King’s Quest (2016)

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

-William Shakespeare, Macbeth Act 5, Scene 5 19-28

The following is a contributor post by the Brave Blue Mage.”

Kingdoms come and go, empires rise and fall, but legends can last forever.

Once upon a time long before the proliferation of console gaming, the personal computer was the gateway to unexplored realms. A time some consider the golden era of adventure gaming, and Sierra Games was the undisputed pinnacle of PC gaming for over a decade. The accomplishments of Ken and Roberta Williams were instrumental in creating the gaming landscape we enjoy today.

The first King’s Quest adventure began in 1984, and with each subsequent release the series pushed the boundaries of visual storytelling and what could be accomplished creatively and technologically using the personal computer. The series is known for its combination of humor, puns, problem solving, and numerous references to the mythology of fairy tales which gave each game a unique charm. These adventures circled around the legend of King Graham and his family up until 1998.

After a 15 year hiatus, Sierra Games is reborn under the creative direction of The Odd Gentlemen.

The return to Daventry is not only a reboot but a complete re-imagining of the King’s Quest series. This time the story develops in an episodic chapter by chapter progression, chronicling the exploits of a young Graham following the many adventures through his life that lead him to the throne.

The Odd Gentleman pay homage to King’s Quest history by including the main characters, but make a conscious decision of presenting all new adventures, quests that happen between the events of the proceeding series. Each chapter makes allusions to the past but feels completely unencumbered by it. This is definitely an adventure for a new generation of gamers that anyone familiar with the series will find a lot of Easter eggs to reminisce over. The days of the point-and-click adventure are long gone; players control a young exuberant Graham making his way in the world.

In each chapter players are presented with numerous decisions that will impact the progression of the story, which relationships develop, and the king that Graham will become. After each chapter, players are presented with a gorgeous mural that illustrates the decisions Graham has chosen. Some choices are more subtle, while others impact larger plot threads down the line, there are no wrong choices with multiple ways to solve problems. The game feels like a powerful fusion of a Choose Your Own Adventure novel and a living painting. With no score system and no time limits on the gameplay, players are free to explore, experiment, and immerse themselves in the adventure.

Narrated by a reflective Graham revisiting his many adventures, he shares the stories with his granddaughter Gwendolyn. The interactions between grandfather and granddaughter are truly heartwarming. The banter is such a great layer over the narrative. Each chapter focuses on a different stage in Graham’s life, from knight to king, friendships, love, family, betrayal, and loss. The game weaves the King’s Quest of yesterday for a new generation with passion and vitality. As Gwendolyn listens, learning from her grand father, she begins to understand and appreciate his legacy.

As the story progresses the kingdom and family of King Graham grows and prospers. By the final chapter: The Good Knight. The once robust, exuberant Graham is now bedridden hoping for one last adventure, and does he ever get one. The creators expertly deal with mortality as an elderly king struggles with his memory and what kind of legacy he will leave. There are some really creative sequences that help players envision what struggles and insights come in the sunset of life. The thoughtful handling of this material gives serious weight to what has been a largely upbeat and comedic series. It’s very powerful and stays with players long after the final chapter ends.

Players are treated to a hysterical walk down memory lane, lovingly referencing the history and progression of the King’s Quest series, from the early pixel-based text adventure, to the introduction of the voice acting that has become so commonplace in the gaming world. The legacy of King’s Quest is presented as a series of walkthroughs that gives newcomers a small taste of gaming history.

Survey the modern gaming landscape and it is not uncommon to see body counts numbering in the hundreds if not thousands. It is refreshing and extremely eye-opening to find a game where just one death has real significance and emotional gravity, a true reflection on those that carry on after the loss of a loved one. A stark reminder of how much games have changed over the years. As one story ends another one is just beginning. With the final wish of the king passing on his legacy and his adventuring cap, Gwendolyn becomes the protagonist of the story. This modern rendition of King’s Quest explores new territory with great success that really sets it apart from the predecessors.

