King's Quest: The Complete Collection Reviews

178,101 (106,345)
TA Score for this game: 2,100
Posted on 27 March 18 at 17:10
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King's Quest is a beautiful adventure game that blew past everything I expected. It even blew away everything it appeared to be when it began. I'll start this review by saying that I can easily recommend playing it.

These are the stories of King Graham, as told to his granddaughter Gwendolyn. They mostly fall in between the old games, but occasionally (most notably in Chapters 1 and 3) rewrite small portions of the existing stories. The tales follow Graham throughout his life - mainly during the time around the first three games. We get to see him become the knight he was in the original King's Quest, and follow along with his struggles and adventures in running a kingdom and building a family.

I've played my fair share of King's Quest games throughout my life. I wouldn't consider myself a hardcore fan, but I would consider myself a fan. And at first, this game bothered me. It's often silly, and as I said, it does occasionally change the established canon from the original games. But one line in particular, that closed Chapter 2, set me straight. Graham was clearly speaking to the audience as much as he was to Gwendolyn, when he said:

"And that's my story. Some of the details might have changed over the years, and I certainly left out some parts I wasn't fond of, but I've found it's best to enjoy stories for what they are and not for what you hoped they would be."

These stories he tells aren't strictly canon. They're stories, told by an old man with an aging memory, who is editing them to be better stories in general, and to be more fitting for a child. It's best not to get hung up on the changes and inconsistencies when compared to the old games, and just enjoy the tale.

King's Quest plays like a cross between a 2nd Wave Telltale game (e.g. Tales of Monkey Island) and a 3rd Wave Telltale game (e.g. The Walking Dead). In general, it's closer to the former, with the player solving classic adventure game inventory puzzles with some logic puzzles thrown in. But there are also choices to make which will shape dialogue, plot, and how you're able to go about your adventures.

It pulls off 2nd Wave Telltale much better than any Telltale game. The puzzles tend to make more sense and characters tend to have more depth than anything Telltale made in that era. The choice mechanics, however, are less integral than in a 3rd Wave Telltale release, and they kind of fall to the wayside in the last couple chapters. But the game at least runs with a pretty consistent framerate (so maybe they should loan the engine out to Telltale for a while).

Chapter 1 starts off with a fairly linear opening sequence retelling part of King's Quest 1, before going back to an earlier adventure. It's fascinating how misleading this chapter is. The characters are largely jerks and seem like they're fairly single note, but the further you get, the more you'll begin to like and understand them. Once the world finally opens up to explore, the game feels much less linear... but still kind of turns out to be fairly linear.

The catch is that the chapter allows you to play through in one of three ways, similar to Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis's "fists, wits, or team" system (in this one, it's "strength, wisdom, and love") - only the playstyle doesn't change the gameplay so much as it changes the order you'll be able to solve the puzzles, and a few of the solutions you'll use. Still, it does make for some decent replayability. And you'll probably have to replay it if you want all of the achievements.

You definitely have to replay Chapter 2 if you want all of the achievements. Or at least make several backup saves at specific points.

Chapter 2 is a more confined moral conundrum that is intriguing on paper, but kind of doesn't work as well as it could in actual practice. In this chapter, you have to solve puzzles while rationing out food to your fellow prisoners to help them survive. Saving everybody is difficult, and I'd be surprised if very many people managed to their first time through - at least, without using a guide. Part of the problem stems from the unknowns. Do you give some food to a prisoner, or do you eat it yourself to regain your strength, or do you feed the R.O.U.S. so it will let you open the chest? The problem with those last two is that you don't really know what your reward for them will ultimately be, making problem solving sometimes based more on a gamble than on gathering information and making the best decision.

Still, it's something new and interesting, and I did enjoy the chapter. I recommend just doing the best you can, and not stressing too much over the consequences.

Chapter 3 is by far my favorite, even though you have less room to explore freely than in the previous two. See, Chapter 3 is, for lack of a better description, a dating simulator. Yeah, no, I'm right there with you. That doesn't sound like what I want out of a King's Quest game, either. But let me tell you: they pulled it off perfectly.

The chapter has a splendid variety of puzzles, an overall story beyond just the dating, and then sprinkled throughout all of it, you'll find yourself thrown into all sorts of different tasks designed to determine which of the two princesses is the love of your life. And they took more things into account than you may at first expect.

If you're a King's Quest series veteran, you may be a bit confused right now. But rest assured that this makes full sense, and the way they make it make sense is actually kind of funny and a little clever in hindsight.

I'm not gonna lie, I maybe fell in love a little bit during this chapter.

Is that sad?


From this point, things go downhill. See, it's clear that either the game's sales weren't meeting Activision's expectations, or they simply had no confidence in the series, because Chapters 4 and 5 were noticeably rushed and/or short on budget. It's a dirty shame, but to the devs' credit, they did the best they could with what they had.

