Thursday, 16 April 2015

Game 52: King's Quest V - Won!

Written by TBD

King Graham of Daventry Journal Entry #7: It's finally over! Mordack is dead and my family is safe - I may even have found my son a suitable royal wife into the bargain. All I had to do was wait in Mordack's study for an unreasonably long time and everything else just fell into place.

I know I've been hard on this game at times and I'm going to be so again, but I should mention that I've really had fun playing King's Quest V - I don't think that enjoyment has come out enough in my posts so I thought it worth bringing up now.

I ended the last post with a request for assistance, and Andy_Panthro valiantly came to my rescue.

As I read his clues one by one I became increasingly annoyed with the game. I needed to use all of the clues to solve the puzzle, and even then it was difficult. The final hint was...
  • You can hide in the library (in the right place), and wait for Mordack to arrive and sleep. Then his wand can be yours! 
Well, I'd already tried looking for hiding places all throughout the castle after reading earlier hints, including the library, but now knowing this was the correct answer I tried again. I waited in the library for a while. Nothing was happening. Perhaps my dosbox cycles were too high. Perhaps the game doesn't play well with modern processors. Perhaps I hadn't found the elusive 'right place'. I kept waiting. Eventually (2 minutes and 30 seconds later) Mordack appeared in the bedroom and took a power nap.

Before going to bed Mordack likes to pretend he is Batman

Now, two and a half minutes doesn't sound like much. But when sitting in a room in a game waiting for something it seems forever. Even when I was sure it was the right thing to do because Andy_Panthro told me so, I still didn't think I was doing it right. The game gives no indication at all that Mordack ever sleeps while I'm in his castle. There is no indication in the library that anything there is a hiding place. The closest you get to a clue is when you look at the doorway of the library and the narrator says, “Graham can see into Mordack's bedroom through the open doorway.” I can see how in hindsight some might classify this as a clue, but the narrator will generally tell you what's on the other side of any door or opening when you 'look' at it so this isn't unusual.

It seems that just waiting in the library for 2 minutes or so is all that's needed. In trying different things, I noticed that it took different times for Mordack to appear – I suspect that each time I looked at an item in the room it paused the 'Mordack tiredness clock' which only starts when you enter the library and ends as soon as you leave. From my tests it seems to be a 1 minute 50 second wait if you don't take any action.

In an effort to discover more deaths, I tried standing directly in front of the doorway so Mordack can see me when he appears, but he didn't notice me at all. I also tried going further into the room so the 'eye' on top of the door could open and stare at me, but this still didn't change what happened. After he went to bed I also tried grabbing, talking to and walking up to the sleeping Mordack, but I couldn't get the evil wizard to wake up and kill me.

Seeing as the game didn't give me to option to kill him in his sleep, I took the wand he'd left next to his bed and left for the library. Having finally found the item I'd spent hours trying to get, I knew what I needed to do here. I put Mordack's wand on the left platform, Crispin's wand on the right and the mouldy cheese into the cauldron (did I miss a clue somewhere that told me the machine was powered by mould?)

The machine activated and this time Crispin's wand was charged. Mordack appeared, as did Cedric, who flew through an open window. Mordack used telekinesis to retrieve his wand and shot the owl in the suspicion that perhaps he was about to be useful for a change.

Now it's my turn with a too-late-warning, "Cedric, watch out!"

Mordack threw his wand on the ground in disgust ("Warning Mr Mordack. Wand abuse”) and showed his real power by turning into a giant flying insect.

I used my own wand and the images from Mordack's book appeared, letting me choose from them. Because I'd seen the screenshot a few times, I remembered the order they were in in the book so tried the first one, which looked like a tiger.

I turned into a tiger and faced off with the giant insect, which resulted in neither of us doing much of anything.

Honestly, if I had to bet, I'd put my money on the giant winged insect with dangerous looking pincers

Unimpressed with the stalemate, Mordack turned himself into a dragon. I used the wand and chose the second picture, which looked like a bunny on a human face.

I turned into a bunny and quickly hopped away each time Mordack breathed fire at me.

When I'm in this form I like to be called Mister Hopsy

Mordack then turned himself into a pooooiisonous snake. I used the wand and chose the third picture, which looked like a human shadow with a white rat superimposed over it.

I turned into a mongoose (okay, not a rat) and tackled Mordack.


He then turned himself into a ring of fire and surrounded me. I chose the obvious and used my wand to turn into the fourth picture which looked like either a butterfly or a chandelier.

I summoned a rain cloud above my head and the rain put Mordack out, thus ending his evil forever!

Time to put a dampener on your celebrations, Mordack (To be read in your favourite 80s action hero voice)

I had defeated the evil wizard and got a cutscene where the rest of the plot played out.

