King’s Quest IV part 10: Happily ever after

(This is part of my journey going checking out King’s Quest IV. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

All right, let’s finish this game up! With both magical fruit and Pandora’s Box in hand, Rosella returns to the evil fairy’s mountain fortress. I can’t complain that the game keeps sending these flying goons to carry her up there — beats walking that path — but I feel bad for the girl. That cannot be good on her shoulder joints.

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Up at the castle, Lolotte gives Rosella her “reward:” forced marriage to the shy and very green Edgar. Can’t help but think that this is all of Rosella’s gangster life karma coming back to bite her in the tuckus.

The marriage ceremony will take place in the morning, for no reason other than to presumably offer Rosella a chance to escape. She gets locked in Edgar’s room while Edgar get the couch.

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As Rosella dithers in a pre-marital panic, Edgar shows up and slides a rose under the door. Aw. And it has a key in it. AW YEAH MY BOY EDGAR. I shall let you live when my throne comes to power.

Rosella creeps through the castle, avoiding all of the goons, and getting her stuff back. At least they put it all in one easy-to-find location. Not really in the mood for a scavenger hunt at this point.

w4For giggles, Rosella sneaks up to Lolotte’s room and shoots her with Cupid’s bow. This proves more fatal than you’d expect, since love apparently is poison to green witches. The description above makes me far more wary about Rosella than before. Once she gets a tastes for revenge, watch out!

Now the looting can commence! Rosella takes the talisman off the dead fairy, then reclaims the hen and Pandora’s Box. I like how the room with the chicken running around in it reprises the Astro Chicken theme from Space Quest III. Gave me a chuckle.

w5No quick resolution here — this game is going to make you work for your ending! Rosella lets the unicorn go (why? would’ve been a great mount) and returns Pandora’s Box to the crypt. Then she makes the long journey back across the world, across the ocean, and into the good fairy’s palace. Nice to know that this lady is sleeping away the hours while Rosella is doing all of the hard work!

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Anyway, Rosella gives both the talisman AND the hen back to the fairy. In return the fairy changes Rosella’s clothes back (oh, hooray) and transforms Edgar from an ugly green guy to a definitely much-more-ugly reddish “hunk.” He then proposes to Rosella on the spot.

Hilariously, Rosella shoots him down with a “oh man, got to go save my dying father seeyalaterbye!”

w7And King Graham is saved! The end.

Final Thoughts

Overall, King’s Quest IV is an enjoyable game and a definite step up from its predecessors. It not only took a graphical and audio jump forward with this installment, but it manages to tell a better story with cutscenes, more of a plot, etc.

Big kudos to Sierra for putting a female character as a lead — the first time that they did that for one of their graphical adventure games, I think. There’s a lot of mixed messages here that you can take or leave depending on your irritation with princess fantasies and subtle sexism, but for the most part Rosella is portrayed as capable, level-headed, and a stone-cold killer with the bow of love.

The game isn’t without its faults, of course. Hardcore pathing and obscure puzzles are everywhere, the writing is kind of lame, and there are a few spots where you can get into a no-win scenario that requires you to go WAY back in the game to fix. But yeah, I didn’t mind it at all. Good times.

King’s Quest IV part 9: Ghost therapy

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(This is part of my journey going checking out King’s Quest IV. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

It’s still night, it’s still spooky, and there are still ghosts roaming all around the mansion estate that Rosella is visiting. What I wouldn’t give for a proton pack and a temporary change of game genres!

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Well, if video games have taught us anything, it’s that wandering, miserable ghosts only need a stranger to find that one physical object to deliver them eternal peace. So that’s what we’re up to here, as Rosella keeps digging up graves while zombies accost her and then run away, frightened of her awe-inspiring scarab.

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First it was a ghost baby, then a ghost miser, and now a ghost mourner. What I want to know is, what killed all of these people? And is it viral? Should Rosella be quarantining this house instead of playing ghost therapist? Is she infected?