Chapter 4 is arguably the weakest of the series. Most of the chapter is spent solving bargain basement sliding block puzzles and other things in that vein, as you venture through a Portal-esque series of puzzle rooms. There is a riddle room that I quite liked, but by the time I was halfway through this chapter I was ready for it to be over.

Choices also go the way of the dodo at this point. The choices you made in previous episodes only have a small impact on this one, and there were no major new ones to make, either. I honestly couldn't tell you if it's possible for the gallery of outcomes at the end to change based on anything in this particular chapter. And I may as well tell you now: it doesn't get any better in Chapter 5.

I loved the voice acting in this series. Top-notch performance all around. Even the voices I didn't like at first, very quickly grew on me. But in Chapter 4, you now have the same person who voiced Graham as a teenager, voicing him at middle age. And it shows. It sounds like a younger person trying to deepen their voice to sound like an older person.

There's some decent plot here and there, and the episode does have a fairly strong opening (aside from the lullaby), but it kind of doesn't end as strongly as it starts, and some of the inconsistencies with the old games were starting to bug me again - even with Graham's philosophy in mind. It's just an unfortunate episode, all around.

But with Chapter 5, the developers took the complete opposite approach to dealing with their problems. Rather than focusing on implementing an unending series of slow puzzles to pad the chapter up to full length, they produced a shorter chapter that packs a full punch.

It's actually impressive how much of this chapter works, considering how little the devs seemingly had to work with. In one segment, you solve a simple puzzle in what is essentially a motionless gallery of deleted scenes, and it fits perfectly from both a thematic and comedic perspective. During the main free-roam section, some areas are simply empty voids, representing lapses in Graham's memory. And again, it fits perfectly.

Have you ever seen that episode of South Park where Peter Griffin from Family Guy was supposed to give Muhammad a fish helmet, but a place card appeared describing the scene and how it couldn't be shown because of censorship? It fit so well with the rest of the episode and the show's humor, that everybody watching simply thought the place card was an intentional joke - not knowing that it was the genuine censorship of that scene by Comedy Central.

It's kind of like that, but with time and money constraints instead of censorship.

The entire chapter will only take maybe a couple hours to finish, and it has a much bleaker feel through most of it than any of the previous ones. Plus some clearly telegraphed plot threads never cropped up (everybody expected the dragon to make another appearance at the end, and I'm convinced that the bad guy was supposed to become a King Graham doppelganger for the final encounter, which would have given the scene much more weight). but it's worth it. Not just for the good moments along the way (although Graham's dream sequence was pretty hard to top), but because the ending was so... beautiful and compelling, and topped with a very touching deeper message about the series as a whole.

I felt emotions I didn't know were available to me.

Plus, the Epilogue kind of rounds out the missing time from Chapter 5 a bit, so I can't really complain.

The music in King's Quest excels at its job of influencing your feelings. Sound in general is just done well, and the game occasionally harkens back to the old ones with some of its music and sounds effects (there is an occasional plinking sound in Chapter 1 that I swear is straight out of the point-and-clicks). The same can be said of the visuals. The art design is quality (although I'm still not quite impressed with the design of the castle guards), and something about transitioning from one screen south of the town gate, TO the town gate just fills me with nostalgia.

You'll run into several references to other works, as well. Manny's voice actor, best known as the Sicilian in The Princess Bride, closes Chapter 1 with a familiar scenario. Just after which old King Graham, played by Christopher Lloyd, corrects an addendum number to 1.21. In fact, MOST addendum numbers in this series are references to something or other.

Speaking of voice actors, Tom Kenny (best known as Spongebob / The Ice King) and Zelda Williams (best known for being Robin Williams's daughter, so far) both show up in this series, as well. And like everyone else, they're both pretty dang good.

There were a few glitches here and there. Mostly with dialogue seemingly failing to play as the characters just stood there waving their heads and arms while staring into each others' eyes. But it was only on a few occasions, and thankfully nothing vital was missed.

King's Quest is wonderful, and I have to give it up for the devs. After their publisher practically abandoned them, they still managed to reach the end with grace and poignancy. And I have nothing but respect for them. Although, a day after finishing the game, I did start to become pretty bummed out thinking about all of the things that we had ultimately missed out on. The doppelganger, the dragon, the choices... and then a little piece of wisdom went through my head:

"I've found it's best to enjoy stories for what they are and not for what you hoped they would be."

And I did enjoy this story, flaws and all. And I cannot recommend it enough. Maybe Chapters 4 and 5 are imperfect and incomplete, but the The Odd Gentlemen made a valiant effort to mask this as much as possible, and give us the best story they possibly could under those conditions. And that effort shines through. I think any fan of good adventure games or a good story would be glad to have this in their collection.
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