Back in December we attended a hands-off preview session showcasing developer Vindit's game Quote (you can read our first preview here), but since then the game has entered Steam Early Access, allowing players to have some time with the game and play around with what it offers. We took the chance to experience the game for ourselves, then, and see how the concepts we saw being demonstrated worked in practice.
When we previously saw the game, the story was put to one side while we were shown the game's mechanics, but now we've seen a lot more of the story via this Early Access version. Via a prologue, we learn that Novella, the protagonist, used to be a fighter for knowledge, resisting the will of Bliss, the God of Ignorance, alongside her sister. She was more reluctant to hide than her sister, however, and while out resisting Bliss she is corrupted, and made to be his chief inquisitor. Because of this, you then have to go around and purge the world of books and knowledge, as well as tackling any promoters of knowledge you may find.
What this involves is going to each world (there's only three chapters in the Early Access version, but there'll be more in the final one) in order to find books, and when you find them you command your companion Tatters to eat them. This is made more complex by the fact that you need to find quotes to give you enough power to enter the caves where the books are found, however. Although you can enter these caves without the appropriate quotes, they become significantly harder, and so this is more of a guideline than a necessity.
This is your chief objective, but in each area you go to there will be side objectives for you to complete in order to further please Bliss, one of which involves getting rid of knowledge-promoting propaganda posters. These add another layer to the gameplay, meaning that it's not just a cycle of find quotes, locate book, eat, repeat. These side objectives give more varied tasks instead, and are arguably richer in story than the main objective.
When we saw the game being played back in November, artist Evan Lovejoy and developer Robin Lacey wanted to make clear that combat was far more than button-mashing and had a lot of tactics to it, but in practice this seemed pretty button-mashy. Although you do get more abilities to use in combat, the foundations do consist of clicking on your enemies as fast as possible until they die, unleashing a flurry of punches as you do so. Combat essentially then boils down to dashing away from your enemies, pushing them into danger, and hitting them, with different variants on each as you go. Simplistic and uncomplicated, yes, but not especially engaging.
The art style stands out though, and since we've talked about this before, we won't dwell on this too much, but as you explore the worlds you can see how carefully each bit has been crafted and lovingly detailed by the artist Evan Lovejoy, and the variety already is impressive, especially since it's all inspired by different genres of literature, such as the world based on magical realism, with all its weird and colourful quirks to go with it.
Audio-wise, Lacey has said that they want Quote to sound a bit like an audio book, what with the emphasis on narration. To expand a little, the entire game is voiced by a narrator, a softly spoken male voice, with Bliss interjecting, a more eccentric, comic voice. This is all well and good, and the voice acting is superb by the actor who provides both, but it's not without fault. Firstly, if you progress faster than the game intends you to, i.e. when replaying or trying to avoid enemies, these voice lines merge into one another as one is triggered before the other ends, producing a really annoying jarring effect. Also, the two voices don't play off each other as well as they could have at some points, leading to two separate voices existing in seemingly separate spaces, which feels odd too.
In terms of the UI, this follows the same vein as the art style, in the sense that it's very detailed and looks great visually, and although it can take some time to get your head round how to use Novella's brain (where quotes are stored) and Tatters' stomach (where books are stored), once picked up this is easy to use and allows you to coordinate your abilities nicely.
Overall, what is there of Quote looks very nice indeed, and clearly a lot of care has been put into how it looks and how it sounds (hence the long development cycle), but in terms of gameplay is isn't the most captivating. Combat is simplistic, the tasks you're given, while varied, aren't especially fun to carry out, and the audio occasionally misses the mark. We'd like to see a bit more of Quote's potential as more content is added, though, and hopefully the worlds will continue to be as interesting as these first ones as well.