Saturday 19 May 2018

Quest for Glory III: Wages of War - Final Rating

by Alex

Quest for Glory III: Wages of War was not planned. It was an afterthought, a bridge, a diversion based on the idea that Rakeesh and Uhura’s homeland and story was too interesting to just be mentioned in passing in Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire. It also had the added bonus of easing the Hero, and his narrative, into the decidedly more unfriendly and dangerous confines of Mordavia in the subsequent Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness. And so we got a glorious accidental gem of an adventure that stands proudly toe-to-toe with the rest of this venerable franchise.

In subjecting Wages of War to the PISSED rating system, I’m going to try really hard to perform a nostalgia-ectomy and judge the game on its own merits--and by the guidelines of the PISSED scale--instead of just going “OMG 10/10 FIVE STARS IF YOU DON’T LIKE THIS U SUCK!”

Pictured: a scene from my nostalgia-ectomy.

It will be difficult, but I can do this. I have you, The Adventure Gamer’s loyal readership to keep me honest here. Let’s do this, hero-style!

Alexandros’ final stats and score.

Puzzles and Solvability: 4

You might be a little surprised by this low rating, but I have to tell you that the puzzles in Wages of War are just not difficult. Yes, they’re logical for the most part, although getting the fire opal from the meerbats is pretty random. Still, most puzzles are boiled down to “Do I have the right inventory object for the job or for this quest that somebody told me about?” or “Did I go to the right place after the right event has been triggered?”

I can already hear the chorus of “That’s the case in every adventure game!” Fair enough. But even in light of this concession, Wages of War didn’t have any moments where I was wandering around, wondering what to do next in the face of unsolvable puzzles. There were just issues I hadn’t found the right tool for yet.

Need a prophecy? Get a gem. Bring back the gem and get the prophecy. See a monkey in a cage? Free the monkey. Need to cross a waterfall? Get vine. See monster, kill monster. And so on. I suppose the Simbani initiation trials take a bit more brain power, and I did enjoy the mini-games of spear-throwing and wrestling, as well as Awari, but none of them were particularly difficult. You can “brute force” them, or as Chet discovered, even fail them and still progress. It’s not Leisure Suit Larry V levels of inconsequential, as there are still things you must do in order for the game to progress, but it’s close. Perhaps the various wizards’ duels in the wizard-character playthrough provide more of a challenge, but the paladin just kind of moves from puzzle to puzzle with relative ease.

And yet, this doesn’t detract from the experience since Wages of War is so darn enjoyable. Still, I’d hardly put these puzzles up there with the likes of The Secret of Monkey Island or The Fate of Atlantis or even the first two Quest for Glory games.

A note about combat: It better and more challenging than I remembered, at least if you have the difficulty jacked up to maximum, but it’s tactically limited and gets tiresome. Most fights don’t give enough of a reward to make them worthwhile, and while the enemies are varied, the encounter rate is high. Excessively so. At least it’s easy to kill your foes at a distance with daggers or rocks, and I’m assuming offensive magic, or just crank the speed to max and run through several savannah or jungle scenes until you get away.

That flaming sword, though.

Interface and Inventory: 7

There really isn’t much to say here. The interface is typical Sierra point-and-click fare from the era. Everything works as planned, there are great and often humorous textual descriptions for most stuff that you click the “Eye” on, you walk where you want your character to walk, and you never feel like the interface gets in your way. In fact, you don’t even notice it’s there.

Specialized buttons work as intended, such as the menus for running, sneaking, walking, and magic. Combat is also a breeze, since you can use the mouse to click on “Swing,” “Thrust,” and so on, or do what I did and utilize the numerical keys on your keyboard.

The inventory is solid, with well-done pictures and descriptions that will never keep you guessing what the hell it is that you just picked up, or what it’s used for. I appreciate little touches like the sapphire pin from Trial by Fire carrying over if you imported your character, and the canned SPIM (“Special Portion Instant Meal”) rations provide a chuckle in that typically anachronistic fashion typical of most Sierra adventure games. There are no puzzles to solve within the inventory, but your inventory is used to solve puzzles. It’s very philosophical; I wouldn’t expect you to understand. In fact, I don’t even understand .

Let’s move on.

Story and Setting: 7

Here is where Wages of War shines. Honestly, I’d give it a 9 for a setting and about a six for a story, which washes out to a 7.

Tarna as a city and a land is an absolute joy to behold. Wages of War’s African-inspired setting was unique at the time, and remains so to this day. It’s an underused milieu, as evidenced by the popularity and aesthetic impact of Marvel’s recent smash Black Panther movie. Audiences, whether in movies or games, like to see things that they have not seen before, and Wages of War delivers.

