After three chapters of King’s Quest, I can honestly say it’s the most consistent episodic game I’ve ever played. Not only does the story transition in a way that anyone picking up mid-game won’t be lost in the narrative, but the decisions made from previous chapters carries over in more meaningful ways then one might expect.
Once Upon a Climb is an example of a multi-part chapter game being done right. Episode three triumphs (pun intended) over the last two, blending the results of Graham’s journey into one beautifully woven tale. King’s Quest isn’t the most innovative, but it’s the most well polished.
Graham’s well-crafted story continues years after taking the throne, having become more experienced and strong through his rule. Now that Daventry is secure, Graham finds himself in another predicament, one much more personal then his last adventure. He is now a lonely king, yearning companionship in the shape of a queen, but he quickly learns this is more difficult then he could imagine.
Once again, the reason for the story is brought up by Gwendolyn, Graham’s young and eager grand-daughter who needs advice on what to get her grandma for her birthday. This is where the chapter becomes interesting.
The magical mirror that’s guided young Graham in his travels, reveals to the king that his future wife, is trapped at the top of a large tower in the middle of the forest near a kingdom called Kolyma, located in the east. Across cross deep forests and treacherous swamps, Graham, reaches his destination without a hitch, only to find two princesses trapped at the top instead of one.
Choice becomes a personal factor in chapter three, as the player can pick which princess to sway as their queen. Each girl presents a unique and opposite personality based on their preferences and world views.
On the right, is Princess Neese, an adventurous and quirky girl who loves music. Neese, is the more stereotypical princess one might imagine in a fairy tale, wearing pink and enthusiastic to make new friends despite their personality. While on the left, clad in all green, is Princess Vee, Neese’s best friend and the wiser half of the duo, usually acting as the mediator and voice of reason.
Vee, favors intelligence over brute strength, and spends her time pouring over books and solving puzzles – although she hates to lose. While not really my personal preference, I chose to go with Neese, opting for a more traditional marriage, of course she makes Graham’s life and marriage proposal anything but ordinary.
Without giving away too much of the story, the player will have to solve an assortment of puzzles and help the princesses escape their prison, and the only way to break out is to discover true love. Chapter three is more of a cinematic ride then the previous entries, but the character interactions and humor make it rise above the minimal gameplay involved. Choices from the second chapter will also shape how you solve problems with the girls, such as helping Neese fix her lute thanks to the aid of Amaya the blacksmith, with Zelda Williams reprising her role.
Controls are basic, using the cursor to highlight items or make Graham interact with the world. Solving most of the clues is done through observation and dialogue choices, while managing your inventory. Most of your time will be spent within the tower that constantly moves, learning more about the two princesses and what makes them tick. Other gameplay will involve shooting arrows in the first-person perspective and musical segments, such as plucking the strings of a lute through memorization to find a golden acorn. Funny enough, Queen Madeline of Avalon, the squirrel, will assist you in this endeavor.
Production values are still marvelous, with the cel-shaded cartoon-like graphics and brilliantly performed voice work that brings the many colorful characters to life. Fans will recognize the talents of Cerami Leigh as Princess Neese, known for roles in Borderlands 2 and Xenoblade chronicles X, and the return of Wallace Shawn as Manny, the lovable knight.
As stated above, King’s Quest has maintained a degree of consistency that allows for the game to seamlessly continue its tale without a hitch, and the development by The Odd Gentleman deserves praise for their painstaking details.
By now, you either love or hate King’s Quest, but I can assure fans that there is more to appreciate in this episodic tale, especially with Chapter three. Graham’s arduous journey as king has delighted me with every playthrough, and if the quality of Once Upon a Climb is any indication, I can’t wait for chapter four. While its highly recommended you play the first two chapters, anyone can enjoy Graham’s struggle without losing much in the way of narrative. King’s Quest is the happy ending that we all deserve, and probably one of the greatest adventure games I’ve played in recent years.