Depression Quest is an interactive narrative with a set goal: to try to help people who haven’t experienced depression understand what it’s like for the sufferer. However, throughout my time with the narrative, I couldn’t focus as much on the goal of the story because of the poor implementation of the game design itself.
You play as an unnamed character who struggles with depression that progressively gets more burdensome as the game goes on. The goal of using an unnamed character was probably to put the player in the character’s shoes, but for me, it only served to give me no real connection to the character. In the first few pages of the game, when the character is introduced, there are various links to other pages that explain some of the context for future situations. One, for example, is described as “a project you’ve been working on,” but since it doesn’t go into detail, the player loses a connection with the character that could’ve been more personal. At the end of a long section of pages, when the character needs to make a decision, there are a few different options, with the first always crossed out—the next few will continually be crossed out as the depression worsens. This option is clearly supposed to show what the character could do, if not for the depression, but instead it just distracts from the actual possible choices and the player finally picks something to just get past the page.
The music and overall design of each page also leaves the player feeling bored and uninterested.
The supposedly “sad” piano music is distracting from the text, and the page itself, being a static, gray affair, doesn’t do much—if anything—to hold the player’s attention and keep them focused on the story. The status buttons below decision options are also static, with a poor font choice, and slightly distract the player from the options available. Another problem is that you cannot stop playing and pick back up where you left off. For a game with such a bland, boring interface, not having this option makes the player even less likely to want to work back through the game, if they have to stop playing for some reason.
Overall, this game could have been much better, if it had been designed to better keep and hold the player’s attention. As it is, there are too many distracting things going on and not enough draw to the story to keep the player interested and caring about the outcome.