Forget the ghosts, let’s feel bad for Syp for a minute. Apparently in all of this ghost appeasement process, I broke my shovel digging up the graveyard. It’s only at this point do I find out that the shovel can be used FIVE times before it breaks, rendering the game unwinnable after that. This means that I have to revert to a much earlier save file and start the haunted house stuff all over again.

sigh.

King’s Quest IV… you need to learn some manners, son. This ain’t cool.qq4

After a relaxing 20-minute retreading of everything from the witches’ cave on, I make a few more ghosts happy and get back on track!

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“Lord Poshington, I presume?”

qq6This is all interesting and everything, but five ghosts into this manor, and the whole conceit starts wearing thin. I should want to help the ghosts, not wish that I could bind their wills to mine and make the spectral undead serve me for a change.

qq7It also doesn’t help that this last ghost is an outright jerk to Rosella, whereas the other four were merely feeling sorry for themselves. What’s in that chest? I MUST KNOW.

…it’s sheet music. Oh, King’s Quest IV, why must thou tease me so?

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Naturally, the gigantic pipe organ to play said sheet music is located up two flights of stupid-Sierra-pathing stairs. Bringing this thing up there is probably what killed the ghosts.

Anyway, Rosella jams out an incredibly long funeral dirge on the organ, possibly looking around to see if any ghosts are holding up lighters and calling out for a Songbird encore. Following that, she grabs a skeleton key from the organ and heads back to the graveyard, where the contents of a crypt await!

scarabWhat is it about this scarab? Seriously? Also… mummies?

Pandora’s Box awaits for the taking! And, like probably every single gamer who got to this point in the 80s, I open that box right up to see what will happen.

pandOh stuff it, game. Let me have my fun.

6 small questing touches that I appreciate in modern World of Warcraft

archimondeIn all of the talk about World of Warcraft vanilla servers and the desire to go back to an earlier era, it’s made me think about how the game has indeed improved for the better over the years. I was talking with someone the other day about how we don’t acknowledge all of the quality-of-life improvements that go into MMOs until we see the game in an older state or are forced to go without them. We’ve just gotten used to their presence, how they make the game more user-friendly, and become blind to those changes when we call for the return of how things used to be.

Anyway, since questing through Warlords of Draenor over the past couple of months, I’ve noticed many nice changes that have made the game a lot more enjoyable to experience. Some must have happened since I left in the Wrath era while others are older but still post-vanilla. Maybe everyone who’s been playing Draenor for two years now are immune to noticing these, but I’m definitely liking them.

(1) The chance for quest rewards and drops to upgrade in quality

Getting loot is one of the little thrills of any MMO, and I think WoW has a good idea going here by giving any dropped or quested gear a chance to spontaneously evolve to a higher rarity level (green to blue, or blue to purple). Once in a while, that gear I thought I’d be vendoring ends up being useful because it goes through this on-the-spot upgrade, and that’s pretty dang nifty.

(2) Rare monster hunting

Rare monsters have always been in World of Warcraft as far as I can remember, but they haven’t been as enjoyable to hunt down as they seem to be now. I definitely like how they pop up on the radar as little skulls, always prompting me to drop everything and make a beeline to them. I’ve gotten so many interesting drops from these mobs, including neat transmog pieces, pets, and utility items.

(3) Storyline chapters

Is this a new thing? In going through each zone in Draenor, I notice how there is a counter on the quest tracker for the number of storylines that I’ve completed. It seems like every area has at least a half-dozen or more story arcs to be completed. The size of them hits the spot — not so small to be insignificant but not too big to get lost in. You get beginnings, middles, and endings, and I’ve gotten engrossed in a few of these as a result of the pacing.

(4) The music

Terrible official album release aside, Warlords of Draenor has a memorable in-game soundtrack. A few of the tracks are haunting and catchy, and I’ve kept the music on for the entirety of my questing so far.

