Nostalgia isn’t always rose-colored.

As discussed many times on this blog, I grew up loving all
of Sierra On-line’s now classic adventure games.  A gift from my grandparents, King’s Quest V was my first true entry
into the adventure game genre and I was instantly hooked.  Once I had enough money saved up from doing
chores I rushed out and bought the boxed set of the King’s Quest series (games one through six at the time). After
playing through the first two installments I fell in love with adventure games even

It was reaching King’s
Quest III: To Heir is Human
, however, where the video game genre almost
lost me. I was shocked to learn that the game didn’t star King Graham but some
young boy named Gwydion, a slave to an evil wizard. Even worse for me was that King’s Quest III was designed in a
completely different style from the other King’s

As Gwydion you must find a way to escape captivity by
collecting ingredients to magic spells from around the wizard’s home and the
surrounding countryside.  But if the
wizard catches you with any of the forbidden items he immediately kills you. 

The game becomes a matter of timing as you must gather
materials as quickly as you can and hope to return to your room in time before
the wizard returns from a trip or wakes up from a nap.  Your room is the only place the wizard won’t
go and you can hide your goods under your bed. 
What made the game frustrating was that there wasn’t an obvious way to
gauge when the wizard would return and if you didn’t save cautiously you would
have to start the game over again. It was King’s
Quest III
that forced me to learn to keep many save game slots in case I
saved at what turned out to be a dead end.

Another wearisome aspect of King’s Quest III was the magic spells you had to cast, as they were
essentially a copy protection program built into the structure of the game
itself. A grinding and tedious process, you had to apply the ingredients in a
very particular fashion and would only know what to do if you had the game’s
manual, which listed very specific instructions.

These prejudices against the original version of King’s Quest III are what fueled my
excitement upon hearing that Anonymous Game Developers Interactive (AGDI) had
been quietly working on a remake of the game and that it would be ready for
release soon. I had played AGDI’s remakes of the first two King’s Quest games and found them to be excellent. Not only did the
developer remake the games visually, from EGA to VGA graphics, but they shored
up what were fairly thin stories; especially King’s Quest II.  Receiving a
review copy of the game I could not wait to play to see what AGDI had done to
fix my least favorite King’s Quest.

At the start I found that AGDI hadn’t let me down as
their version of King’s Quest III was
beautifully rendered and highly interactive. 
“Interactive-ness” is something I rant about when it comes to adventure
games. It drives me crazy when games give their players a generic, canned
response to everything they do. A player should be rewarded for trying random
solutions to puzzles and for exploring the world the developer has worked so hard
to create. Another indie adventure developer, Infamous Adventures, also remade King’s Quest III a couple years ago and
while it was a good game, its lack of interaction with its own world ultimately
made playing the game a boring experience. 
AGDI was quite thorough in its creation of the King’s Quest III world and nearly every rock and tree elicits a
unique response, making exploring every screen a pleasure.

There are many things I enjoyed about AGDI’s remake of King’s Quest III – like great voice acting,
good sound design, and its novel approach in addressing some of the original
game’s problems.

In one part of the game you must sneak into the tree
house lair of some bandits. There’s always a bandit inside (who immediately
kills you) but sometimes you can catch the bandit asleep, allowing you to steal
their bag of coins. The only way to catch the bandit asleep is to save the game
right before entering and repeatedly load it each time you’re killed –
eventually you’ll walk in and find him asleep. 
The fact that collecting the bag of coins is necessary to advance in the
game makes the saving/loading process exceedingly frustrating and infuriating.  

I realize that the tree house problem is just a carry-over from the original version where you had to do the same thing (which was exasperating back when I first played it too), but in a remake that sort of poor game design should have been rewritten.  A representative from AGDI emailed and said that they would look into this particular problem and would possibly fix for the next version of the game. Another problem I brought up here seems to have been a bug and they’ll fix that too; removed my mention of it here. Thanks guys!

AGDI fixed many of King’s Quest III’s
other problems.  They added a timer at
the top of the screen that changes color based on how much time you have until
the wizard reappears, giving you plenty of warning to hide illicit magical
items under your bed before he returns. 
Also, when playing the original version of the game you were killed by
the wizard quite often for carrying what seemed to be innocuous items. All
illicit items in the remake are highlighted in your inventory screen with a
blue glow which is immensely helpful for knowing what needs to be hidden before
the wizard returns.

Fans of the King’s
series should most certainly play AGDI’s remake of King’s Quest III but should first
realize that it hasn’t gone too far from the original game. I hope that by
pointing out the problem I encountered everyone else will have a much smoother
experience.  AGDI has added a lot to the
ending of King’s Quest III (once
you’re captured by pirates) and is worth playing through. There are a lot of
allusions to future King’s Quest
installments that weren’t in the original game and also forms its own story line. AGDI often releases updated versions of their remakes so I hope that
the problems I encountered will be phased out later.  

I, however, am done with playing King’s Quest III.  The original game and its remakes have their
place in the canon of King’s Quest games,
but no amount of revamping has been able to fix what wasn’t a great game in the
first place.

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