Hearing the name Sierra Entertainment will undoubtedly bring about many fond memories from gamers of the 80s and 90s. For myself, they were the legendary publishers that helped bring out Half-Life, Team Fortress Classic, Opposing Forces and Counter-Strike. A few years before my time, they were the graphics adventure king, offering a plethora of highly reputable point and click adventures. 1984 brought the release of the first King's Quest - what is largely known as gaming's first 3D Animated Adventure title. After 7 sequels, the franchise looked to be finished back in 1998. This also had a lot to do with the company being sold to CUC International, consolidation and restructuring at the time. Fast-forwarding to the 2010s, gamers rejoiced at the announcement Sierra Entertainment was to be revived, under Activision-Blizzard, and sought to revive classic franchises. King's Quest was one of the first game franchises to be published and revived and would be handled by The Odd Gentlemen, who some may know as the developers of the charming indie game - The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom. It's planned to be an episodic tale, much like the popular TellTale games like The Walking Dead. However, King's Quest retains much of its light-hearted humour and grand sense of adventure all the whole offering players many instances of choices and subsequent consequences that followed.
Chapter 1 of King's Quest is aptly called A Knight to Remember. The game is told in reverse, as Graham, aged king of Daventry, voiced by Christopher Lloyd, recounts his adventures and journeys to his granddaughter Gwendolyn in a bedtime fairytale fashion. The delivery for this is handled wonderfully, as mistakes you may make along the way will result in hilarious commentary from the King who will joke and say that was how not to do something or have Gwendolyn carry the story in an absurdly extravagant way as we come to realize Graham fell asleep in the game over menu. For the first chapter, players focus on an epic journey down a well which leads to a confrontation with a dragon that resides deep below. It serves as a great introduction to the storytelling and what kind of hame players can expect. The rest of the chapter is focused on Graham's trials to enter the Knight's tournament. One thing I loved was the sheer length of just the first chapter. I think when all is said and done my total play time was nearing the 8-10 hour mark. For one of five chapters that is seriously impressive, and the end leads nicely into the second chapter, and made me very impatient to have to wait for its release. There's a lot of backtracking and figuring out what item you recover is used where and for what puzzle and all of it adds to the overall charm the game has.
Naturally, the game is played as choose your own adventure, and the choices you make ultimately dictate the natural course and flow of the game. Some instances pit you in circumstances where all selections have equal but different consequences. The very first encounter with a dragon will have a number of ways to deal with it, and depending on what you select it can bring about new sets of character dialogue. Other instances are merely your choice on what you will choose first, such as where you wish to spend your gold coin: the Baker, the Blacksmith or old Potion-masters. All eventually have the option of being purchased, so it really comes down to what you prioritize.
One thing I would like to note is that I wish more emphasis was placed on your consequences. There were many times I messed up from what the game wanted me to do, and rather than having those instances create new situations you were stuck in a loop until you found the correct way. Granted some of these are fairly funny and the game is self aware of this. A conversation between you and three bridge trolls has a troll pointing out that you are all talking in circles and repeating yourselves when you fail to do what is necessary to move forward. I understand the need for only giving players enough liberty without sacrificing the pace and flow of the story, but it did take me out of the experience from time to time.
The puzzles in King's Quest come in various styles shapes and sizes, ranging from fetch quests to make a certain ingredient, to simple thinking puzzles like rotating shields to ricochet an arrow to its destined target, to quick timed events. All are very thoughtfully executed and have Graham trekking all around the area multiple times to see areas or objects you may have overlooked. It's worth noting that you may want to make a mental note or a scribble of where important landmarks are as there is no map system so it's all left to your memory. I actually quite liked this aspect as part of the joy in experiencing this game is discovering things for yourself and sometimes to accidentally stumble upon a path you didn't realize.
For a game made using Unreal Engine 3, King's Quest has a delightfully charming aesthetic. There are times where it's similar to games of its kind, like The Walking Dead, but those comparisons really begin and end with some of the facial features of the human characters. Everything else has its own unique fantasy style, and at times it can be a wonder to look at. The lighting is particularly spectacular, offering great silhouetted moments in the dark, or walking through a forest with the sun illuminating the greenery. It does have moments where the game slows down either loading levels or in stage transitions so hopefully that can be addressed later on with a patch. The game's design is also fantastic, offering different styles of platforming, exploration, first-person segments and even sidescrolling. As mentioned before, the game features Christopher Lloyd lending his voice as the aged Graham, but there are many other actors and actresses lending their talents such as Zelda Williams, Tom Kenny, Josh Keaton, and a very...inconceivable use of Wallace Shawn. All of them lend their voices and talent with a certain level of class that really gives life to these characters. And let's be real; who wouldn't want to hear Christopher Lloyd read them a bedtime story?
King's Quest is only on its first chapter, from a newer development company under the revival of a classic games publisher, and after 17 years, King's Quest still manages to prove its the best at adventure games and a champion of point and click styled games, even newer modern takes on the formula, as shown in The Wolf Among Us or The Walking Dead. A Knight to Remember plays like a game on its own, offering considerable length and replay value to boot. And it still baffles my mind that this is but a fifth of The Odd Gentlemen's full vision, not including the exclusive epilogue should fans prepurchase the Complete Collection. King's Quest has set a new benchmark to beat for adventure games and narrative driven interactive titles.
|Delightful cast of characters.|
|Considerable length for just the first chapter.|
|Some parts won't resolve until you've made the right choice. Missed opportunity for a game built on the design of choice and consequence.|
|Some players may get lost with no map.|