King’s Quest: The Complete Collection Review
Hey everyone! JDHJANUS, aka Josh, here. Last night, I had the privilege to finish Sierra’s new game, King’s Quest: The Complete Collection, on PC. Following are my thoughts and perspectives on the game. This review is spoiler-free, so if you haven’t played the game, I won’t spoil any of the plot revelations.
First, a little background. For those of you who don’t know, I first encountered the King’s Quest games in 1991, when my sister got a computer from her dad that included the first 4 King’s Quest games (among many other Sierra games) on it. Out of all the games, I remember watching my sister and mom play the King’s Quest games the most, as it was the series that captivated me. We later bought the EGA version of King’s Quest V, and played through it as well. But my sister moved off to college in 1995, and she got a new computer to take with her, and the old one was put up in the attic. I was pretty much without Sierra games for a while. In 1999, however, while browsing through the many big box games at a store called Computer City, I found the King’s Quest Collection Series on sale for $20. I bought it and brought it home and rekindled my love for Sierra adventure games instantly. I was able to play King’s Quest VI and VII for the first time, and I truly fell in love with the series as a whole at that time.
I say all that so that you guys know that I’m very familiar with the King’s Quest series. I’ve read the King’s Quest novels, the King’s Quest companions, the official hint books; I’ve even played the trivia game King’s Questions. So, when I heard that Sierra was publishing a new King’s Quest game, I got really excited.
Developed by indie company The Odd Gentlemen and released episodically in 5 parts (plus an epilogue) from July 2015 to December 2016, King’s Quest: The Complete Collection is unique compared to the other games in the series. It is a reimaging of the series, and for the most part treats the original games as having happened, but fills in gaps that the previous games left. Not to say that the game holds to the strictest canon; it outright goes against it in some regards, but explains it away as the difference between a fictionalized story and the truth. I’ll explain more as I go into the chapters.
The entire story is framed with an elderly King Graham sharing stories of his adventures to his granddaughter, Gwendolyn. This framing device, however, is more than just a sequel to the game; your actions and choices in the game have a direct effect on Gwendolyn and how she interacts with the world around her. While this is most apparent in chapter 1, it still reflects throughout the later chapters as well.
Chapter 1 tells a story prior to King’s Quest I: How Graham became a knight in King Edward’s court. Out of all of the chapters, chapter 1 plays out most like a traditional adventure game. There is a vast world that is pretty much open from the beginning for you to explore. You go around solving inventory item puzzles and generally trying to help out anyone that you can. The chapter also introduces the main theme of the game: the three routes of Bravery, Compassion, or Wisdom. From pretty much the beginning of the game, your choices specifically influence what path you’re going to take. As a result, the people you interact with respond differently to you. During the first two chapters, you have a lot of choices about which path you want to take, but the latter three limit those choices significantly. This makes sense, as the first two chapters are set with very little time between them, while the later 3 are all set a bit further in the future.
Chapter 2 is set shortly after Graham became king, not too long after King’s Quest I. In this game, you are faced with a much more powerful moral choice. It’s ultimately a game of resource management, but this time, lives are on the line. While there are still plenty of traditional inventory item puzzles that you are faced with, you have the much stronger overarching theme of keeping numerous people alive and healthy, and trying to figure out what’s the best for everyone involved. This is further complicated by one of my biggest complaints with the game: the autosave feature. King’s Quest does not allow you to save your own game. Instead, it autosaves after significant occurrences in the plot, and if you make a wrong choice, you may not like it. The game never forces you into a dead end, but you may not get the ideal ending you might want. While I understand this feature puts a lot more weight into your choices, at the same time, I definitely missed the ability to save the game whenever I wanted.
Chapter 3 is what I could best describe as a romantic visual novel. There are still puzzles, but they all are related to Graham romancing Queen Valanice. The game reimagines the ending to King’s Quest II, and it provides a lot more depth to Valanice’s character. This chapter was by far one of the most original in the game, as it was the first to fly in the preconceived notions of the original games, but it did so in such a particular way, that I really enjoyed it.
Chapter 4 was, story-wise, my all-time favorite in the game. It’s the most linear of the chapters, and gameplay is set up in a series of different puzzles that reminded me of something you would find in a game like Myst. While I wasn’t a big fan of the gameplay, the story is where this chapter shines. Set shortly after the end of King’s Quest III, it reimagines the end of that game (and apparently moves King’s Quest IV to be later in the timeline), but what it does best is show the relationship between the recently reunited King Graham and Prince Alexander. Alexander’s character is fantastic, as The Odd Gentlemen used his commentary throughout the chapter to really point out the arguments between the old school “echo chamber” with their perspectives on adventure genre gameplay (represented by Graham) and the more action-based perspectives of many modern gamers (represented by Alexander). In doing so, they provide one of the best meta-commentaries on the state of the genre as a whole. I only wish that the gameplay of that particular chapter weren’t so linear (not to mention that there weren’t so many slider puzzles!)
The final chapter wraps up the story, more than likely set sometime after Mask of Eternity. The loose ends get wrapped up, the story reaches its conclusion, and the game even has some really funny throwbacks, where at one point, it literally reverts to an AGI similar gameplay (such as the original King’s Quest I), followed by a conversion to SCI-1 gameplay (with graphics that look like they came straight out of King’s Quest VI). It also has a lot of throwbacks to the first chapter of this game, with a lot of the same locations visited (although MUCH later chronologically).
Finally, the epilogue is set shortly after the frame story, and features Gwendolyn embarking on her first big solo adventure. While not very long, it’s a fun little story that could stand alone as a game in its own right, although some of the puzzles were particularly frustrating due to some hot spots not always working correctly.
So, overall, I really liked the game. Yes, it did have some gameplay moments that were seriously frustrating, and I think I lost my mind a couple of times in chapter 2 trying to manage all of my resources properly, but as a story overall, the game works really well. The Odd Gentlemen did a fantastic job breathing new life into the King’s Quest world, and I hope that Sierra continues to make more games with the caliber of this one. The game has a stellar voice cast (featuring Christopher Lloyd, Wallace Shawn, Zelda Williams, and my personal favorite, Alexander Polinsky as young Prince Alexander, among many others), and the music was peaceful without being repetitive. The Odd Gentlemen truly wrote the game as a love letter to one of the most influential series in adventure game history, and I’m glad I got to experience the game completely. If you’re a fan of the King’s Quest games, or just adventure games in general, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of this game!!!