King’s Quest Chapter 5: The Good Knight Review – Mortality and Life’s Journey (PS4)
It’s only been four weeks since the previous chapter released, one that I did not particularly enjoy, either from the puzzle side or a narrative standpoint. Snow Place Like Home easily sits as the worst of King’s Quest so far, feeling undercooked and phoned in. So color me surprised and skeptical when The Odd Gentlemen announced that the finale would be making its appearance only four weeks later, rather than the usual five months that have separated each previous chapter. Where would my roller coaster of emotion end once the final set of King’s Quest credits rolled? Would it go out on a high note, or is four weeks indicative of a rushed and lazy finish?
As with each previous chapter we are moving forward in Graham’s life one more time, this time even the Graham in the story being told is a shaky old man. King Graham is beginning to lose his mind a little bit, and as a result, the story being told is full of mistaken memories and holes that play into the puzzles, both in an intuitive manner and in a way that makes very little sense, nearly resulting in frustration. One puzzle has Graham trying to remember what they turned the bridge trolls’ meeting area into, and each memory may contain an item or clue to progressing. One memory has a bucket, while the next has water that the bucket must be filled with and so on. Ultimately which memory is correct? That doesn’t matter, so much as you are now able to solve the puzzle, and it is clear that old King Graham is mentally faltering.
The frustration comes when these memory changes can’t be easily controlled. One such puzzle necessitates walking through the same area to see it change each time you go through, which is not intuitive and makes very little sense. There’s also a chain of items that must be found at one point — including a fishing pole inside of a pumpkin — things that logic does not dictate as probable or even possible, and the game makes no clear hint at, so completing it is not the “aha!” moment that it should be. Yet this perfectly encapsulates Graham’s weakening mental state and so perfectly fits within the narrative as he tries hard to recount his final adventure to Gwendolyn. It’s the conclusion that pulls everything together and makes the odd early portions of the chapter have a much richer meaning in context.
Sudden Onset Memory Loss
The most difficult part of the story to grasp is the sudden onset of memory loss and difficulty storytelling. Over the last four episodes, Graham has had no problems telling tales of days long gone by without hesitation, but here at the end we find that he cannot even remember portions of his own kingdom that he’s ruled over for most of his life, nor events that appear to have occurred not long before the current timeline. While it makes sense in bringing to heel the culmination of Graham’s conflict with Manny, it’s a massive narrative loophole that continues to bother me. It could have easily been resolved by slowly introducing elements of forgetfulness in increasing amounts over the course of the previous four chapters to show his deteriorating intellectual state, or by having him convey a tale from much earlier in his life, rather than a recent memory, but again, it did need to show the apex of the story that the series has been building towards.
The sudden switch creates a significant shift in the perception of King Graham from gallant hero to doddering old fool who doesn’t seem to have learned a thing in his long life. I would have liked to see the dichotomy of an aging king losing his memory, trying to recount his more brave adventures from his younger days, It just seems a weird leap to go from a confident storytelling grandpa over the last four episodes, to a man who can hardly recall things that should be recent memory based on his age in this final adventure. There should have been hints of a failing memory throughout the series instead of blasting us with the complete Eternal Sunshine treatment right at the end, which comes out of nowhere as Graham’s mental acuity rapidly wilts. Of course by the time it’s over I feel bad for criticizing this point though.
Mortality and Junctures
There’s a very real message about our own mortality through the series, about our lives being a sum of all the parts. Our stories may begin as bright eyed wanderers from afar, but we’re all destined for bed rest, gray hairs, and foggy minds. It’s what we do with the time between that really matters as we pass those lessons on. Watching Graham age and grow put a very real feelings about my own age, life adventures, and what the coup de grace of my own story would be.
Throughout Chapter Five there are many callbacks to setpieces and events throughout the series, both this reboot as well as the classic King’s Quest games. A large majority of this chapter will take you back to areas from Chapter One, which I still think had the best balance of logical puzzles that were enforced by the narrative. Still other parts of the finale showcase decisions made through the entire adventure, not as impacting the story, but more as relics and tokens of remembrance. I never thought I would be saying this, but I’m happy to see my decisions presented in such a way. It makes me feel accomplished in leading the life of King Graham in the way that I did.
The Good Knight is a satisfying conclusion to a story a year and a half in the making. Some of the puzzle mechanics may not be quite as intuitive or engaging as previous episodes, but the finale puts some heavy subjects on the table to analyze, most notably mortality and the culmination of our own life’s work and moments, and what we’ll leave behind at the end. It gives a wistful look back at the adventures and critical junctures that made Graham the man he was over the course of the king’s life — a king’s quest, if you will.
King’s Quest Collection review code purchased by reviewer. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.