King’s Quest is an outstanding point and click adventure series from the 80s and 90s. They were originally developed by Ken and Roberta Williams, who founded the company Sierra. This game, however, is a reboot of the series, developed by The Odd Gentleman and it tells stories of King Graham in his youth, in between the events of the old King’s Quest games. This reboot plays in an episodic format, with each episode taking place at a different point in time.
Let me just say that this reboot is visually stunning. Nearly all the assets are hand painted, it looks absolutely incredible, and the writing is fantastic too. It has a great sense of humor and a lot of great voice actors. Some of the time they get a little overboard on the references to outside media (Like how Episode 1 is basically one large reference to The Princess Bride) but it’s enjoyable none the less.
The first episode, A Knight to Remember, tells the story of Graham trying to become a knight, and his adventures in his first day in the land of Daventry. You the player must decide what kind of person you want Graham to be, one that thinks with his brain, his heart, or his sword. There isn’t a wrong answer one way or another, but certain people will like you more based on your choices.
The second episode, Rubble Without a Cause, jumps to when Graham has become king, and how he’s captured by goblins and must save his imprisoned villagers. This episode is very different from the last, a good majority of it is having to decide how you want to ration food for your villagers, needing to choose who gets to eat and who has to suffer.
The gameplay of this King’s Quest reboot is fundamentally the same as the old games. You walk around the area, find items to be used in situations, which lead you to new areas or new items to be used elsewhere. However, now there are many mini games, such as quick-time events and jumping puzzles, which serve as padding to make the game feel longer.
That’s actually one of my problems with this reboot, there are so many reused padding puzzles that it gets kinda tedious and this new episode adds yet another frustrating puzzle that’s just “Simon Says”. I would have to say that at least 20% of the content in these games is padded this way.
With that introduction to the series out of the way, here is the review of Episode 3: Once Upon a Climb
A fair amount of time has passed since the last episode, and King Graham is now a fully grown adult and is longing for a companion. He goes on a quest to climb an enormous tower to find his bride, only when he finally gets there, there is not just one, but two women! You the player must choose who you want to pursue.
Again, this is a very different tone from the last two episodes, but I liked it a lot more than the dark dreary setting of episode 2. The setting for this chapter is very lighthearted and fun, and the two princesses, Vee and Neese, are loaded with personality. One aspect I really liked was that while the two princesses were different from each other, they weren’t so black and white that the choices you had to do in order to court them were blatantly obvious.
Coming out of Episode 2, I was concerned about how this chapter would be in terms of quality and content. Rubble Without a Cause was light on content, it had a very dark and depressing setting, it just didn’t have that charm that started the series. I was extremely pleased to see that Once Upon a Climb brought back that charm.
Another worry that I had started to develop was that my choices in any of the episodes didn’t really matter. In A Knight to Remember you’re given possible routes to continue the game, but you had to do all the paths regardless of which one you do first. In the second episode, you have to choose who you want to feed and there didn’t seem like there were any consequences if you didn’t.
I was delighted to see that in Once Upon a Climb you do at the very least get the choice of choosing which princess you want to pursue. Frankly going into it, I was not convinced that there was actually going to be a choice, that there would either be a third girl or I wouldn’t be given a choice. They even added a small consequence for your actions in Episode 2.
My biggest takeaway is that while this is a game about choices, it’s not a game about consequences. It’s similar to Life is Strange in that regard, your choices shape Graham and the world around you. The story is set, but what changes is how you experience the story.
There is so much I love about this reboot, it really shows how much the developers care about the old King’s Quest. I found Episode 3 to be just as enjoyable as the first episode and made up for the faults of the last one. My only concern with the series thus far is those new players, ones who never saw the old King’s Quest games might find this kind of slow and boring. They might only see the padding to the game and not the charm that it brings back.
Once Upon a Climb brings back the charm that Chapter 2 of King's Quest lacked. It's a great new addition to the reboot of this classic franchise. It's fun, it's beautiful and I highly recommend it.