is the Chosen One. He just eats, sleeps, goes to work, and does boring stuff in between. Who thinks that stuff is fun? Even old-school text-based adventures had more enemies than this stupid thing. The fact that the developers of this piece of garbage have the nerve to call it a game in a day and age where awesome titles like “Call of Duty,” “Battlefield,” “Skyrim,” and anything with Batman’s name on it rule the industry is an insult to everything that is awesome about gaming.

As previously mentioned, the graphics are worthless. The player mostly only ever gets to see a few different pictures, some with static and grainy interference, displayed above the text describing the character’s current situation and the player’s options. The background is a gray-ish sort of static-y image that stays constant the whole time. Seriously, it never changes.
That, combined with the repetitive, somber piano music that is only occasionally interrupted by ambient sounds from the character’s current situation, can really start to bum a player out. It is almost like the game is trying to put the player in a bad mood and make sure he or she stays there from start to finish. Nothing moves at all and besides the infrequent changes in the background sounds (which never last particularly long, meaning that the player is stuck listening to that piano a lot), the audio stays pretty constantly fixated on one track, which gives the game a pretty dull and dreary atmosphere before the player even starts to consider the actual story or interactive elements.

The actual gameplay itself is pretty simple and thus obviously pretty stupid. There is no character creation option. Instead, the player is always dropped into the shoes of a person in their mid-twenties with “motivation issues” who is working an average day job and dating a girl named Alex. The game tries to make up for the lack of character customization by being really vague and not going into too many details about things like the main character’s job, hobbies, or anything else he/she does, which is stupid. The developers should know that the point of a protagonist is not to make a character who is understandable and widely accessible, but to create a character that fulfils a specific fantasy and then spend half of the rest of the game convincing the player that they have always wanted to live out that fantasy. Amateurs. Anyhow, since the game cannot be bothered to actually show what is going on, it takes the player through the day-to-day boring life of the protagonist by conveying the current situation through a few short paragraphs of information about the main character’s current environment. The game offers some extra information on different characters, objects, and situations in some parts of the narrative through blue links. Thankfully, these links are not mandatory and the player can easily skip past that extra enriching depth and background because really, this game has too much reading as it is. At the end of each section of narration, the game either offers the player a “next” button or a series of choices. These choices are the biggest load of bull in the entire experience. First off, all the reasonable choices that a normal human being would pick are always shown off-limits to the player. For instance, in the first choice, your character is supposed to do some work but does not really want to. Of course the player wants to just get the boring work stuff out of the way but the option to “order some food, grab a drink, and hunker down for a night of work” is crossed out and the player cannot click it! The game only lets you pick between reluctantly trying to make yourself work, watching TV to relax, or going straight to bed. It is so stupid and arbitrary. If they player has control of the character, why can the player not just make him/her get over him/herself and do what he/she is supposed to? And how does a game with such a stupid main mechanic as this get released? With all of today’s advanced technology, games should not revolve around low-tech mechanics like reading stuff and then clicking on words. Everybody knows that a real game should let the player watch stuff happen and press a button when a guy wearing the wrong color pops up.

The game displays three status reports below the narration text and choices: depression level, whether the character is or is not currently seeing a therapist, and whether or not the character is currently taking medication for depression. The last two are fairly self-explanatory. The first status display shows how depressed the character is and what the consequences and symptoms of that level of depression are. However, the dumb thing is that the game starts limiting your choices as you get more depressed but does not give you any hints as to how to reduce depression levels. Instead of giving you any kind of direction, it makes you figure it out on your own through trial and error. As mentioned previously, maintaining low levels of depression gives the player more choices in several of the scenarios while allowing the depression level to rise reduces the number of choices available. This sucks, because if the player wants to do anything remotely cool like make the character bang his/her girlfriend or just keep functioning like a human being, he or she has to figure out how to lower the depression level. Otherwise, the choices wind up basically boiling down to “curl up in a ball” or “try and do something and end up curled in a ball.” Picking a choice takes the player to a new page with another chunk of narration and the cycle begins anew. The choices the player makes in response to the character’s situations influences the protagonist’s depression level. At the end of the game, the character’s depression level affects what ending the player gets. The endings range from a totally hopeless one where the character seems trapped by his/her own brain and cannot seem to do anything right, to an ending where the character does not have much figured out but is maintaining control and has reason to hope for better days in the future, to one where the character is getting treatment, steadily improving, and looks forward to the days to come. However, each ending makes sure to include that the character is still going to have to fight his/her depression, even on the “best” ending. This is an obvious sequel hook, which reveals an amazing amount of arrogance and idiocy from the developers, who clearly had no idea that a game this bad had no hope for any continuation. Why else would they bring up that sort of detail if they were not sequel-baiting?

The only good thing about this travesty is that it features a “pay what you want” system that includes a “play for free” option, so curious or masochistic players who are not driven away by how bad the game is at least do not have to pay for the privilege of experiencing this garbage firsthand. The graphics and sound design are bad, the mechanics are old, unoriginal, and stupid, the plot is boring, the main character is a loser and the rest of the characters are not much better, and above all, nothing happens. Games should be all about having fun, causing wanton destruction without any need to worry about the consequences and getting to be better and cooler than one actually is in real life. Gamers should be allowed to sit down at a keyboard or pick up a controller and just have a good time, make things explode and die and get arbitrary rewards for following a clear set of directions. They should be able to enjoy themselves without being burdened with stuff like reality or better connecting to and empathizing with their fellow human beings through a gradual but sobering interactive explanation of an often misunderstood legitimate mental disorder. All this stupid maturity, accuracy, and sincerity has no place in the gaming world and gamers who value their ability to really enjoy a game should unite to bazooka, machine gun, flamethrower, and stab this simplistic, entirely human piece of crap out of existence.

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