Video games and nerd culture have always been a huge part of my life, and I'm happy to be celebrating it with my first official nerdy job as a contributor to Checkpoint Ahead. I hope all of you will go check it out on launch and help support me and my friends as we try to build this into a successful community.
Here's the first article I've written for them:
Founded in 1979, Sierra Games (now Sierra Entertainment) was the very beginning of fantasy and point-and-click games. It bred a whole slew of video games, ranging from the aforementioned adventure-style King’s Quest to the first Half-Life to Crash Bandicoot. While the company started as a husband-and-wife team building interactive mystery adventures at their kitchen table, the company grew into a monolith. It formed several sections of the foundation on which modern games have been built.
While Sierra fell by the wayside for many years, even after merging with Activision, 2015 marked something of a comeback. The internet buzzed with the release of a new King’s Quest, headed by Sierra Entertainment and the Odd Gentleman. Not since the new chapter in the Myst series in 2007 had the old-school, adventure-style games had a much-needed reboot. Driven by a lot more than nostalgia, the release of King’s Quest is a boon to those of us long deprived of classic, immensely difficult, puzzle-based adventure games of the past.
A Brief History of Sierra:
Mystery House was Sierra’s first game. It was a text-based black-and-white mystery game that broke all of the rules of interactive gaming. It was the first ever graphic adventure game (though it was a monochromatic white outline on a black screen). When they released Wizard and the Princess in 1980, it broke ground again as the first full-color adventure game. While the graphics might be laughable today, it was truly something amazing at the time, influencing nearly every adventure game to this day.
Sierra was also known for bringing the R-rated story lines and humor to video games, filling our computer screens with less than savory characters making less than pure decisions. From the funny Leisure Suit Larry to the sexy, dark Phantasmagoria, Sierra wasn’t afraid to get their hands dirty. With a stunning array of brilliant, well-designed games and interesting new tactics with innovative use of technology, Sierra brought joy and new experience to video game lovers of all ages.
King’s Quest is a series of cartoon-style games with a pun-filled sense of humor. The stories center around an adventuring family that gain a kingdom and glory through their heroism. They take place in the mythical land of Daventry. Adventurer Graham saves this kingdom from disaster, leading him to become king of the newly saved land (thus the name, King’s Quest). He rescues and marries a woman named Valanice (King’s Quest II). His children, Alexander and Rosella then have their own adventures as Graham gets older. Alexander saves his sister and himself in King’s Quest III, and Rosella saves her dying father in IV. V brings us back to Graham again, saving his missing castle and family who have been stolen by an old enemy.
In King’s Quest VI, Alexander meets and then rescues the love of his life, Cassima, from a cursed land. In King’s Quest VII, both Valanice and Rosella get to save the day together (girl power!). Rosella even saves her prince at the end, as good as any male hero of legend. Needless to say, Daventry is an adventurer’s dream homeland; there is always an evil plot happening somewhere to earn you a few hero points if you can save the day. The King’s Quest games, while mostly made of generic hero quest storylines, were not afraid to throw in strong female characters that could kick butt just as much as their male counterparts.
These games were supremely difficult, challenging both the observational and puzzle skills of the player. Puzzles were long-winded and intricate. Sometimes, a player could go hours before releasing that they had forgotten an important piece of the puzzle they could no longer go back for. Multiple save files were a must!
Living Up to the Hype:
With such an incredible, storied past, the newest King’s Quest and its dev team had quite a few challenges. Fans of the series needed a challenging puzzle adventure game. The Odd Gentlemen, the team in charge of the development of King’s Quest, also had to appeal to the new generation of gamers, raised on a whole decade of hand-holding, violence, and exquisite graphics.
King’s Quest is a beautiful blending of old and new, comedy and adventure, challenging puzzles and colorful characters. The Odd Gentlemen did not only a great of merging the needs of old fans and newcomers to the series, but also made the new storyline as compelling and beautiful as the originals.
At the beginning of our story, King Graham is an old man, telling stories of all of his adventures to his granddaughter. She’s an adventurous spirit who dresses in boys clothing and can’t get enough of her adventurer grandfather's stories. He tells tales of battling dragons and tricking trolls, of being prisoner and saving his friends.
In the first chapter, Graham tells the story of himself as a very young adventurer, looking to become a knight (and later a king) of Daventry through contests of wits and might. The chapters of the story seem to be recreating Graham’s adventures of the 1980s and 1990s, reliving bits and pieces of the first and second games in the original series. Although old man Graham’s stories skip around in the timeline of his life, the main story through the first chapter is centered around the knight contests. So far, the Odd Gentlemen have released two of the five total chapters.
The Good and the Better:
So how does the newest installment live up to its predecessors? The newest King’s Quest effortlessly blends new technology with the old-school style of Sierra’s games. Although it is reminiscent of the old games, with some familiar characters and humor, this new chapter in the series stands alone quite beautifully. Between the artistic, cartoony style of animation that gives it a magical feel and the amazing voice acting, the story pulls you in immediately. You fall in love all over again with Daventry’s royal family and their eccentric supporting cast. The dialog, while filled with ridiculous puns that will make everyone within earshot groan, is as well written as it was acted.
The Odd Gentlemen and Sierra brought back the difficult puzzles without making them impossible (like the King’s Quest 2 bridling-the-snake puzzle). While they don’t have you ripping your hair out or having to start the whole game over to fix (like in King’s Quest V, if you eat the pie), they will keep you up late at night, puzzling through colorful worlds with strange and wonderful creatures.
In short, I believe the King’s Quest series, which deserved a quality reboot after the disastrous King’s Quest VIII, finally got the sequel it deserved. From kid-friendly game play to a brilliant team of hilarious characters, the newest installment lives up to its storied name. Whether you are an old-school gamer with a few adventurous point-and-clicks under your belt or you are a newbie looking for a challenge, the newest King’s Quest won’t let you down.