The wait for the next instalment of King’s Quest was just a cool down period to think long and hard about what a mess you made last time. Sure, everyone ended up surviving, just barely, but the save game remembers who you didn’t rescue, and what you were willing to sacrifice. I have a horrible feeling they haven’t forgotten entirely, yet I still can’t wait to get back amongst Daventry and see how it has changed. The final minutes of chapter two also introduced new possibilities for Daventry’s future with the goblin/human prank, someone who’s just found out he’s adopted, and the return of the devious bad guy. There were changes and plots brewing, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
Chapter 3: King Graham’s lonely hearts club band. King Graham is at that age where he’s too young to retire and do nothing, yet too old to bum around the kingdom all day bothering the guards. The intro is a nice little reintroduction to the narrative that does two things very well; it shows the time passed and gives us an insight into the king’s plight of loneliness, but it also reminds you there’s consequences for every action. In the space of one small scene, you walk between three times and experience the changes time has on the surrounding; in this case, the growth of a tree. You think, hey, I’m awesome at KQ now, and I can see these things are movable. Clearly what I want to do is help that plant grow. Wrong. The Odd Gentleman use one small scene to slap you gently in the face with the death of the cutest owl ever, and subtly remind you that you need to think carefully because every choice counts.
Now that it’s clear you are not in any way in charge or out of trouble with this chapter, we move right on to matters of the heart. I wondered if Graham needed a Queen to be happy, then carried on to spend several minutes building a date out of a coat rack and a rug. This is not a drill people, commence operation find love! The magical mirror/host of the bachelor sends the king on an adventure by showing a tower that hides his future queen. Although it’s a basic set up, it was enjoyable to wander and take it slow as the entire soundtrack has taken a huge step up from the last chapter, making the areas and interactions more tangible. So, we reach the spire, action-man our way up the magical building, leap dramatically over the ledge and bam! Two princesses? Not only that, but you need to propose to one, right now. Thanks, KQ because apparently I can handle such a clear cut decision!
Ignore for a second that the story requires you to pick the love of your life and instead focus on the fact that captain lonely over here believes he is making dreams come true for one of these girls. How it went next could have ruined it, but true to form KQ provided some brilliantly witty dialogue from both ladies that resulted in a resounding no. Over the next few scenes there are several small choices to start gaining the favour of one princess over the other, so pay attention to what you’re doing. Or, like my second playthrough, do whatever you feel like at the time and just go along for the excellent banter. The awkward love triangle suddenly gets even messier when the witch keeping them hostage mistakes Graham for a woman and traps him also: stuck with two ladies and nothing to do but woo them? I want out.
With the walls of a dating sim closing in, KQ took another turn and made outside missions possible as part of the narrative. This was a perfect opportunity to welcome back some of my favourite parts of KQ so far: seeing Graham in the present, and witnessing the current Graham struggle with his neurotic inner voice. The small choices and conversations you have with the princesses and the witch open up some puzzles, but not as many as I would have liked. Instead of traditional puzzles, your energy is spent figuring out which of the princesses is your future, and how to get you all out of that tower. It comes time for a deep conversation about love, and “Princess Graham” uses a trip outside the tower to visit Daventry and seek advice. The catch is you may only ask one person before your time runs out, and once you use whatever item you receive, the path is all but set.
While the underlying and growing concern of the goblins led by Manny is still present, this is a story about love, and not missing arm day. As with the previous chapters, there are intense moments and endless great writing, outcomes and interactions, but it also keeps gently poking you in the general vicinity of your heart, making it twang quietly. Seeing present King Graham stare into the mirror and not see magic, just an old face feels like KQ’s way of bringing the focus back to the real Graham, not the adventurer of the past. Chapter three was worth replaying several times, it brought back Whisper (with a love poem, naturally), kept the narrative interesting, and gave new depth to the game as a whole. It also let you believe the chapter was about finding true love, and I’m glad it rose above that and offered more than a fairy tale romance.