Cat Quest II: The Lupus Empire Review
Reviewed on PCAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, PC, Android, iOS and Nintendo Switch
Cat Quest II: The Lupus Empire, developed by The Gentlebros, is the charming follow-up to 2017's equally charming Cat Quest. If you are not familiar with the original, feel free to head over to our review of the first game. Described by The Gentlebros as "a fast paced open world action RPG where you play as both a cat and a dog," Cat Quest II is all you would think a pet-centric epic would be, for better or for worse.
Cat Quest II does not attempt to avoid any classic RPG story tropes by any means. The game starts out with a brief telling of an ancient evil, royal corruption, and a prophecy foretelling the return of the kings. And while this may seem cliche' to the max, at least the kings are a cat and a dog! Seriously though, the simplicity of the story of Cat Quest II does not detract from the enjoyment offered by any means. The Gentlebros were able to create a game world that simultaneously seems cohesive enough to keep things moving, as well as not taking itself so seriously that the charm is sapped away to oblivion. Still, a bit more depth to the story would have been welcome.
Gameplay experienced in Cat Quest II does not stray far from what would be expected from a typical action-RPG title. Hacking, slashing, dashing, and spell slinging abound of course, with frequent armor and weapon finds to spice up your action. I sometimes felt that the armor and weapon finds were a bit too frequent though. While you are able to use gold to upgrade the level of all armor, weapons, and spells, after a while I found it really only effective to upgrade the spells as the armor and weapons were quickly replaced regardless. I also noticed that many dungeons dropped items already found, subsequently upgrading them instead of giving multiple copies, leading to even less of a reason to spend gold to upgrade.
Some additional variety is available in the form of which character you choose to play, whether feline or canine. Unfortunately, said variety is mostly visual in nature. Both protagonists are able to use any items acquired or spells learned, which likely equates to players choosing their favorite animal and running with it. Of course, it would be a mistake to totally focus on one while neglecting the other as, if you character is knocked out by an enemy, the other character becomes your focus instead. Because of this, it is a wise move to keep both animals geared appropriately as you go through the game.
However, having two characters to choose from does have its benefits. For example, due to the fact that both characters can use any of the items, being able to specialize one animal as melee and the other as spellcaster/healer can be quite helpful since switching controlled characters is merely a button press away.
Graphics and Sounds
I have to say, I immediately fell in love with the graphics and sounds of Cat Quest II. They were not revolutionary or anything, but something about the ambiance that these presented instantly made me excited to play the game. Similar to the first Cat Quest game, much of the action takes place on what looks like a top-down, isometric topographical map of the dog and cat kingdoms. The whimsy of running about a map, helping distressed cats and dogs with various tasks and the overarching story line fit perfectly in my opinion. Even the tiny details of the sounds made by each character in battle, a meow for the cat to a yip for the dog, went a long way to add to this pleasant atmosphere.
The Other Bits
Despite the whimsy and beauty of Cat Quest II, at times this game represents an excellent example of "too much of a good thing." The first time your dynamic duo enters a dungeon in search of a needed relic is engaging and exciting. The twentieth time? Not so much. Of course the layouts of the dungeons and the color schemes shifted depending on what part of the map you were, though both of these changes were minimal and still lead to a repetitive feel.
Speaking of repetitiveness, the variety of non-player characters and monsters encountered throughout the game could have used a bit of a boost in my opinion. I appreciated the design of these entities, though it would have been nicer if there were more of them to appreciate in the long run. Simple color swaps of sprites doesn't always cut it in the variety department. As far as the NPCs are concerned, other than the story-driven animals met along the way, basically everyone else looked identical. While not a problem by itself (I understand not wanting to create hundreds of different NPC sprites for a game like this), it would have been nice if at least the good towns folk would have looked different from the bandits and such.
And finally, I would be remiss if I did not address the pun situation. Alright, I like a good pun as much as the next guy, and I realize that this is a common theme of both Cat Quest games, I can't help but feel it was stretched a bit thin in this installment. Not a single instance of dialog goes by without some sort of purr, paw, meow, or similar animal-themed word replacing a more appropriate word. In less consistent doses this might be fine, but it quickly transitioned from cute, to tired, to just cringe-worthy to this writer. Perhaps only my opinion, but I would imagine I am not alone in this assessment.