It’s hard not to get caught in the charms of King’s Quest—the modern reimagining of the classic adventure game series coming later this year from Sierra and developers The Odd Gentlemen. From the playful narration from King Graham to its hand-painted art style and creative puzzle design, King’s Quest both pays faithful homage to the original games, while simultaneously crafting its own unique identity.
After revealing King’s Quest in December, Sierra and The Odd Gentlemen shared the first live gameplay this week at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The new game series centers on King Graham, now old and gray, as he shares untold tales of his adventures with his young and curious granddaughter, Gwendolyn. The stories unfold like chapters in a book, with each detailing a different adventure in Graham’s life—from how he became a knight to meeting Queen Valanice. Each story takes on an overarching theme, focusing on tales of bravery, compassion, and other lessons, which in turn, shape Gwendolyn’s own adventures that she’ll face at end of each chapter. What’s more, a player’s choices within each chapter will not only impact how each adventure plays out, but also influence Graham and Gwendolyn’s own stories in the present.
For this week’s demo, I was shown two sections of gameplay, beginning with a retelling of Graham’s quest to recover the Magic Mirror from a dragon’s lair, which fans will remember from King’s Quest I.
As the game’s first chapter, The Odd Gentlemen wanted to use the story of the Magic Mirror as both a nod to the series’ legacy, but also a way of introducing new players to the world of King’s Quest and some of its new gameplay mechanics. King Graham guides players through the level with storybook-like narration, which also plays out in humorous ways, like when a player is crushed in a booby-trap or swallowed by the dragon. In the latter example, Graham explains that he was merely checking to see if Gwendolyn was still listening to his story, and the checkpoint resets. Players must traverse the lair, interacting with traps and mechanisms to make their way to Magic Mirror, while at times trying to avoid the dragon. As an example of the opportunity to shape the story, players at one point can choose to free the dragon from its chains with the potential for unintended consequences later in future releases—though whether those would be good or bad, developers The Odd Gentlemen wouldn’t say.
The core tenets of King’s Quest gameplay focuses on third-person world exploration, solving environmental puzzles, dialog-based choices, discovering and collecting items, and crafting mechanics. Each of key gameplay elements was highlighted in the next level shown, which tells the story of Graham’s quest to become a knight. At one point, players encounter a team of soldiers guarding a river crossing. To successfully make it to the other side, players can attempt to convince the soldiers to let them pass through dialog trees, distract them by interacting with the environment, or use items in their inventory to craft their own solution. Each attempt has comical and unexpected results that harken to the series’ roots of whimsical adventure.
Although expanding the gameplay dynamics, King’s Quest is also rife with callbacks to the original games, from more noticeable examples, like UI elements inspired by King’s Quest V, to even small audio cues, like inventory sounds derived from King’s Quest VI.
It’s clear that The Odd Gentlemen carries a reverence for the series that influenced the design and permeates throughout every aspect of the game. However, King’s Quest’s well-crafted storytelling, endearing dialog, and challenging puzzles will appeal to more than just those with a personal connection to the original games. After all, everyone can appreciate a little adventure.