Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Game 52: King's Quest V – An owl in need is an owl indeed

Written by TBD

King Graham of Daventry Journal Entry #5: "I've finally made it. Mordack's castle is just ahead and in it, my captured family. It was a long journey on water, sand and ice, and I nearly lost my friend, Cedric, along the way, but now we are here together and ready to face the dangers of the evil wizard's castle.

When I left off last time, I had just thrown my rope onto a branch but couldn't climb it.

My plan of rubbing beeswax on the rope didn't work. I spent 55 minutes backtracking and searching every screen for something I didn't find. Among other things, I decided there had to be more to the inn than a leg of lamb but despite my furious random clicking found nothing.

Perhaps a sign of my lack of trust in the game being fair to me, I also clicked on almost every pixel of the rope, thinking perhaps there's a small section of rope that is safe to climb. After attempting to use everything in my inventory, I found that the leg of lamb could be eaten and I got points for doing so. I thought maybe if I was stronger I could climb. One thing I also considered was that I was carrying too much weight. Cedric wouldn't take any of my items and I wondered if I needed to reload an even older saved game from before I bought the sled - maybe the sled was making me too heavy for the rope. I couldn't drop items, so couldn't solve my weight problem quickly.

It took me a while to realise it, but I was dead-ended. Like when I asked for assistance two posts ago, my problem was assuming background decoration where there was actually a clickable object.

While clicking on every part of the scene for the, let's say, 12th time, I found an outcropping to the right of the tree branch that had a different 'look' comment than the rest of the background. I reloaded an old game and tried throwing the rope at the outcropping instead of the branch.

While not totally unfair, this puzzle deliberately tried to trick me into wasting my time

This time I got warned about being hungry. I deliberately didn't eat because I wanted to see a death by starvation, which did happen a few screens later...

Come on Graham. A few more metres and you can slide the rest of the way

I reloaded and ate half of my lamb. Freshly satiated, I climbed the rope, Then I jumped over a few rocks, and, you guessed it, died many times by jumping on the wrong rocks.

I wonder if there's a way to tell which rocks are safe without dying

Then, and I'm sure some of you will be happy about this, Cedric got captured by wolves!

Caption contest!

Using my trusty sled, I slid down a toboggan slope which looked like fun. Then I checked out the cliff to see if I could add to my death tally.

I knew I shouldn't have turned the toymaker down when he offered the extended warranty

On the next screen I found an eagle. He was hungry and it was obvious what I should do. I gave him the rest of my lamb, which he thanked me for before flying off. I'm sure we'll meet again when he'll perform a trivial task for me. I also tried my pie to see if he had a sweet tooth (beak?) but I got less points for that so lamb seems to be the right choice.

This time it was my turn to be captured by wolves. The wolves worked for an ice queen, Queen Ice-abella. For some reason she'd captured us to kill us, rather than just having us killed before letting us into her throne room. Makes no sense to me, but perhaps that's why I've never gotten a job as an Ice Queen.

She told the wolves to kill me, and if I stand there and let them, they of course do what they were commanded to do.

The wolf on the left is called Sir Graywolf. The wolf on the right must be called Sir Alsograywolf

While the wolves were coming for me I tried using my harp. The Queen then realised that my ability to play a harp clearly meant that I also had the ability to kill a yeti, so sent me to kill a yeti for her.

I can't turn down the chance to help someone wearing a crown 

In one of the more ridiculous scenes in the game, I defeated the yeti by throwing a comedy custard pie at his face, which caused him to lose track of his location, and fall to his death.

About time someone apart from me fell off a cliff in this game

Of course, if I don't throw a pie at him, or try to throw it too late, the usual happens.

Help me, Yukon Cornelius. You're my only hope

I entered the Ice Queen's cave, and looked around. All crystals except one have the same narration when clicked on. Knowing that there had to be something useful in there, I quickly found the one crystal that I could touch, used my cobbler's hammer to break a piece off as a souvenir and went back to the Queen to give her the good news.

10 CAPs for anyone who hasn't played and correctly guesses which crystal is the useful one

After Isabella had Sir Greywolf show Cedric and I the way out of the mountains, I was captured by a two-headed Roc and put in a nest. Something was glinting in the nest as the egg slowly hatched. Clearly I was to be a baby roc's first meal. I grabbed the shiny object (a locket) before the egg hatched then my eagle friend picked me up and took me to a beach.

How about we save a lot of time and you just take me straight to Mordor, I mean Mordack
Later on, I reloaded to an earlier saved game to see what would have happened if I didn't give the hungry eagle some lamb earlier.

Can you smell what the Roc is cooking?

Back to the beach, I took an iron bar I found on the sand, then decided to go for a swim...