The decisions each player gets to make throughout the game impacts the type of legacy Graham will leave in the kingdom of Daventry. Compassion, bravery, or wisdom each hold their own unique rewards. The choices of a king are never cut and dry, there are times for diplomacy, times for action, and times for quick thinking. This series explores that concept with multiple decision pathways and outcomes. The E for Everyone rating makes this adventure something worth sharing; being king for a day is an experience that can last a lifetime. This King’s Quest collection is full of heart.

The legacy of King Graham now lives on in Queen Gwendolyn. As the epilogue begins so does a new era in the history of Daventry. It is important to teach the next generation about the world, but it is just as important to allow them to walk.

Exploring an unfamiliar area of the kingdom, Gwendolyn has her own unique way of problem solving and an affinity for the strange creatures inhabiting the land. As the narrative continues, a new cast of characters begin to enter the fray presenting just a sample of what is in store for the numerous possibilities yet to come.

The King’s Quest series has not only stood the test of time, but it has kept pace with it. From early text based pixel adventure to this modern painterly execution, the groundwork has been set for many more chapters in the future. With Queen Gwendolyn to guide the kingdom who knows what could happen? Whatever happens to come her the future of Daventry couldn’t be in better hands. King Graham made sure of that.

 

 

The 8-bit Review
visual Visuals: 9/10
This new vision of King’s Quest pushes the franchise into new territory. The scenery is quite breathtaking, the execution has a painterly quality that compliments the fantastically animated cast of characters and scenarios that could easily play across a series or animated feature film. It is apparent a lot of passion went into the details as it is easy to get swept away in the gorgeously rendered scenery. The use of murals to document players’ choices is a really unique way to recount their progress at a glance. The fantasy fairy tale aesthetics, lively color palette and variety of locations never get stale, and each chapter builds upon its own distinctive blending of mythology.

audio Audio: 9/10
The soundtrack composed by Ben Stanton and David Stanton is truly phenomenal, and stands up against not only other games but the music in major motion pictures as well. As Graham makes his way into the kingdom of Daventry in A Knight To Remember, the score sets the mood for the wonderful adventure to come. It is one of those rare moments that the music truly complements the visuals and strengthens everything around it. Long after the game is over these songs continue to play in my head and surpass the music heard on the big screen which is a feat in itself.

 

cast Cast: 10/10
The voice acting in King’s Quest is second to none. Each character is fully realized and full of vitality, humor, and charm. Graham is brought to life by two fantastic talents in Josh Keaton (young Graham) and Christopher Lloyd (old Graham). The banter between Graham and Gwendolyn voiced by Maggie Elizabeth Jones really is exceptional and breathes such heart and soul into the script. Players will instantly recognize some of the supporting cast with heavy hitters like Wallace Shawn as Manny, Loretta Divine as Muriel Hobblepot, and Zelda Williams voicing Amaya Blackstone. With such high caliber talent on board each scene is like an acting masterclass, setting a high bar for proceeding installments of the franchise and the future of modern storytelling in games.

story Narrative: 10/10
The narrative is front and center in King’s Quest. Each decision triggers a response, from the mundane to the more humorous. From a young optimistic Graham to the nostalgic king he will one day become, each chapter has a unique tone and execution. As the adventure progresses it is impossible not to get sucked into story. There are serious themes throughout the game with unique conundrums to contemplate, the themes of family, mortality and loss especially towards the latter part of the game really show just how deep and impactful modern storytelling in gaming has become. The upbeat and optimistic tone is never over the top and the gravity of situations can quickly take an emotional turn. As stated before, dealing with the loss of a loved one is handled in a respectful way with such grace the experience is not one that is easily forgotten.

accessibility Accessibility: 10/10
The Odd Gentlemen really outdid themselves, creating a truly fresh experience that caters to players new to the King’s Quest series just as much as returning veterans.  Adventurers are introduced to an intuitive system that replaces the point-and-click menus of the past. The action-based scenes are well-balanced between puzzles and exploration, creating an immersive experience that anyone can easily become familiar with. The simplification of controls allows the story to shine.

