King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder! (DOS)

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Written by  :  vni VIC (20)
Written on  :  Apr 10, 2002
Platform  :  DOS
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King's Quest V is a major turning point for Sierra

The Good

King's Quest V is Sierra's first major departure from their text parser adventure game interface. The primary new feature is the icon system to allow the player to interact with the world, and it was (and still is) a controversial change.

Backgrounds are no longer computer artwork in KQ5, but nicely scanned oil paintings in 256 colors. They look fantastic and work quite well, furthering the "storybook" theme. However, the sprite animation is similar to previous Sierra games. The music is also very nice and there is support for many sound cards. Sound effects are minimal, but the new multimedia CD-ROM version features voice acting -- another first for Sierra.

The plot is decent, although I don't care for the introduction.

The Bad

The mouse interface had its good and bad points. Although it allowed the game to possibly reach a much wider audience, the icons really did reduce the amount of detail that was put into the setting. Fortunately, the new graphics help to offset this to some degree. Also, some of the icons are rarely needed and just take up space. This was rectified in later games.

While the new interface makes KQ5 easier to play, it does not necessarily make the puzzles much easier. Some are challenging, and I could not get through the game the first time without a couple of hints. Beware, like most "classic" adventure games, it is also possible to make mistakes in a few places such that you can not finish the game!

Furthermore, there isn't much replayability in this title. The puzzles are solved in one way, and although you can travel around a bit, most puzzles are also solved in a linear fashion. Oddly enough, I replayed it a few times; on repeat, it seems like a different game if you have struggled through the first time.

Getting back to the graphics, they are quite good in VGA. I also played the EGA version, and I can say it was UGLY -- much worse than any of Sierra's 16 color games of the era. They simply took the 256 color images and reduced them to 16 colors and the results were terrible. The only thing worse was the console version.

The final complaint is the box size. Sierra left their traditional box size, which was small by industry standards, and blew it up to a thick monstrosity. Most other publishers that hadn't done this this quickly followed suit, and this wasn't brought back under control until the time of this review, 2002.

The Bottom Line

King's Quest V is a classic adventure game that marks a turning point in the genre. Many questioned whether some of the changes were for the better. In any case, it turned out to be a huge hit, and is definitely worth playing through once.