King’s Quest III Redux (PC) Review

Getting Started Well, well, well, Look at what we have here. First, let’s start with a bit of history (trust me, this is going somewhere).  The last official King’s Quest […]

Getting Started

Well, well, well, Look at what we have here. First, let’s start with a bit of history (trust me, this is going somewhere).  The last official King’s Quest game came out in ’98.  There were “plans” to make a King’s Quest 9 but unfortunately, like everything else the emaciated Sierra was producing, the plan was scrapped and all we have now are two renders.  Perhaps coincidentally, around the same time King’s Quest 9 was scrapped, the fine people at AGD Interactive, formerly Tierra Entertainment, were introduced to what is now King’s Quest 3 Redux.  The story of how the whole thing came together can be found on their forums:

http://www.agdinteractive.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=32&t=14848

All told, We are looking at a title that has been in development (in some form) for 8 years.  What is the result of all this hard (secret) work?  Pure adventuring bliss.  Before I begin deconstructing everything, I want you to know that whenever I can, I try not to spoil anything.  Seeing as this is a remake (with additions and alterations!) I don’t want to spoil any of the stuff you *haven’t* seen yet.  Normally, trailers like to show you as much good stuff as they can, but it’s without context, you don’t really know at what point of the story line they are showing you.  If I show you a picture later in the game, you’ll know exactly where it is, so I’d rather avoid that slippery slope and just focus on the execution.

Visuals

I’d like to start off by showing you some comparisons.  This was bound to happen, so I figured I may as well get it out of the way.  You may or may not be aware that a KQ3 remake had already been made.  And while it does look great, I have to admit that KQ3 Redux nailed the ‘Sierra’ VGA feel for me.  These are your KQ5/SQ4/LSL5 type pixel art.  I will admit right now, this type of “look” for adventure games is by FAR my favorite, so I am extremely biased in that sense.  The major difference being that the Infamous Adventure version has a more realistic approach whereas the AGD Interactive ‘Redux’ captures a more stylized approach.  Also, just for completeness, I’ve included comparison screenshots of the AGI version of KQ3 made by Sierra.

Manannan’s House

 

 

First Screen South of Manannan’s House

The screen shots should introduce a good baseline of what to expect, but wait, there’s more.  Now I know what you’re saying, “But how could there POSSIBLY be more” and I’m here to tell you, “I don’t KNOW!” All I am certain of is it’s the little details that matter.  And Redux has them in spades. Some examples include when the wizard is sleeping, if you are outside his chambers, you can see him sleeping.  And when he awakes, he doesn’t just disappear, but properly leaves his bed first (POOF) and THEN appears in front of you.  It’s this logical order to things that makes you stop thinking it’s a game and an interactive story bound by its own rules.  This is the “game magic” we all look for to escape into a fantasy world.  And it doesn’t just end there.  There is actual lip syncing!  I do not know how painstaking it must have been to properly coordinate pixel art mouths to a voice track.  Hell, even the animals lip sync properly.  Craziness!  The timer indicates to you when you need to hurry back, by turning yellow with (!), followed by the timer turning red with (!!!).  Just a tiny detail that makes the game less frustrating.  Also, make sure to pay attention to the painting of the wizard on the first floor of the house.  Again, it’s the little details.  Another whole spectrum is, I guess, the middle details?  I’ve never used that term before, but I think it applies.  It’s the animated effects on top of the environment: water streaming, fire burning, mist misting.  And it doesn’t have to be all animated stuff, some of the things are static, light beams peeking through leaves of a tree or gradated snow peaks around a mountainside.  Not only did AGD Interactive go above and beyond to capture the Sierra look, they did it so much so that it is now THEIR style.

In short, AGD Interactive just effing nailed the visuals.

Gameplay

It’s a point and click adventure.  Everything works as you’d expect.  It is definitively a Sierra Adventure game.  You will die.  A lot.  Fortunately, like Sierra Adventure games, dying is also part of the fun.  Trying out different tactics to solve riddles and dying in a unique way is quite enjoyable.  The one spin that is retained from the original KQ3 is the timer of when Manannan will come demand certain things from you.  It’s handled a bit better in Redux, like I mentioned above, with an indicator of when you need to wrap things up.  So it does indeed reduce a good amount of the frustration the original brought about.

That’s all there is to it.  It’s pretty straight forward, works well and minimizes frustration in the right ways.  It feels like the path finding was purposely done in certain areas to either bring comic relief or to stress the time management part.  It was the moderate amount of these tricky path finding gotcha’s that kept the frustration to a minimum.

