It’s been a long time coming, but E3 2015 finally shone light on King’s Quest, a revival of the classic adventure franchise. Developed by The Odd Gentlemen, King’s Quest is part of Activision’s “revive Sierra” project, which in this case involves episodic iterations of this franchise reborn.
King’s Quest‘s premise is not unlike Princess Bride: elderly King Graham, played by none other than Christopher Lloyd, recounts tales from his youth to his granddaughter Gwendolyn, colouring them with themes and events to assist her in with problems she may be facing, for example exemplifying bravery or kindness. During these flashbacks young Graham will embark on adventures throughout various phases of his life, coloured with humour that blends material referential to the series’ past, along with new jokes, characters, and premises to appeal to new fans. The game’s presentation is that of Telltale’s signature cel-shaded look, like a cartoon, though this time around the texture work is genuinely “hand painted” and not the result of a shader effect.
In our demo we saw a flashback sequence of Graham crossing a river with a band of knights, and his friend Manny (played by Wallace Shawn from Princess Bride), all eager to join the ranks. Graham inadvertently helps three of the knights cross the river, finally making a raft to cross it himself. Manny however promptly crosses the river without assistance, revealing it was shallow the entire time, pointing out to Graham that while they might not be the strongest knights they are creative thinkers.
Little puzzles like this beat at the heart of King’s Quest, most of which can be completed in any order and will in turn shape the course of the story. Adventure games are notorious of obtuse puzzles and other oddities, but the team wants to keep puzzles here natural, making branching story paths not obvious and instead just a natural flow of play. Staples of the genre remain however, including a simple user interface, and the ability to inspect items and objects in the world for some character commentary.
A lot of work appears to be going into King’s Quest, and the team seems committed to delivering an authentic revival. They even met with the original King’s Quest team to get their blessing, talking about the “trifecta” of King’s Quest game design, which includes art, story, and design, and all three working correctly. On the production side of things we quite liked how the game looked, and Activision is clearly going in hard with the cast, adding Zelda Williams and Richard White (from Beauty and the Beast) to the aforementioned cast.
Episode 1 of King’s Quest, titled A Knight to Remember, will be available in July.