King’s Quest 3 Redux Review: I Put A Spell On You

The last time I seriously played through Sierra’s version of King’s Quest 3 was back when I was in the process of doing my Let’s Play of the game [and you can watch that here, if you’re so inclined.] – so, naturally, everything about it was somewhat fresh.

What I mean is that while I remembered the basic gist of the game, and while I knew I was up against a timer, I’d forgotten how terse [and tense] the game was. The first half is all about escape – and that part is orchestrated so well for a game from 1986 that I never once doubted that the wizard I was up against was truly evil. However, I knew the plot twist, so I understood it as a King’s Quest.

That wasn’t the case in 1986 when I first encountered this game. Back then, I battled to see how it could fit into that universe, since it seemed to be a tale of a boy on the cusp of becoming a man, trapped by an incredibly evil [and rather psychopathic] elder wizard.

This struggle – to see how it connected to that universe – was – in hindsight – easily one of the best parts of the game. Most games tell you all you need to know up front. Not this game. This game sat on it’s plot twist until FIVE MINUTES before the game ended. [you could figure some of the twist out by being a perfectionist, of course, and doing everything the game had in store for you, but that almost ruined the surprise at the end.]

The remake, though? Sadly, all of this suspense is gone when you start the game up for the first time. The opening introduction, while wonderfully orchestrated, absolutely does away with any sense of real mystery that the game had going for it.

This is – sort of – an understandable choice for a modern audience. At least some newer players of the game would not have had any exposure to King’s Quest at all and giving them a protagonist that wasn’t a King and not on some kind of noble quest must have felt at least a little jarring.

The game then takes subtle liberties with the plot that flesh it out a little bit – and these are all well and good. If the game had been made by Sierra in 2012, these additions would have felt welcome.

We learn a lot more bout how sociopathic/psychopathic the wizard truly is. We get to know the village of Llewdor a bit better [and hear a lot more from some of it’s inhabitants.] – These embellishments add wonderfully to the tone of the game.

At the top of the Wizard's tower is a telescope.  In the original, this is all jagged edges and the telescope is hinted at through the use of solid black.  Here, this same scene is transformed into a beautiful work of art with light and shadow suggesting the true darkness of the Wizard's thoughts.
The graphics are much improved. The use of light and shade here is excellent.

The enhanced graphics, too, work a kind of magic that the original EGA sprites could never have managed. Again, at the expense of some amount of simplicity. The way the eagle collects food from you is masterfully animated. And the handful of cut scenes that occur throughout are all beautifully scored and well-drawn.

I’ve never much cared for the portraits AGDI do – they feel a little amateur and this same feeling comes across in the voice work, which is rather hit and miss. Some of the voices are completely spot on and compelling, [Mannanan is mostly absolutely right] but some just make you want to cringe. [The gnome at the end, as a bad example.]

The AGDI team did expand the game a little.  This picture is a part of one of the new sections.  The slave boy Gwydion faces an arch that will kill him if he walks through.  He has to solve the riddle of the arch before he can find out what lies beyond.
The music here is so serene.

If there’s one thing that the game completely gets right, it’s the music. That Original Soundtrack is easily one of the best that the series has had to offer [omitting the glaring PC speaker soundtrack from it’s early history, of course.] – there are wonderful bits of incidental music for all kinds of things – and even some classics get a fun re-do. So, it’s a shame to find that one cannot acquire the music separately.

All of this, though, has to live and die by the game play. And the game play is – for the most part – quite well done. There’s no more need for the spell book – it’s all built into the game, and while the use of the point and click interface is a little limiting [kicking the cat is far more difficult in this version of the game than it was in the original – as is simply getting the cat so that you can use it] – the payoff is the ease with which most actions can be performed. If you struggled with the timing of making up spells in the original game, this game is /far/ more forgiving because of the user interface.

The spellcasting in this game is about as finicky as in the original.  But the point and click interface and the lack of obscurity in the spell text makes it a far simpler, more comprehensible task.
A hint! Never use the hand cursor unless you’re told to “do” something.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses. The self-same spell casting system is as finicky as ever. Click on the wrong place with the wrong icon and bam! You’re dead. The new section of the game [you’ll know it when you see it] while mostly well-thought-through has a puzzle that is sort of exasperating until you think like the creators. The ending is…baffling. It does help to have played the prior AGDI remakes, but then they have this mystical ping pong ball and…yeah. It’s not very good.

Also, your final foe isn’t nearly as menacing as he was in the EGA version and that’s a shame.  That was one of my very earliest real gaming memories.  Having him reduced in this way makes the ending feel sadly flat.

In the end, it’s worth playing. There are some fumbles with the story and the point and click interface does do some occasionally silly things, but the whole is greater than this individual fumbles. I’d recommend it if you’re even a little curious about the King’s Quest lineage of games. I’d also recommend it if you’ve played the older version. There’s enough new stuff here that you’ll be pleased you did.