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King's Quest III: To Heir is Human

aka: KQ3, King's Quest III
Moby ID: 126
DOS Specs
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Description official descriptions

King Graham and Queen Valanice had two children, Alexander and Rosella, and the kingdom was once peaceful. It wasn't long until Alexander was snatched from his crib and things started to take a turn for the worse. A three-headed dragon threatens the ever-peaceful Daventry, and requires a maiden to be sacrificed every year. Rosella is the chosen one.

Meanwhile, in a secluded house atop a mountain in the land of Llewdor, the evil wizard called Manannan keeps a young lad named Gwydion as his slave, forcing him to do menial tasks as he prepares his spells and observes the country through his telescope. Gwydion must find a way to outsmart the wizard, escape, and eventually discover the truth about his own identity.

King's Quest III: To Heir is Human is an adventure game similar in basic gameplay mechanics to its predecessor The player navigates Gwydion with arrow keys and interacts with the environment by typing verb and noun combination commands. Llewdor consists of interconnected screens that loop once the player character reaches the border of the land. Throughout the course of the game, Gwydion will also travel to other locations and have a magic map at his disposal, allowing him to teleport to different areas.

There are more items to collect in this installment, and more complex actions required to execute, raising the difficulty level. A large part of the game proceeds in real time, with Mannanan following his own schedule, forcing the player to plan and time his actions. There is also a time limit imposed on the game's first major quest.

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Credits (DOS version)

18 People

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 75% (based on 14 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 115 ratings with 5 reviews)

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.

DOS · by Katakis | カタキス (43086) · 2012

Move up the social ladder from pigboy to royalty

The Good
The game has some technical improvements from the first two in the series. The music is much better. The graphics are still very pixelated but are well drawn & pleasant. The plot is interesting: Gwydion is a slave to an evil wizard & must escape by collecting items & casting spells. After that you must save the kingdom from a dragon. A three headed dragon no less.

The Bad
Too many bad game design decisions haunt this one. First there is a time limit until the wizard kills you. The wizard will leave you alone for a few times so you can wander around doing things to escape. Second the game likes to instant kill you with gotchas. Step off the path by a pixel? Instant kill. Climb one pixel to the left or right wrong? Instant kill. Cast a spell but screw up one letter of said spell? You better believe that's an instant kill. Combine instant kills everywhere with the time limit & you have summoned up one frustrating game experience. But wait there's more! The spells themselves are basically copy protection so you have to type out the steps for preparing the spell & the actual spell lines without error or you fail. So it's like data entry, just copy a text into the game box. You have to do this 7 times for 7 spells. It gets tedious. Finally there are some parts where you just have to wait in real time for an event to happen. This can be boring if you have done everything you can in an area & are just waiting. These flaws put this game below King's Quest 1 & 2 even though it has better plot, graphics & music.

The Bottom Line
If you enjoy data entry, copy protection & instant death then this is the game for you!

DOS · by Grumpy Quebecker (817) · 2023

Technically excellent, letdown by insane difficulty

The Good
Step from KQ1/2 regarding technical execution is significant. You play as a boy who want to escape his master-tyrant, wizard Manannan, who keeps him as his personal slave. The world is much bigger, there's clock running in the game and Manannan follows his schedule (and you must time your actions to fit into this schedule), writing is better than KQ1/2, story is more mature compared to predecessors, and there's even some magic doing.

The Bad
So why just 3*, when the game is technically better at almost everything?

Answer is: difficulty. No, puzzles are not just "challenging". I beat Gabriel Knight trilogy, I beat Indy Jones 4, Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle. So no, I'm not particularly pampered regarding adventure games. But KQ3 is VEEERY difficult, unforgiving, and it takes probably weeks, maybe months to beat it without walkthrough.

What's worse, there are lot of dull points. You have to walk lot of times long walks up and down the hill, and you have to do it, because of this time scheduling already mentioned. One walk is like 5 minutes or so of dull walking, and you'll have to repeat it several times. And if you DARE to beat the game without walkthrough, it's guaranteed that you will have to restart game (or return to very early save points) maybe dozen of times, so in the end this dull walking can stretch to hours of net time.

I can't imagine someone spending that amount of time and energy today on 1986 adventure game. Most of positive reviews here are nostalgia-driven. In those times when good games were scarce, you didn't mind playing one title for weeks or months, talk with your friends about progress in school or work, exchange ideas, and then move a bit forward if you learned something new. Such nostalgia is understandable. But if you look at the game from the point of view of 2023 gamer, who wants to play KQ3 for the first time, you're just not going to enjoy it so much because it's frustrating. I beat and enjoyed KQ1 and KQ2 in "modern times" for the first time, because difficulty was ok, and I not spoiled those games for me by always looking into walkthrough. But KQ3, I just gave up, I finished the game with walkthrough help, just to have it finished. Even when playing with walkthrough I was still amazed by difficulty of those puzzles and I knew that this is just way too much. So in the end, my memories for KQ1/2 remained way more positive than for KQ3.

The Bottom Line
You can play KQ1/2 and enjoy them and beat them even today with none or just few looks into walkthrough. This can't be said for KQ3. The game is technically excellent, but exorbitant difficulty just doesn't allow me to give it higher score.

DOS · by Vladimir Dienes · 2023

[ View all 5 player reviews ]

Trivia

Copy protection

While not being a formal copy protection scheme, you needed the manual to complete this game. It contained spells that you eventually used to advance in the quest. However, Compute's Official book of King's Quest did list all of them and one could purchase a copy for half the price of the game if the manual was "lost".

In the years after King's Quest III was published, the idea of using the manual as a copy protection technique became a de facto with almost every games until the CD-ROM replaced diskettes as the distribution media.

Graphics

  • If you had CGA and the wizard used a powerful spell, the entire screen shook. (This was an intentional special effect.) This was accomplished by tweaking the CGA registers to scroll the screen left and right rapidly.
  • This is the first game of the series in which the characters have pink(ish) skin. Although in the final scene of the game, when you return with Rosella to the King and Queen, King Graham, still has yellow skin, as he did in the first two games.

Innovations

King's Quest III introduces an automapping system to the genre: a magic map, found in the game, can be used to teleport to most of the explored locations.

Sound

King's Quest III is the only AGI game (i.e. a game using Sierra's AGI, Adventure Game Interpreter) in which turning the sound off causes an effect besides just silencing the game: In the wizard's laboratory, when you prepare the spells listed in the manual, some background music normally plays while you work, but if you turn the sound off, the game instead subtitles the experience by displaying a message reading "A mysterious music fills the laboratory!" when you start, and if you mess up on making the spell, another message pops up saying "The mysterious music stops. What could this mean?" It's a small thing, but notable since this kind of subtitling wasn't common in Sierra's graphic adventures.

Information also contributed by Adam Luoranen, game nostalgia, Jayson Firestorm and Olivier Masse

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  • MobyGames ID: 126
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Andy Roark.

Macintosh added by Trypticon. Amiga added by POMAH. Apple IIgs added by Scaryfun. TRS-80 CoCo added by TapeWyrm. Apple II added by Katakis | カタキス. Atari ST added by Belboz.

Additional contributors: Katakis | カタキス, Jeanne, formercontrib, Macs Black, Picard, Patrick Bregger.

Game added May 21, 1999. Last modified May 1, 2024.