(5) Remote quest turnins

While this is only a once-in-a-while occurance, it’s certainly welcome for WoW to catch up with modern MMOs and offer remote quest turn-ins. Sometimes you really, really don’t need to be running back to the quest giver for piddly activities, and it’s welcome to get rid of the quest on the tracker right there and then.

(6) Selection of quest rewards

It feels like WoW’s gotten better about changing up quest rewards so that they’re not always disposable gear. Sure, lots offer on-level armor and weapon upgrades, but I’ve been seeing a lot more reward screens that spit out followers, pets, resources, and other useful trinkets.

The Secret Adventures: Soul stripping (City of the Sun God #2)

(Join Syp as he attempts to document a complete playthrough of The Secret World from start to finish. What will The Secret Adventures discover next? Find out in this exciting installment! WARNING: Spoilers and stories ahead!)

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Wreckage (side mission)

Well, look at that: It’s yet another downed Orochi jet. The forces of evil have powerful anti-aircraft defenses around here somewhere, I reckon.

The “stealth” jet in question isn’t too far away, and Geary says later that the Illuminati didn’t bring it down. I don’t much care if they did, although I suspect the truth is that the Orochi pilot was probably some poor sap with about three days of training and a hasty promotion. The wreckage is being combed over by ghouls, so… ghoul killing is on the menu.

Waters of the Nile (side mission)

This incredibly short quest has you filling up a waterskin from a gaia spring, then taking it about 40 steps away to one of the statue temples. I’m still trying to comb through all of the narrative intricacies there.

famA Familiar Problem (side mission)

Be honest with me here: If you saw the above description, wouldn’t you take that as “this torso looks familiar to me! And also, how does one recognize bloody torsos anyway?”?

But this is TSW being cheeky with its wordplay. It’s not a familiar torso, it’s a familiar torso. As in, the torso of a familiar, one of those magical golem things that were running rampant all over Innsmouth Academy. So what are they doing here? Are the cultists importing or creating their own?

So I did a dumb thing here. The torso was right by this giant statue of Aten. In The Secret World, interactive objects are outlined with a yellow wire mesh, whereas destructible objects have a thin run outline. Well, the statue had a thin red outline, so I thought, why not fire at it?

Pro-Tip: Do not shoot at the Statue of Aten unless you want no less than 50 cultists to pour out of the woodwork screaming for your bloody death.

I don’t really know what I find out here, other than that, yes, there are familiars and they’re being controlled by these rods in the ground. Also, there are a few dead Orochi (of course), a case, and a “Puppet Master” that I have to kill. The mission sends me back to tell Ptahmose, but I’m never given any sort of closure. Or a familiar of my own. Pity.

unknownUnknown Soldier (side mission)

Speaking of dead Orochi, here’s a mission that literally starts by clicking on one. The omniscient mission giver says that I should get worked up about whoever killed this poor soul, but seriously, if I was to investigate every murdered Orochi, I’d be playing this game until the universe’s heat death.

Oh well. Hi-ho, hi-ho, following blood trails I go!

Actually, I’m being serious — you do have to follow the blood trail on this one. It attempts to lead me through every Atenist mob in the area, but I’m too smart for that, I keep a wide berth while spotting the next one.

The splatters lead me into a cave, which is Dead Orochi Central. Lots of ’em, plus Atenist Envenomers. I do not like the sound of that. After killing 10 of those guys, I’m directed to assassinate the giant spider lurking in the back of the cave. Guess the cultists were feeding the Orochi to it? I’m not really rooting for either side here.

She Who Likes Silence (side mission)

At the back of the spider cave is a sword, which I guess the arachnid was keeping for a rainy day. Could’ve come in handy while fighting me, I suppose. That would be something novel in an MMO: A sword-wielding spider!

Seeing as how the spider is dead, I claim the sword for myself and then — for some reason — decide to reforge it. I do this on a rock ledge hanging over a lava field, trying to ignore that shouty part of my brain that’s asking how my character knows how to forge ANYthing, nevermind without any tools on hand. Anima. Anima is the answer for anything you can’t explain in TSW.

