Impressive and faithful homage to a wickedly difficult adventure game
I have mixed feelings about King’s Quest III Redux, AGDInteractive’s remake of the classic 1986 Sierra adventure game. On one hand, it replicates the gameplay experience of the golden age of Sierra with such fidelity that it’s likely to make fans squeal with delight. On the other, it’s been 25 years since the original KQ3 was released and it’s hard to ignore the fact that in many ways, it just hasn’t aged very well.
First things first: if you’re a King’s Quest fan, you’re going to love AGDInteractive’s King Quest III Redux. While it’s obviously King’s Quest III, this new version has been reworked to add more “personality and polish,” as the development team put it, and also has a few new story elements added to give it more depth that the original.
There are also some very obvious technological improvements; the game’s VGA graphics are still very old-school but nonetheless a huge improvement over the 16-color EGA visuals of the original, an impressive soundtrack accompanies the action, the dialog is fully voiced and of course the old text parser is gone, replaced by an entirely mouse-driven interface. Perhaps best of all, it runs flawlessly on modern PCs, with no need to worry about special software or arcane tweaks to get things going.
The story is a simple one: as Gwydion, the young servant of the cruel wizard Manannan, you must escape his clutches before your 18th birthday, when you, like all your predecessors, will be killed before you grow too rebellious and troublesome. You will explore Manannan’s dark mansion in your quest for freedom, roam the island of Llewdor, meet some interesting characters in the local village, take a voyage on the unfriendly sea and a whole lot more before finally returning to the Kingdom of Daventry and your long-lost parents, the famous King Graham and Queen Valanice.
Gameplay is relatively straightforward, with the right mouse button cycling through actions like “walk,” “look,” “use” and so forth, while the left button puts them to use. The game, on the other hand, is anything but. It’s easy to forget after 25 years but Sierra adventures back in the day were wickedly difficult and that is a spirit to which King’s Quest III Redux is very true. There’s little logic to any of it, “puzzles” generally rely on inventory items that are well-camouflaged and often require multiple attempts to acquire, and sudden, unexpected death lurks around every corner. Gamers accustomed to the forgiving nature of modern adventures may find themselves surprised at how harsh these old-time games really were.
But that’s how it was back then and it’s not unreasonable to say that this wouldn’t be a “true” Sierra game if it wasn’t packed with vicious, nearly nonsensical problems to solve. The trouble is that games, even adventure games, have changed dramatically over past three decades. So have gamers; we’ve gotten softer, you might say, or perhaps just less willing to put up with games that kill us simply for wandering to close to the edge of a path we obviously just want to walk along. Because of that, the faithfulness of King’s Quest III Redux to the glory days of Sierra is both a blessing and a curse. Dedicated fans are in for a delightful treat, but newer gamers may just find frustration, annoyance and bewilderment that anyone would think of this as a “golden age” of gaming.