Video Game Review: King’s Quest – Chapter 1: A Knight to Remember
It was the late summer in the year of our lord nineteen hundred and ninety three. Twelve year old me and my compatriot, Jonathan, had just finished installing my first CD-ROM drive and Sound Blaster card into my ole 486. Along with my new drive, a couple of games were stuffed inside the bloated packaging. I was eager to try “spinn’ my first ROM” and the disk I spun was King’s Quest VI – Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow by gaming behemoth Sierra Entertainment. I gawked in awe at the full motion animation, WITH 3D SCROLLING, as it played out before us while a jaunty tune tickled our ears and invited us to enter a world of fantasy.
Sierra Entertainment had a long history of innovation well before my first exposure to the King’s Quest series. Sierra’s programmers and artists had perfected, if not birthed, the graphic adventure video game. When terrific narrative met with beautifully rendered backdrops flush with mind altering puzzles, a loyal following was birthed.
Fast forward only five years from my foray into the genre and Sierra Entertainment was left in ruins after their parent company, Cendant Corporation, was caught cooking the books to the tune of a couple hundred million dollars. Sierra Entertainment soldiered on until 2008, when at long last, the doors were closed, the website shut down, and the adventure met it ends.
But in 2014, the Sierra website mysteriously updated. Activision decided that Sierra Entertainment must be resurrected so that children young and old might see for themselves the glory that was the graphic adventure. Thus, King’s Quest was brought forth from the vaults of gloom and raised to the blessed iridescent glow of our flat screens on July 28th of this year.
This episodic game (aren’t all games episodic now?) starts with young knight errant Graham entering the depths of a dragon infested dungeon. Armed with only his wits and his cloak which his mother stitched with many pocket, he stumbles along a comedic path. The action is narrated by young man’s much older self as he relating his heroic tale to his precocious granddaughter. Winding and winding through traps and puzzles, the game quickly introduces the player to the first game altering choice. What choice you make will affect your play through; ostensibly through all succeeding chapters.
Graphically the game has some very high notes. The backgrounds and environments are lush and detailed. The character designs are solid as well. Ideally it looks like a playable cartoon with a Pixar kind of vibe woven through out. The Unreal Engine is rarely taxed by what’s at play, though I did experience some moments where dialog was not perfectly synced to animation. This was rare, but noticeable. I wanted to see if the platform I was playing it on was to blame (Xbox One), so I asked a PS4 player if he had noticed this as well. He confirmed he did indeed along with some load issues. In the end, these problems are minor, but does distract the player when and if it happens.
The voice acting and soundtrack are top notch. The subtle shifts in music as indication of an events turn is palpable. The pun delivery (and there are many, many, many gloriously terrible dad jokes) by Christopher Llyod as old King Graham are all on point and even surpass what we loved of the originals. The dialog doesn’t become tiresome either due to the fact that even though you may see the same failure animation (and you will), the voice acting changes; often to comedic effect.
Gameplay has changed a bit from the King’s Quest of old, but not drastically so. Quick time events do occur, but not annoyingly so. The world, by and large, is 3D rendered and is largely contiguous, thus not giving the story-board feel that inhabited the early days of graphic adventures. You will never experience a nerve racking, game changing, time sensitive choice that you will see in Tell-Tale games like Tales From the Borderlands or Game of Thrones, but you will reach points in the game that the story can’t continue because you made so many ill-advised choices that you can’t possible continue (hint: be a bit stingy with your coin). The first chapter took me about 12 hours on my first play-through, but some of that time was spent seeing what silly things I could do and not advancing the story.
Should you buy this game?
I don’t know, do you like good games? If you have ten bucks for the first episode or forty for all five, I would say it is a sound investment. The game is fun, child friendly, and hilarious. It hits all the same note that its predecessors did and is better off for it. If you're new to the world, don’t worry, the previous thirty years of knowledge is not a requirement to enjoy the snappy conversations and delightful puzzles. If you have the wit and fortitude to save a kingdom, than by golly, you owe it to yourself.
King’s Quest was released on July 28th for PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One