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King’s Quest: A Rubble Without a Cause Review

by William Schwartz

When the first chapter of King’s Quest released back in July of 2015, the series was reinvigorated with life, bringing from the caverns of old a new take on Graham’s quest to become king as he struggles through harrowing puzzles and constant hardship. The tale is woven by an older Graham as he accounts his journeys to his granddaughter, Gwendolyn the brave, through often exaggerated jokes and descriptions.

The Odd Gentleman managed to take the charm of the old series and morph it into a modern day take with simpler controls and a beautiful cel-shaded art style that is reminiscent of old cartoons from the 80s. The world of Daventry is further brought to realization by the voice cast, featuring talents such as Christopher Lloyd. Yet there are a few drawbacks: the focus is less on the narrative and more on the interaction with objects and clues, making for a shorter experience than the first chapter.

The beginning of the second chapter begins several months later, with Graham still settling into his role as ruler of the kingdom. The stress of managing a kingdom weighs heavily on his shoulders, and is put on the edge when trying to mimic an authoritative figure like the previous King Edward. Graham ventures outside in the rain drenched town to vent his frustrations, when he is suddenly captured by goblins and forced to do their chores. Plenty of familiar characters make an appearance such as the royal guards and even a voice-over from Manny, and it is through these interactions that his relationships begin to form through his actions as the king.

Graham’s mission is to seek the goblin king so they may cease hostilities and bring peace back to the kingdom. These lessons on how Graham went from a humble boy seeking adventure to a respectful king shape the basis of the core gameplay, including the decisions throughout this chapter. One example of this communication, is how Graham chooses to rescue everyone from their cell, with the player given three critical paths to decide their method.

On each path is a different set of prisoners that Graham has met from the previous chapter. Each of these characters have a solution for how to escape, that involve a series of challenges the player will have to solve. In my playthrough, I relied on Wente and Bramble, the local pastry chefs from Daventry who suggest making sweet cakes as a peace offering. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Amaya, the blacksmith, who prefers fighting her way through the goblin hordes, which leads to a quest to find a blade (with the proper reach).

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The player can decide if they wish to take heed of the dangers and rescue all the hostages by keeping them healthy, or ignore their plights and make your way to the king with Graham’s own cunning. I myself had some difficulty, especially with the clear line of what I was supposed to be doing in order to survive the whole ordeal. There is a time limit on each character’s health that indicates how long they have until they starve, so it is necessary to balance resources and food, while also maintaining Graham’s strength to perform the arduous tasks in the caves. Items such as meat become vital, and whoever he chooses to share with could affect the other characters chances of survival.

The controls remain the same from the base game, with the character able to navigate through the environment and interact with items scattered throughout the area, while inventory is still handled in Graham’s cape with the X-Button. The hub-world within the second chapter is contained within the goblin caves, which makes for a smaller landscape to explore as compared to Daventry. The consequences of this lead to a smaller playthrough that lasts maybe 3-4 hours.

Puzzles take over from exploration as the main source of gameplay. The puzzles  can range from simple quick-time events to complicated riddles depending on the situation. One instance found me reworking a musical box to play rock-a-bye-baby by arranging the chords. Another example had me seeking fly eyes for an ingredient, which led to Graham seeking out a frog that was being held capture as the goblins attempted to turn it into a prince. Resource management also becomes a staple, as players must choose slots for food and necessary quest items.

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King’s Quest has no intention of holding the player’s hands, and it takes a few clues to figure out how to maintain the lives of the hostages without them dying. I won’t give anything away because of spoilers, but not paying attention to time and the other characters can lead to some less than favorable outcomes.

However I felt this decision broke away from the storytelling of King’s Quest, which is the charm of this new entry. While interesting puzzles can be fun, King’s Quest has always been about the adventure, and I was expecting more of that. Thankfully the ending is handled well, and even a little surprise awaits in the form of a mini-cliffhanger if it can be called that.

Verdict

The quality of King’s Quest is top-notched, and despite some drawbacks in this chapter, I continue to look forward to what Graham has in store next. Players will enjoy the continuous humor and clever lines as delivered by Christopher Lloyd and friends, and the puzzles in chapter 2 aren’t quite as straight forward as those that were found in the first installment. Fans can rest assured that Graham’s legacy continues to grow into the new generation. Even with a few missteps here and there, the self-contained chapters are a brilliant way to deliver a tale truly worthy of a king.

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Kings Quest Chapter II: Rubble Without a Cause

  • Available On: XB1, PS4, X360, PS3, PC
  • Published By: Sierra Entertainment
  • Developed By: The Odd Gentlemen
  • Genre: Adventure
  • US Release Date: December 15th, 2015
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One
  • Quote: "The quality of King's Quest is top-notch, and despite some drawbacks in this chapter, we continue to look forward to what Graham has in store next."
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