Why the King's Quest reboot will rekindle your love of adventure games

News ID: 280
Date: 2015-03-24
Source: http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/03/24/why-the-kings-quest-reboot-will-rekindle-your-love-of-adventure-games


Tuck yourselves in and get ready for a story! Let Old Man Adventure Gamer regale you with tales of a time before 3D graphics, excessive light bloom, and VR headsets. Picture it: the year was 1983 and PC gaming was still in its infancy. IBM was launching its forgettable new personal computer to the public, the PCjr (something we will never talk of again), and contracted Sierra On-Line to create games for it. One of those was King's Quest, the world's first animated adventure game.

Over the years, the King's Quest franchise would spawn seven sequels and exponentially more bad puns. Known for its playful humor, rich lore, and clever puzzles, the series came to an unfortunate end in 1998 with King's Quest: Mask of Eternity. The golden age of adventure games was over and Sierra was in serious trouble.

Until now.

A rejuvenated Sierra Entertainment is back and one of its first launches will be King's Quest, an all-new episodic adventure that promises to pay loving tribute to the original series. Developed by The Odd Gentlemen (makers of the memorable The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom), the new King's Quest picks up with King Graham of Daventry, the protagonist of the franchise's earliest adventures, as an old man recounting his life story to his granddaughter, Gwendolyn. Told in flashback, the action revisits classic places and characters, such as your first encounter: a retelling of King's Quest 1's quest by then-Sir Graham to retrieve the Magic Mirror guarded by an enormous green dragon.

As opposed to its predecessors' traditional 2D point-and-click style, the new King's Quest controls more like a third-person action/adventure - you can even nudge the movement control stick gently to sneak around traps or enemies. At its heart, though, it's still very much a pure adventure game that relies on wits (and perhaps some trial and error) to solve fiendish puzzles. Objects in the game world are context sensitive, letting you know with an on-screen prompt whether they can be examined (from a first-person perspective, no less), picked up, or otherwise manipulated.

Obviously, a lot has changed in graphic computing power over the last 30-some years. Demoed on PS4 at GDC 2015, the aforementioned dive into the dragon's lair looks drop-dead gorgeous. It evokes the whimsy and cartoonish aesthetics of the original games with a modern cinematic flair. Animated sequences wove so seamlessly with the gameplay that the effect was like watching a beautifully lush CG cartoon rather than a game. A side benefit to this fluidity is how it helps sell the franchise's sometimes slapstick, sometimes wry sense of humor without the aggravating pauses between characters' dialogue or lag between action and cut-scene. It's especially charming when Gwendolyn breaks into the story, Princess Bride-style, to ask a question or comment on the veracity of her granddad's exploits.

King's Quest's brand of non-sequitur shenanigans is on display from the outset. As Sir Graham creeps through the dragon's lair in search of the Magic Mirror, he encounters oddly scattered beds everywhere. (How they ended up there will be explained later on as King Graham jumps through different time periods.) Some are appropriately on the ground while others hang from the ceiling. As it turns out, the beds can be life-saving or lethal. Dying is inevitable in King's Quest, but also often hilarious – and a good way to figure out solutions to puzzles. For example, Graham can jump into a bed and hide under the covers when the dragon is near to avoid being eaten. Or at another point, you may be suddenly smashed by a swinging bed after pulling the wrong lever. No worries, though – King Graham will let Gwendolyn know that "That's one way it might've happened…." before returning you to where you were before your lethal choice.

Decisions you make in the game will have consequences, and your decisions will follow you from chapter to chapter, similar to Telltale's various adventures. While I didn't see how it would play out, the dev team says that the narrative won't be linear and will have many branching paths and possible endings. They emphasize that Graham is still a noble knight through and through – there isn't a morality system where he can turn evil – but enemies can be vanquished in more than one way.

Now that I've seen it in action, this new reimagining of King's Quest is a delightful surprise for an old-school adventurer like myself. It seems to capture the spirit of the original games, if not the game mechanics, with razor-sharp writing, gorgeous production values, and tons of Easter eggs and call-backs to the franchise. Even little things, like the use of King's Quest 5's interface and a random sound effect from King's Quest 6, make the new King's Quest seem less like a relaunch and more like the return of an old friend.

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