Friday, 27 March 2015

Game 52: Kings Quest V - Monotony Came From the Desert

Written by TBD

King Graham of Daventry Journal Entry #2: "I've just seen enough sand to last many lifetimes and I have no desire to see even another grain of the accursed stuff – my first royal edict after I rescue my family will be to destroy all hourglasses in Castle Daventry. I scoured the desert for many miles, finding only a boot, a gold coin and a likely cursed bottle. But there is a silver lining - the gold coin has purchased information – information on my family's whereabouts. Just as importantly, I now have an item that I am certain will help me on my quest. I would love to use it immediately, but I am so very tired – it's likely the dehydration. So... very... tired...."

I don't think I can quite convey in words how boring this session was. It started well, it ended well, but the bulk of the 2 hours 20 minutes I spent was tedious busywork.

Before I continued, I loaded a previous saved game from before I bought the pie and tried using the silver coin on other shopkeepers – as this is an adventure game, the shopkeepers have limited inventory that you can actually buy - the tailor said that a silver coin wasn't enough for his blue cloak, and the toymaker requested a gold piece for his sled.

I did try the cloak in the inn, in case it was an invisibility cloak. It wasn't. I died. I reloaded.

I once again tried the haystack, thinking that something might be there after I did something elsewhere, and there was, or more to the point, I could get to it where I couldn't before.

They also do a great cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit"

I never would have thought the ants would help me find a needle in a haystack. But hey, they found a golden needle, which, unsurprisingly, belonged to the tailor, who was easily convinced that his beautiful blue cloak would be a suitable finder's fee. It seems Graham is just as much Vito Corleone as he is king, trading favours for items instead of using cash or barter like a normal person. It was the tailor's needle in the first place – if I found somebody's lost stuff the most I'd accept in return would be a beer or a cup of coffee – and it wasn't like the tailor offered the cloak – Graham 'suggested' it. I know I wouldn't say no to a guy who's singlehandedly defeated a giant and a dragon.

When I tried to wear the cloak I was told the weather wasn't cold enough. My deductive skills determined that I will at some point in the game go to a cold area. But now, time to go to a hot area.

Bloody hell, the desert! Everything I've just mentioned took 12 minutes.

My next plan was to tackle the desert – seems simple enough. And it was – very simple, but very boring and time consuming. So how does the desert work? You can only go a certain number of screens before dying of dehydration.

Birds- lucky I can talk to animals - please Mr and Mrs Vulture, would you kindly bring me wate...wait...noaaaaaaaaahhhhhh.

There are a few locations that contain water. So it's a simple case of travelling a certain number of screens, mapping continuously. I did this for 40 minutes, finding nothing of interest apart from two oases, which I could drink from, and some tents, which were empty apart from a fast bandit and had a water jug outside for drinking.

But wait, I'm just selling these Encyclopediaaaaaahhh...

Now that I write it, 40 minutes doesn't sound like too long, but 40 minutes of repetitive busywork seems longer than it is. At this point I'd searched 91 screens of desert, most of which you have to traverse multiple times to make sure you explore every screen on the off chance there's something useful there.

At this point, I made myself a cup of coffee – not because I was thirsty, but just to get away from the damn desert – if I weren't playing for this blog I'd have definitely downloaded a map from the internet before this point.

Graham and I both needed a drink after spending so much time in the desert

Coffee at the ready, I continued to map the desert. I found another oasis and a well - each time I found a new water source I despaired because it meant another bunch of screens I'd have to traverse.

I also found a skeleton with a boot, which I took.

Finally something other than sand

Eventually I found a temple, where the first interesting thing happened - I died.

Hi. I'd like to ask directions to the nearest oasaaaaaahhhhh

I knew what I was supposed to do, but just hadn't done it fast enough. This time I hid behind the rocks and the bandits rode past me to the temple door, saying “Open Sesame” and hitting the door thrice with a jeweled staff. After they left I tried the same, banging with my fist as I had no staff, but to no avail. I'd clearly need a staff. Despite the game's attempt at dulling my brain for the last few hours, the answer hit me quite quickly – the empty tents from before. I returned to the tents (stopping twice for a drink, of course) and found them partying. The small tent had the staff in it as well as a sleeping bandit – I carefully snuck in and quietly grabbed the staff. Then I woke the bandit to thank him at which point he knifed me in the throat.

Excuse me sir, may I borrow this staaaaaaaahhhhhh

Okay, let's try again without being so polite. This time I snuck past the bandit instead. I went back to the temple and opened the door with my staff, which promptly broke. Inside I saw a single gold coin and a bottle near the door and a large amount of treasure at the back. I knew taking the large amount of treasure probably wasn't going to do much good but had to try...

