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Depression Quest Reviewed by Josh Dollins on . Depression Quest may not be the most uplifting game of the year, but it's something everybody should experience. Told as a text adventure, this is an incredibly personal journey into the world of depression. Best of all, the game can currently be played for free. Although it's not much to look at, Depression Quest is worth your time. Rating: 78%
Depression Quest
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  • B+
Like many after the passing of Robin Williams, a man who has entertained me throughout my life and especially during my youth, I was saddened by his suicide and prompted to research depression a bit to try to come to terms with the news. This led me to discover a game I had never heard of, Depression Quest. Although it has been available for a while now as a digital download, the game only recently launched on Steam, which is where I found it. Depression Quest is mired in controversy for so many reasons, but I am not here to address these issues I simply want to discuss the game and its merits.

First off, is Depression Quest even a game? Of course it is! It's a text based adventure, something we don't see as often as we did in the early 1980s. Despite a lack of flashy graphics, a great soundtrack and any real play mechanics, this is a game that needs to be experienced by more people. Depression Quest had me hooked from start to finish. Like a good book, the game fully involved my imagination and emotions as I became the character. I felt the pain and lack of motivation to live; I was moved to tears.

Depression Quest (PC)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Admittedly, some of this may be due to my own history with depression. Thankfully, the game starts off by warning the player about what it will entail, and you may want to reconsider playing it lest it negatively affect your day. I decided to soldier on, and I'm glad I did.

The game's most striking design choice is how many of the options in a given situations are crossed out in red and unavailable. This annoyed me at first, but upon reflection I understand the point being made. Although these options are available to those suffering from depression, they are not necessarily options that the person will realize or seriously consider given their state of mind.

Choices as simple as reaching out to someone close to you when you're feeling down, letting go of stress and being intimate with your partner or looking for a better job are all shown as literally impossible in the game. It's not as if these common sense solutions to get out of your rut are hidden or unknowable, they are simply not an option.

Depression Quest (PC)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The more your state of mind deteriorates, the more options you lose access to, until only the least productive and sometimes most self-destructive options (drinking, TV binges, prolonged sleep) are available. Eventually, the lack of choice becomes so suffocating that you're trapped among choices that will only drag you down further, a powerful statement on the spiral of depression in a simple game mechanic.

While a session of Depression Quest does eventually come to an end, this isn't a game that really has a tidy feel good conclusion. There is no special combination of choices you can make to reach a special end screen where you are magically healed -- just as in real life, it's complicated. The best you can really hope for, if you choose routes that lead to therapy and perhaps medication, is a kind of unsatisfying ending that suggests you'll continue muddling through and handling these feelings the best you can.

Day by day you can only do your best. As in real life, there is no winning this game and no happy ending. There's just learning, personal growth and a life with all its ups and downs.
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