The first episode of the new King’s Quest sets the tone for a refreshing reboot of the beloved Sierra series
During the golden age of adventure games, there was a puzzling lack of fanboyism. The lack of rival camps meant that everybody pretty much enjoyed playing LucasArts adventures such as Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle as they did King’s Quest, Quest for Glory, Myst or one of those wonderful voice-acted Zork titles. All these games offered different experiences; you couldn’t “fail” in a LucasArts game while the Sierra titles were often more unforgiving. Click on the wrong object and you’ll have to load your last save. Trial and error (and by association, repeated deaths), for what it’s worth, was a gameplay mechanic. With King’s Quest getting a reboot, it was important to hold on to some of the series’ core values while crafting an experience for the current generation of gamers. The capable folks at video game development studio The Odd Gentlemen have done this, and more.
King’s Quest does not merely tip its (feather bearing) hat to King’s Quest games of old. It’s almost as if the creators are as nostalgic about all those aforementioned games as we are – so much so, that what we’ve ultimately received as an end product is an amalgamation of all those games, with a healthy dose of basic platforming and first-person shooting (it’s not what you think, but I feel this is a good time to point out that Sierra is a subsidiary of Activision) thrown into the mix. Funnily enough, King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember is a better game because of these.
The art style, fluidity in motion, character and environment design made a much better impression on me when I was playing than the trailers ever did. The game ran at a smooth 60 frames per second on the PS4 version I tested, and suddenly, I was in a high frame rate version of a Pixar movie with full control of the main character. Graham returns as the main protagonist, but this is a fun, silly Graham who has more in common with Monkey Island Guybrush Threepwood than his namesake from Ken and Roberta Williams’ games of yore. This isn’t a bad thing at all – Graham is now a lovable fool and the lightheartedness of the game itself is refreshing. It’s almost as if we’re getting the best of both worlds.
At the outset, we’re completely fooled into thinking that The Odd Gentlemen have transformed our beloved adventure series into a very basic puzzle/platformer. But fret not, because there’s some good old-fashioned adventuring in store as well. The platforming is well designed and doesn’t feel out of place in the game. Meanwhile, you’ll still be talking to characters, making choices, picking up large objects and putting them into your trousers for future opportune uses, while also being a complete nuisance. In good old Sierra tradition, there are also situations where you will meet your demise, but the narrative style of the game is such that you’re given more than a few second chances. I’ve got to mention the puzzles as well – they’re not particularly clever or difficult, but there is a sense of accomplishment when you do solve them. They’re very well designed, but don’t give off that impression initially. You can solve the game’s puzzles in pretty much any order, and if you’re “stuck”, remember that there’s always a way out; all you’ll need to do is explore the environment a little.
After having played the game, it feels like every adventure made between 1989 and 2000 would have liked to be King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember, but couldn’t because of technical limitations. The freedom of movement it offers, the seamless transition from dialogue based gameplay to puzzle solving and platforming sections, all backed up by amazing production values are certainly enviable qualities. The voice acting is fantastic as well, featuring the likes of Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride) and Zelda Williams (with a name like that, who needs an introduction?). The writing feels like it could very easily be recycled for a Disney movie. This is a good looking game, whether you’re prancing around in the forests of Daventry or exploring its murky depths.
Complaints? Well, for some players, the puzzles are likely to be too easy by King’s Quest standards. But this is a primer, after all, and there’s a strong possibility that the puzzles will require more substantial utilisation of the old noodle in future episodes. Also, while some of the characters are memorable (Graham, Gwendolyn, Achaka, Manny), there aren’t enough of them contributing to the story in any meaningful way. To top off this complaints list, there are reports of the Xbox One version suffering from loading time issues and screen tearing (these issues were not present in the PS4 version I tested, nor are there similar reports about the PC version).
Overall, it’s an easy game to recommend to fans of adventure games, and newer players looking for the video game equivalent of a Disney or Pixar movie set in a fantasy universe. King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember is a refreshing reboot that holds a lot of promise for future episodes.