Where's David Hasselhoff when you need him

Okay, swimming was out, so I went to the boat I could see in the distance on the beach. That's a much safer way to travel on water...

There is absolutely no way to know the boat has a hole until it's too late

Simple enough. I use my beeswax on the boat (thanks Queen Beatrice) and now I'm sure there will be nothing to stop me safely crossing the ocean...

When will sea monsters learn that boats aren't digestible

I also found a third screen on the beach which contained a hermit's hut, but there was nothing to do there as the hermit was hard of hearing and couldn't hear what I was saying.

I quickly realised that the ocean was, much like the desert, a maze of sorts. Sea monsters eat you if you go too far in any direction. Fortunately it's a short and simple maze and I quickly found an island. Unfortunately, as soon as we arrived at the island, Cedric and I were captured by some harpies.

Is it a flock of harpies, or a murder of harpies? A gaggle of harpies perhaps?
The harpies discuss how delicious I'd be while I notice another shiny item in the grass. I take what turns out to be a fish hook, then play my harp, thinking that would soothe them. It didn't so much soothe them, but it brought out a competitive streak in them. One of them took my harp and the others followed her. Of course, if I didn't play the harp and just stood there, the usual happens...

Death by snoo-snoo

Leaving the screen, I came across the shattered body of a badly injured Cedric. I carried the poor owl back to the boat screen, where I found a conch shell, then got on the boat and returned to the beach.

Having Graham physically carry Cedric was a nice touch
Back at the beach, I tried talking to the hermit again, and this time gave him a conch shell as a hearing aid, which worked. He had a poultice that cured Cedric and also knew a friendly mermaid who led us to Mordack's island. I'm on the final stretch now and I can't go back so hopefully I haven't missed an item along the way.

Whoever holds the conch gets to speak

Just to see what would happen, I reloaded and ignored Cedric's body on the harpy screen, going to the hermit without him. I still got to Mordack's island, but I assume that would be another dead-end situation, as well as a cruel thing to do for an owl who's almost been helpful countless times already.

Mordack's Island

Session time: 2 hours 05 minutes
Total time: 11 hours 45 minutes

Session deaths: 10
Total deaths: 30

Pixels found so far: 5 (Silver coin, gold coin, locket, fish hook, conch shell)

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 Cedric
As an excuse to zoom in on a screenshot of a sick Cedric, I thought I'd remind you that anyone who mentions that they'll donate to an owl-related charity during the King's Quest V playthrough will get some bonus CAPs.


  1. Save the owls! Rather than wait to see who gets the closest guess, I thought I should just go ahead and donate the maximum pledged amount now. I hope you all decide to donate, too!

    Dedications: In Honor of The Adventure Gamer (advgamer.blogspot.com)


    Thank you for your generous donation of $25.00 to Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary on 04/07/2015. Your support makes such a difference to our mission of educating future stewards and preserving native habitats.

    Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charity recognized by the Internal Revenue Service and donations are tax deductible. This acknowledgement serves as your receipt.

    No goods or services were received in exchange for this donation.

    We appreciate your continued support of our Sanctuary.



    Margaret Cameron
    Executive Director
    Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary, Inc.

    1. This is Owl's Hill in Tennessee. http://www.owlshill.org/Home

    2. Well, I'll be... Just because I'm not living in the States, I can't contribute to the cause? Does my credit card disagree with them owls? I can't tell since they all look eternally surprised.

    3. Kenny, you can contribute to any Owl Sanctuary you like! I just picked that one at random for my own donation. As long as you are helping owls, it doesn't matter where you do it!

      (Just so long as they have owls. An owl sanctuary in Antarctica probably wouldn't cut it, unless there are polar owls that I do not know about.)

    4. Preferring to save an Australian Owl, I've donated to this one...


    5. Geez! I give up! Being in Singapore sucks to help freaking mice-swallowing night birds!

      I found the Hawk And Owl Trust that allowed donations from Singapore but accepts payment through Paypal only but...

      "We're sorry, but we can't send your payment right now.

      Return to merchant and try a different payment method
      We are not able to process your payment using your PayPal account at this time. Please return to the merchant's website and try using a different payment method (if available)."

      WTF?! I'm trying to give you guys MONEY, you bird-helping people!

  2. Caption contest: "Owl be back!"

  3. This whole section is really quite short, there's loads of great artwork and yet it's a rather brief very linear section. It would have been nice to have a bit more freedom, especially in the mountains. The brief moment with the Roc even shows a distant village and caves, but of course you never actually visit there (although you get closer in Space Quest IV!).

    Fun bit of trivia, it's been mentioned that the voice acting was generally by Sierra staff members, and in this section we get to hear QFGs Lori Ann Cole as The Ice Queen!

