Last night at The Game Awards, the first trailer from the so-called King’s Quest reboot was unveiled and we were all told that the franchise was coming back to life with a hot new game that we should all care a whole heckuva lot for.
The trailer showed what looked to be a young King Graham, or Gwydion, or a new character…it’s unclear if this game falls inside the original King’s Quest timeline or introduces all new characters. It’s got some decent graphics, some nifty action sequences, and dramatic music which, admittedly, got me excited.
But it’s all a lie. A big, fat, stupid lie. There, I said it.
Who am I to judge? Actually, I’m quite the King’s Quest series fan! I own all of the games on disk, all in their boxes, and always name my Animal Crossing town Daventry thank you very much. What did you call your town, Mordor? Child, please!
As a middle-aged, lifelong nerd, I have a fondness for King’s Quest that is practically overwhelming. I remember my first time playing it at my best friend’s house. His father owned an IBM computer back in those days when, hey, that wasn’t something you saw every day. We played the original and the first two sequels. The both of us, passing the keyboard back and forth typing in commands to our character and hoping we’d found the right idea. These were games you needed the manual for! (King’s Quest III is impossible without it.) There was no Internet then, nor many friends who played the game. (“I wish my dad had a computer!”) We’d talk Nintendo on the bus no problem but forget King’s Quest solutions.
Still, the game was fantastic and is widely remembered today. So, a reboot has some sway. But, it’s not King’s Quest. It can never be King’s Quest. Not like this. First of all, the first four games of the franchise are the most beloved, the most well known, and also required typing in commands on a keyboard to play the game. This was the spirit of the game. Its essence. You can’t improve on it by changing that. It is the game. But that’s what Sierra did when King’s Quest V became the first game in the series to switch to the horrible point-and-click interface.
The point-and-click interface was Sierra’s attempt at reaching a bigger audience for their beloved game series. Modern computers all came with mice, were upgraded to Windows, and became so accessible to so many people that Sierra didn’t want to limit their audience. ANYBODY could play a King’s Quest game now, but the interface was awful. You could solve problems by clicking like mad all over the screen until something unexpected happened. Rotating between the look/use/walk actions was bulky and slow. Heck, look at the game boxes above…they even dropped their classic look when they pushed out V! I almost immediately lost interest in the series and other similar Sierra series as well.
It was no surprise why King’s Quest wasn’t popular anymore. It was no longer the game it was. And you see this with other series, too. They tried turning Pac-Man into a side-scrolling adventure, a point-and-click game (not again!), and 3D games…but the biggest hit featuring Pac-Man, since Ms. Pac-Man, was Pac-Man Championship Edition! Look familiar?
And THIS is what the new King’s Quest series should look like! It should be fantastic looking, it should bring the same intriguing story and great puzzles we remember, and it should go right back to its roots and support keyboard input again. I know it sounds crazy, I know it cuts out the console market, but there’s a huge indie market for computer gaming still out there! Plus, and I can say this pretty confidently, the new King’s Quest reboot won’t sell. There won’t be a market for a generic re-hash of a series that 20-somethings have never even heard of. But you give them a game like they remember…like they really remember…and us geezers will eat it up and hype it up so much those same 20-somethings will be too curious not to give it a try!
We all want Sierra to come back. We want King Graham. We want Leisure Suit Larry! Hell, I want more Police Quest! But not like this. This isn’t what we want. This is just a different game with the same name.
I’ll wait for the re-reboot.