Kings Quest VI
by Alan Zisman (c) 1992. Originally
published in Our Computer Paper, December 18, 1992
The box descibes King's Quest VI--Heir Today, Gone
Tomorrow, as 'the best selling computer game series of all time', and
I'm sure that's true. The King's Quest series has been around almost as
long as personal computers, and at least some of the games have run on
almost every machine imaginable.
And like personal computers, the games have gotten
more colourful and elaborate with each generation, which also means
requiring more memory and space. Again like PC's in general, lots of
work has gone to make the games more elaborate, but not more
for the user. Gee... and you thought you were just getting a game, not
a piece of computer history!
The KQ series follows the saga of the royal family of
Daventry, a mythical medieval country in a world of gnomes and
good and bad magic. The saga started out with Graham following an
adventure that brought him to the throne. Later episodes followed his
son, Alexander, and daughter Rosella (was KQ4 a first for computer
gaming in having a female main character?) In KQ5, Graham's family was
kidnapped by Mordack, an evil wizard, forcing Graham to rescue them.
KQ6 picks up where KQ5 left off (sort of like ALL MY
CHILDREN). Prince Alexander has gone to the Land of the Green Isles,
hoping to wed Princess Cassima, who had also been kidnapped by Mordack.
He is shipwrecked, and opposed by the Grand Vizier, who also has
on the Princess.
I'm not going to give away the plot... in fact, this
game is designed to have multiple plot possibilities; there are
ways to bring it to a happy ending.
Of course, like all games of this type, there are even
more ways to bring it to an unhappy ending, sending Prince A. to the
underworld. Like all these games, there are only two things to do:
gather up everything in sight, and save often! You did remember to take
the smelly flower, for example. You'll need it when you get to the
Island guarded by the five gnomes to fool the one with the big nose.
more hints: be sure to get the ancient map from the pawn shop. Trade
the ring if necessary. And keep the Guide to the Green Isles handy once
you start using the map to explore the islands.
If you get stuck, Sierra has hints available from
their BBS or through forums on CompuServe and other on-line services.
you don't have a modem, you can call their 1-900 number for $.75 a
minute or so. Or if you're patient, you can write them a letter.
The interface makes it easy to get around. While
earlier versions of the game required typing ("Open door". "Enter
Talk to fisherman"), with KQ5, Sierra offered a completely non-typing
interface. Everything can be done with a mouse or joystick. Point to
the top of the screen, and a toolbar appears, with icons for the
actions: Walk, Look. Talk, Take, etc. You can cycle between the icons
by clicking your right mouse button. Sometimes typing might be faster,
but this works well, and with a little practice will come naturally.
The graphics are nice... 256 colour MCGA/VGA,
(although it will also install in 16 colour EGA) though because it runs
in 320x200 screen resolution (required for 256 colours in standard
people's faces look pretty blocky except for the close-up sequences.
The backgrounds are pretty, but only in a generic sort of way-- fairy
tale castle, forest, mountain... if you've seen one, you've seen them
all. Sierra is proud of the "2 hours of original music", though without
a sound card, most of this is lost. They've even released the "Girl in
the Tower" theme song on CD, and sent it around to radio stations (the
package includes a list of stations that you can call to request they
play the theme... none in Canada, luckily).
The game requires a fast computer, and a lot of free
hard drive space. Sierra defines a 'slow' machine for this game as a 16
mhz 386-SX. Don't try this on your XT, boys and girls. It seemed a bit
sluggish on my 386DX-25, taking some time to load or change screnes.
game is not copy protected. A full install is supposed to require 20
megs of free drive space; with less than this, the 6 meg opening
cartoon is not loaded. (It can be deleted after viewing, though it
be nice to have an option to do this automatically). Even though I
tried to install it on a computer with 34 meg free, I didn't get the
cartoon (and still haven't seen it!)... without it, the game ends up
taking about 11 megs (I know this doesn't add up-- I assume the
installation makes a number of temporary files that it then cleans up).
Sierra recently released the previous saga, KQ5, on CD-ROM, complete
with digitized speech replacing the written dialogues, and should do
same with this episode... these massive games really need that kind of
I field-tested the game by installing it on a 20 mhz
386SX at my work, in a classroom where it could be used freely by grade
11 and 12 students during breaks between classes, lunch, and before and
after school. It was immediately popular, with students picking up on
the easy-to-use interface with almost no instruction. A number of
students quickly made good progress, and have been staying after school
to play. No one has completed the game yet-- plan on giving it a lot of
If you like the fantasy genre, this is a good one.
Written by Sierra's co-founder, Roberta Williams, it is a good,
family-oriented game without the excessive gore that some of its
competitors display. The no typing interface lets even young children
play, though my own kids (8 and 11) prefer arcade-action games, and
never really seen the point of these role-playing games.
For me, though, I wonder if Sierra's grown a bit
stale. All these games have used bits from fairy tales, mythology, and
even the Bible (David and Goliath back in KQ1); unlike my teenage
testing team, it doesn't really grab me. There's not much of a plot,
dialogue is wooden, the characters are stereotyped. And the situations
seem recycled from other stories and other games; this episode borrows
from Aladdin, and Theseus and the Minotaur, and features fighting chess
pieces. I'd have liked more originality... maybe I'm just old and
jaded. I DO predict it'll be another best-seller for Sierra.
from Sierra On-Line
P.O. Box 600
(Note from the year 2003): The above
article was originally published in 1992, as a review. A decade and
later, I've gotten a series of emails from KQ fans hoping that I could
sell them a copy of this software or direct them to a place where it is
still available. While I have reviewed software since 1991, I am not a
vendor of r any products. I suggest to everyone looking for copies of
older software to check at eBay or at OldSoftware.com.If
on my Files webpages, you'll find links to a number of (mostly
freeware) downloadable software, some of which may be good replacements
for older programs.
-- AZ (September 15, 2003)