|Kingís Quest: Mask of Eternity is, unfortunately, a good idea that somehow just doesnít work. Roberta Williamsí KQ franchise was, early on, the backbone of Sierra On-Line -- and for good reason. The side-scrolling games featured a combination of puzzles and puns that won over its fans. It was also the proving ground for new concepts, like female player-characters and CD-ROM technology. No matter what, fans faithfully followed our hero Sir (and later King) Graham and his family throughout their various adventures in and around the kingdom of Daventry. |
The latest new thing is 3D point-of-view gaming, best shown recently in Heretic 2 or the Tomb Raider series. Gosh, a land as rich in history as Daventry seems a natural for such an immersive gameplay technique, right?
Hereís the story: Something called the Mask of Destiny was broken into five pieces by an evil former priest, inexplicably turning the residents of Daventry into stone and casting a chaotic shadow across the land. Luckily, a peasant named Connor (the player, natch) picked up a piece of the mask just before the Mass Stoning. Now itís up to Connor to patch the mask back together and set things right.
Of course, this means exploring the lands around Daventry, as well as the Dimension of Death, a fiery volcano, a swamp and other standard locales. There are plenty of puzzles to be solved in each place (some logical and some not).
This begins our lamentably long list of complaints. First, this doesnít feel a bit like Daventry. In fact, take out King Graham (and maybe one or two other references to the series), and this could be a totally different franchise.
Second, and more annoying, is the 3D engine. The camera is placed far behind Connor, so distances are difficult to judge. Camera swing is also very sketchy, meaning there are far too many times the player can run Connor around a corner and then must move forward enough for the camera to "bump" against a wall and swing forward. Lots of times, there are monsters around those corners, making for some serious pain.
The solution provided is a mouse-controlled camera, activated by holding down the right button and panning. This camera also gets hung up on walls, and -- if Connor is standing against certain walls -- can act as a sort of X-ray vision by sliding through said wall. Itís a sloppy system that simply will not survive the incredibly high demands of serious gamers.
Yes, a lot of work was obviously put into this game to totally update it for the late Ď90s. The puzzles are fun and not so totally unrelated to the story as, say, Mystís. Combat is easy and character animations are fairly fluid.
What makes all of this even worse is that Quest for Glory V, another Sierra Studios project based on the Kingís Quest series, adapts the side-scrolling engine and does everything else exactly right. Yes, folks, Kingís Quest: Mask of Destiny is in very real danger of being driven off store shelves by a sister game.
There is hope, true believers. After its forays into mediocrity, the Zork series came roaring back with Grand Inquisitor, which restored the mythos and humor of the original games. Kingís Quest can easily do the same, while perhaps integrating an even better 3D engine. Letís all pray this happens.