Kings Quest: The Mask of Eternity|
||Direct X6 compatible
||Direct X6 compatible
||Supports 3Dfx, Rendition, and Direct X 3D Cards
||5x Creative DVD
||Sound Blaster 16
||Matrox Millenium G200
||Creative 3D Blaster Voodoo2 12MB
Reviewed by: Zach Rounds
I assume the next game will be "King's Quest: Graham takes Manhattan"
When I was but a child all those many years ago, I remember going to a computer convention with my dad. I don't remember what the convention was for, but one image sticks out in my mind. That show was the first time I was exposed to King's Quest. Back then KQ1 looked incredible in its sixteen-color glory. I managed to get onto an open computer, at which point I promptly guided Graham off the drawbridge in front of the castle where he was promptly eaten by an alligator. Since then games of every genre have progressed incredibly (back then the only FPS was a game called Way Out for the Atari 400. I recommend it if you have an Atari 400 lying around), but the slowest to progress has been the graphic adventure. This is mostly due to one simple fact: All graphic adventures are the same game at heart. I have yet to play an adventure game that did not consist of walking around, picking up objects, and using them to solve puzzles. Heavily story driven, adventure games rely not on the newest technology or the best graphics, focusing instead on the story, using a well-crafted tale and good character development to draw the player in. This is why KQ: MOE was such a shock when I first started it. Gone are the drawn backgrounds, replaced with a 3D world (or worlds, in this case). Gone is the purely point and click interface, replaced with a more complex keyboard-mouse arrangement. Is this a good thing? Well… yes and no.
Unlike the King's Quest games of the past, MOE does not involve any of the Grahams at all. This time you are a guy named Connor, a peasant living in the kingdom of Daventry. Connor is a regular guy with a regular girlfriend and what looks like a regular boring life. Then an evil wizard breaks the Mask of Eternity. This results in everyone in the kingdom being turned to stone and a bunch of evil monsters being released. Through the course of the game you learn that the Mask of Eternity is basically a mask that held the evil at bay. Why or how the mask holds evil at bay is never really explained, and I can't help but think that if you wanted to keep evil at bay you wouldn't make the key an easily broken mask (I'd make it an anvil, or at least something really strong). However, without an easily broken evil key there wouldn't be a game, and thus Connor begins his quest to find all the pieces of the mask. Since the mask was being held on big floating temples, the pieces have scattered over seven different realms (that's my theory). During the course of the game Connor travels to the many different realms, finding items and killing monsters as he sees fit.
About now you should be thinking, "Wait a minute. This is a King's Quest game. There isn't any killing! What gives?" and if this were like one of the past KQ games you'd be right. This time, however, there is combat, and I'll discuss this later.
Overall the story is your basic "Find the artifact of power while slaying the evildoer and being a generally good guy" type story. My biggest problem with the story was the main Evil Guy. He never seems to have any reason for being evil. He used to be one of the people who guarded the MOE, but turned bad, killed all the other guards, and broke the mask. I can't help but think that there should have been a reason for the sudden turn to evil, but alas, none is ever given.
Gameplay -- 6.5
KQ: MOE is a lot different than the old KQ games. Besides the main character not being a member of the Graham family, the element of action has been added. Instead of just walking around picking up items and using them to solve puzzles, you now have to defend yourself as well. Conner is quite proficient with a sword and bow, and throughout the game you will find better weapons and armor. The realms that Connor travels through are full of monsters to kill. In order to deal with the fact that combat requires some way of determining the health of your character, Connor has a health and experience bar. As you kill monsters and solve puzzles your health and strength increase. As your levels increase, so does the difficulty of the monsters. Unfortunately, here's where the problems begin.
While an adventure game with combat could have been really cool, and still can, MOE doesn't handle the combat in a good way. Rather than have the combat be strategic or action packed, the combat boils down to little more than a fast paced click-fest. There is no defending. There are no forms of attack other than the basic swing or the shooting of the bow. All you do is click as fast as you can on the enemy. The other problem with this is the sheer number of monsters that populate the realms. Instead of having combat as an occasional diversion, which would have fine and dandy for when you got in the mood to whack something, Conner is constantly beset by enemies. The endless waves of enemies combined with the oversimplified combat drags the game down significantly.
On the plus side, the puzzles in the game are very good. I never found myself stuck without any idea what to do. Although this shortens the game slightly (some of the old KQ games took me a LONG time to beat because the puzzles were illogical and usually fatal), I found that I didn't mind so much as the story was able to flow smoothly instead of in a series of puzzle solving jerks.
The other important part of the game is the camera. Unlike other third-person games where the camera floats behind the character at all times, in KQ: MOE you are given control of the camera via the mouse. By holding the right mouse button down you can swing the camera around Connor and zoom in and out. This helps significantly in removing any of the problems that a poorly placed camera could cause.
Graphics -- 8.8
The graphics in KQ: MOE are very nice. Each of the seven realms has its own distinct look, ranging from the ice-covered mountains of the Northern Wastes to the Egyptian-ish Land of the Dead. Most of the monsters look really cool, although the zombies look like little more than brown walking shapes. The realms are detailed nicely, and I found little to complain about.
Another cool detail is all the death animations of the monsters. While this may be a bit morbid, each of the monsters have two to three different methods of dying, and when you use the fire and ice bows, monsters either burst into flame or freeze into solid blocks before shattering onto the ground.
The game also supports Direct3D devices to speed up gameplay, and I strongly recommend one. The game slowed down significantly for me when I used the software renderer.
Sound -- 8.3
Like most games, the voice acting ranges from really good to pretty damn bad. In this case the really good would be Connor, who
sounds like a cross between a classic hokey knight and Michael York. The bad would be the voice of the evil magician. He sounds like a hokey evildoer, but unlike Connor, it just doesn't work.
The sound effects are nothing to write home about, but they serve their purpose. The music is of the high quality that I've come to expect from Sierra games, and it complements the game nicely. There's not much else to say.
So how does the game sum up in the end? While the combat is a definite minus, Sierra (or is it Yosemite?) is at the very least trying something new. I hope they can either refine the combat for their future games or remove it completely. Either way, KQ: MOE is a good game. It may not be the greatest adventure game ever, but it's better than average, and that counts for a lot considering the poor quality of KQ7.
Our rating out of 10:7.5
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