I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: who wouldn’t want to stay at this inn (clown aside)?

The Simbani Village was a unique setting unlike any seen in an adventure game or an RPG thus far.

I just had a thought: Lori and Corey Cole apparently had wanted there to be a smaller settlement--a Hamlet, if you will--in Quest for Glory I that the hero could visit instead of Spielberg. Alas, this idea didn’t make it into the game. In Quest for Glory III, with Tarna and the Simbani village, we may have the only example of this in the entire series.

That’s just an aside. The setting in Wages of War is top-notch. Even the savannah and the jungle themselves almost feel like characters, menacing, untracked places that dare the hero to explore; their scope is conveyed quite nicely by the game’s world map (more on this in the Envirionment and Atmosphere category).

The story in Wages of War is weaker that the setting. It’s competent and does the job of getting the hero to Tarna and giving him plenty of stuff to do once there, but it’s pretty predictable and cliche. There was really no doubt that the demons were behind it, though the fact that the Demon Wizard Rakeesh had defeated before was back for revenge raised the stakes. However, as discussed before, the demons’ plot to foment a war doesn’t stand up to heightened scrutiny.

But the story doesn’t detract from the game. It just doesn’t have a “Wow!” factor. Any plot holes and false leads do serve the interest of the story, and the continuity errors, such as how the heck was Johari captured, anyway? are minor and don’t affect anything save for my ability to nitpick. So I feel that this rating is more than fair.

That cliffhanger ending, too, is highly effective.

For real, this time.

Sound and Graphics: 8

This game is beautiful, one of the best-looking we’ve seen on this blog. From the city of Tarna to the Heart of the World to the Lost City and the Pool of Peace, every setting is filled with vibrant colors, lush vegetation, and a unique sensibility that fits Wages of War’s setting perfectly.

The Sultan of Shapeir’s palace from the intro.

I mean, even the hero’s room at the inn looks good!

Tell me you wouldn’t pay to stay here.

Sure, the battle graphics have no backgrounds . . .

. . . and the savannah scenes are barren and kind of phoned in . . .

. . . and yeah, there are no other people wandering the bazaar--or even moving around at the same time the hero is save for a handful of circumstances . . .

. . . but LOOK AT THIS GAME. It is a true work of art.

The music and sound design is likewise top-notch: Rudy Helm and his crew deserve a round of applause for their work. From the dynamic way that themes change depending on when the hero is close to or far from a certain place, to the melodies themselves, the music heightens and in some way drives the mood of every scene. I could sit here and describe every last piece of music, but I’d rather link to it and let you be the judge.

(The Inn theme, the Simbani Village theme, and all four overworld themes are personal favorites, though.)

Environment and Atmosphere: 8

I said it before, and I’ll say it again: Wages of War is pulp. It’s like a 1930s adventure serial crossed with an Edgar Rice Burroughs or Arthur Conan Doyle yarn, with a dash of Robert E. Howard thrown in and sprinkled with some early era Hollywood movie magic. And it is awesome.

It has all of the tropes: Dashing foreign hero exploring a strange and exotic (to him) land and winning over the locals, fantastic creatures of magic and mystery (both good and bad), fierce warriors and crafty wizards, talking animals, dangerous monsters, lost cities, and even a little bit of romance. Right is right, wrong is wrong, there is no moral ambiguity that seems to be all the rage in storytelling these days, and the good guys aren’t afraid to kick ass and take names.

Except this jerk’s name. We never found that out.

Combine the evocative music with the stunning visuals and unique setting, and you can practically feel the cloud of mosquitoes chewing your face off in the sweltering heat of the jungle, as you search desperately for a way to the Lost City over yonder waterfall . . .

Or maybe I just need to turn on my AC.

Every screen in Wages of War has a purpose. There is something to do or people to talk to everywhere. The team did a great job of making the game feel open-ended and reliant on player choice despite being relatively straightforward. And although there really aren’t that many places to go to in the savannah and jungle, the game feels majestic in scope--I for one found the world map/random encounters system to be a smashing success, conveying the sense of traversing a massive landscape.

Yes, I only gave Conquests of the Longbow a 7 in this category, and that game had fantastic environment and atmosphere! But medieval England was an actual place. Tarna is Tarna. It’s a world of imagination, albeit one based on the real world. More importantly, it’s a place that you feel like you actually want to go. In my humble opinion, Wages of War sets the benchmark for environment and atmosphere, and I think all other games played on this blog released afterwards need to be compared to this one.

Dialogue and Acting: 7

There is no voice acting, so let’s focus on the writing and dialogue.

It’s fantastic.

