E3 2015: Impressions of King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember

e3-15-kings-quest-impressions-banner

King’s Quest holds a very special place in my gaming heart. In the early 80’s as the great crash happened around me dragging Atari into an abyss, in got more and more into the Apple //C. The games were more sophisticated for sure but when King’s Quest arrived on the scene in 1984 a watershed moment took place signaling the rise of Sierra alongside the birth of the modern adventure game.

Matt Korba, President and Creative Director for The Odd Gentlemen, was on hand to walk us through an extended look at the game. It’s clear that the folks working on the game are huge fans, none more so than Korba himself as he describes the King’s Quest series as his favorite game series of all-time.

In preparation, everyone at the studio went back and played King’s Quest I-VIII and they’ve been packing the game with jokes and references to the originals. Korba himself has had a major hand in this and delights in the fact that many of the nods have gone unnoticed as of yet.

King's Quest_E3_Screenshot 2

Easter eggs abound throughout the game. Make no mistake, this is a game that can be enjoyed with no prior knowledge of the King’s Quest series lore, but if you happen to know the original games well, references are everywhere. For example, the inventory sound was lifted from King’s Quest VI.

In the new game you’ll be playing as King Graham who is now a very old man. He tells his granddaughter Gwendolyn stories of his youth giving the game a Princess Bride or Big Fish feel. The twist is that as the player, you get to decide how the story will unfold. You’ll make choices during gameplay to emphasize bravery, compassion, and wisdom, and those choices will help shape young Gwendolyn’s personality as she hears about them. In each of the story’s five chapters she’ll come to you with a problem or a decision she has to make and she’ll approach a solution based on the stories you tell and traits you emphasize.

King's Quest_E3_Screenshot 1

In the stories, you’ll see Graham go from a young man to an old King. The fun of it comes in the juxtaposition between what you tell a child, like Gwendolyn, versus what you actually did in the past. The first example we saw had Gwendolyn nervous about a fencing tournament coming up and Graham tells her not to worry, “There are many ways to win a duel. I for one have always been fond of……” then the player is presented with telling her a story colored by bravery, compassion, or wisdom.

Your choices will cement some story elements in place and set you on the path that you’ve chosen because the story branches a lot and has multiple endings based on choices you make. Everything is done in a relatively subtle way though because they want it to feel organic and personal as a story. The game is designed for families so you can have different adventures and discuss how you achieved your results.

King's-Quest_E3_Screenshot-3

The old King’s Quest humor is evident in the numerous puns and things like telling Gwendolyn that you “gracefully repelled down the cliff” just after seeing Graham fall off his trusty steed Triumph and bounce, crash, and roll down the hill for about half a minute. We also heard Graham say he headed East, so of course Korba headed West. Graham insists over and over that he went East and each time we try to go West until finally he describes a great gust of wind that blew him down the path to the East.

The gameplay itself harkens back to the originals with exploration and puzzles. There are often a number of ways to solve a particular problem making for a large first chapter. With all the branching and secret references the script is around six hundred pages.

 

The interface is inspired by the icons from King’s Quest V so when you get close to an object that you can interact with you’ll see an examine, use, talk, or action trigger. The Magic Mirror makes a return to take you in and out of stories as well as into your inventory.

The art style is breathtaking in its own right and even more impressive when you learn how it’s done. It’s actually entirely hand painted. A flat version of the 3D models is printed out on paper, artists will color it in with watercolor and then it’s all scanned back in. It’s an incredibly labor intensive process but critical to capturing the handcrafted feel of the original games. The music is also pretty fantastic so far and they even showed off the theme from King’s Quest V redone and subtly woven into the story.

King's Quest_E3_Screenshot 4

The characters in the game are brought to life by an excellent and deep cast of actors including Christopher Lloyd, Zelda WIlliams, Richard White, Wallace Shawn, Josh Keaton, and Maggie Elizabeth Jones, among others. It was also made clear that in this first season you’ll be playing as Graham but fan favorite characters will make surprise appearances along the way.

The creators of the series, the legendary Ken and Roberta Williams, met with the developers at The Odd Gentlemen early on in the project as Korba didn’t want to proceed without their blessing. Needless to say they were very excited with what they saw and have been full backers every step of the way. Korba even described them as “the best mentors slash video game parents you could have in the industry period”.

King's Quest_E3_Screenshot 5

When the developers asked how much they should stay with the established characters versus creating new stuff and Roberta told them to feel free to create new characters and stories since that’s what she was doing from the start. The trick is to find that balance between the original stories and characters and the new.

It’s an exciting time for fans of the old Sierra “Quest” games as the original King’s Quest literally created a brand new genre. To see it continuing three decades later while keeping such a strong connection to the originals is magical.

King's Quest_E3_Screenshot 6

King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember, the first of five chapters, will be released in late July 2015 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook