If there’s one thing I value in a game, it’s a solid gameplay loop.
A game can have the fanciest graphics in the world, ultra-realistic physics and a shedload of content, but if it doesn’t have a gameplay hook that keeps you glued to the screen, then it’s all for naught. The upcoming Cat Quest, an action RPG by Singaporean indie developer The Gentlebros, seems to be developed around this ethos – that the gameplay loop is king – as that is what drives it to be a heart-warming yet utterly addictive feline-based adventure.
Out to find your dear sister who’s been catnapped, Cat Quest features a light but entertaining story that successfully propels the action forward without being too intrusive. You quickly discover that you’re quite possibly a Dragonblood – a hero capable of besting dragons in combat – and so all of a sudden your journey becomes even more fraught with danger and peril. The mood always remains upbeat, however, and along the way there are plenty of humorous references to popular culture and a hell of a lot of cat puns that are sure to have you groaning or guffawing.
The action of Cat Quest mainly takes place on a big, open-world map that feels like an overworld from a classic Final Fantasy game. You can enter the odd cave or ruin to do some brawling and looting, but the majority of your time will be spent out in the open world. The good news is that it’s a bright and colourful world full of enemies to kill and quests to resolve, which means you’re rarely more than a few seconds away from some kind of action. And the action itself is simple but engaging, making Cat Quest the kind of game that ravenously consumes your time without you even knowing it.
Combat is basic, yet requires an enjoyable amount of skill and strategy. You can perform a basic combo by mashing the attack button, clobbering an unfortunate enemy with your equipped melee weapon. To bolster your repertoire of combat options, you’re also able to assign up to four magic spells for quick use. Unusually, each spell has its own area of effect, so it’s up to you to position yourself effectively before casting, or choose the right spell for your current position. When an enemy is readying itself to retaliate with its own melee or magic attack, a faint red marker appears underneath it indicating its area of effect. At this point it’s up to you to either run or roll out of the way of danger before the red marker solidifies in colour and the enemy strikes.
Again, it’s a basic combat system, but one that has a nice flow to it. And the fluid movement and upbeat pace of the game means that it’s always an appealing option rather than just avoiding your enemies. Sometimes it can be challenging too. While one-on-one fights don’t pose too much of a problem, when you’re up against groups of enemies combining magic and melee attacks you’ll have to make effective use of your own magic while dashing in and out to land a flurry of melee blows to succeed. If you fail and unfortunately fall in battle, the repercussions aren’t so severe; you merely get taken back to your last checkpoint, once again ready to enter the fold.
Being an RPG, there is of course some character development to be done within Cat Quest. Completing quests and defeating enemies grants you experience that enables you to level up, automatically boosting your stats. Unlike many games it’s a quick process, with you likely to gain 20-30 levels within the first few hours of play. Equipment is also on hand to boost your stats. There are a variety of helmets, weapons and chest armour to find and equip on your quest, each affecting your distribution of stats somewhat. Staffs, for instance, bolster your magic attack capabilities at the expense of your melee attack stat, while heavy chest armour pieces will lower your magic stat but grant a nice boost to your defence and possibly your health.
Your equipment is improved by acquiring duplicates of the same item, making looting, completing quests and paying to open randomised chests at a blacksmith always an enticing opportunity to upgrade your favourite gear. Each piece of equipment has a visual impact on your adventurous feline too, giving them an appropriate look to suit your playstyle.
Within a few hours of play I’d explored perhaps half of Cat Quest‘s densely packed map, suggesting that it won’t be the lengthiest adventure out there. That’s probably a good thing however; its lack of depth could lead to a growing feeling of repetition if the experience was drawn out for too long. What I have played of Cat Quest leads me to one conclusion though; that it is sickeningly cute and wondrously charming, leaving me eager to get my hands on the finished product so I can see the adventure through to its end. I want to complete all the quests, explore all the caves and ruins, and upgrade all my favourite loot before dealing with the evil Drakoth and getting my sister back. Cat Quest may not be full of deep game mechanics, but it’s addictive, endearing fun that takes you back to a time when games were simpler, and it’s all the better for it.
Cat Quest is set for release on 8th August for PC, and later in the year for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.