Kings Quest is on an old name in gaming with its first appearance in 1984, but this is the first time I’ve played any since I lost my baby teeth. Over the years, there have been several releases of this point and click franchise; including earlier reboots that didn’t fare too well. This time KQ has joined the trend of chaptered games with a story that appears to be running between several other game timelines. I wasn’t overly excited at first, but the short version is: I loved this. I played it, did my notes, and started playing it again. While I can’t make a full comment on the narrative as it traverses five individual chapters, I am reviewing part one as an unfinished yet comprehensive standalone venture.
Regarding the narrative, however: if it’s technically only 20% of the bigger picture, is it a story on its own? In this case, the answer is yes. Sure it ended on a cliffhanger, but unlike many episodic games, there was a sense of fulfillment, completion, and achievement while still reminding players there was a whole lifetime of the story yet to come. I made choices during the adventure and was blessed with some brilliant outcomes and reactions. I didn’t want to cheapen the experience by rushing another playthrough to explore others paths that might have been opened by alternate choices. And yet, unexpected outcomes are drawing me back in out of curiosity. While the end game stays mostly unchanged, the slightly differing paths to get there are what is really important here; KQ is for the story lover. It’s not the mediocre chuckle I remember; instead, it’s evolved into a mature, hilarious and surprisingly gut-wrenching episode.
KQ was ahead of the pack mechanically; it was one of the first 2D point & click adventure games I’d ever seen where characters interacted with backgrounds to give the illusion of a 3D world. Truth be told, I had no idea what to expect going in to this reboot, but a P&C console release would have been pretty dismal. With no intro or explanation, the cell-shaded world appears with a (thankfully) 3D Graham waiting for you to realize the game has started. Pushing forward on the thumbstick, I was momentarily distracted by my swirling cape, and not for the last time. The fluidity of movement and the impressive physics from beginning to the end gave KQ and every character you’ll come to love so much life. Whether exploring, using equipment or interacting with objects or NPCs, the controls were simple and tight. On the occasions where story points required specific tasks or procedures, each was masterable in seconds, so I was free to focus on the good stuff.
As I’ve mentioned previously, this isn’t the first time I’ve met Graham, future king of Daventry, it is, however, the first time I loved him. Equal parts sass, internet troll and guy next door, you can’t help but care what happens to him and those he meets. While competing to become a knight, he meets his four opponents who you’ll have to discover yourself. There is also a town, neighbouring species and a hoard of royal knights; I don’t think I’ve played a game where identical characters like knights have ever had so much personality and humour. Each of your opponents is radiating their personality through gestures, reactions and dialogue that deserves using every option available. Considering its medieval setting and tasks, hearing characters use words like hangry, stahp and welp was perfect for the overall atmosphere of the game. KQ wasn’t afraid either to make a clear reference to the poison scene of Princess Bride while never venturing outside of what was comfortable with the game.
My one issue came from my own misunderstanding: I was trying to complete a task the best way for me but skipped an instruction and wasted 20 minutes wondering what the hell I was doing. KQ offers no hints, and I hope it stays that way throughout the rest of the chapter releases; I found my way and would have been insulted if I received prompts.
King’s Quest was fantastic in every way, including introducing me to my new favourite character in ages: Whisper, the hopeful knight. Not only was he the master of comedic timing, but later you get to appreciate a deeper character, and it only makes you appreciate the incredible detail to personality in KQ even more. It’s incredibly entertaining, even if you choose poorly, has replayability as well as a perfect balance of voiceover and dialogue driven narrative. Don’t be fooled, though, it can hit hard, but it made the experience of the first chapter that much more fulfilling. Don’t wait for part two; take your time to get to know this chapter well first.
EDITOR NOTE: this game was provided to us by the publisher, and reviewed on XB1 across 8 hours of gameplay. Please also understand that in an effort to be fair, we will not score an episodic game until the season is complete.