Review: King’s Quest: The Complete Series

After taking over a year to resolve, The Odd Gentlemen’s King’s Quest reboot has the pertinent watermarks detailing a project beyond the scope of the staff on hand. Ever increasing delays were par for the course for fans of the episodic series. The time has passed, though, and the full set is out in the wild, amiably chewing upon the fragrant grasses of nostalgia. Having reviewed each and every episode as they emerged from the feverish working minds of the development studio allowed me to view the pieces individually. With the picture now complete, how it works together as a whole comes into focus.

The metanarrative surrounding the entire package centers around the elderly King Graham as he tells stories of his life’s adventures to a worshipful granddaughter, Gwendolyn. Each chapter focuses on one specific period, such as how Graham came to be king, or how he found his wife, Valanice. It is during these tellings that the player will experience the gameplay. There are brief vignettes about old Graham and family that seem pointless until the end of chapter four and all of chapter five. Knowing how the story turns out, one can’t help but wish that this narrative was spread out a bit better across the chapters. It would have made for a more impactful conclusion, and would have served to highlight Gwendolyn’s voice actor to a better degree.

Each of the five chapters focuses around a specific theme. While not trying the impart serious “morals” upon the player, the game instead uses thought points to hang a chapter’s narrative upon. Snow Place Like Home‘s exploration of familial unity and acceptance was a particularly heavy handed example of this. The unforeseen consequences of choices made from Rubble Without a Cause tends to treat the thought points with a lighter touch. Because of the nature of the contained episodes, each chapter could be played out of order, based on the player’s desire, were it not for minor choices in chapters one and three and the major ones in chapter two affecting some NPCs in different ways.

The thing is, this game embraced the episodic format with gusto. Outside of the metanarrative, each chapter handles a full fledged story well, with proper build up and payoff. Unlike the titles in Telltale’s various series, each chapter in this series doesn’t dovetail into the next seamlessly, creating the feel of an episodic show. Instead, these feel like a series of contained movies. That is fine, and The Odd Gentlemen embraces it, but that also means there is a more noticeable delineation in style.

These differences do lead into varying styles of play, some of which might be more to a player’s taste than others. For example, I really didn’t like the discrete puzzles present in Snow Place Like Home. Tracing lines, turning mirrors, and other clichéd puzzles have worn out their welcome for me overall. This stands in direct opposition of Once Upon a Climb‘s narrative based thinkers, which allowed for a more natural flow to the gameplay and a less stilted narrative.

Still, veering away from the current Telltale model also serves to elevate the game. Should one find that the writing of the current season of The Walking Dead isn’t to their liking, it’s a safe bet that sticking with it won’t find their minds changed. Because of the decoupling between chapters that The Odd Gentlemen utilized, one can expect a different experience next in the next chapter.

One thing that does stay consistent throughout the entire series is the excellent voice acting from Christopher Lloyd, Wallace Shawn, and Maggie Elizabeth Jones. Shawn basically plays the same character that he did in The Princess Bride, while Christopher Lloyd lends the aging Graham a tone of heart and adoration toward both his wistful memories and his loving family. Relatively unknown Maggie Elizabeth Jones really steals the show as Gwendolyn. Especially in the last chapter, The Good Knight, she effortlessly instills the character with a childlike playfulness fitting for the one most eager to carry on her grandfather’s adventuring mantle. When it comes time to pull off the dire emotions of an inevitable situation, it manages to hit the player right in the feels.

All the voice acting and puzzle design gets tied together remarkably well with high quality, painterly art. The stylized visuals work in such a way to allow expressiveness from the characters, and allow the environments to act as characters themselves. This certainly to the title’s benefit, as many environments, such as those found in the kingdom of Daventry, do get repeated. When they make their return, though, the art does get touched up to reflect the passing of time and events. No matter if the player is going through on last or current gen consoles, or PC, the entire series is an absolutely striking visual experience. So much so, that it is possible to have a good time watching it. (That is, as long as the viewer doesn’t get frustrated should the player fail to solve a puzzle that seems obvious to the onlooker.)

Closing Comments:

With some great stories that don’t overstay their welcome and an endearing cast of characters, the King’s Quest reboot series manages to overcome some rough spots to become greater than its parts. It was a brave choice to take on a AAA styled adventure game with such a small team, and it seems that there was an audience drop off as time went on, if PlayStation’s trophy earned percentage is any indication. This really should not be. If interest was lost as time went on, coming back is highly recommended. People who wanted to wait until all the episodes were out before jumping should know that what is here really was meant to be consumed in chunks and not in a marathon. That’s okay; it does humor and narrative well. Puzzle solving has some issues, but nothing game breaking. The Odd Gentlemen made some brave choices with King’s Quest and they don’t always pan out. In the end, though, it was absolutely worth the wait.