In my ongoing effort to conquer every small game in my Steam library I have moved on to Cubicle Quest. It’s an inspired JRPG, which reminds me of my other review of Ar Tonelico (which you should totally read if you haven’t already because it boosts my self-esteem). So let’s talk Cubicle Quest.
You play Bob, the most generic name ever, probably so you can easily project yourself onto him. You are a recent college graduate with a ton of credit card debt and college loans. As a recent graduate myself, I can vouch for having a ton of college loan debt, but credit card debt? I’ve never had more than $300 put onto credit. I’d like to think my experience is the norm. Otherwise – hooo boy. Credit Card companies must be making bank. The entire theme of the game has to do with life after school. You’re kicked out of the home of your parents; which, being honest with you, I don’t think is terribly likely. Most of my friends are about to hit their mid-twenties and they’re still with their parents. Playing Bob, you advance your way through your career, your social life, life’s many problems, and eventually conquer “Empty Life” – the final boss.
The story isn’t terribly inspired. If anything, it’s pretty much real life struggle. Finding a job, dealing with other people in your life, and dealing with real-world problems like depression. Most of the dialogue in the game is tongue-in-cheek fourth-wall breaking banter. Which, as I am sorry to disappoint you in saying this, does not make it any less cliche. It’s amusing to read, but then again I also laughed at Tyrion’s joke about a Stark, a Tyrell, and a Lannister entering a bar. My sense of humour is probably not the best to go by. Long story short – it’s a JRPG that’s aware of itself being a JRPG. Which doesn’t make it any better.
Can we talk about JRPGs? Let’s talk about JRPGs. JRPG has to be the type of game I like least, or it’s waaaaaay up there. Why? Because JRPGs are long. Because JRPGs more often than not include grinding. They include memorizing enemy types (which we’ll get to in a minute). They include all of this bananas stuff. I don’t like the idea of levels, wherein you lose because you quoted bigger numbers at the other person. This is why I often praise Dark Souls. While levels can help, most of Dark Souls is about resource management and positioning. Very little of it is about how long you spend in the Darkroot Forest grinding Cat Covenant members. In a JRPG, you can be the best micro-manager of resources possible but still lose because you took on a Level 15 boss with your Level 2 party. It’s a playstyle which promotes time investment of fighting mooks just so you can fight the boss. I just don’t like that sort of thing.
My biggest gripe with this game is enemy types. As near as I can tell, there are three enemy types (possibly four). Those are Work, Personal, and Human (and possibly Illusion). There are a series of skills on each your party members which can be effective against any of these types of monsters. The problem is, you have no way of telling what type of monster it is by looking at it. So you spend half the fight guessing which type is super effective until you find it and then you have to memorize it for future battles. Suppose you leave and fight other stuff in another area of the game. Fighting this other stuff is pretty rough, so you decide to grind back in the original area. Now you have to try to remember what type of enemies these were. It’s madness! It’s bonkers! This is not what I call fun!
Every item in the game, every piece of equipment is related to real life but effectively it’s a Find/Replace of your typical JRPG. Instead of ‘weapon’ you have ‘goals’. Instead of ‘armour’ you have ‘community’. It’s not terribly interesting and it doesn’t add anything to the genre. You don’t get points in the game’s favour just because you know what a Find/Replace function does. I mean, it’s amusing for the first two seconds but when you realize what has been done, the chuckle dies down inside and you slowly come to terms with your depressing life, unemployment, and lack of ambition…. what was I saying again?
The game presses out three things that fulfill you in life. These three things are home, lack of debt, and marriage. You have to have all three things to challenge the boss. Lack of debt I can maybe understand. I mean, who wants to spend their entire life effectively making nothing because every dime they make goes to someone else (college debt is slowly encroaching on me…). A home? Yeah, sure. I can maybe get behind that too. Not having to be accountable to someone else for the state of your home is pretty nice. I like being able to put a nail in my wall without having to fill out some paperwork for my landlord as much as the next person. But marriage? This is where I draw the line. Allow me to bring up a personal anecdote.
In my senior year of high school, in my European history class, everyone was forced to read The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. At some point or another, we were split into groups and tasked with the job of creating an alternate ending to the book. So this was probably after we had all finished the book. Well, I say ‘we’ very operatively. I don’t recall ever personally finishing the book because I just didn’t care anymore. I know protagonist kills one of his former tormentors and I think he goes to prison but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get out of this. So we’re talking about alternate endings and I can’t remember what my ideas focused on, probably PK’s boxing career, and another member of the group keeps trying to press this one idea. She agreed with everything else we said, whatever it was, but she kept trying to tack on a marriage. To the slut mentioned at the beginning of the book, oddly enough. I think she was referred to as ‘Couchy’ or something? Because everyone lays on her at some point or another? This partner of mine kept trying to force this marriage into the ending somehow as if that were the defining characteristic of a happy ending. Marriage. I’m not denying that marriage can probably make you happy (considering that I’ve never been married or even in a relationship in which marriage seems like a likely outcome) but I wouldn’t make it a prerequisite. So that’s a drag.
Oh, and this one comment is for the easily triggered: I did not find any way to have a homosexual relationship. Make of that what you will.
All in all, the game is decent enough to pass time, but I wouldn’t really want to play it? Like, if you have a long car ride and can somehow play Steam games on your phone (maybe in the future… future… future…) it wouldn’t be that bad but then I think – there are a ton of better games that I would rather be playing. So why play this one? If you like the snarky-sarcastic theme; some might even call it snarcastic. Though I’m not entirely sure whether snarky and sarcastic are synonyms. I can’t recommend this game as a ‘good’ game though. It has humour… and that’s about it. And humour can’t carry a game like this. It worked in The Stanley Parable because the game was narrative driven and fairly short with multiple endings. It doesn’t work in JRPGs because the bulk of the game is fighting, not narrative. So, sorry Cubicle Quest. I like the idea, but not the execution.