Kings Quest III : To Heir Is Human

Title           Kings Quest III : To Heir Is Human
Genre           Adventure
Company         Sierra
HD-Installable  Yes (copy to hd)
Compatibillity  All(?)
Submission      Joachim Froholt Profiled Reviewer

While Kings Quest II was pretty much an identical copy of the first game,
Kings Quest III takes the series a great step forward. This isn't a simple
treasure hunt, this game has a plot and a background story which is
actually tied in with the gameplay.

In the land of Llewdor, an evil wizard named Manannan lives. Being a lazy
fellow, he's not about to do the boring housekeeping chores by himself,
and he's found an excellent, if rather nasty, way of getting the
neccesities done. He took a one-year old boy away from his parents, and as
the lad grew up, he forced him to do the stuff old Manannan was too lazy
to bother with. But of course, as the boy grew, he became keen on finding
out if there was anything outside the confines of Manannan's mansion.
Fearful that local people would become angry if the boy escaped and told
of his slavery, the nasty wizard went and turned his apprentice into a
pile of ashes. Later on, he kidnapped another boy, who in turn was killed
on his eighteenth birthday for pretty much the same reasons as the first
one. This continued for a long time (as wizards tend to become quite old),
and here, you enter the story: You control a young lad named Gwydion who's
eighteenth birthday is not far ahead, and your initial task is to escape
the clutches of evil Manannan before he decides that it's time to kill you.

Starting the game, you find yourself in Manannan's house. The nasty wizard
pops up and informs you that his bed pot needs emptying, or the kitchen
needs cleaning, and then he vanishes in a cloud of smoke. You'd better do
as he asks. After a while, the wizard will go on a short journey - now is
your chance! While he's away, you can snoop around the house and it's
surroundings to find out how to escape (and maybe get your revenge as
well). Be careful, though - if the wizard returns to see you messing
around with magic and stuff, he'll end your quest faster than you can say
"Don't point your finger at me like that!".

I'll quickly explain the basics of the game. The control system is just as
it was in the two earlier Kings Quest games. You control Gwydion with the
arrow keys (/numeric keyboard) or joystick. When you want to interact with
something, you have to do this by typing in what you want to do. Examples:
LOOK UNDER BED, CATCH CAT, EAT FRUIT and so on. The game doesn't stop
while you type commands, which is a major problem if you're a slow typist.
The game also has a problem with synonyms, and it's vocabulary is quite
limited when compared to the Infocom text adventures (most of which
predates Kings Quest III by several years).

Let's get one thing straight right from the start: Kings Quest III is not
a game for impatient players. Your character will be killed for the
smallest of mistakes, and you have to cope with some very strict time
limits - if Manannan returns to see you missing, he'll kill you as soon as
you come back. And if you happen to carry any magical items while he's in
the house, he'll get suspicious and kill you. Also, of course, he doesn't
take kindly to finding things like his magic wand missing.

To be honest, Kings Quest III is, for me, a big letdown. From a distance
it appeared to be a much more interesting game than it's predecessors; the
game world seems more realistic, with loads of fun things to do, and there
are more characters to interact with. But an essential part of an
adventure game is it's puzzles, and Kings Quest III contains some of the
worst puzzles I've ever seen.

First of all, the puzzles tend to be very obscure - "How on earth was I
supposed to think of that?" is a phrase which kept being repeated in my
mind as I checked the walkthrough. Secondly, the objects needed are often
too well hidden in the scenery (partly thanks to the graphics, admittedly).
Looking for a snake skin? Heh, good luck! Some objects can be near
impossible to pick up as well - you will come across an oak tree, which
has loads of acorns lying under it. You need acorns for a magic spell, so
you try picking some up.. nope. You need dried acorns, and the ones
you'll find are all newly fallen. Well, maybe you can find the dried
acorns somewhere else, then? Naah.. what you have to do (and this is a
direct spoiler, so be warned) is to walk around under the acorn tree and
repeatedly saying GET ACORNS until your character stumbles across some he
can use. Yikes!

Then there's the deadly time limits, and the fact that you'll get killed
if you're carrying the wrong objects when Manannan returns. This is merely
a nuisance at first, because there is a way of getting around it (the
dangerous objects are also clearly marked in your inventory listing), but
it soon becomes a dreadful chore, especially because the way up to
Manannan's house is extremely dangerous, and when you're forced to return
there every twenty minutes it gets annoying quickly. Speaking of danger,
there's plenty of that in the game. Falling down staircases and cliffside
paths is something you'll experience a lot, and when exploring the desert,
you'll come across the nasty medusa, who will turn any player character
facing her to stone. She can be disposed of, but it takes some clever
thinking and fast typing.

A good number of the puzzles involve making magic spells. This sounds
pretty exciting, but sadly, it involves having to quote several pages
from the manual. Get one line wrong, and you're dead. Boring, boring,

It is also possible to lock the game in an unwinnable state by leaving the
land of Llewdor before you've got all the needed items and spells. Also,
be aware that some events are random. Just because there's a nasty bandit
in the secret hideout the first time you enter it, he doesn't have to be
there the next time. This is kind of pointless, and as in the two earlier
games, it might very well cause problems.

But the game does have it's highlights as well. If you pay close attention
to the recipes in the manual, finding the various needed objects becomes a
bit easier, because you'll be able to guess where they're hidden. Turning
yourself into a fly is cool, too, especially when you learn where this
ability is useful (though it's not needed, which is fortunate because I
bet you won't figure it out for yourself. Kings Quest III is also the
only KQ game which has a built-in map. This is quite helpful (though fans
protested and said it made the game too easy!).

The graphics are much nicer than in the earlier KQ games. It's the same
low resolution and few colours, but the artists had obviously learned how
to best utilize the limitations of the AGI engine, because some scenes
look very good indeed. The best thing about the sound, however, is that
it's possible to turn it off.

In conclusion, Kings Quest III seems, on the surface, to be a pretty neat
game, but once you actually get to play it, it's one of the most
frustrating games in the series. It certainly has it's qualities, though.
The story is engrossing, and resolving matters with the evil wizard is
hugely satisfying. I reckon that Kings Quest III will be a success if
you're a very patient player who has a keen eye for details. It also
helps, of course, if you like puzzles a lot. The rest of us are probably
better off with another adventure game.

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