Depression Quest: An Honest Review by Someone Suffering From It’s Theme

A review of the game made by someone with actual Depression


(Disclosure: This was pub­lished both in a twit­longer & on a pre­vi­ous site, archived and re­pub­lished with permission)

Written by @CyberEagle1989, re­pub­lished with permission.

First things first: Depression Quest is made in Twine. If you are un­fa­mil­iar with it, Twine is a Framework for writ­ing Choose Your Own Adventure-type sto­ries, or “Interactive Stories”, as it calls them it­self, and al­low­ing them to be read as .html in a browser.

It’s easy to use and quite pow­er­ful at what it is do­ing, al­low­ing some op­tion­al fea­tures that can bring a well-made work clos­er to a Visual Novel than a book ever could.

However, at the end of the day, it’s made to tell sto­ries with min­i­mal play­er in­put and the best “gam­ing” it can of­fer, af­ter lots of work, is a mediocre Text-Adventure-experience. Nonetheless, I’ve had some great fun with oth­er people’s works in Twine.

Now for this spe­cif­ic game.

Depression Quest, as the name im­plies, puts you into the mind of a per­son suf­fer­ing from one of hu­man­i­ties most com­mon men­tal prob­lems (In fact, a vast ma­jor­i­ty of adults to­day suf­fer from the type of de­pres­sion com­mon­ly known un­der the un­sci­en­tif­ic term “Burnout”). The game is set to a repet­i­tive sad tune — no doubt in­tend­ed to put you into the right mind­set, and a small num­ber of grainy pic­tures and three even more grainy com­ments on your cur­rent sta­tus (How bad your de­pres­sion is, if you are vis­it­ing an ex­pert, if you are tak­ing medication).

Almost every page opens up with a de­scrip­tion of how ter­ri­ble your mood dur­ing the cur­rent scene is (usu­al­ly very) and ends in a few op­tions. Some of which are not ac­ces­si­ble if you are too de­pressed for them. This makes sense in­so­far that a de­pressed per­son might not be able to pur­sue cer­tain paths of ac­tion, or even see them, de­pend­ing on the strength of the sickness.

Depression, af­ter all, isn’t so much strong sad­ness, as a medi­um amount of sad­ness that eats at your mo­ti­va­tion like a cancer.

But for some rea­son the au­thor felt the need to put in an op­tion that the play­er will nev­er ac­tu­al­ly be able to ac­cess (in­clud­ing a few high­ly mo­ti­vat­ing ones) un­less cheat­ing, which I haven’t tried, but which can be done by choos­ing a ver­sion of Twine that dis­plays the game’s cur­rent vari­ables in the browsers ad­dress bar. In my opin­ion, this se­ri­ous­ly hurts the games mes­sage of how much a strug­gle deal­ing with de­pres­sions is.

You wouldn’t open­ly place a field to en­ter the god-mode cheat at the bot­tom of Dark Souls ei­ther, would you?

A fur­ther prob­lem with the “game­play” it­self is that it re­quires a spe­cif­ic path to end up in a sit­u­a­tion where you can ac­tu­al­ly get peo­ple to make you seek out help. While many de­pressed peo­ple re­al­ly don’t get into the spe­cif­ic cir­cum­stances re­quired for the way to a bet­ter fu­ture, it seems weird that in this sto­ry, the peo­ple around you care enough to make you seek out pro­fes­sion­al help, but will stop car­ing just from one or two missteps.

A spe­cif­ic prob­lem I had with the in-game events is that the de­ci­sion to adopt a cat doesn’t seem to re­al­ly slow down the fur­ther de­cent into de­pres­sion by the pro­tag­o­nist. In truth, a pet re­al­ly helps, both by forc­ing you to ac­tive­ly do some­thing —car­ing for the pet, in­stead of wal­low­ing in your mis­ery— and by giv­ing you warmth and love with­out all the bull­shit that can sur­round hu­man interaction.

Then there’s also the point in the game where the pro­tag­o­nist is afraid of go­ing to a ther­a­pist, be­cause the ther­a­pist might love them. This seems weird, since any mod­er­ate­ly in­tel­li­gent per­son knows that the ther­a­pist won’t. Instead, a de­pressed per­son would search an­oth­er ex­cuse (which at least can hap­pen in-game un­der some cir­cum­stances), prob­a­bly putting it of un­til some un­spec­i­fied day in the fu­ture or telling him/herself that s/he doesn’t need help.

Anyway. After a few dozen pages like this, you end up in an epi­logue that im­plies that every­thing con­tin­ues in the ex­act same man­ner it did the last few pages be­fore — suc­cess­ful or not.

That’s ex­act­ly the thing a de­pressed per­son se­cret­ly sus­pects about their life.

Since it needs spe­cif­ic cir­cum­stances to ar­rive at a good end, a ca­su­al read­er will end up at an epi­logue in which every­thing con­tin­ues be­ing shit for the main character.

Way to send an up­lift­ing, thought­ful mes­sage there, author.

I give this game the fol­low­ing points:

Sound: 3/10 Repetitive sin­gle piece, but evokes the right mood

Graphics: (Pictures and de­sign, re­al­ly) 2.5/10 Artsy grain ef­fects on am­a­teur photos.

Gameplay: 2/10 Almost in­ex­is­tent due to the na­ture of the medi­um cho­sen. Designed in a way that would make peo­ple go “only play with a walk­through at hand” if it were a more tra­di­tion­al video game

Story and Writing: 5/10 Some de­cent enough work here. Wordy in a nice way. Touches on some­thing im­por­tant in a ver­bose way, but feels like it was a draft that just got fi­nal­ized, in­stead of go­ing through sev­er­al re­vi­sions to reach the qual­i­ty ex­pect­ed of a short work try­ing to send­ing such a pow­er­ful message.

Final Verdict:

This “game” is put in an un­fit­ting for­mat and bare­ly ad­just­ed to fit in it.

Depression Quest could have been a pow­er­ful book writ­ten in a journal-like style. Instead the au­thor chose to de­stroy what it could be for rea­sons I have my sus­pi­cions on but do not fit in the con­text of a review.

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