In a year full of HD remasters and definitive editions, it’s also refreshing to see a brand new entry in a long-forgotten franchise. King’s Quest from The Odd Gentlemen is the first official game in Ken and Roberta Williams original series since December 1998. That’s a wait of almost 17 years (remember that, Half Life fans, when you want to type an angry email to Gabe Newell about the wait for a new installment) !
King’s Quest is considered the grand-daddy of point and click puzzlers and one of the original graphic adventure games. Long before the Monkey Islands, Broken Swords and Day of the Tentacles came along, Sierra was sending us to far-off lands on fantastical, wild and wonderful quests.
But what is the King’s Quest and why should we care? Let us fill in the blanks ahead of A Knight to Remember, the season’s first episode due out later this month…
It all begins in a war-torn and troubled Daventry where the King has grown weak and ill. Unable to bring peace to his Kingdom, The King begins a desperate search to find a successor to the throne. He calls Sir Graham, the finest knight in the land, to the throne room, and tasks him with finding three legendary treasures that are certain to restore order back to the lands. Graham sets off to find a magic mirror, a chest full of gold and a solid shield. If he brings them back, he will be crowned King. If he doesn’t, he’ll probably be given a banana for his efforts.
Suffice it to say, he does bring them back despite encounters with trolls, dragons and leprechauns, and becomes King Graham of Daventry.
(Side note – We strongly recommended playing the 2001 AGD remake of Quest for the Crown to get a better feel for the story. You can grab it here. Don’t worry, your rig will definitely be able to handle it.)
So, Graham is King. He is also bored. He has all the wealth in the kingdom and no one to share it with. That is, until the Magic Mirror he lifted in the first game shows a woman called Valanice trapped at the top of an old tower. Charmed and fascinated by her, Graham is unexpectedly transported to the realm of Kolyma, and is suddenly on a rescue mission to reach the island where Valanice is being held by a powerful witch (named Hagatha, because, of course…)
Graham finds three keys that unlock the pathway to the far-off island, defeats the witch and saves Valanice.
Of course, now that he’s got the girl, she, you guessed it, becomes Queen of Daventry. They also have lots of sex and make babies, but they don’t tell you that in the game. I’m telling you that though because it’s very, very important and I think you have a right to know. Or, you probably don’t, but now you do…
(Side note – Again, the AGD remake of Romancing the Throne is also well worth playing and you can grab that here)
Now here’s where things start to get interesting. This time, you’re not running around Daventry as Graham. Instead, you’re in control of a young slave boy known as Gwydion in the land of Llewdor. The boy is kidnapped from his cradle shortly after birth and serves a wizard known as Manannan as soon as he is able. Gwydion does not remember his family, but learns that on his eighteenth birthday, the wizard who raised him intends to kill him. Odd ambition, but there you go.
Naturally, the boy fights for survival and fends to free himself from the wizard’s maniacal clutches, desperately trying to find ways to use his magic against him. Fortunately for him, he does, as he manages to turn Manannan into a cat. Safe, at last. (cue origin story of cat master race overthrowing the world of Daventry in future games…)
Anyway, remember I told you about all that sex? Well, there was a reason because the game also has a pretty big twist: Gwydion is actually Prince Alexander of Daventry, Graham and Valanice’s son. After a long journey across land and sea, Gwyd…I mean, Alexander, is finally reunited with his family. Plenty of lost time to make up for, that’s for sure.
(Side note – And yes, AGD did a remake for this one too. Another one you should totally play. Grab it here)
Tragedy strikes early in KQ4 as the aging King Graham falls critically ill and finds himself on the brink of death. Feeling helpless, Graham’s daughter, Rosella, tries to find ways to help but to no avail. That is, until she is contacted through the Magic Mirror by a fairy who says she can help her. The fairy transports Rosella to the magical land of Tamir and is told to find an enchanted fruit with healing properties which will save her father. However, Rosella also has to help the fairy in order to be transported back to Daventry. The fairy’s magic is weakening as her talisman has been stolen by an evil witch, and so Rosella must also retrieve that.
This is a real race around the clock and is also one of the first games that benefits from alternate endings. Rosella can actually return to Daventry without the fruit, and watch her father die like a cruel, heartless and not very loving daughter. Of course no one wants that, so we’ll just say that Rosella brought back the fruit and saved the day. Woo! Best. Daughter. Ever.
KQV saw a significant improvement in graphics compared to its predecessors and scrapped the typing interface that was a series staple in the past. Back in 1990, this was pretty revolutionary.
We’re back in control of King Graham this time, and this time he is tasked with saving his family from the clutches of Manannan’s evil wizard brother, Mordack. Mordack wants revenge on Graham’s family (particularly Alexander) for turning his brother into a cat (he’s always been allergic to them) so he sends the Castle of Daventry spiralling away in the gust of a massive whirlwind. Conveniently, Graham is the only one not inside and so travels through the lands of Serenia, finding clues and solving puzzles to get closer to his family. Fortunately, this time he has a companion working alongside him by the name of Cedric. Cedric also happens to be a talking owl and became pretty famous at the time for his weird mannerisms, silly quips and general uselessness (yes, you read that right).