    1. Yeah. The beach was 3 screens with 2 puzzles, the island was 3 screens and only one puzzle, the ice path was altogether about 8 screens with about 5 puzzles - and most of the ice path puzzles simply involved sensibly using items you found by solving puzzles in the earlier sections.

      Unless I missed something the ability to navigate the ocean rather than automatically sailing to the island only served the purpose of taking more time

      I really enjoyed the change of pace with linearity after the constant backtracking that I did previously whenever I was stuck. Much easier to find items you may have missed when you only have a few screens you can check out - though the constant fear of being in a dead-end detracts from that relaxation a bit.

    2. Also our friend Richard Aronson was the voice of Cedric. (He's a bass in real life, had to use falsetto for all of Cedric's lines.) Richard was the project leader for Quest of the Longbow and Quest for Camelot, did programming work on Quest for Glory 1 VGA, and created The Ruins of Cawdor game on INN (the ImagiNation Network) before moving on to other companies.

    3. Speaking of Cedric's voice, when he's first cured in the hermit cutscene his voice sounds totally different. I think either the harpy claws or the poultice affected his vocal cords.

    4. There was a pattern in several of the King's Quests, and maybe some of the other series, to start out with an open-ended "grid" section that gives way to a much more constrained series of screens to which you don't return for the latter half of the game. KQIII is probably the most similar in this regard, but II has a less-developed version of it... and even finishes with a sequence along a beach running north-to-south, with mountains in the west! I feel like most of the other quest games worked rather differently, with a series of detached and mostly discrete episodes or locations (the islands in KQVI, the visitable locations in the Conquests games).

      From a present-day standpoint, this seems a bit surprising; one would sort of expect a more linear "tutorial" section near the beginning, to make sure you understand the mechanics and what kind of puzzles you'll be dealing with. But presumably there were reasons for this approach; it definitely suggests the game is really big and interesting, so that from the moment you start playing you have the sense of a grand adventure and getting your money's worth. It also has a kind of psychological payoff: when you finally get to leave the grid you've been traipsing around in for ages (and gradually exhausting of unsolved puzzles), you know the story must be getting somewhere. It's exciting! The pirate ship in KQIII and the journey to Raseir are good examples of this.

      If memory serves, the LucasArts games would sometimes use these "plot point" moments as a chance to purge your inventory of no-longer-useful things.

    5. Interesting.

      Another reason for this could be that before the internet days a player could be stuck on an early puzzle forever. If you were stuck in a linear starting game and couldn't progress past the third screen you'd only see 3 screens worth of art and see one or two puzzles. You might feel a bit ripped off and be less likely to buy their next adventure game.

    6. Yes, I think this is part of the psychology... better to be wandering around, putting two and two together, and resolving some puzzles. The downside is you might be dead-ending yourself while you do it!

      A few did have proper "trial" areas, I'd say - the castle in Conquests of Camelot, or the spaceships in Space Quests I and III, off the top of my head. I have to say that much as I love the sense of impending excitement and "getting somewhere" of having the later new screens, I think I prefer the ones where the general map is laid out from the get-go, but access to secondary screens scattered all over the place is related to particular puzzles (I wouldn't call them "side-quests," but they have that feeling)... drip-feeds that excitement of seeing new screens. All the Sierra games had that to varying degrees, but I think QFG1 and KQ4 probably have the best balance.

    7. Good stuff, doctorcasino. I wish we had more discussions like this about subtle pacing and design elements. I'd like to add that escaping the initial grid in KQ5 is incredibly anticlimactic because there is zero buildup to finding the tambourine. In contrast, Monkey Island 1 has a much better structured relationship of puzzles, goals and plot advancement in the first part.

      When designing these "grid" sections it is also important to avoid the the keyring syndrome (linear A->B->C->D puzzle progression, where you have to find the beginning of the chain).

    8. This is an interesting discussion, although I'd point out that first and fourth King's Quests are played for the whole time in the same open grid, except for some intermediate bits, like Leprechaun land in KQ1 and Lolotte's castle in KQ4. But yeah, the "open world" seems to have been definitive for the series.

      Comparing with other quests, Space Quest has almost always been rather linear, especially in the early games: you solve one area, move to next and next and next... There's a clear "opening section" in 1 and 3, as doctorcasino said (and also in 2 and 4, I might add), but in addition, a clear ending section in an "enemy base", often with some time limit and perhaps some action sequence.

      In Police Quest the world design differs from both KQ and SQ. You have a central "home base" (the police station), from which you take missions to various locations (often quite small, one or two rooms). All of them have also an end sequence involving a final mission to the enemy base.

