Adventure games have never been bigger.
This year at E3 2015, we went to a private meeting room to check out the brand new King’s Quest game offered up by Sierra and Activision. I was a huge fan of older King’s Quest titles, and I was curious to see whether or not this new King’s Quest lived up to its predecessor’s legacy. Adventure games have never been bigger, what with Telltale sitting on the throne of the genre. Does King’s Quest still have a place in an age of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us ?
This new King’s Quest title takes place several years after the events of King’s Quest 6 . King Graham is now an old man, reflecting on his life to his young granddaughter Gwendolyn. Gwen wants him to tell her a story about how he came to be the king of Daventry. He obliges, and we enter a flashback, seeing a young Graham. The game will begin before Graham was even a knight and the last chapter will end after the events of King’s Quest 6. Graham will age over the course of the game, becoming older and wiser with each chapter. All the while, old Graham narrates his actions in place of the classic Sierra narrator.
But trust me, this narrator is much better because this narrator is Christopher Lloyd! The whole cast of King’s Quest is filled with stars. They got Wallace Shawn, Zelda Williams, whoever the heck the guy is that did the voice of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast , and more. The game feels very animated, kind of like a Disney flick, and it has the voice talent to go along with it.
The game is based around three different styles of story. Graham can tell a story about courage, a story about compassion, or a story about wisdom. Depending on what acts you perform during the game, Graham’s story changes. Acts of courage are exactly what you would imagine them to be. Every time Graham attempts to slay a beast or fight a knight, he is performing an act of courage. Acts of compassion, on the other hand, show Graham’s gentler side. Every time you negotiate or solve a puzzle by social means, you perform an act of compassion. Finally, acts of wisdom highlight Graham’s potential to be a problem solver. Any time you come up with a unique solution that allows you to out-think your opponent, you are performing an act of wisdom.
As Graham performs these acts, the story starts to change around him. He starts to become known for being a courageous, compassionate, or wise person. As this reputation increases, different puzzles and dialogue options open up in the game. Courageous Graham may find that he ends up fighting more enemies than compassionate Graham, who may go out of his way to woo a cave troll.
The game looks absolutely beautiful. It has this hand painted look that makes every model and character look like they were drawn by classic animators, and that’s because they were. The 3D models of the game were printed out on paper, and artists drew in the textures with actual paints and watercolors. The finished paintings were then scanned back into the game as textures for the 3D world. So the world of King’s Quest is actually, literally, hand painted.
The controls have been altered a bit to fit modern day console sensibilities. The old icons from King’s Quest 6 for look, touch, and talk return, but now they are mapped to controller face buttons. Simply get close to an item you want to perform an action on, and press the face button to do it. The game will still be playable via keyboard and mouse on PC, but it’s primarily being developed to make use of a controller.
As always, a big part of King’s Quest is solving puzzles, but the team wanted to discourage the kind of brute force puzzle solving that makes you rub every object on every other objects. Thus, they created the new “magic mirror” system. When you open your inventory, your menu is superimposed over a magic mirror. In the mirror are important people and objects in the environment that you need to interact with in order to progress the game. They are only shown in the magic mirror if you already examined them without prompting, so it doesn’t give away solutions to problems, but it does remind you of places and things you already encountered but might have forgotten.
Each problem can also be solved in multiple ways. For example, there is a river that you have to cross in order to get to Daventry early on in the game. You can try to cross the river by using a rope or raft. You can even build a bridge. However, you can also simply walk across the river, because it’s far more shallow than it appears. Any of these solutions work, and depending on which solution you choose, the story will change. More and more solutions open up as you progress through the game, until eventually you get into a wide open field where you have multiple problems that you can solve in any order you like, much like King’s Quest 1.
I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on King’s Quest . It looks and feels like a Telltale game, except there are more options, more ways to solve problems, and it has that quirky Sierra humor that we all know and love. Heck, you can even make past Graham and old Graham war with each other by constantly contradicting the narration. You can even repeatedly try to use the wrong item in your inventory, and old Graham will get so upset he will remove the item until you solve a puzzle. The game loves to make fun of itself, you, and adventure games in general, and it’s this lighthearted nature that really makes King’s Quest one of a kind.
The first chapter of King’s Quest is due out next month, July 2015.