You know you're a bad king if you make the same mistakes as Daffy Duck

Taking the gold piece and bottle, I left just before the door closed (I died the first time for taking too long to switch from the hand to the walking icon, but did it fast enough the second time)

Finally I went back to civilization leaving behind the awful desert.

Here's the full map of the desert – all 210 screens, including the 7, that's right 7, screens with anything other than sand in them – a whopping 3% of the screens are useful! The minimum amount of times you have to die if you guess correctly every time is 32. I likely died at least 50 times.

Making the death screens red was a lot more fun than actually playing this part of the game

This whole desert sequence was just plain bad game design. The only way to be sure you've found every useful screen is to die 32 times, travel on 210 screens which all look the same, many of them multiple times, and there's absolutely no skill involved. It's all busywork. The fact that I'd clearly worked out the method a third of the way through and needed a break should be an indication that it went on way too long. Of course if there's a map in the game somewhere I've just wasted 2 hours and whinged unfairly on the game for this whole post.

Desert stats:
Total screens of desert: 210
Total screens with anything to do other than walk through it: 7
Percentage of useful screens: 3%
Minimum deaths required: 32
Time taken to do desert sequence: 2 hours 1 minute
Minimum number of screens required to traverse for full mapping: 300ish (stopped counting after 264 – took a guess)

Anyway, enough complaining about the desert, on with the rest of the game, which is quite fun.

The first thing I tried was using the bottle - Maybe there was a genie inside and he'd help me with a puzzle. I was half right. There was a genie inside, but he wasn't as grateful as I'd hoped...

Oh. Hi, Mr Genie. As for a wish, I don't need anything. Except this lamp, and the paddle game, and the remoaaaaaahhhhhh

Both the gypsy and the toymaker wanted my gold, but I figured I'd be leaving the town before needing a sled so gave the money to the gypsy. Seemed like a good decision as I got a cutscene...

I can escape if only next time he chooses paper

So, armed with more knowledge of Mordack the wizard (he's Manannan's brother and wants my son, Alexander, to turn his feline brother back into a human) and a new spell-repelling amulet, I'll start my next session by visiting the forest manwitch for some toad-reflecting action. Join me in a few days...

Session time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Total time: 3 hours 35 minutes

Session deaths: 6
Total deaths: 10

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

Save The Owls Fundraising
As detailed in the previous post and started by Joe Pranevich, anyone who mentions that they'll donate to an owl-related charity during the King's Quest V playthrough will get an as-yet-undetermined amount of CAPs.
Also, any adventure game companies looking for a new artist, I am currently available!


  1. Perhaps a little harsh on the desert section, I would consider it an interesting maze, just instead of solid walls there is instead a movement limit. I suppose a modern game would autosave at each oasis, and reload automatically to the most recent oasis when you died. Or perhaps a modern game would omit such mazes to begin with? Like many Sierra games (or adventure games in general), it would be short if it didn't require backtracking, restarting, reloading and trying different approaches to puzzles.

    Of course the motivation for exploring the desert is not clear, other than "because it's an adventure game, and therefore there is something I need there!". I don't recall there being any stated reason to go there, and Cedric certainly doesn't like it. Perhaps I missed a conversation or bit of text.

    1. You guys should all wait till you see the maze in Legend of Kyrandia 1.

      Worst maze ever.

    2. Yeah. I originally wrote this post over a week ago just after playing the section, and when I re-read it yesterday I thought I might have gone a bit too far.

      This type of design is definitely a product of its time - a time when we had much fewer games, and buying a game meant we wanted it to occupy as many hours of our time as it could. Wasting our time was less of an issue then because there were simply less computer games being made per year.

      A modern game also might, instead of making me keep walking on every possible step until I die, have Graham exit the screen, then immediately come crawling back with the narrator saying, "Graham walked for hours, but found nothing in that direction."

      But, despite my negativity in this post, I've found the game enjoyable so far, with this section just being a little hiccup on the way.

    3. Laukku: I liked that maze too! It was similarly inventive, and Kyrandia 1 is definitely comparable to Sierra games in terms of dying and sometimes frustratingly annoying puzzles. I seem to recall the second game was a little more lenient though!

      TBD: As I've got older I'm generally much more annoyed at games having cheap filler sections, and if this was a modern game I'd probably be just as mad as you were when you wrote this! These days I have dozens of unplayed games that I could switch too if I felt like it, whereas back then the games were expected to last much longer. They still pale in comparison to old RPG mazes though.

