King's Quest Retrospective Part II
The conclusion to MyGaming's King's Quest retrospective
In part I of our King’s Quest retrospective we took a look at the games that birthed the graphical adventure genre and helped to make Sierra a household (gaming) name during the 80′s and 90′s. In part II we’ll take a look at the rest of the titles that rounded off the series, as well as a few homage’s to the series.
King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human – 1986
This title departed from the familiar land of Daventry, with 17 year old Gwydion as the new protagonist. He is being held as a slave in the distant land of Llewdor by (yet another) wicked wizard, Manannan.
During the course of the game Gwydion turns Manannan into a cat, escapes Llewdor and makes his way to Daventry, whereupon he frees the land from the grips of a three-headed dragon and rescues Princess Rosella. Finally it is learned that Gwydion is Rosella’s twin brother, the lost royal son, and therefore heir to the throne, which rather neatly ties up a lot of loose ends.
The game was notably more difficult than the prequels, with some sections requiring spells to be typed under time pressure. The spells were listed in a spell book accompanying the retail package, which was also considered a form of copy protection.
King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella – 1988
This title was simultaneously developed on the aging AGI and new SCI gaming engines (discussed in part I). Sierra anticipated that owners of aging PCs would not want to play the intensive SCI version of the game, but sales figures quickly proved them wrong and the AGI version was discontinued, making an original AGI copy of the game somewhat of a rare item these days.
King Graham is suffering from a heart attack and Princess Rosella takes it upon herself to find a way to cure his ailment. Teleported through the magic mirror to the land of Tamir by the good fairy Genesta, Rosella must complete a number of tasks to ultimately source a magical fruit that will cure King Graham.
The game was the first in the series to take place in ‘real-time’ as certain actions and puzzles could only be performed at particular times. It also featured an alternative ending in which King Graham dies. KQ IV also boasts the distinction of being the first game to support add-on music synthesiser cards which were becoming popular at the time. Over 75 tracks were produced by a veteran Hollywood composer to round out the gaming experience.
King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! – 1990
Evil wizards just can’t get enough of terrorising the royals of Daventry, and this time one named Mordack has spirited away the entire royal palace. King Graham just so happened to be out taking a stroll at the time so it’s obviously up to him to save the day. Graham travels to the land of Serenia to confront Mordack. It turns out that Mordack is the brother of Mannanan (who’s still a cat) and he plans to take revenge by making kitty snacks out of the Daventry royals.
The game received critical acclaim, won numerous awards, and was one of Sierra’s bestselling titles. KQ V saw the introduction of 256 VGA colour to the series and a new point-and-click interface which replaced the traditional typed command interface. A fully voiced CD-ROM version of the game was released not long after the original, making it one of the most technologically advanced gaming titles of its day.
King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow – 1992
At the end of KQ V Alexander met the Princess Cassima, who was yet another one of Mordack’s prisoners. Yearning to see the princess again, Alexander consults the magic mirror and gathers enough information to set sail for the Green Isles, the homelands of Princess Cassima.
Alexander is shipwrecked on his way there, but at least he landed on the Green Isles, where he soon learns that the evil court vizier has murdered the King and Queen and plans to force Cassima’s hand in marriage so that he might rule the Green Isles.
KQ VI was praised for its in-depth story, which featured two unique endings. Roberta Williams co designed the game with Jane Jensen, who would go on to create the lauded Gabriel Knight series. The game also boasted a 3D introduction movie and on the later CD-ROM release, professional voice acting for the main characters.
King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride – 1994
This title introduced colourful and cartoonish high resolution graphics to the series and also departed from the traditional King’s Quest structure. It is also the first to feature Queen Valanice as a playable character.
The story begins with Valanice lecturing Rosella on the virtues of marriage, but Rosella is uninterested, daydreaming, and gazing into the magic mirror. As is the way with magic mirrors, Rosella and Valanice are whisked into a magical vortex which lands them in the land of Eldritch, all by the hand of the sorceress Malicia. Rosella has been turned into a troll and is engaged to the Troll King whilst Valanice finds herself in an Eldritch desert. The two begin a quest to find one another, and free the land of Eldritch while they are at it.
The game was split into six chapters which alternated control between the two characters. The interface was changed to use a ‘smart’ cursor which simply lit up when hovered over interactive objects. The game received negative criticism for this simplified control scheme which took much of the challenge from the game, and turned it into little more than an interactive cartoon movie.
King’s Quest VIII: Mask of Eternity – 1998
If the failure of KQ VII was the slamming of the coffin lid, then Mask of Eternity was the hammer pounding in the nails for this classic adventure game series. The plot sees a new protagonist, Connor Maclyrr, a non-royal, having to save the Kingdom of Daventry. An evil god has shattered the Mask of Eternity and scattered the pieces throughout the physical and spiritual realms. One of the pieces lands at Connor’s feet and as he picks it up, everyone else in Daventry is turned to stone. Connor then goes about retrieving all the pieces so that order might be restored.
The game uses a 3D engine and an over-the-shoulder 3rd person perspective. A combat system is introduced through which Connor can level-up , although this is fairly basic and not the main focus of the gameplay. The exploration, item gathering and puzzle solving elements are all still present.
Although the game received moderately positive reviews, fans with roots in the traditional adventure style were sorely disappointed. Coupled with the flagging market for adventure titles, this was the last official ‘huzzah’ for the King’s Quest series.
Unofficial remakes and sequels
If you enjoyed the remakes of King’s Quest I and II, then you should check out this King’s Quest III remake by Infamous Adventures. If you still haven’t had enough of King’s Quest, you can a demo of The Silver Lining, a spiritual King’s Quest IX which is being developed under a fan license.