Title:

  • Quarterstaff: The Tomb of Setmoth

Genre:

  • Interactive Fiction/RPG

Developer:

  • Infocom

Publisher:

  • Infocom

Release Date:

  • 1988?

System(s):

  • Macintosh

Box Art Credit:

  • Mobygames

Systems Used:

  • Windows running on MacBook

First Discovered:

  • Through "High Score: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games"

On Wikipedia:

As I've become accustomed to, most of my "reviews" often include an introduction paragraph that has little to do with the actual game. So this one is Quarterstaff: The Tomb of Setmoth which is an obscure title by Infocom, making it one of the few Mac exclusive games ever made by a major publisher. At the time, Infocom (a relatively major publisher) was owned by Activision, and while they published games under their own label (for the most part, even though they had to use Activision's facilities), they were shut down in 1989, though Activision used the Infocom label well into the 1990s.

So why is this a Mac exclusive? Well, it started out as a Mac title (actually, originally self-published in 1987, Infocom published this enhanced version in 1988) and was intended to be ported to other systems, but because sales were very low (a hallmark of late 1980s Infocom games), it never got any ports. One of the reasons it started out as a Mac product was that it had all sorts of cool interface features that could've only been done on a Mac, and implementing those on a DOS/Amiga/etc. system would've been a bit more unwieldy.

OK, remember how I talked about Eric the Unready? Well, I gotta admit, this is better. It's obvious that the writing skill isn't up to snuff to the qualities Infocom used to have, as the company was in deep trouble and hemorrhaging money, but the drop-down menus (and macros) fit the Mac like a glove. Trust me, if Eric the Unready was designed like this, it would have been much better. Not perfect, mind you, because there would still be the inane puzzles and childish writing to deal with, but otherwise, Quarterstaff is the better game in many aspects. Part of the reason for this, is of course, exploration. I haven't gotten too much into it, but there are about five or so "levels" which are literal levels (floors), and while I haven't gotten too much into it, there's also a map to always guide you along. Now, let me talk about the cool stuff first: there's tons of little pictures for your inventory (potions, food rations--which for the hero are represented by pretzels, coins), sound, the ability to split and join party members, and other things. This always-moving ability is a pain in many aspects...you meet the second party member of your team, Bruno, fairly early on. There is a third party member you can get that's very useful, the Elven archer Eolene, but to do that you need to get the Iron Key from the Chief Torturer, and with the two of you (Titus, that's you, and Bruno) should be able to win...but the Chief Torturer could slap manacles on one of your members (usually Titus), and render him temporarily helpless, and then him and the Druid Guard (if she's still alive) will go and lock themselves inside a cage. To avoid this, focus on the torturer first.

With a match visualized as a Bic lighter, you'd think this was some sort of goofy parody, but that unfortunately isn't the case.

Unless you want to suck days, months, years out of your life, I highly suggest looking at this walkthrough, though I think it spoils too much information, seeing as to with that, you should knock it out in a day (I haven't yet, having lost Bruno in a maze). I should try to write some sort of less-spoilered walkthrough to help you take care of things without too much frustration.

The end point is that despite the clever interface, Quarterstaff is still somewhat of a disappointment and it's easy to see why it was a commercial failure. The writing is spectacularly lackluster and not very Infocommish, the artwork (despite the crisp resolution) is dull, and the puzzles aren't too great either, so the end result is regretfully forgettable.

August 1 2015

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