(This is part of my journey going checking out King’s Quest III. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)
It’s been a long while since I last did a retro series and even longer — 2013, in fact — since I touched on the King’s Quest series. It’s always been in my mind that I wanted to complete all of the entries in the classic series, as I haven’t played any of them starting with III and going forward. So indulge with me a trip back to Deventry for King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human.
I’ve been a little reluctant to do this particular game because I heard that it’s rather unforgiving and features a time-based system that takes away from the freedom of exploring. But we’ll need to bust through it to get to 4, 5, 6, and 7, so here we go!
If you patiently wait out the opening credits — and I did — you’re introduced to the backstory here. Instead of reprising the role of King Graham, the player is inhabiting Gwydion, a teen boy who lives with a nasty wizard named Manannan (triple word score). Gwydion doesn’t know how he came to live with the wizard, and for his part, the wizard just wants to order Gwydion to do chores and be his slave. Well, this won’t stand.
I’ll stuff your chickens down your throat, old man, if you don’t take a kinder tone with me.
So let’s talk about the time system here. Sierra, not content with fail states and instant death moves, put an always-running clock at the top of the screen. Depending on the time frame (and I had to look this up because I am not going to trial-and-error this kind of thing), the wizard might be home and checking up on Gwydion or out on journeys, allowing the player to leave for a while. If the wizard suspects anything, or Gwydion isn’t there, or Gwydion is doing or holding anything suspicious, then Manannan will kill him. As a bonus, while the wizard is home, he’ll randomly appear in the rooms to see if you’re up to something shady.
Basically, for the first 5 minutes of every half-hour, you have to be in the house being attentive to the wizard, and then you’ll have 25 minutes of play time. Thank you for that, Sierra. So our initial goal is to figure out how to get rid of the wizard so that we can escape the always-running clock. Well, it’s not running if you pull up inventory or there’s a description on the screen, I found. That’s something.
Instantly, the game and I bond over our mutual dislike of cats and the meanie wizards who own them. I grab the cat and yank out some hair and YES this might be helpful because it’s an adventure game and you should grab everything you can. Also, serves that cat right.
As you can tell, King’s Quest III uses the same graphics engine and text parser of King’s Quest 1 and 2, so it’s not like we’re making a huge leap forward, visually. It still has a bit of retro pixel art charm, however.
Apparently Manannan is a little girl at heart, if his taste in bedroom decor is any indication. Suddenly, I fear him a bit less.
But… you’ll keep the wings? How is that any less gross?
One of the items that I pilfered from the wizard’s bedroom was a magic map, which turns out to be an incredibly useful tool. As the screenshot above says, I can use it to teleport to regions I’ve already visited, saving me an awful lot of walking time. In a game that’s timed, this will be quite helpful.
I stumble upon just the cutest little tree house ever, which this game tries to convince me is a secret lair of thieves and not something that the neighboring kids’ dad put up for them one memorable weekend. Anyway, in the hut is a sleeping bandit and a purse of gold coins. YOINK!
Flush with cash, I jog over to the town (which is, as far as I can tell, made up entirely of a tavern and a store and three background houses) to buy some… lard. And other stuff. Also to pet a dog and get more animal hair for my macabre collection. I place it right next to the fly wings.