Play at SEA: Cat Quest II a charming, pun-filled adventure which superbly condenses RPG experience
By Tan Jee Yee December 25, 2020
- A charming action RPG that is accessible and fun
- While the game is ultimately simple, it doesn’t overstay its welcome
Cat Quest 2 is the game my childhood self would appreciate. I had grown up with a steady diet of action adventures, platformers and arcade brawlers, and wouldn’t get into role-playing games (or at least games with RPG mechanics) up until the infamously confounding Final Fantasy VIII, of all games.
I loved the eighth incarnation of Square Enix’s franchise, but it was like swimming at open sea without first learning how to tread water. It took me a long time to fully comprehend Final Fantasy VIII’s complex, convoluted systems, as I had to first understand how RPGs actually work – what things like “HP” and “Str” mean, how buying new equipment could affect those, and levelling up characters.
Cat Quest 2, on the other hand, is superbly accessible. The game’s greatest strength is how well it condenses core RPG mechanics into something that is easy to grasp, working as a great first step into the RPG genre as a whole.
There’s definite concern to a game that is “simple” in construct and execution, but I believe that there’s an art to simplification – a balance between accessibility and sustaining fun that developers The Gentlebros managed to achieve. Its inherent charm and cuteness, wrapped up with all those cat puns, certainly helps.
Cats and dogs questing together, mass hysteria!
You don’t really need to play the original Cat Quest to dive right into the sequel. Just know that most things have been pretty much doubled from the original game – there are more armour, weapons and spells – but more importantly, the number of protagonists have doubled, too.
Instead of a single feline adventurer, Cat Quest 2 stars two furry heroes, one cat and one dog, who are displaced monarchs that need to return to their rightful position as rulers of their respective kingdoms and stop all the senseless warring. It’s as straightforward a tale as you can get, but one that is littered with so many animal puns (that range from hilarious to horrendous) that it somehow stands out.
As with most RPGs, our questing duo begins the game with only the most rudimentary of apparels and weaponry, and would have to explore the world, dispatch evil creatures and complete quests in order to rake in stronger equipment and spells, and the money needed to upgrade them. It fundamentally plays like Diablo, albeit with a fairy tale skin.
Having two heroes opens up new possibilities. The game supports local co-op now, with the second player taking the role of the doggo. In single-player, the AI takes over the remaining character, though you can easily swap between characters with just a button press. This allows players to mix up their character builds a little – you can make the cat more focused on melee damage while the dog can be better at spells, and change characters depending on the situation.
The co-op experience is excellent, however. Having a buddy, significant other or your children take over the other furry hero is definitely more preferable than the AI companion. The second player can drop in anytime, and the game features a menu interface that makes it easy for both players to access and allocate their equipment without it being a mess.
The core experience
Much of Cat Quest 2 is a condensation of RPG tropes and mechanics. The game is open world, and much of its expansive overworld map can be explored from the get go (though some areas are soft-locked with high-level enemies).
There are no towns to explore per se – you drop into shops and magic institutions for upgrades, but most of the adventure takes place on the overworld, where you can beeline for the main story quest or go and take up some of the side-quests littered around the world for better loot.
These quests usually send you down a nearby cave or dungeon, which plays pretty straightforwardly. The game doesn’t reward exploration beyond giving you a chest or two down certain path branches, but it does push you to explore as much nooks and crannies as you can.
Side-quests are fairly easy to complete, but I do wish that they allowed me to pick up multiple side-quests at a go so that I could complete them at my own leisure. You can only take up one quest at a time, so if you find one while en route towards your next main story marker and want to deal with it later, you’re going to have to remember to backtrack and accept it rather than list in in a quest log to tend to later.
They do lead to stronger equipment, some of which have unique properties that allow you to make simple character builds. Swords and axes work well up close, but you can also opt to equip a wand that allows you to attack from a distance (at the expanse of health). In co-op, this allows players to take up different roles – one might want to be a beefy tank, while the other slight spells in relative safety.
Combat is also a condensed affair. You have a regular attack that builds a meter that allows you to cast spells, which are usually area-of-effect spells for damage or healing. Combat is rarely difficult, though later fights can get chaotic with the increased number of enemies and projectiles coming your way.
But since enemies don’t have complicated attack patterns (they have a red circle indicating how wide their attack hits, and you can easily roll away with the dodge button), fights are typically straightforward in approach. Some enemies have specific elemental weaknesses that you need to take advantage of, but often it’s an uncomplicated affair.
A polished adventure
This condensation of RPG mechanics also means a more condensed game. Cat Quest 2 can be completed in 10 hours or so, and that’s if you take time to do the side-quests. Your characters level up at a fast pace, and you get access to new equipment and spells fairly quickly if you take up those side missions.
The breezy pace might be eyebrow-raising for those who are used to RPGs being 30 to 50 hour affairs, but I’d say that Cat Quest 2 didn’t overstay its welcome. Any longer and the game wouldn’t be able to sustain itself, what with its simple plot and mechanics. It’s a short adventure, but it’s just right.
It’s also a polished adventure, one that looks terrific and sounds great. That these elements all come together solidly isn’t a fluke – Singaporean-based The Gentlebros not only had the first Cat Quest under their belt, but the core founders Desmond Wong, Leon Ho and Syaz were industry veterans before striking out on their own, having worked together in Koei Tecmo on popular titles like Dynasty Warriors, Fatal Frame and Nioh.
Often we think of games as being better if they’re more complex. I would disagree. Some of the best games are about how well they simplify and streamline the core experience into something memorable and enjoyable.
Cat Quest 2 does just that. While I believe that the adventure as a whole could do with more to do beyond just combat and dungeons, that The Gentlebros managed to create an accessible yet enjoyable RPG experience makes this a game that is perfect for those looking for a simple, good time, and those dipping their toes into RPGs for the first time.
"Play at SEA" is a collaborative series between Digital News Asia and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). These articles will shine a spotlight on Southeast Asia video games and their creators.
Related Stories :