    4. This is giving me one hell of a nostalgia trip! I don't tho l I've played this one or KQ VI since they came out!

    5. I don't find mazes in graphical adventures that annoying. The directions are usually logical and you might even have some visual clues by which to distinguish the different rooms. It's mazes in text adventures which are usually pure hell, since they often have no logic at all - you go south, but going then north won't return you back etc.

      In KQ5 I think it's more that the desert area is just too big and doesn't even look interesting, with every room looking just like the other. SQ4, from about the same era, had also a maze, which I don't find as grating as KQ5's desert, because it was quite small in comparison and was graphically lot more interesting.

    6. Speaking of Legend of Kyrandia 1, I played the game last year and hated it. Many trial and error puzzles and extremely large empty areas that need to be mapped.

      One puzzle particularly annoyed me because I'd spent quite a bit of time trying to work out the logic of it before looking at a walkthrough and realising it was purely random and had no logic to it at all.

    7. Yeah, the puzzles are by far the worst aspect of it. But it does have a serviceable story, a memorable villain and an excellent soundtrack. With much better puzzle design it could've been a minor classic, like Legend of Kyrandia 2. Plus it's rather nostalgic for me =3

  2. Interesting that one team at Sierra was developing King's Quest V at the same time as another developed Quest for Glory II. Both games had genies - In fact, management made us change ours to come from a ring rather than a lamp because "Roberta thought of rubbing a lamp to summon a genie first." :-) Both games had large deserts with only a few useful locations. Ours was more forgiving, and there were clues to all of the important locations if you talked to the right people. (But I suspect most players missed most of those clues and just randomly explored the desert.)

    1. I noticed as I watched the ending credits, that Lori is one of the voice cast! I couldn't see your name though, were you too busy with QFG2 to offer your services?

    2. What the... Roberta thought of it first? Ahem... Anyway, it's strange that you didn't catch the Last Crusade reference at the horsey death bit.

  3. Corey, that is very true regarding the QfG II desert. On my part, because I first played the game at a rather young age, I just jumped into the desert. I totally missed (and I'm not ROT13ing it because the game has already been played on this of and it's not really a spoiler) that both the gate guard and the dervish will tell you how many "skareens" away certain things are. Brilliant.

  4. Completed the game! I managed it in just over 2 hours (128 mins). I did a quick search to find the best time, and apparently you can do it in just over 40 minutes! I guess that's adventure games for you, once you know the puzzles like the back of your hand they are quite short.

    I've started writing up my thoughts, but will finish that off tomorrow I think. I still enjoy the game though, even if I've probably played through it about a dozen times!

    1. Congrats!

      Considering I'm hopelessly stuck after playing for almost 8 hours, I might be able to make a record time for the longest playthrough. :)

    2. I forgot to mention that I finished the game too a few days ago. Did it all from memory except for the desert, for which I googled a map as I didn't bother re-exploring it.

    3. @TBD - You can always make a request for assistance, There are a few parts of the game which are particularly difficult.

      @Laukku - My memory of the desert was quite good, so it didn't take much exploration to finish that bit. I had a little more trouble in the later stages, but figured things out after a little trial and error.

    4. Funny you should say that, Andy. A request for assistance has already been written as part of the next gameplay post that will be up in about 3 hours!

      I've actually been stuck at the same spot for a week and a half, occasionally playing some more to unsuccessfully try something else.

  5. Tedious desert exploration? Don't forget that this part of the map is a revisitation to the desert lands around Serenia from the recently visited "Missed Classic" Wizard and the Princess. Anything less than a tedious desert would be a departure from tradition!

  6. By the way, here's a great Let's Play of the game, with some great reactions to the stupider moments. That final video is especially awesome.

  7. "It seems Graham is just as much Vito Corleone as he is king, trading favours for items instead of using cash or barter like a normal person."

    This is even weirder, when you remember that Graham should own a never-emptying chest full of gold ( Surely he would have learned by now to walk with a full purse of gold, when going abroad.

    1. Yes, but a king should know better than to spoil the economy rotten via flooding it with magical gold which would devalue it. Easy money would reduce the overall industriousness, ingenuity and morality of a country.

      He should employ it like the Central Bank of America (; creating gold only as desperate measure for tough times.

  8. Pixels found: 2 (silver coin, gold coin). I think my family missed the gold coin when we played this back in the day, and/or thought that the timer for getting out of the temple would only allow you to grab one of the two items. Either of those causes dead man walking :/

  9. Me: *plays first video, listens to the beginning of the song*
    Me: The ants go marching one by...*hears the lyrics* ohfuck.
    Canageek: What?
    Me: They have their own marching song.

    (He laughed.

    1. This is much funnier if you know that Mara almost never swears.

    2. I save it for when I need it.