Every character sounds unique with their own speech patterns and syntactical tendencies, from old friends Rakeesh and Uhura, to new friends Kreesha and Yesufu and Manu, to Johari, and to the wonderfully strange denizens of the bazaar like Kalb the meat merchant, the cranky oil seller, and the Sanford and Son-impersonating junk dealers.

Oh yeah, and Salim. He’s . . . a trip.

*scans room nervously for Federal agents hiding nearby*

I particularly like the way that Wages of War explores the themes of conflict and friendship. In particular, the relationship between the hero, Uhura, and Rakeesh just feels like old friends hanging out and sharing stories despite the danger they face.

During the endgame, when everyone comes to help the hero out and fulfill the prophecy, none of the relationships seem forced or out of place, save for Kreesha, but cut the girl some slack!

All told, Wages of War continues the Quest for Glory tradition of high-quality writing and characterization. Well done.

Final Rating

Alright, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for where we calculate our final PISSED score. Let me sharpen my calculator here (don’t ask) and crunch some numbers!

4 + 7 + 7 + 8 + 8 + 7/.6 = 66.66, rounded up equals 67.

A respectable score! But us Adventure Gamer reviewers are allowed to add or subtract a shiny discretionary point, as long as we can rationally justify the decision. Or not; the mods are flexible. And I feel like based on Wages of War’s thematic cohesion, pulpy vibe, and overall enjoyment factor, it certainly deserves to be bumped up to a 68.

68, the same as the original QfG I, two points higher than QfG II, and a sweet-sixteen points higher than the QfG remake.

This is fair. Wages of War holds together really well despite its relative ease, middling story, and somewhat weak combat system. Its positives in atmosphere, graphics and sound, and overall fun factor more than outweigh these negatives. The story, while nothing special, feels special due to the great characters and mini-stories and set pieces within the larger narrative: Befriending Harami and Yesufu, getting married to Johari, becoming a Simbani Warrior, getting your prophecy, and so on. There are so many fun things to do, many of which haven’t been seen in an adventure game, that Wages of War remains a memorable experience to this day.

And gamers thought so upon release as well! Neil J. Rubenking in PC Magazine praises the “lush, vivid backgrounds,” and “rich soundtrack,” mentioning a lot of the same points I did in his micro-write-up of the game.

Computer Gaming World was more effusive in its praise, with reviewer Jeff James singing the expected praises of the graphics, sound, and interface, though he paid special attention to Wages of War’s setting. He also commented on the high encounter rate and various conversation bugs that I experienced in this playthrough before ultimately stating that Quest for Glory III will be “tough to surpass.”

Though nothing is as gracious as Dragon Magazine’s five-star review (What? They gave a game five-stars?!):

“This is by far the finest of the Quest for Glory adventures created by Lori and Corey Cole. It also happens to be one of the most detailed graphic adventures released by any company, with a storyline is replete with new and interesting characters. The animation is well-plotted and planned you'd swear at times you're looking at a movie that you can interact with. Quest for Glory III (QFG3) is a delightful repast in a market filled with junk food.” (emphasis mine)

This game’s contemporary reputation as being the weak link of the series seems strange to me, although I know that tastes change with time. Further, Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness was arguably better, improving on the already impressive Wages of War in nearly every metric.

In conclusion, you really owe it to yourself to play Wages of War, even if you’ve never played a Quest for Glory game in your life. The setting, atmosphere, music, and visuals will suck you in, and I guarantee you’ll enjoy your time with this game, flying cobras be damned.

