GDC 2015: King’s Quest Preview – A New Fairy Tale (PS4, PS3)

Back in the ’80s a game released by the name of King’s Quest; and while many younger gamers may not recognize the name, its influence on the adventure game genre cannot be overstated. Back in a time when many games only used stagnant backgrounds and text prompts, King’s Quest pushed the concept of using animated visuals to immerse players. Now, over 30 years later, not only is the company responsible for it making a return, there is a new King’s Quest slated for fall of 2015.

Being published by the new Sierra and developed by The Odd Gentlemen, this reboot of the King’s Quest series is being designed as if the company had never stopped making the franchise, and produce a product that looks and feels like an evolution of the classic. Given the franchises history of being inspired by fairy tales, the new King’s Quest is being told through the eyes of elderly version of series protagonist King Graham, who is telling his granddaughter Gwendolyn of his past adventures. As you flash back in time between stories, each action will have ramifications that could play out as you move forward and possibly return or move to a specific location. As well as determine how Gwendolyn goes through her own modern day tale.

Watching a playthrough of the first level, we could see a young Sir Graham working his way through a cave system to retrieve a magic mirror, a nod to the original King’s Quest. Along the way he crosses a bridge made out of old beds strung together, a number of switches and a skeleton crushed underneath a bed that was obviously a sprung trap. While many games are just filled with objects that can be easily explained as it just being a game, many of the odd items in the environment will have a history and will be explained at various moments while the story unfolds. But, while standing by the skeleton and the switches, we too had to decide which lever to pull to continue on our journey. Sadly, we chose the wrong one and found ourselves under a bed of our own, and the narrative had to account for history not playing out that way before resetting us back in time.

Progressing further into the mission we were told about the subtle nature of the storytelling which lets players organically become who they want to be in this story. Instead of moments where characters blatantly explain how they are good or bad, the player can have the opportunity to pick up cues in the world to help them learn more about those around them to help them make the right decisions. While one of these moments were explained to us, I will forgo spoiling the side story for you and just say that it will pay off to pay attention. 

Anyone familiar with the classic adventure puzzle mechanics will immediately know what to expect out of the gameplay mechanics for King’s Quest. As you wander around the environment certain objects in the world will be able to be used for various purposes, such as using an axe on a tree to make logs, then using rope on the logs to make a raft. Thankfully, the console versions will have a context specific interface that changes depending on what action is available around a certain item or object. 

On top of the wonderfully designed environments, characters and animations shown during our 30-minute presentation at GDC 2015, the thing that must be mentioned is how wonderful the styling of the game looks. Looking as if the game could be used as an image for a child storybook at almost any moment, King’s Quest really does encapsulate the feeling of a fairy tale adventure. The look, while almost simplistic in nature, is done by a painstaking process where each 3D model in the game is printed out on paper and water colored by hand, then scanned back into the game. While this may seem like overkill, the effect on the world and mood is spot on.

With the first of five chapters to release in fall of 2015, new and old gamers alike are going to want to keep an eye out for this new fairy tale.