Healer’s Quest review — A thankless task

Fellow B3 reviewer Jupiter Hadley has a phrase she often likes to use in her reviews: ‘super cute’. Until recently, I’d never really thought of using the phrase myself, but hilarious RPG Healer’s Quest certainly hits the mark.

Healer’s Quest is the perfect video-game representation of life as a healer in any MMO or roleplaying game — an often thankless, but demanding and sometimes demeaning task, even if you get it spot on. It also manages to be downright hilarious with some of its dialogue, which isn’t afraid of launching itself through the fourth wall on multiple occasions.

But let’s start from the beginning, shall we? Healer’s Quest is a roleplaying game from Rablo Games, with gameplay focussed around playing the role of healer to a party of eccentric RPG class archetypes. You have the better-than-thou, loot-claiming tank; the booty-(of the female persuasion)-chasing mage with a fondness for fireballs; the raging barbarian who managed to fail his barbarian exams; and the ranger who’s scared of spiders… which is slightly less archetypal.

The party faces a chest while Murky, the wizard, says 'Looks like a lootbox. The first one is free, then we'll have to pay microtransactions for the next ones.'
No bank balances were harmed in the playing of this game.

In any case, that’s the rest of the party. Your healer is a custom-made character, moulded from a set of appearance parts and colours. You get to give them a name, restricted by some rules to make it fit the rest of the theme, then you get to set their karma. We made a ‘victim’ healer called Jonesy, whose special power was… well, we picked one of the joke powers that didn’t actually do anything, so the answer is: not much.

Equipped with his magic wand, Jonesy set off into the world of healing, quickly accumulating an unappreciative party around him. We only had to worry about two measures with Jonesy: mana and XP. You don’t need gold, though, right? It’s not like you do any damage.

You make use of your healer’s abilities primarily through clicking, so it all comes down to juggling party members’ health and making sure you keep an eye on everyone.

Jonesy healing the party. The tank has fallen over.
The characters tend to glare at you if you get behind on healing.

The most basic spell has you hold the mouse down over whoever needs healing, with stars streaming out of your wand as you do so. However, your wand heats up as you use this spell, making it less effective when hot, before ultimately stopping your magic altogether for a second or two if it overheats. You can counteract this by clicking on big ‘boost’ stars when they appear; these cool down your wand and heal more health. At the beginning, they’re tricky to time right as you fumble around, finding your feet, but it gets easier to take them into account later on.

You also have to balance this against mana consumption, as every star means mana spent and big stars cost even more. While your mana pool does increase as you level up, protracted fights and bad decisions can see you spent, turned into the useless hanger-on your companions see you as.

Thankfully, you have other spells for this. A rather large number, in fact, though you can only have four in your skill bar at any one time. Some of these activate as soon as you click them or press their number, such as boon, which restores a chunk of your mana. Others must be applied to a target by clicking while the skill is selected, such as stone skin and remedy, which increase your party members’ defence and heal bad status conditions respectively.

A picture of the Heal spell's upgrade tree.
Unsurprisingly, this was the first spell we upgraded.

As a side note, but certainly a main attraction, this aspect of gameplay is part of Healer’s Quest’s ‘cute’ aspect. Every spell issuing from Jonesy’s wand was accompanied by the name of the spell. His appearance and that of his companions was drawn in a kind of pastel style, soft colours meeting one another to become a sword, a bow, an axe. Stylised animations fill combat and mingle with dialogue.

Anyway, you can upgrade each of your spells along different branches of their upgrade trees using stars you accumulate as you level up. Every couple of times you level up a spell, the cost of the next upgrade goes up, but you earn more stars at higher levels anyway. One of Jonesy’s first upgrades was to his standard healing spell, letting him heal slower with a right click at zero mana cost.

But all this fighting isn’t aimless (though some is perhaps uncalled for) — you’re out to complete whatever quest your party has been sent on. Along the way, you also discover more about each party member’s backstory, prompting moments that see them disappear for a fight or two while they deal with something personal. The quest resolutions, the character dialogue and pretty much everything that happens along the way — complete with constant digs at healers — are a great laugh to keep you going on your way.

Jonesy walks around on the overland map near 'Dev's Church'.
Wandering around the overland map can be a risky and disorientating business.

All this takes place on an overland map where you can bump into randomly (or scripted) spawning enemies in the familiar RPG style. Inns let you sleep the night for a price, though not every inn is as reputable as the last. Shops sell potions, weapons and jewellery upgrades, even if you sometimes have to grind a little to afford them — not that the grind is ever more than a few enjoyable battles.

On the subject of weapons, each character has their own type, so you can’t just mix and match between them. What you can do is collect weapons, rings and bracelets from combat or chests lying around. Weapons and rings can be applied to characters with various effects (make sure to read the EULA), but only your healer can equip bracelets.

A view of the screen after a fight, with a newly acquired weapon and the characters' experience and health bars.
Weapons are pretty standard, but rings can have pretty specific (and unusual) properties.

On the whole, dungeons are actually pretty laid back. You can exit at any time and even though you have to start at the beginning when you re-enter, you can unlock shortcuts to minimise backtracking once you get to certain points. Indeed, dungeon-crawling is very much a trial of repeatedly throwing your party into the breach until they don’t die quite so much. After all, the more they get knocked out, the grumpier they get. Apparently there are consequences for that, but we kept ours happy with frequent breaks in the inn — and good healing.

We’re surprised more people aren’t talking about Healer’s Quest. It’s a great gem of a game, with many funny (and morally reprehensible) moments scattered throughout. You can pick it up on Steam right now and follow the developer @RabloGames on Twitter.

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