King’s Quest is the latest episodic game published by Sierra Entertainment and developed by The Odd Gentlemen. It has all the same familiarity of the original King’s Quest series, but is more of a reboot of the franchise and not King’s Quest IX. Chapter One was released July 28th, and I finally picked up my copy of it for the PS3 last week. I admit that this wasn’t a game I was jumping to get, but after watching Danny Sexbang and Ross Donovan of the GameGrumps play the first 15 minutes of the game, I needed to have it so badly that I purchased it that night.
After playing the game, I felt inspired—nay, called—to write my first true video game review. The art! The music! The fun! Everything gripped me! … but let’s get to the story and gameplay first!
To avoid spoilers, I’ll give a simple rundown of the story. You are now a much older King Graham, sharing stories of your adventures to your granddaughter, Gwendolyn. As you weave your tale of bravery and magic, the mirror by your bed shimmers, giving life to your story. It changes the canon a bit from some events in King’s Quest I, but I don’t want to dive into that in fear of spoilers. Personally, I found the changes to not really matter, but who knows? Other fans may have different opinions on that.
The game isn’t your usual point and click adventure we’re all familiar with in the original King’s Quest series. It feels very similar to Telltale’s style of games that are more like graphic adventure games where you control the character and explore areas to find things to progress the story with. I welcomed this change as it made things a lot faster than having to wait for King Graham to go to that one area you clicked at (without having to speed him up to the point where he looks like he just took a hit of heroin when he walks). Even with the ability to control Graham added to the game, they still kept the basic idea of the original series: walk up to the thing you want to look at, press X, done.
However, they also added quick time events in the game. This really comes as no surprise though, given how much “bigger” the world is now that you actually control Graham past the 2D “click here, go here” aspect. I didn’t find the events (or the game, really) to be difficult, and they give you a hint or warning when something that requires it is about to show up. The tutorial level uses the quick time events more than the actual chapter itself. Overall, it’s really not as annoying as some quick time events tend to be, so I don’t really consider this to be a bad thing.
If you play first chapter from start to finish, without worrying what kind of moral path you’re taking (bravery, compassion, or wisdom), the game will probably take you a few hours to finish. If you want to take a very specific path in the game, you have to make sure the things you do to progress is the way you want to go, so it becomes a much longer game as you explore ALL your possibilities before making a final decision. The path you take determines the lessons you teach to Gwendolyn, and not only reflects in the ending you get, but can change the story and characters as well. This, on top of finding all sorts of ways to die in the game for fun and achievements, can turn a 3-4 hour game into close to a 6-8 hour game, and this is just the first chapter.
While finding new paths and different options to take gives you a great replay value, it becomes rather irritating that the game doesn’t have the option to save before you do something that could make an impact on the game. The game only has an autosave feature, so if you accidentally click something that causes an event to happen you didn’t want to have happen, you’re screwed. Every time you change something, or get a new item in your inventory, it autosaves. So if you have an oops, there’s no quick restart to do over. I honestly didn’t like this at all. In the previous games of the series, you could save anywhere you wanted and reload back to it afterwards. I ended up restarting my game twice because I would end up doing something totally stupid to ruin my moral path after a few hours of playing. If there was a way to turn off the autosave and save on your own, I would have been less paranoid if I was doing the right thing for my path or not.
Sadly, worrying about which path to take wasn’t the real thing that had me less relaxed when playing the game after a few hours. In the Playstation 3 version, there’s a bug that will cause the game, and the PS3 itself, to lock up and become completely unresponsive. Not once, not twice, but four times in a span of three to four hours, my PS3 locked up either at the loading screen or when moving to another screen over. In the grand total of my entire gameplay, it locked up six times. I found myself tense after a couple hours, and then scared almost every time I would move from one point to another. Several graphical bugs that would have Graham’s cape spinning all over the screen didn’t help with that, either. Fortunately, these are the only two bugs I experienced, and the game ran without any other problems.
Art and Soundtrack
I’m an artist, and as I watched the aforementioned episode of the Steam Train playthrough, I felt I wasn’t getting the full experience of the beautiful art and animation that is usually taken for granted in most games similar to this. The art is breathtaking. The character models are unique, if not whimsical, and the scenery is just gorgeous. At one point, you’re walking down a path and you’re suddenly met with this amazing mountain landscape that is actually painted instead of a 3D model. (If I’m wrong about this and it’s actually 3D modeled, then wow, props there.) The water ripples, splashes, and other effects are animated to look like a cartoon and not too realistic. It was a new experience that I look forward to seeing more in the coming chapters.
That said, I still had some complaints about the rendering. During some close ups of King Graham in his bed, the pillow texture looked very pixelated. Yet when it zooms out, it looks better. This also went for many other textures as well. I felt a bit cheated when it came to that. When you have a remarkably beautiful game, things like poorly textured rocks, trees, and even water at one point really stand out and look like an eyesore.
Yes, this is purely a technical issue. The textures simply weren’t meant to be seen that up-close. Surely, though, they could have found a way around that. For a game that came out on the PS3, I felt like I was playing a Wii game… and I like the Wii.
Luckily, the soundtrack for the game doesn’t suffer from any flaws other than being rather quiet even after turning up the music all the way. Whenever Graham does something heroic, the music picks up and gives you that feeling of adventure. It definitely gave a nod to the music from previous games, and I hope they release it to listen to at my leisure.
Despite game-breaking bugs, and oddly out of place, poorly rendered textures, I found King’s Quest to be an extremely delightful game. The cliffhanger for Chapter One has me in tears, and I’m on pins and needles waiting for Chapter Two to come out… which unfortunately does not have a release date as I write this. To be frank, I would have rather waited longer for a complete game with little to no bugs to come out than wait months on one episode at a time that constantly freezes on me.
Is it worth the money? Yes. Does it have replay value? Definitely. Hopefully the PC and other console versions don’t have the freeze bug!
Disclosure: I have a girl crush on lanky teenager Graham.