diff Challenge: 7/10
The controls are quite straight forward and action sequences are prompted with on screen symbols. The puzzles naturally become more complex as the game progresses, but Sierra has always been fond of providing hints, and even the more difficult tasks can be figured out with trial and error. The variety of problems presented never get repetitive which keeps the gameplay moving along with each chapter. King’s Quest has always been a proponent for lateral thinking, providing multiple uses for items so there is no one-size-fits-all method of problem solving. The escape room challenge is a truly memorable experience.

replay Replayability: 8/10
With a Choose Your Own Adventure approach to the story, players are encouraged to go back to the beginning upon completion and see how different decisions play out. Where the original King’s Quest games were linear experiences, this time the different narrative paths and unique choices impact each subsequent chapter. There are no right or wrong answers, just different ways of problem solving. Gaining the title of Graham the Compassionate, I am looking forward to mixing up the decision-making process next time I venture into the kingdom of Daventry and seeing just what might transpire if I choose a different path on the road to the crown.

pgrade My Personal Grade: 9/10
As a gamer whose early experiences were crafted by the Sierra family long before I ever owned a gaming console, King’s Quest holds a special place in my heart. This contemporary reboot of such an iconic series is really exemplary on all accounts, from the visuals, to the voice acting, to the powerful storytelling. It is obvious the developers understood the task of breathing new life into a franchise that was born in the 1980’s.

The cast is reborn for a new era of gaming while still retaining the charm and humor that made King’s Quest what it is. The decisions to make an all new series of adventures while honoring what came before is the perfect balance. I didn’t realize how much I had missed these games, but now I do. This collection is something that will stand the test of time, and it’s a game that I am happy to share with my family over the holidays. Here’s to hoping this is the renewal of the golden era of adventure games that defined much of my childhood. Sierra has always been known for producing high quality original content and this outing is no exception.

 

Aggregated Score: 9.0

 

The Brave Blue Mage is the globetrotting creative director at large for the 924COLLECTIVE who tirelessly ventures off the beaten path in search of all things weird, wild, and wonderful.

 

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12 thoughts on “King’s Quest (2016)

  1. Nice job on this review! I’ve never played anything from this series, but you’ve painted it in a vivid and glowing light. I’ve always loved choose your own adventures, and seeing how much fun you seem to have had with this game makes me think I’ll have to try this one out sometime. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  2. I LOVE this game. To be honest, I only managed to play through part of the first episode, as it was the only one out at the time, but I own it on my PS4 and I plan on sitting down and playing through it with my girlfriend. It’s a well-written, lovingly crafted game that can be appreciated by long time fans of the franchise or people like me who never touched the old games. I can’t wait to play through it in its entirety.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So this answers a lot of questions I had about the reboot. I loved the original games and I always wondered if the reboots were strictly point-and-click adventures. In a way, a small way, it’s good to see that they’re not. I also really appreciate the way the game apparently handles death. I thought it was meaningful when you said that there are so many deaths in games today but King’s Quest makes a single death mean something.

    Also the art style reminds me of Rankin and Bass animation from several decades ago, 70’s and 80’s I think. I wonder if that was intentional.

    Thanks for writing this up!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I also found the animation style heavily reminiscent of Don Bluth films like Land Before Time. If I remember correctly, most of the game was hand painted, and certain elements of environmental animation are actually 2D sprites that look like they’re jumping right out of an old animated Spielberg film. It’s a gorgeous game.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the opportunity! I really wanted to get this finished around the holidays
      because this is a shining example of strong contemporary family gaming that is so
      needed in our current landscape. It is great to see Sierra back in action, and The
      Odd Gentlemen really set the groundwork for some amazing things in the future 🤞

      Liked by 1 person

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