A Royal Review: King’s Quest – Episode One
Developed by The Odd Gentleman and published by Sierra, King’s Quest is a fun, charming, and light-hearted jaunt into the beautifully-realized, hand-painted fantasy realm of Daventry.
Seeming to have jumped right off the pages of a children’s picture book, the first episode of King’s Quest immediately pulls you in with familiar fantasy tropes of your childhood and is one of the most fun and memorable gaming experiences I have had this year.
Let me first provide a caveat: this is not an action game. There is no real fighting, or killing, save for a section of goblins. If that turns you off, this isn’t the game for you. This is a puzzle game with very minor platforming sections that–in and of themselves–are puzzles. That being said, the first episode is extremely refreshing despite that fact, and remains engaging the entire ride.
An old king Grant–voiced by Back to the Future‘s Christopher Lloyd, a.k.a. Doc Brown–regales his younger days with his granddaughter, Gwendolyn, who is enamored with his fantastic tales. His dialogue is rife with terrible, yet wonderful puns that brought a smile to my face each time. Dialogue in-game is a bit childish at times, but is meant to be, coming off more comedic and clever, and most certainly entertaining.
It is within these tales the game occurs.
The first episode follows young King Grant in his quest to knighthood, ages before he becomes royalty. The teen-aged Grant is spunky, quick-witted, yet lanky, and not so sure of himself. We start off on our way to Daventry, where the Tournament of Hopeful Knights is held.
The tournament is a set of three trials where Grant must face opponents of strength, speed, and wit. On his way however, he encounters village locals who need his assistance. These function like side-quest and are integral to Grant’s victory in each of the trials–and ultimately–the tournament. These quests contain dialogue choices that are rumored to have impact later in the story, however, no immediate consequence is seen in this episode.
On your quests, you will roam the Daventry countryside, yes, fetching things for villagers. However, the people and their needs are directly linked to other items Grant needs for the tournament, and the narrative. For example, I needed to fetch a pumpkin for the potion-makers in order for them to hollow it out and make a lamp, which Grant needs to pass through a dark forest. The quests actually mean something within the story and are needed to explore Daventry further.
Each character Grant meets is integral to the narrative and are fully developed with unique personalities of their own. Each competitor in the tournament has their own strengths and weaknesses and all eventually befriend Grant in his quests, as will the villagers.
When exploring, the lack of a map and waypoint may become an annoyance for some, as backtracking and memorizing where specific items are located is a mainstay in traversal. I personally found it added to the mystery and charm of the realm. Along the way, you will find many beautiful scenes to ogle.
The art style may turn away those who want 60 frames a second at 1080p resolution. However, the cell-shaded, hand-rendered environments are absolutely beautiful, peaceful, and calming. Textures never pop and facial animations are spot on. There are a few frame rate problems, but they are extremely minimal and are only noticeable if you’re paying close attention.
The only negative aspect is the inability to skip dialogue and scenes if you have already listened/viewed them. There will be times when you will go through a conversation more than once, wondering whether you missed something.
All in all, the King’s Quest reboot in episodic fashion is a wonderful, soothing reprieve from the non-stop firefights of AAA titles. It has beautiful fantasy tone and personality all its own. It is charming and intriguing, silly and even sad at times. It has moxy and wit and I absolutely cannot wait till episode two arrives.
As far as episodic adventures go, I give this one a 9/10 if for nothing but the sheer enjoyment I felt.
Each episode can be purchased for 10 USD and the entire set is available for 40 USD, ultmately giving you a 10 dollar discount.