      Larry-games have then had the most varied world structure, going from strict linearity of Larry 2 to an open grid of Larry 6.

    9. I should also speak a few words about how linear episodic plots can be poor storytelling. A good story has a strong central mechanic, The Main Conflict, which drives the story. Events and character motivations should revolve around that conflict, with characters trying to resolve it into different "directions", and various twists happening that bring meaningful new material and pull the story onto new conditions. Basically all or most story elements should be somehow relevant to the bigger picture. When writing a synopsis, it should not read "X happens, then Y happens, then Z happens" but something like "X happens, but Y happens, therefore Z happens".

      Especially in KQ5 the episodes are all separate conflicts in themselves and don't tie the entire thing together into any kind of coherent meaningful whole - 90% of the game is doing various fetch quests and encountering dangerous situations that are quickly resolved and forgotten, and Mordack doesn't become relevant again until you finally arrive to his island. The end result is a jumbled mess, a story that is completely uninteresting and unmemorable.

      Here are some rather good articles about the subject:


      From a quick search I couldn't find a directly relevant article from it, but here is an excellent blog nonetheless about storytelling mechanics in general in film.

    10. Good links, there!

      In general, assuming we sort of set KQ1 and 2 as "still getting the hang of this" games, KQ5 is probably the weakest in these story terms, or a throwback to those first games. As has been pointed out, the puzzles are basically all isolated little things: encounter the puzzle, figure out the needed item, move on and forget about it. In a way, KQ1 and 2 were had a little more structure, since you are aware of three macro-tasks you're working towards (a device borrowed in, e.g. the first stretch of the first Monkey Island). KQ5 punts that but does try to give more of a sense of epic-ness just through graphics and environments and the sense that you're arriving at new stages of the game. While I'm definitely critical of the design now, I have to remember how I experienced this at the end of 1990/beginning of 1991 - it was pretty exciting!

      Still, I much prefer III, IV and VI. The latter has its own flaws, which of course we'll get to in due time, but there are various devices throughout the game that keep the "big story" present, as in IV, where you encounter Lolotte and Genesta partway through, not just for the big finish. And again, there's the "three macro-tasks" gimmick. III derives its pacing more organically from the story actually unfolding: breaking free of Manannan, seeing the oracle, stowing away on the pirate's ship... you understand why you/Gwydion would be taking on each of these things, even if some of the individual puzzles you just do because you figure out that you can. Anyway, one wishes they'd returned to that kind of structure more. I think Longbow does a pretty nice job of all this, but it's been a long time...

  4. So far, I see the desert and the hole-in-the-boat puzzle are strangely reminiscent of "Wizard and the Princess". Are there more references?

    Caption contest:

    "Straddle the line in discord and rhyme: I'm on the hunt, I'm after you."

  5. Caption: "Sic 'em, boy!"

    Yeah, I still say that this game is quite simply not very fair. Even for a game of its era (and as such one that relishes in 'gameplay extensions') expecting pixel-scans on every screen is just not kosher to me. At least it manages to be fun while kicking you in the nethers, though.

    1. Agree. It's definitely fun despite being sometimes unfair and annoying.

      My nethers will be looking for a break when I finally finish the game but I've really loved getting back to not resorting to walkthroughs.

  6. I don't recall if anyone has mentioned these, but I found a map of the world of King's Quests, taken from the official King's Quest Companion:


    Interestingly, Daventry and Serenia (from King's Quest 5) exist in the same continent. Similarly, lands of King's Quest 3 and 4 are actually East and West sides of the same continent (or are these islands?).

    Here are more detailed maps of Daventry and Serenia:


  7. How convenient that there just happened to be a boat lying around, allowing Graham to cross that big salty puddle of Nectar of the Gods, a.k.a. dihydrogen monoxide.

  8. Death 26: Doduo uses Peck! It's super effective!

    Appreciate the Futurama reference.

    Pixels found so far: 4 or 5
    (silver coin, gold coin, locket, fish hook; maybe the crystal, I can't remember how obvious this one was)

    1. When counting pixels I didn't include the crystal but did include the conch shell (which actually consists of four pixels and can be seen on the harpy screenshot)

      All the single pixel items glisten which makes them much easier to find than some other things (I'm thinking specifically of the tree stump drawer in the witch's hut and the outcropping on the snow cliff)

  9. "Fun" fact: you can eat the pie to avoid starvation. As you can probably guess, this deadends you. IIRC, the hungry eagle eats the entirety of the lamb leg, so you might not even realize where you messed up. (Yes, this happened to me back in the day)

    1. I feel for you - dead-ends are nobody's friend.

      At least you did better than I did back in the day when I was still stuck wandering through the town and surrounds.