In August 1991 Amstrad Action magazine put a demo of this game on their fifth regular covertape. While I didn’t play it much, being just a demo, there was something about the format of that game that grabbed me.
Hero Quest is a computer translation of a board game that only came out only a couple of years prior. At its heart it is a trapped back version of Dungeons and Dragons and similar choose your own adventure fantasy books which become popular during the 80’s. As in those games you choose to play as one of the classic Warrior, Sorcerer, Dwarf, or Elf and must explore a maze being the first player to complete a given objective.
The moment to moment gameplay follows the board game with the player rolling a virtual dice and moving a given number of moves around the maze. In gaming terms the result is a very stripped back and basic turn based RPG. The actual presentation is the familiar isometric 3D style made popular nearly a decade earlier on the ZX Spectrum in games like Knight Lore and Batman. The screen layout and player controls also who a debt to Populous.
Each mission is fairly short and without expansion discs number only around a dozen. However completion of later levels does require completion of earlier levels in order to ‘level up’ your character enough to completer those missions. As you explore mazes you will find equipment and potions, find gold and between missions are able to purchase better equipment to use going forward. A certain amount of replaying earlier levels and saving character profiles to a save disk is required to get to the end.
I’ve never played the board game but, much like later conversions like RISK, this does feel like it is faithful to the original source. This does create some minor problems with pace and randomness is battle results. Finding a way of managing your health is key, trying to to die while searching rooms to gain items that will help you not die. Likewise, constant dice rolling and square by square movement doesn’t exactly work playing single player.