Quern – Undying Thoughts Review
Quern – Undying Thoughts Review
Quern is a game I would highly recommend for the adventurer with a heart for puzzles. It is definitely a “thinking person’s game."
Posted: 01/10/18 | Category: Review | Developer: Zadbox Entertainment | Publisher: Zadbox Entertainment | Platform: Linux, Windows, Mac

Genre: 1st Person Puzzle Adventure
Release date: November 28, 2017
Platform: Windows, Mac,  SteamOS + Linux

Myst-ical Origins  

I should start this review by confessing that I am a big fan of “empty landscape” puzzle adventures. In the mid-1990s, I received a copy of Cyan’s Myst as a gift. I started it up and lost myself. I was used to text adventures and pixelated graphics. In contrast, Myst was a detailed wonderland that I could not get enough of. This was before walkthroughs and YouTube, so it took me some time to puzzle through it on my own. When I finished, my only complaint was that it had ended.

There have been a lot of “Myst-like” games released over the years and I am always on the hunt for my next “Myst-ical” experience. Last year, I played a couple that were outstanding – Investigate North’s Aporia: Beyond the Valley (July 2017) and Thekla Inc’s The Witness (January 2016). Somehow, in late 2016, I missed Quern – Undying Thoughts altogether. But, as they say…better late than never!

Quern began as a student project.  Four guys from Hungary (Daniel Poszmik, Gergely Gulás, Marcell Kerepesi, and Abel Szakács) decided to turn a virtual landscape into a game, formed Zadbox Entertainment, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign in early 2015, and the rest is history!

To say that Quern is “Myst-like” is not fair to Zadbox Entertainment. Quern is a unique and beautiful world that is a joy to explore. It does follow the Myst formula in that you arrive in a strange place and find the remnants of a past civilization. Those who have gone before have left behind writings that describe their experiences and pass on their knowledge. There are clues to find and puzzles to solve. As you explore and open new areas, the history of the abandoned world and its people is revealed. Unlike Myst, however, you are not exactly alone in Quern and the game comes to a reasonable and satisfying conclusion.

Gone but not Forgotten  

Quern is played from a 1st person view and you are free to roam in a 3D world crafted with incredible detail. You begin at a mysterious gate that opens into a stone village. Initially, most of the structures cannot be accessed. Those that are open provide letters and clues to get you started on a journey of learning and discovery. Prior to your arrival, the world of Quern was visited by Professor Maythorn and evidence of him is everywhere. He has strategically placed a series of letters to help the next visitor continue his scientific work.


A Real Puzzler  

Quern is a land filled with puzzles. Most are mechanical. Some are easy (find an object to use elsewhere); some are complicated (interpreting symbols, repeating sound sequences, matching patterns); and some are very hard (figuring out how to operate a machine with lots of buttons and lights and no instructions). For those who love complexity, Quern should be perfect.

At first, I could not get my bearings and it took a few hours to find the rhythm of the game. I soon realized that I needed to pay attention to symbols and shapes, across areas, and to be creative in interpreting clues. Quern is not an easy game. For the most part, individual puzzles require a willingness to be patient and keep thinking. Some clues are hidden in plain sight and others are subtle. Solutions often require some time pondering why the seemingly obvious is not working and what change in approach is needed.

I try to avoid walkthroughs at all costs because they are like crack cocaine. Once you peek at a small solution, it gets easier and easier to keep returning for more. With Quern, I did have to use a walkthrough several times. This was my last resort when I had a puzzle with no apparent clues anywhere and my patience with “trial-and- error” had worn thin. In one case, I had six lights that were turned off. Turning them on required manipulating objects in a different area and I never did see the logical connection. In another case, I simply could not make sense of what I was supposed to do with a complicated machine.

Designed with the Gamer in Mind  

Quern is a world filled with wonders. There are powerful crystals that function differently, depending on color. There is an alchemy lab where potions can be mixed and a garden that provides ingredients (those who prefer an altered reality should not miss sampling some of the herbs!). There is a boat to ride, teleportation to experience, an underwater landscape to traverse, and incredible scenery.  There are buildings at ground level, towers to climb, and underground chambers to discover. It is a vast and complex environment that is opened to you, incrementally.

There is a setting that permanently highlights all hot spots or you can use a key combination to display active areas/items in a specific scene. To help you keep track of clues, Quern includes a great feature – a notebook for “sketching” any scene, on demand. You can also add your own notes to each hand-drawn sketch that the game generates.


There is an extensive amount of inventory to collect and manage. In some cases, objects that are found must be combined or reconfigured prior to use. If you get stuck, the inventory interface provides optional hints on how or where an object might be used.


Finally, there is a detailed map that is expanded as each new area becomes accessible.


Navigation is easy for anyone who has played a game built with the Unreal Engine. The WASD keys are used to move and you can run or jump. The mouse is used to navigate and to select/use objects. The mouse has two modes – one to scan and one to manipulate puzzles in the current frame. Hot keys are provided to access inventory, the map, letters, and your notebook.  Although the game is auto-saved at key points, an explicit save feature is also provided with multiple slots.

The soundtrack is immersive and includes both sound effects and music. Professor Maythorn’s letters are read to you in a voice that is professional and easy on the ears. Later in the game, there is another section that is narrated and this is also a pleasure to listen to.

The Sum of it All 

Quern: Undying Thoughts is a game I would highly recommend for the adventure gamer with a heart for puzzles. It is not a title that most will blow through, with ease. But, I don’t think the puzzles are unfair… just complicated. It is a “thinking person’s game,” to say the least.

Grade: A-
Stunning game world that you will want to spend time exploring
+ Well-done soundtrack adds to the player experience
+ Tools provided (map, notebook, inventory hints, letters, etc.) to support the gamer in every way possible
This is a hard game that is not designed for the faint-of-heart


System Requirements

MINIMUM Windows:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: Intel Core i3-2100 or AMD equivalent

Memory:  3 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 650 2GB or AMD HD7770 2GB
Storage: 9 GB available space
OS: X 10.8 Mountain Lion
Processor: Intel Core i3-2100 or AMD equivalent

Memory: 3 GB RAM
Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 650 2GB or AMD HD7770 2GB
Storage: 9 GB available space
MINIMUM SteamOS + Linux:
OS: Ubuntu
Processor: Intel Core i3-2100 or AMD equivalent

Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 650 2GB or AMD HD7770 2GB
Memory: 3 GB RAM
Storage: 9 GB available space
Specials from Digital Download
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