Put it this way, he was no Alyx, Agro or Elizabeth, but he was there…doing Owl stuff.
Of course, Graham saves his family, Manannan went on to have a successful You Tube and Gif career and everyone lived happily ever after. For a year or two, anyway…
Probably the most famous of all the King’s Quest games and for good reason. We once again assume the role of Alexander, who, after being rescued by Graham at the end of KQV, has built a relationship with one of Mordack’s slave, Cassima. At the end of KQV, she asks him to visit her in the Land of the Green Isles, and he promises that he will. But when he sees an image of her in danger from crazed ruler Visier Abdul Alhazred in the Magic Mirror, he decides that his trip there would have to be sooner rather than later.
Alexander travels around the Green Isles using a Magic Map, which enables him to move between The Isle of Wonder, The Isle of the Crown, The Isle of the Sacred Mountain and The Isle of the Beast at the click of a button. Again, pretty revolutionary at the time. The game was full of unique puzzles and zany quirks, and truly took the series in exciting new directions.
Much like his daddy, Alexander does eventually get his girl, unseats the power-hungry Vizier and becomes King of the Green Isles, which isn’t a bad gig really. He also gets to sing along to one of the first original songs composed for a game – Girl in the Tower.
It’s no Still Alive, but it holds a special place in my heart.
The oft-forgotten King’s Quest 7 may actually give us a bigger clue as to what’s next for the franchise in the hands of the Odd Gentlemen. Not only does it tell the story from the perspective of multiple protagonists, it also splits the story up into separate chapters. Once again, we get to play as Rosella, but for the first time ever, we also get to control Queen Valanice.
The game arguably killed a lot of the series momentum as it deviated radically from anything that came before it with a Disney esque art-style, smart-pointer system and more bite-size and linear gameplay.
Rosella is betrothed to Prince Edgar, but she has a thirst for adventure more than marriage. During a lecture from her mother, Rosella’s foolishness causes them to both to be swept away to a magical land when she dives into an enchanted lake. Both mother and daughter are separated and must find a way back to each other.
The game has an ending which either sees Prince Edgar restored and living with Rosella happily ever after. Or he dies, and she mourns. So, you know, choose wisely….
Ask some and they’ll tell you ‘we never speak of King’s Quest 8’. Some will even go as far as to say ‘It didn’t happen’. Either way, it seems appropriate that the series died with this game for a long time.
KQ8 is an attempted re-invention of the adventure game, using a 3D engine that supports both point and click and keyboard control. At the time, the traditional 2D adventure game was seen as a dated relic of the past and no longer marketable, so a lot of developers tried to reinvigorate things. Some worked (see Grim Fandango and Gabriel Knight 3) and some didn’t (see King’s Quest 8)
It also didn’t help that the game was the first to focus on a protagonist that wasn’t Graham or a member of his family. The Magic Mirror shows Graham that his Kingdom is in danger and that a lowly peasant named Connor would be the one to rise up and save Daventry. It nicely mirrors the events of the original King’s Quest game, with a non royal being the central hero, but the story and execution is pretty diabolical for all intents and purposes.
So, it’s probably safe to say that not a lot of attention will be paid to the events of Mask of Eternity in future King’s Quest games, but for the record, the Magic Mirror was right, Connor did save the realm and he lifted his sword to the skies to celebrate before the credits rolled. Go him, I guess.
And now … ?
Well, this brings us bang up to date and makes sure we’re ready for A Knight to Remember, the first episode in a new five part King’s Quest game. Never thought I’d write those words again.
I must say, as a KQ diehard, I’m unsure what to make of it. The Odd Gentlemen are essentially re-imagining the series, though it has already been made clear that everything before it is ‘canon’. The game begins with Graham recounting his adventures to his granddaughter and some of the familiar sequences from previous games have been changed in order to fit with this new vision. It looks this new KQ takes on a modern action/adventure theme, but also presents players with the multi-choice they’ve become used to in Telltale Games, with choices in earlier episodes affecting events later on. The games are said to take place in-between previously numbered King’s Quest installments, but I guess we’ll know more soon enough.
Is this the King’s Quest I wanted? I’m not sure, but no one wants to hear the fears of a boring old historian like me. What matters is this re-imagining is introducing a whole new generation of gamers to the series, and I am all for that. And hey, Christopher Lloyd is voicing Graham. Yes, Doc Brown! Confirmed: The Flux Capacitor is totally going to be a future secret treasure of Daventry.
Whatever happens, I’ll be there Day One, looking forward to reliving the magic of my youth and seeing what’s next for Graham and his family.