The Xploquest series channels what makes games like Torchlight and Diablo great—an unapologetic embrace of loot grinding. The point of these games is not to follow a story or rescue a world but rather to kill monsters, acquire gold, earn XP, and purchase upgrades. Rinse and repeat. That’s not a criticism by any stretch of the imagination, but rather a recommendation.
Some years ago, a friend turned me on to the Diablo franchise. Somehow, I’d managed to miss the first release and the landmark release of Diablo II, so I came rather late to this particular genre. I started with Torchlight 2 and Diablo III, and apparently, I played it wrong. I stacked XP boost gear rather than focusing on firepower or other enhancements. Between the gear and my obsession with clearing the maps, by the time I made it to the Belial fight, I was somewhere around level 50, so my witch doctor tanked that fight with little difficulty, horrifying my friend. Despite my “incorrect” strategy, I adored it. There was something beautifully straightforward about killing monsters, collecting gear, and leveling up, and I loved it. I still do.
Xploquest 3 scratches that same Diablo itch without the same price tag and with a greater emphasis on quests. You start out from town and move into new zones, represented by squares. Landing on a square normally triggers a battle, and you kill the mob, take the gold, and use your loot to purchase upgrades and other useful items in town. Each zone requires three passes and three iterations of combat in order to explore fully. Combat is turn-based and not exceptionally complex. If you liked the button mashing in Diablo and Torchlight, you’ll feel right at home wandering Xploquest 3’s map.
Like Diablo and Torchlight, Xploquest 3 ostensibly has a plot that involves crystals, I think. However, I have to admit that I didn’t especially pay attention to it. I was too busy counting my gold, shopping, and monster-slaying to pay any real attention to a story.
The user interface is clean and easy to read at a glance, and combat actually goes pretty quickly. I like that you can view and access your useful items during a fight without having to toggle through menus. The music is pleasant, and there’s just something satisfying about the thwapping sound effects for successful strikes against a mob. Visually, Xploquest 3 has a certain cartoon-y flavor, but the rendering is solid and attractive. The maps are fun, and you get a variety of terrain types and mobs to explore and slay respectively.
There’s a skill tree that contributes trades, magic, or other bonuses to your character, and they play out pretty well in-game. Players would do well to remember to take advantage of the bonuses offered by this system. Fortunately, the skill tree is pretty straightforward, so you won’t find yourself locked into a play-style for which you don’t particularly care.
The title’s only real drawback lies in the save feature. It only saves when you go into a town or a city and does automatically. You cannot leave a fight or quest in progress, which is kind of a problem if you’re playing on a tight timeline. Furthermore, mobs only drop gold, not items, and you have to redeem your gold in, you guessed it, a town or city. Plus, every move you make on the map requires a certain amount of food and an in-game day, so if you run out of food, you’re kind of stuck and have to start over. There’s definitely a bit of a balancing act with respect to food and bag space.
You can trigger a “quickfight” mode by pressing and holding the attack button. If you do, the fight unfolds automatically. The problem there is that if you don’t pay attention to your life bar and supplement with health potions as needed, your quickfight results in a quick trip to the graveyard. The death screen is literally a gravestone, which was cute at first and then became a bit repetitive.
Basically, Xploquest 3 is a fun title, but don’t go looking for variability in gameplay as that’s not really the point of the game. Unlike Diablo, the levels are not procedurally generated; the maps are fixed. That does reduce the title’s replayability. However, it’s an impressive little gem coming from a solitary developer.
Xploquest 3 isn’t great for picking up and putting down due to the game requiring a town to autosave, unless you care to lose your progress. Aside from those issues, Xploquest 3 is a great way to spend an afternoon, and at $5.99 on Steam, it’s a pretty reasonably priced title.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- The game really plays better if you use a keyboard or controller; trying to use a mouse does not make for a great experience.
- I thought the kobolds were pretty cute.
- I’m serious about paying attention to the quickfight. It’s really, really easy to zone out and end up dead.
- Xploquest 3 does have an actual end to it, but really, that’s not what we’re here for.