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SummaryMost benevolent, non-violent, ultraviolet!
The GoodWages of War is the first independent installment in the series that was made from scratch with Sierra's outstanding SCI engine. The previous game pushed the text parser interface to its limits, resulting in somewhat frustrating difficulty. Wages of War, on the other hand, aims for convenience and pleasantly flowing gameplay above all. While that is not always a good thing, this "QFG-lite" game can get surprisingly entertaining despite the overall reduction of complexity.
The overall user-friendliness is what you notice first when you fire up the game. In an attempt to soften the impression left by the rough Trial by Fire, the third installment eliminates its tedious aspects almost entirely. The game gently eases you into its world and remains a rather laid-back, consistently agreeable experience throughout. There are no mazes to map your way through, no countless repetitive desert screens where you can easily die of dehydration, and very few (if any) dead ends and contrived situations where you must perform obscure and unlikely actions to trigger events.
Most fans - myself included - didn't really like the simplification ensuing from these measures. That said, it is by far not as offensive as in Larry 5, mostly coming across as a reasonable decision to tone down the idiosyncrasies of the predecessor. This makes Wages of War a weaker, less rewarding Quest for Glory; but it doesn't make it idiot-proof. Compared to its two older sisters, this installment seems rather timid; but even this milder incarnation of the series offers plenty of things to try out and gameplay elements unseen in other games.
The base gameplay mechanics have been preserved, though their application is less expansive and varied than before. Like in the previous game, the Paladin class is accessible via performing good deeds; however, if you choose to import any saved character from an earlier installment, it will become available right in the beginning. The Paladin can acquire some powerful items and spells, which is a nice addition. Skill development remains unchanged, and the game retains such staple elements of the series such as day and night cycle, the necessity to eat and sleep, and fairly free-form gameplay with amusing secrets and optional stuff to do. The new world map is a step below the screen-by-screen exploration of the preceding games; but at least you can really move on it rather than jumping from dot to dot. Also, while it seems boring and uneventful at first, interesting locations do open up if you explore it thoroughly.
The icon-based interface was met with suspicion by some fans; personally, I found the necessity to type in commands the main cause for exhaustion in Trial by Fire. Quest for Glory games are already complex enough even without relying on a text parser for finding obscure solutions to problems. In particular, choosing a conversation topic from a menu is more intuitive than typing long lists of objects and characters - the games are anyway only designed to understand a limited amount of words. The game provides excellent descriptions if you look even at seemingly unimportant objects, enhancing the atmosphere.
The latter is probably the game's strongest suit. The Africa-like environment, populated by imaginative creatures such as liontaurs and leopardmen, is exotic and magically appealing, surpassing the dry Middle East that didn't really come to life in the previous installment due to graphical limitations. The relaxing adventure is accompanied by strong visuals, more music, and a good story involving a theme not treated in the series before: war. The hero must prove himself a skillful diplomat and prevent an armed conflict between two tribes. There is also a bit of romance in the game, and overall the plot moves along at a better pace than in the second iteration of the series. The trademark humor returns with even sillier puns and some truly hilarious characters: the hippie apothecary is one of my favorites in the entire series.
The BadSome players would probably appreciate the simpler, more streamlined nature of Wages of War as opposed to the complexities of Trial by Fire. Personally, I'd rather endure some frustration for a more fulfilling, challenging adventure. It seems that, alongside with the interface quirks and the annoyances of the previous title, Wages of War also discarded quite a bit of gameplay content.
The game's main problem is its low difficulty level. Battles are generally noticeably easier than before, and with a bit of practice no foe will be able to withstand a few sword strikes from our hero. I could certainly live with that, since combat is hardly what I play Quest for Glory games for. Unfortunately, the puzzles were downgraded as well, reducing the game's value as an adventure. The game's most important tasks usually consist of locating an item and bringing it to somebody who needs it.
In general, Wages of War feels rushed. The environments are interesting, but the game's scope is somewhat smaller. I didn't quite like the overworld map; I'd prefer a continuous world with interconnected screens. The locations are also less busy than in the previous games, with fewer houses and less things to do. This particularly affects the thief character: with only a few puzzles being different for his route, the thief feels like a wasted opportunity.