Beam us to Daventry, Mr LaForge

In the cutscene, Crispin appeared and told me everything I'd already heard from the gypsy back in the first act as if he was telling me news. Then he told me he knew how to fix my family and castle. He embiggened my family – my randy son promptly fell in love with Princess Cassima, who'd shown up to ensure I was going to save her as promised.

Let's continue to ignore the dying owl and have a group hug

Graham for some reason told his family that Princess Cassima was solely responsible for their rescue, forgetting all the other people who had to play their part as well – why no love for King Antony or the Willow Bride or even the roc whose hunger gave me the locket I needed to gain Cassima's trust?

"Cassima, meet Alexander, who started this whole mess." Nice way to introduce your son to the only eligible princess he's likely to meet?

Crispin sent Cassima back to her home, then sent my castle back to where it belonged and was about to send me and my family back home when Graham suddenly remembered the probably-dead body of Cedric the Unhelpful. Crispin easily brought Cedric back from the brink of death, then sent the Royal family back to Daventry.

"Everybody who is not to blame for this whole traumatic incident put your arms around me - Alexander, pack your stuff and get out of my castle."

I'm a little surprised to have maximum points here

Of course, I couldn't leave the game without seeing what happens if I choose the wrong spell when fighting Mordack...

Time to put a dampener on your... wait... what... aaaahhhhh!

Session time: 35 minutes
Total time: 16 hours

Session deaths: 1
Total deaths: 36

Dead ends found or suspected: 19
I found some dead ends, and suspect some more. Let me know in the comments if I've gotten any of these wrong or missed any...
  1. Not throwing the boot at the cat as soon as it appears
  2. Not getting the bottle or coin in the desert temple's treasure room
  3. Buying the sled with the gold coin or needle
  4. Buying the pie with a gold coin
  5. Not getting the honeycomb before going to the forest with the amulet
  6. Eating the pie
  7. Eating both halves of the lamb
  8. Throwing the rope onto the obvious hanging branch (Grrrrr!)
  9. Climbing the rope without having bought a sled
  10. Climbing the rope without having given the shoes to the shoemaker
  11. Giving the pie to the eagle
  12. Not feeding the eagle before getting captured by wolves
  13. Not picking up the crystal before being kidnapped by a roc
  14. Not picking up the locket from the roc's nest
  15. Not picking up the iron rod from the beach before giving the conch to the hermit
  16. Leaving Cedric to die on harpy island
  17. Not picking up the fish hook from harpy island
  18. Giving the cat a fish but not bagging him – particularly as it's possible to meet the cat before the blue monster
  19. Throwing the peas at the blue monster the first time you see him – this one's particularly bad – effectively making it impossible to win because you were too good at the game's own logic 
I have a strange love/hate relationship with King's Quest V and have no idea how the PISSED rating will end up. I guess we'll all find out in a few days. But first...

Comparison between CD and Floppy versions
I thought I'd spend a little time examining some of the differences in the PC versions of the game.

Apart from the obvious difference between CD and Floppy versions of the game, being that the floppy version isn't voiced, I noticed some other slight differences

The floppy version has extra icons, notably two walk icons. The leftmost icon has Graham's walking controlled in the same way as previous Sierra games - when you click, he'll travel in a straight line towards your cursor but stops as soon as he hits an obstacle. The other unfamiliar icons are save and stop which are sensibly contained in the options window in the CD version. Also the screen cursors for all the icons are a simple white in the floppy version rather than coloured in the CD version.

The leftmost icon is a "Click here to die while climbing mountain paths" button

Strangely, the character portraits show more detail in the floppy version, and in the case of Queen Beetrice at least, more animation - as she waves her staff slightly and moves her arm and antennae. The CD version has water sound effects and a bear growl as well as voiced dialogue.

We get to see the bottom of Crispin's beard in the floppy version
Nice wings you have there, dear

One other thing I noticed was that time stops when the voiced dialogue kicks in. This makes one particular puzzle much harder in the floppy version - the scene outside the bakery with the cat chasing a rat - in the CD version, the narrator tells you about the cat chasing the rat before they show up, giving you some time to react. In the floppy version it all happens much faster, making it almost impossible to do anything before the cat's killed the rat and you're stuck in a dead-end.

As for which version is better, that would be different for people's own subjective tastes - I personally like the extra immersion I get from voiced dialogue and can cope with the poor voice acting. I'm a little disappointed about the missing animations and character portrait detail but the voices, sound effects and user interface improvements more than make up for it for me.


  1. I wonder how many people solved the "Wait for Mordack" puzzle like I did - by accident. I'm pretty sure I got so frustrated as a kid that I got up and went downstairs for some water, came back and noticed Mordack had arrived. It's the reverse of KQIII - in which leaving for a snack got me killed for violating Mananan's strict curfew.

