My partner and I love a good "couch co-op" game, a video game where you and a friend can play together on the same computer rather than over a network. We recently played through Quest Hunter and its Strangewood DLC, and this my review of it. This review contains minor spoilers.
Cutting to the chase, the game was fun. We played through every quest we found and got 65 out of the 74 possible achievements (the ones we didn't achieve basically require grinding or a different style of play altogether, and we play for fun). It's not a perfect game, but it's a fun one, and I guess superficially it's a Zelda-like (during the Ocarina of Time or Wind Waker era). You explore local maps, bursting into houses and smashing barrels, delve into dungeons and solve little puzzles, you collect weapons and shields of greater and greater power, and in the end you save the princess. You can use gemstones and raw materials you collect to craft upgrades for your backpack, or to improve your three magic spells, and to brew potions for temporary attribute boosts. I could imagine playing through it again with maybe a different strategy, but I don't think you could play through it more than twice because there just aren't that many character options. We played on Easy mode ("Noob with a shovel") mode, which allowed us to keep all our loot through death, and completed the game in 23 hours of play.
Listed as an RPG, Quest Hunter has a main campaign and a world map featuring randomly-generated dungeons. Calling it an RPG is a little bit of a stretch even by video game standards, but it definitely has RPG-like elements. There aren't any character attributes, as such, but each time you level up you gain a few points to boost your Health, Armour, and Shield. It's difficult to say what effect on the game the Armour and Shield actually have, and I'm not entirely convinced they have any.
You also have "skillS" (actually magical powers) you gain as the game progresses. New skills unlock at certain levels, but you only have three spell slots, so you're likely to choose a strategy early and stick with it as you increase the power of your spells.
In the end, we basically both played tanks. We each had one slot to boost our armour, one slot for a big damage dealer, and one slot for an area-of-effect spell (I chose the Freeze spell, which paralyzed the enemies for some number of seconds, and my partner used a roundhouse kick that damaged lots of enemies at once). We tried a Banner spell, which created a sort of non-portable Circle of Protection for some number of seconds, but the game is pretty frantic so staying in one place just for a modest reduction to damage didn't make sense.
Had we understood the scope of each power, I can imagine a playthrough where one of us took protection or abjuration spells, like the Banner or Whirlwind spells, and the other took damage spells. Unfortunately, the spells are poorly described by the game, and it costs to activate them, so you're discouraged from trying them to find your favourite. In fact, to my mind the terminology of the game often did exactly the opposite of what I assumed it would. A "banner" in many tabletop wargames is a thing that a miniature carries around to provide boosts to allies within a certain range, but in this game the banner spell was immobile. The "fireball" spell in tabletop roleplaying games is often a thing that deals damage to everything within 20 feet, but in this game it's a targeted attack on one enemy (although it did seem to hit more than one tree or rock when used against inanimate objects).
In the end, you gamble on what spell you choose and hope for the best, and then you struggle for the rest of the game to decide whether it's better to just learn to love your existing powers or whether you should spend a whole harvest of gemstones on unlocking a new one to try. This is frustrating, it's not a fun part of the game. I guess if you really really love the world and don't mind grinding in a dungeon for more gems, then you could try each power until you find the combo you love, but even though we were having lots of fun with the game it never inspired us to delve back into a dungeon to find more gems so we could try out each skill.
The dialogue trees when you interact with NPCs are simple, which is nice because the game is a smash-and-grab frenzy so you don't have to slow down much for conversation. You're not able to give your character a personality through this dialogue, though. You can sometimes choose a certain attitude but it doesn't have any obvious effect on the conversation, and other times you have no choice but to say specific things not just to get a quest but also to exit out of the conversation. You'll always flirt with a female NPC, you'll always end up with a quest when one is available. You don't have to complete every quest, but all dialogue options eventually end with the same result.
In Quest Hunter, your dirigible crashes in a strange land with no sun. The dead are starting to rise, too, and also the princess has been kidnapped and needs rescuing. That's the main quest, and if it seems like it's actually three quests then you have a pretty good clue about how the game progresses. Of course there are side quests and ways to distract yourself from the main story, but at several points the main quest gets so muddled that you're likely to forget what the actual problem is supposed to be. I wholesale forgot that the sun was missing, and I don't think I ever understood why the princess was missing or who cares about it. To the game's credit, it says as much during a conversation with the final boss, and it's pretty hilarious. But if you're trying to find the story, it's sometimes pretty difficult, and if you're hoping for a satisfying conclusion then you'll be disappointed. After we defeated the final boss, the credits rolled and the game was over, with no epilogue. We were so confused that we went back into the game, only to find that the final quests hadn't been marked as complete (although we had earned the associated achievements), so we had to go back to the location where we'd been given the quests, and even then the sun never actually reappears is the world. You get credit for locating the sun, but the game world doesn't change and no NPC mentions how nice it is to have the sun back, and the undead still spawn in all the maps. It very much feels like the developers ran out of money or patience, and just stopped coding after the function that detects whether the final boss has been defeated.
With such an abrupt ending, you might think that the DLC would have been used to tie up all the loose ends. And if so, you'd be wrong. The DLC adds new locations to the world map, starting with a location labeled Strangewood (the name of the DLC). You can play the DLC along with the main quest, which is more or less what my partner and I did. I'm glad we played it after we'd gotten a good feel for the game, though, because it's the first DLC I've ever played that threatened to sour my opinion of the game entirely. I've played enough DLC to know to temper my expectations. In my experience, DLC usually feels like the "bonus features" on a DVD. It's the stuff that didn't make the final cut for a reason. But Strangewood is easily the worst DLC I've ever played.
The maps for Strangewood are under-developed, the story makes no sense, the main quest is a fetch mission with a fake ending so you have to re-do the fetch quest for the real item. The hub of the DLC is "The Village", literally the largest map of the entire game with nothing in it except a tiny campsite in the dead centre of the map. If you don't accidentally hit the centre early, then you can spend an hour "exploring" a mostly empty map. It's utterly baffling. It's like the developers bit off more than they could chew, creating a big map with maybe an idea to populate it with village ruins or something, but in the end deciding to just scatter some rocks and trees and call it done. Why they didn't reduce the map to just the camp, as they did for every other camp in the game, is beyond me.
After you've found the sun, Strangewood is still sunless (like the rest of the game). Strangewood also doesn't resolve the dropped thread about marrying the butcher's daughter (or the princess, for that matter).
Despite its many quirks, Quest Hunter is a really fun co-op game. In a way, it's what I'd expected from Torchlight, which is a game I've tried to play several times and keep walking away from. If you want the Zelda-like experience of constant smash-and-grab loot collection, fast-paced combat, and dungeon exploration, then Quest Hunter is a great way to get it. It's not an RPG, it's not a rogue-like, but it borrows elements from both. It's not perfect, and frankly downright odd in same places, but it ends up being a silly and casual and entertaining diversion. Skip the DLC, though.