King’s Quest

Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Sierra
Year: 1984
Platform: DOS; Macintosh; Apple II; Amiga; Sega Master System

Sierra’s first colored adventure game in its most successful series ever, King’s Quest was a fascinating game when it came out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up too much over time.

You are Sir Graham of Daventry, and a knight of King Edward. Alas, Edward has no prince to take his place on the throne. He is growing deathly sick and needs an heir, and you are his favorite knight. However, you must acquire the three stolen treasures of the crown: the bottomless treasure chest, the clairvoyant mirror, and the invincible shield. Daventry is becoming weak, and only with these three treasures may peace and prosperous times be restored to the kingdom. Go forward Sir Graham!

King's Quest DOS DOS: Outside the castle

The kingdom of Daventry is awfully small, but more importantly, it is a world by itself. If you continue going in one direction, you will eventually come back to your starting point in about two minutes. That is one strong gravitational pull. Also, where are all the other citizens of Daventry? Where are the other knights?

The parser is fairly weak, so you will become frustrated quickly with its frequent “I have no idea what the hell you’re trying to say” messages. The graphics were astounding at the time, but are drab by today’s standards. Most essential items are accentuated so much that it’s never not obvious what you should steal. Challenge is not what Roberta Williams had in mind.

The sound is god awful, consisting of bleeps from the internal speaker. With no backgroud music, you may as well turn off the sound. Graham will be minding his own business, taking a leisurely stroll through an open field, when a malevolent creature (such as a warlock), will randomly appear. The internal sound board will go berserk, successfully emptying your bladder. What’s worse, none of these random enemies have any relevancy to the plot.

Graham will notice many friends and foes from fairy tales, fables, and mythology. Usually, the solution to the puzzle will come straight from the literature the characters are from, and possibly modified slightly to accomodate Graham’s faculties. This adds a unique perspective to adventure gaming, but at times can be a little easy. This is common throughout every King’s Quest game up until the Mask of Eternity. While few of the puzzles in King’s Quest are difficult (unless you are not familiar with said literature), they are generally enjoyable.

King's Quest DOS The gnome, his name is really tricky to figure out... (EGA/Tandy)

Unfortunately, none of your three quests (for the three treasures) are linked in any way. You also cannot use any treasure to help you with another quest. There is also a bug in most versions of the game, while not hindering Graham’s progress, can keep you from gaining the maximum points. The gnome name guessing game is only solvable using an on-line FAQ, of course not available in 1984.

Overall, King’s Quest is a fun trek. While the game is relatively easy, those who love point-searching should be happy to know there are points to be won, unnecessary to solving the quest. In fact, there are at least two puzzles that can be solved more than one way. This game should be played if one wants to see the beginning of graphical adventures or the beginning of the series. Those without those interests at heart would best keep away from this otherwise average game.

4 thoughts on “King’s Quest”

  1. Regarding the sound, since the game was designed for the PCjr, rather than the IBM PC, it takes advantage of system’s 3-channel audio. Since few people today have a PCjr (or a Tandy 1000 clone), we just hear the PC Speaker built into every computer. However, DOSBox emulates the 3-channel audio of the PCjr and Tandy. If you don’t want to bother with DOSBox, you can hear the difference in the recorded soundtrack here:

  2. The internal sound board will go berserk, successfully emptying your bladder.

    Nuggets like this are why I read all of your reviews, despite almost no history with PC games.

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