    1. If I had to guess I'd say "all of them" but that may be bitterness from my own inability to work it out. :)

  2. And the whole grand epic story ends with Cripsin delivering deus ex machinas just like Father Christmas giving presents to children, and Cedric the Jerk gets to perform a Disney Death to boot (one of my most hated cheap storytelling clich├ęs).

    This game deserves all mockery it can get:

    1. Very appropriate links.

      Cedric's 'death' reminded my more of The Shining movie than anything else.

      I personally loved how nobody seemed to bother with Cedric 'dying' until the last minute. They were introducing people to each other, trying to set up future dating opportunities, hearing Crispin's long-winded explanation of why and how everything had happened, laying blame on Alexander - nobody gave a stuff about the dying owl.

  3. I would remove the branch/rope bit as a dead end, it kills you immediately if you make the wrong choice, so it surely doesn't count.

    I'm glad I could be of assistance for that final puzzle, I always thought it was a good place to hide because when you're near the top of the screen the eye over the door closes, suggesting that Mordack won't be able to find you. How you are supposed to know he will go to sleep, I'm not sure. I'm pretty sure I didn't have to wait over two minutes though! (more like 30 seconds?)

    1. Actually, I'd still call it a dead end. The definition of a dead end I'm using is 'performing an action that doesn't kill you but makes the game unwinnable.'

      Because you don't automatically climb the rope after throwing it, and you can still access all the previous screens, you could still (like I did) assume that throwing the rope was just part of the puzzle and another item was needed to complete the puzzle.

      The dead ends I didn't include that could be argued as dead ends by my own definition are 'letting Manannan see you and not bagging him' and 'playing Mordack's organ'. You don't die immediately but Mordack kills you either as soon as you leave the screen or as soon as the music stops playing

      I did just think of another potential dead end I should add though - not getting the honeycomb before going to the forest with the amulet - better add that one in.

      If anyone does have the game installed and a saved game in the castle, let me know how long you have to wait in the study. Maybe something I did or something about my setup did make it take longer.

  4. LaForge? More likely O'Brian.


    2. As a Next Generation fan, I'm ashamed I got that wrong. I should have known better.

      Also, nice comic - made me smile :)

  5. But letting Cedrick die on the island is satisfying enough to be worth it, assuredly?

  6. Here's an unused death message image:

  7. I like this approach - It would be interesting to see a list of dead ends and unsolvable puzzles in other adventure games. It is really hard to get all of them right.

    We almost released Quest for Glory II in a state where it was impossible to become a Paladin (two programmers working on different parts of the game had used inconsistent flags). We actually had to release a patch for Quest for Glory III because you could not complete it if your Magic User had become a Paladin in Quest for Glory II and you didn't put points into Throwing (or maybe it was Shield) in one of the games.

    1. QFG3 was almost uncompleteable if you chose Fighter, just because of the initiation in the village often bugged out as you went to throw the spear, though. (Yes, it was throwing.) :) (As QFG4 often didn't allow you to get through the swamp to fight the Chernovy.)

      I think that KQ5 was one of the most egregious for dead ends in this era - the real problem not necessarily being the sheer quantity of them (though that clearly is an issue!) but how easy many of them are to manage. You eat the wrong food? DEAD! You use currency in a sensible way? DEAD! You walk out without seeing the rat chase the cat, presuming it to be scenery given it only happened the once? DEAD!

    2. I'd actually vote Police Quest 3 as even worse. You ignore something not so obvious in the middle parts of the plot and you are effectively dead-ended, but you will see it only at the very end of the game!

    3. I'm starting to think this is a standard feature of adventure games.

  8. I'm pretty sure I played the floppy version. That sequence with the cat is... not cool. Especially for such a high profile game. Not only it dead-ends you without warning -- you have a window of a few seconds to avoid it.

    I never got to the part where you have to randomly wait for 2 minutes but I'd put it into a similar category of unfairness. Though at least you can "solve" it by accident.

    I did like the wizard battle at the end. I assume it was a nod to / inspired by The Sword in the Stone?

    1. I uploaded a video showing how much time you get with the floppy version. You're right, you have 2 seconds between when the animals appear and when the cat eats the rat. And you're likely to spend that 2 seconds reading the first time through.

      The fact that the bluebird and road runner similarly appear and leave the screen and are purely background atmosphere whereas this is vitally important to finish the game but not needed until you're captured by a roc many hours later make it even less fair.

      And the dead end is so easy to avoid - just have it keep happening every time you try to leave this screen. The player can assume it's different cats and rats or that the rat escapes after they go off screen.