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The Sad Song (action mission)

Enough dallying about with side missions — we need to cut our teeth on some of the meat of this zone! On to Moutemouia, the first of the statue-children that I’ll be running errands for. She talks about her sad song, the one that has been keeping the darkness at bay but has been faltering. How she would just let go if it wasn’t for her little brother. Guess I can help with some of the pressure of her position.

This is easier said than done. The main distress is coming from the nearby catacombs, where shrieking souls are pouring out faster than a Chinese factory making iPhones. I definitely have never run this quest before, because I would’ve remembered such an atmospheric setting. Really neat to explore the catacombs, but stopping to fight every two steps takes some of the fun out of it.

Long story short, the Atenists are torturing villagers and then stripping their souls out of them to make this spectral army. Can’t have that, so eat some hot Anima death, ya cultists.

LOTRO: At the gates of Miami Tirith

mt1The good news: I’m finally at the gates of Minas Tirith. The white city. The windy banana. The last bastion of civilization for the next 375 miles. Also home to 16 Starbucks and the region’s first IKEA.

The bad news: The armies of hell are hot on my heels.

Let’s back up a bit.

mt2When last we left our intrepid Captain, she was wandering around in the maze of pain and depression known as Osgiliath. Happily, she was about out of it, although she didn’t know it yet.

One final mission took us through a strangely empty city. While Syppi’s companion wonders where the Orcs have gone like some sort of horror movie victim saying loudly, “WELL WE’RE SAFE NOW!” the Captain starts having strange ghostly visions. The Eye of Sauron makes its cameo, the city starts flashing into its pre-war state, and some girl shows up to point the way to a big wolfy battering ram.

mt3I’m still upset that the game made me disable this thing instead of letting me joyride it around Gondor for a bit. Ultimate MMO mount? Oh, what could have been.

Anyway, just about then some evil dude in red shows up…

mt4Yes, I’m… on a grand adventure and certainly not lost and too stubborn to ask for directions back to Bree.

I got the feeling that the appearance of Red Robes here was supposed to be some huge “ermigarsh!” moment, but to be honest, I don’t recall who this was. I think I hit my limit for how many pretend names and places from Middle-earth I could memorize about a year and a half ago, and since then I’ve been winging it and hoping that nobody asks me to introduce them at parties. I should NOT need to know so many hyphenated phrases.

Anyway, with that reveal over, Osgiliath was all done and we got a quick port out to Pelennor Fields. Isn’t there supposed to be a battle here? Lots of geeks showing up to rend their shirts as they squee in pleasure? That’s probably later.

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Oh no! You hit Faramir — a guy I literally met about 30 seconds ago — with a neck dart! What, are you a cartoon villain or something? Because I could get on board with that.

I’m not the biggest proponent of flight in MMOs, but it does seem unfair that the enemy gets these wicked-looking beasts and I’m still hoofing it.

mt6The ride to Minas Tirith while the Nazgul swarmed and swooped was a neat cinematic moment, although I doubt I was in any actual danger. Every time one of these guys show up, I try to tab-target them for a sneak attack, but I think some Turbine dev is wise to me.

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While I’m not having the sort of nerdgasm that I assume some Tolkien fans would have when entering the city, I will admit to being impressed with its scope. Turbine did not skimp on Minas Tirith — it’s a huge city with seven or so rings of what I can only assume are amusement park zones and a super-high outcropping that makes me dizzy to look at.

Gandalf shows up and immediately puts me on a vital task for the fate of Middle-earth: to navigate my way up through all of these rings, getting passwords at each door. Naturally, I get stuck at the very first door when I can’t get through it and there’s no one to talk to. Regroup! At the tavern!

World of Warcraft: A singing fish named Murray

I don’t go overboard with screenshotting World of Warcraft these days, but I do take pictures when I get a neat angle, see something different, or want to remember a particular moment. I kick myself that I never saved my screenshot folders from MMOs of the past. Silly Syp.

