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King's Quest III: To Heir is Human (DOS)

77
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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
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5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  *Katakis* (37826)
Written on  :  Sep 23, 2003
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars

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Summary

Possibly the challenging King's Quest ever made

The Good

Having played all the games in the King's Quest series and enjoyed them all, I liked KQ3 even more, not because it has a lovely setting, but because the game is challenging in its own right. The third game is the first to bring 16 colors to the series, and it is much longer like the future KQ games.

After returning the missing treasures to Castle Daventry, King Graham managed to rescue a beautiful girl trapped inside a quartz tower. The two of them get married and give birth to a son and daughter. These happy days are short-lived, unfortunately. The son (who was named Alexander) was stolen from his crib by a powerful wizard called Manannan, and taken to the wizard's house in Llewdor, a land far away from Daventry. Renamed Gwydion, he becomes the wizard's slave, doing chores such as feeding chickens and cleaning the kitchen. Alexander knows that he will be killed when he turns eighteen, just like Manannan's previous slaves, so he needs to deal with the wizard first then escape.

KQ3 is not like the first two games, where you can explore everything at your own will. Your biggest obstacle in the game is the clock. From time to time, Manannan can appear at any time to make sure that you're up to no good (discovering his secret lab, obtaining forbidden items, etc.), otherwise you are killed on the spot. In order to escape the evil wizard, you have to find a secret lab so that you can prepare and cast a few spells to get through the game, much like what you had to do in King's Quest VI. For the first half of the game at least, you can hope that the wizard goes out on a journey or takes a nap so that you have enough time to obtain spell ingredients and cast some spells. I like this aspect of the game, because you never know when the wizard is going to appear.

The graphics in KQ3 are as impressive as the first two games, taking Alexander through the countryside of Llewdor, a pirate ship, an island, across snowy mountains, and finally Daventry itself. The puzzles are easy, with the major one near the end of the game, which is reminiscent to a puzzle from The Black Cauldron.

The sound is only through the PC Speaker, so you hear one-note melodies. If you are fortunate enough to own a Tandy machine, then the sound is enhanced and the music playing through the Tandy speaker sounds impressive. "Greensleeves" is no longer the King's Quest theme song, so it is nice for Sierra to think of something original for a change. The music that I enjoyed is at the end of the game, where Rosella and Alexander reunite with their parents.

There is some humor in the game, particularly in the first half of the game. Failure to do a particular chore set by the wizard will result in punishments that are designed to humiliate Gwydion. For example, he can hang upside-down in the kitchen or being transformed into a snail. Furthermore, the player has to prepare a series of spell, but this can easily backfire by putting the wrong amount of ingredients in or perform typos while casting them.

I think that KQ3 was the first King's Quest to introduce copy protection. If anyone pirates a game, they don't have access to the documentation, which outlines the instructions needed to prepare and cast spells. Having said that, my hands were shaking while I was preparing or casting spells, making sure not to make a single mistake.

The game caused a bit of a stir when it came out, because players though that KQ3 had nothing to do with the royal family. They just needed to get through the first half of the game to find out that it actually does.

The Bad

There are dangers like the wolf in the first game and the wizard in the second, but at least you can walk across the screen without encountering them. The dangers in this game are frequent. You cannot get past a screen without seeing the bandits, for instance, who will take all your inventory. You are encouraged to get back your inventory from their hideout, but even that's difficult to do. Plus you'll waste a lot of precious time if you go down this path.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, King's Quest III is twice as good as the first two games in the series. The game is much longer, and it also provides a challenge right at the start of the game that has you racing against time. Copy protection plays the part of using the spell book, but pirates can get around this either with a printout or with a file on a disk. KQ3 also has amazing environments, a good balance of puzzles, and great sound. Seeing as there are also alternate solutions to some puzzles, it also is worth playing more than once.

The game is my favorite of the KQ games and two companies that provide freeware adventure games agree with me. One is Infamous Adventures; and the other is AGD Interactive. Out of these two, AGDi looks like the best one to play; it is a retelling of the story, complete with more locations and puzzles.