King's Quest III
You are in for a treat. King's Quest III is a classic from the early age of graphic adventure games. Originally designed by Roberta Williams and published under Sierra Online, the game has been completely re-made by Infamous Adventures in the Adventure Game Studio engine and released as a free download. They even have a voice-pack! Somebody canonize these people as saints.
In the old days, adventure game interfaces involved typing messages and using keys to move. This remake offers a slick modern update where you can simply click around to move and interact with the environment. The right-mouse-button cycles through the Look, Move, Talk, Use and Item options, while the left button activates them, making interactions pretty simple. This is due to the virtue of the AGS engine's design, and it works nicely, like you'll use an item, click right, and then be able to immediately click left to move to the newly opened area because its right up next in the cycle. You'll also want to make note of the inventory, looks kind of like a suitcase, in the top-right section of the screen. The inventory lets you do useful stuff like grab items to use on the screen, or combine them, which you'll be doing a fair bit of. Infamous offers a privatized Social Security level of options in that they have an FAQ, a walkthrough and a hints section on their site, so you can get whatever degree of assistance you want in making your way.
Analysis: The game itself is one of the best in a series, which is like the Final Fantasy series for adventure games. The premise here is actually pretty clever, the first half of the game involves freeing yourself of the evil wizard that has raised you from infant-hood. He commands you do to chores for him and then goes out of town or takes naps. During these intervals you'll have between ten and thirty minutes to explore the secrets of the wizard's home and the surrounding country-side. Your quest then, is a quest for knowledge: knowledge about the world, knowledge about the nature of power (in this case, magic), and then knowledge about who you are. In other words, it's a somewhat meaningful, human psychological dynamic that we can all relate to, and it is expressed in gameplay. Did I mention this game was originally made in 1986?
Underscoring this journey of exploration and gathering is an underscore of the imminence of death. You may be used to games that don't kill your character or give you plentiful auto-saves. To Heir Is Human, like other games in the series, makes you save manually, and you'll want to do so often. A surly cat on an old stair can trip you to your death, as can a misstep on a mountain path. The greatest spectre of mortality in the early game is your own apathy or lack of care — if you fail to turn the tables on your enslaving oppressor he will kill you, and if you don't cover your tracks before his returns or awakenings, he will... also kill you. Its weird, maybe this is only noticeable because we've become so used to smooth rides and automatic saves, but there is a sense of self-responsibility and standing up against totalitarianism that comes out of this, as well as a sort of appreciation for the life you've got. Wandering the countryside of Llewyn, you put yourself in the character of a young man whose whole life has been cloistered servitude, and you appreciate the eagle, the moss growing on the rocks, the warmth of the barmaid, the friendliness of the shopkeeper. It is a literary experience that is at least on par with Harry Potter - that might not be saying much by Harold Bloom's standards, but it's pretty good considering the relative immaturity of this medium.
The latter half of the game is a journey back to your homeland, and a reconciliation with what has happened. Without spoiling the plot, the feeling you might get when you do return home, and find the place locked out and silent, is stirring. The cleverness you'll feel you when use your self-assembled magics to solve puzzles is, in an opposite way, cathartic.
In short, King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human is a classic because it makes you feel things well beyond the usual dopamine drip. It makes you feel human. And now its been made publicly available with excellent production values and a smoother interface. Please, have yourself a meaningful play of King's Quest III.
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