Sound

Alright I just have to say this right now, AGD Interactive knocked it out of the park on the audio front.  (This is in no particular order) Manannan, Gwydion, The Narrator, the barmaid, the bard… everyone delivered a stellar performance.  There were only two scenes that kind of took me out of the moment, but it’s probably to be blamed on the effects placed on top of the audio track that made it kind of iffy.  Sometimes the sound effects were used a bit too much, but I am super nitpicking here, because there was one scene where Gwydion was in a cave and his voice echoed appropriately and it just clicked.  Maybe you’ll have a different reaction than I did, but overall I was grinning the whole time.  Deft use of poignant subtlety in delivering the lines was just… sensational.  To the voice actors of Redux, my hat’s off to you guys.  Amazing job!

Music and sound effects equally back up the voice actors.  Every event, every moment, every scene, every time you need to be made aware of the story unfolding in front of you, the music carefully and appropriately sets the correct mood for the stage.  Sometimes, when the mood is serious, the music slips into frame to the point that I didn’t even notice it.  Subconsciously, I was being impacted by the music, other times the music rips you into a jaunty little jig whenever you need to do you manual chores.  The abrasive hard stop didn’t bother me at all, it’s definitely a nod to the AGI version of KQ3 but it also highlighted the habit Gwydion accustomed himself to when Manannan would demand the chores be done.

And sprinkled throughout Redux were the justified sound effects.  Birds chirping, rushing water, animal noises, crackling wood and my favorite is the reference to the legend when pulling the mandrake root.

It just showed how much care was put into this game. When everyone is doing their homework to build a cohesive environment, the game just comes alive.

Truly excellent!

Story

This is the awesome part.  Redux is named because, well, it’s been restored.  This isn’t a 1:1 copy.  Actually you’ll find out almost immediately that one of the things you’ll  need to gain access to has wholly changed.  This one change will introduce a WHOLE new twist on the original KQ3 that kind of tries to make sense of Manannan and what happened to you.  The really, REALLY cool thing is that AGD Interactive also tied up “the father” part of KQ2+ with Redux.  Now I never played KQ2+ (I will now) so I can’t speak great volumes of the ties that were made, but it’s still really cool that they weaved these stories together in some way.

And I guess that goes with the whole thing AGD Interactive does and does well.  In Redux, characters that were only touched on get fleshed out more and expanded upon to have a deeper impact on the story.  One scene that was completely ancillary in the original KQ3 was made into it’s own mandatory story arc and fleshes out even more story.

In essence, KQ3 Redux is a fantastic recreation of KQ3.  The narration, dialogue and even the tools tips managed to correctly convey the light hearted but subtle dark tones of most modern Grimm fairy tales.  Branching out with the inclusion of a children’s book, (no spoilers here) which was never in the original KQ3 and the legend of the mandrake root (not really a spoiler), kind of ties all of these planes of existence and legends into one world, if you will.  There is a sweet spot while juggling comedy and maintaining a proper story telling atmosphere.  There are morals and ideas that exercise your imagination.  When telling a story, ideally, you’d like the whole gamut of human emotion brought forth effortlessly all the while keeping the audience’s attention to make that lasting impact.  King’s Quest 3 Redux showcases a delicate balance that was masterfully executed.

Summing up

There are awards at the end of the game.  I’m not too certain how it works but I won the insomniac award.  I had 206 out of 210 score (curses!) and it took me roughly four hours to complete.  Breaking everything down and coming back full circle, when you take everything from the game piece by piece, it’s actually very easy to see how perfectly everything weaves together and coalesces into the masterpiece that is KQ3 Redux.  The strength of the voice actors combined with the music and sound effects placed atop meticulously scrutinized artwork and moments occur where you are no longer playing a game.  You’re being read a bed time story.  I’d like to think that Roberta Williams original intention with the King’s Quest series was a brand new way to tell stories.  AGDI made me a kid again, if only for a little while.  And I’d very much like to say “Thank you” for that.

My Verdict:  10/10:  Maybe it’s nostalgia, but it’s hand’s down the best adventure game I’ve ever played.


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About Phawx

Reviewer and Idea Man extraordinaire, Cary Golomb plays the role of jack-of-all-trades behind the scenes as a part of the Brain Trust and ownership of the site. At 11′ 7″, Cary is the tallest man ever to win the Boston Marathon. He is a large, predatory reptile known to attack livestock and drink their blood. Witnesses of his handiwork claim he is able to drain a cow of all of its blood and most of its internal organs in less than 30 seconds. His name literally translates to “The Goat Sucker.”