The Silver Lining: Episode 1: What is Decreed Must Be Review for PC

The Silver Lining: Episode 1: What is Decreed Must Be Review for PC

A Beloved Adventure, Continued

In the 1980s and 1990s, King’s Quest was a popular series of text-heavy, point-and-click PC adventure games. Today, it’s mostly a memory. The last entry came out in 1998, and since King’s Quest 9 was cancelled during production, no one has attempted to further the series.

The Silver Lining: Episode 1: What is Decreed Must Be screenshot

No one, that is, except some very dedicated fans. Thanks to them, we have The Silver Lining: Episode 1: What Is Decreed Must Be, the first part of an unofficial new King’s Quest story. It was released online recently, free of charge, with the blessing of Activision, which owns the copyright after merging with the previous rights holders Vivendi Games. You can download it at www.tsl-game.com. Another four episodes are set to follow, hopefully by the end of the year.

If you’ve never played King’s Quest before, don’t bother. Everything about The Silver Lining looks and feels dated, and fans of modern games will find it needlessly clunky and frustrating.

Take the control scheme, for example. You have to right-click your mouse to switch between different tools, which is cumbersome. You need to use one tool to walk, another to interact with people and items, etcetera. The simple act of moving your character by clicking your destination feels odd and doesn’t always work. We realize this is all about nostalgia, but even so, some updated controls would have been nice.

In terms of modern-era polish, the graphics and sound don’t fare much better. Like those in the final game in the original series, King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity, the graphics here are fully 3-D. Also like those in Mask of Eternity, they look like they came out in 1998, especially the terrible animations. The cutscenes showed up with lots of visual glitches on our PC, with hiccups and screen-tearing galore, even after we installed the Windows 7 patch. There isn’t much detail to the in-game images either, especially when compared with the textures that many modern games include.

The Silver Lining: Episode 1: What is Decreed Must Be screenshot

The quality of the voiceovers is incredibly inconsistent; a combination of volunteers and off-Broadway actors contributed. Many lines are delivered awkwardly enough to stand out, and there’s a ton of dialogue here, so plan on cringing a lot. It might have been less expensive and time-consuming, for the developers to leave the voice-overs entirely.

Also, the reason not many companies make games like this anymore is that they’re pretty boring. The idea is to solve “puzzles” that entail picking up items and using them in the correct ways. Unfortunately, if the solution isn’t obvious from the beginning, the only way to figure it out is to wander aimlessly until you come across an item you missed or put an item somewhere you haven’t tried yet. This is less frustrating than it was before since you can now just look up solutions online if needed, but it’s still hardly exciting.

The Silver Lining: Episode 1: What is Decreed Must Be screenshot

Despite these problems, however, longtime fans will want to give it a shot. If you start with an appreciation of King’s Quest, not only is The Silver Lining free, but it’s worthwhile in all sorts of ways.

The game begins where the old story left off. In the Land of the Green Isles, one of King Graham’s twins, Rosella, is set to marry her suitor, Edgar. On the wedding day, a stranger in a black cloak swoops down, places an evil magic spell on both twins, and disappears, leaving only the cloak. Playing as King Graham, you set out to find the stranger and break the spell on your daughters.

The Silver Lining: Episode 1: What is Decreed Must Be screenshot

Clocking in at about an hour, with most of that time being taken up by cutscenes, the game feels more than a little sparse. There’s really only one puzzle in the whole episode, after which you sail between a few islands, watching cutscenes and looking for clues as to the stranger’s whereabouts. Though the world feels big and open, most of the paths are blocked, making the experience linear. If Activision were charging people to play this game, we’d denounce the entire project as a rip-off.

But as far as we can tell, Episode 1 is not really meant to be a full experience in itself. If you see it as a demo, or an introduction to a larger and more ambitious work, it holds a lot of promise. For one thing, the sheer attention to detail is impressive. Before games had great graphical capabilities and refined gameplay mechanics, developers had to use words to explain what characters could and couldn’t do. That’s replicated here. Walk out on a balcony, and the narrator tells you what your character is thinking. Touch a suit of armor, and the narrator notes that it’s too heavy for you to wear. (Yes, she sounds like she’s talking to a child, but we already admitted the voiceover work was terrible, right?) To those who enjoyed video games back when this kind of storytelling was popular, The Silver Lining is a great reminder of how much developers did with the tools they had.

Also, while the in-game graphics lack detail, as noted above, they do a wonderful job of evoking the feel of old games and depicting the universe of King’s Quest in 3-D. The polygon count is low, but there’s a good degree of charm in the castle and the surrounding area. If you have memories of playing classic PC adventure games, The Silver Lining will bring them back. However, if you were a fan of the King’s Quest series in particular, the experience can induce déjà vu. Much of this world is exactly the way it was in the early 1990s, only with an extra dimension. Despite all the glitches we experienced with them, the cutscenes are well-done from a directorial standpoint: the camera is always artfully placed, and some of the imagery does a lot with a little bit of processing power.

Even the sound has its good side, at least if you ignore the voiceovers and concentrate on the music. The haunting pieces feel right at home in the game’s medieval setting, and they’re amazingly well-done for a free fan-made game. The compositions are all original, and we hope the musicians responsible for them get paying work as a result of the great job they did here.

Again, this game feels dated, and there’s really not a whole lot to this first episode. For Episode 2, we’ll be looking for a lot more (and better) puzzles and a much higher gameplay-to-cutscene ratio. The franchise’s storied history and surviving fanbase make it ripe for a continuation, and if it’s done right, The Silver Lining could be a real contribution to retro adventure gaming. Episode 1 is far from a masterpiece, but it could be the prelude to one. And as far as price goes, you can’t beat free.

They’re sparse, and we experienced a lot of glitches with the cutscenes, but they do give the game a sense of character. 2.8 Control
They’re not bad if you’re looking for a retro experience, but clunky if you’re used to modern games. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound is a mixed bag, featuring great music. but terrible voice acting. 3.6 Play Value
There’s less than an hour of play time, and most of that is cutscenes. For longtime fans, however, there’s a lot to like, and it’s free. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • The first of five PC game episodes, “What Is Decreed Must Be” is available for free download from //www.tsl-game.com.
  • The Silver Lining is the result of eight years of volunteer effort.
  • Polished 3-D artwork, high-quality animation, an original soundtrack, and a voice cast that includes professional off-Broadway actors.

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