So here is an assortment of snaps from Draenor and the Gilneas starting zone!

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Big ogre and I are not off to a good start in the friendship department. My, what large nipples you have! The better to stun you with, my dear!

w2I has ship. I particularly liked how this was framed against the gorgeous Shadowmoon Valley night sky.

w3Dang, I am in love. Please do not tell my wife.

Why can’t we make characters that look like this? The hat, that type of sword… it hits the spot for me, it does.

w4Help! She’s going to shoot me with square bullets while these two dogs give me disagreeable looks!

w5Gilneas is such an awesome region. Feels a shame we move through it so fast and that stunning buildings such as this cathedral are only used lightly.

Also? I think that this fawn is going to mug me.

w6How did the deer get the best of me? It’s a mastermind, I tells ya!

w7Every time I’m sent up to this tree on a quest, I have to stop for a screenshot. Simply too pretty, especially with the rain falling.

w8Blizzard totally missed an opportunity to have this fish suddenly start singing to me, possibly about an unrequited love with a murloc on the shoals.

Riding the long MMO tail

longtailGenerally — generally — MMOs that launch follow a similar patten in terms of population:

  • Strong boost at launch (stronger depending on the game and hype and IP, of course)
  • Growth for a few months as it’s the new hotness
  • Tapering off
  • Decline as the year goes on, with spikes for expansions or business model shifts
  • Then a long, steady, gradual decline after a few years

That last bit is the MMO tail, when a game has passed the point of being one of the big dogs in the room to a workhorse of a title. Doesn’t mean it’s bad — not at all; many MMOs keep getting better with age, patches, and expansions.

But there are definitely downsides to riding that tail as a gamer. You’re playing a game that isn’t being talked about much any longer. Hope for a renaissance fades away. New player influx goes from a stream to a trickle. And you start wondering — as much as you try not to — how many more years this game has left in it.

Not every MMO follows that same pattern or shares the length of that tail. Ultima Online and EverQuest, for example, are still going and even had expansions last year. But it’s a different experience to play those games rather than, say, Blade & Soul, Guild Wars 2, or FFXIV right now. The wider community all but ignores those games while the active community is very defined and insular.

When you’re riding that tail, there is an undercurrent in the existing community of sadness, of a desire for a return to the days of high-profile greatness. It’s definitely like this in LOTRO right now. On one hand, it’s not a ghost town; Landroval is hopping, people still love the game, and folks even still blog about it. There are player events, chatter, and it recently got a mini-expansion of sorts. It’s even on the cusp of heading into Mordor.

Yet there’s no denying that LOTRO is past being on of the, say, top five most popular and talked-about MMOs to play. It was only a few years ago that we were getting huge expansions, that people flocked to this game, and that it held that darling status that is now passed on to other games. Nine years is a great run for a game, and it would’ve been silly to assume that the party would last forever. So we’re now in the long tail phase — and have been for a couple of years.

As I mentioned, playing in the long tail era is kind of like sticking in the past while the future is here! and amazing! It’s grappling with that constant wish for a return to former glory. There’s a lot of nostalgic reminiscing in the community and talk of days past. There’s also the uncertainty of knowing how much longer a game has in it or how often the dev team is going to create substantial content for it.

It’s not all sadness and inner montages, of course. The long tail has its advantages, starting with it representing an MMO that is seasoned and chock-full of stuff to see and do. If there’s enough of a dedicated community sticking around, it can even feel populated and full of life for a long time to come. Knowing that the game won’t be on the receiving end of controversy and huge design shifts and other stumbling blocks of newer titles is a comforting thing.

Right now as there are few massive games coming out for this genre, players are taking more time than ever to revisit older titles to see — and rediscover — what they hold. I’ve been watching in the blogosphere the delight of these experiences, the reminder that there is a wealth of MMOs out there already that can be plundered if you get your eyes off the future once in a while. Lots of long tails out there, twitching for adventure.