CAP Distribution

105 CAPs to Alex
  • Blogger Award - 100 CAPs – for playing through Quest for Glory III for the enjoyment of all 
  • Talking to Spiced Ham Award – 5 CAPs – for attempting to explain the difference in game time and real time to a spambot 
70 CAPs to Ilmari
  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - for missing out on guessing the final rating of this game by only 1 
  • You're Not My Typo Award – 5 CAPs – for correcting some discovered typos on request 
  • Classic Blogger Award – 50 CAPs – for playing through the Red Moon for the classic enjoyment of all 
  • Robinsonade, That Cool Refreshing Drink Award – 5 CAPs – for informing us of a literary genre we may not have been aware of 
30 CAPs to Andy Panthro
  • True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – for playing along with Quest for Glory III
  • You Stepped on my Toe Award – 5 CAPs – for telling us about the British origins of Sanford and Son 
  • My Stepmother is a Leopardwoman Award – 5 CAPs – for unintentionally convincing people a real-life wedding was taking place 
25 CAPs to CRPG Addict
  • Concurrent Blogger Award – 20 CAPs – for blogging along with Quest for Glory III
20 CAPs to Antonakis
  • True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – for playing along with Quest for Glory III 
20 CAPs to Corey Cole
  • Insider Trading Award – 20 CAPs – for giving us special insider information about the making of the game 
15 CAPs to Ziggi
  • You Should Write That Down Award – 5 CAPs – for having a dad that came up with an interesting and succinct take on politics 
  • Deal With It Award – 5 CAPs – for pointing out an appropriately timed sale on Quest For Glory games. 
  • At Least it wasn't Larry Laffer Award – 5 CAPs – for considering taking relationship advice from an adventure game protagonist 
14 CAPs to Laukku
  • I Have The Power Award – 5 CAPs – for pointing out the likely inspiration for the game's cover art 
  • The First General Award – 5 CAPs – for giving us some info on the music technology behind the game 
  • That's a Trope Award – 4 CAPs – for pointing out tropes the game is using 
14 CAPs to Alex Romanov
  • Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs – for being the closest guesser of the PISSED rating of Red Moon 
  • Can't Lose Award – 2 CAPs – for being the ONLY guesser of the PISSED rating of Red Moon 
  • Unnecessarily Perfect Award – 2 CAPs - for, despite being unable to lose the guessing game, guessed EXACTLY the final PISSED rating of Red Moon 
10 CAPs to Rowan Lipkovitz
  • I Robinson Award – 5 CAPs - for guessing which Robinson Ilmari was referring to (P.S. Googling “I Robinson” got me something I really wasn't expecting) 
  • It's A Trap Award – 5 CAPs – for telling Alex how to diversify the Star Wars references 
6 CAPs to ShaddamIVth
  • Dressed in Leather Award – 6 CAPs – for starting to play the Quest for Glory series at an appropriate time. Welcome!
5 CAPs to Reiko
  • Gory Gole Award – 5 CAPs - for pointing out an unfortunate typo in the title of one of the posts 
5 CAPs to Niklas
  • Herbert Award – 5 CAPs - for remembering ANOTHER country's version of Stepford and Son 
5 CAPs to Torch
  • Tin Man Award – 5 CAPs – for suggesting an addition to the final rating despite us deciding to remain heartless in our ratings. 
5 CAPs to ATMachine
  • It Must Be Hot in Here Award – 5 CAPs – for noticing a second piece of Frazetta inspiration
5 CAPs to Another Alex
  • Premature Adulation Award – 5 CAPs – for anonymously sharing Quest For Glory III memories on a post nobody was reading, then posting it again and getting it noticed! 
4 CAPs to Joe Pranevich
  • I Want To Play Too Award – 4 CAPs – for being inspired to play the game himself, despite likely being too busy playing other games for the blog to have time in the foreseeable future 
1 CAP to TBD
  • The Thought That Counts Award – 1 CAP – for planning to play along, but never getting around to it 


  1. I think the CAP distribution is especially funny this time. :D Or maybe I never noticed and missed some good ones in the past (?).

    1. It’s always funny, and worth a read.

  2. Johari was captured because she was literally going to the only hut in the Simbani village with a guard on it 24/7 and a seemingly permanent resident (the Laibon only ever emerges for the big village meetings, or so I always saw it).

    1. Now that you mention all adds up!


      Okay, no. I’m still confused.

  3. Now, unless King's Quest 6 scores unexpectedly low, we shall have a proper "top 10" again very soon.

    (Space Quest 4 should be still in our top 13 with its score of 65. Oversight?)

    1. Then again, the person who's scoring King's Quest 6 is the same person who gave an unexpectedly low score to the Quest for Glory 1 remake, so...

      (Thanks for pointing that out. And, Space Quest 4 is back on the top 13 list. Apologies to Roger Wilco.)

    2. I expect it to score around 66-72 (higher than SQ4 and Last Crusade but lower than Longbow). While I'm not a fan of the game - it does have some annoying dead ends, and the plot is mostly yet another fairy tale mashup - it's a massive improvement over KQ5, especially in writing, voice acting, tonal and plot coherence, and puzzle logic and creativity.

    3. KQ6 was so much better, as I recall, because of the massive involvement of Jane Jensen. From what I read, Roberta's name was on there mostly for her ego and for sales reasons -- she had little to do with that game.

    4. KQ VI is, for my money, the best KQ. If you’re going to play one KQ game, play VI. I can’t wait to see Laukuu’s playthrough.

  4. A good score, even if my Sierra nostalgia wishes it were higher (as usual).

    My computer decided to die on me, so I've had to switch over to a much older laptop, but I am hoping to finish QFG3 this week. The only other thing to get in my way is the lovely weather we're having in the UK right now, which always makes me feel guilty for staying indoors.

    1. Honestly, if the puzzles were more challenging, and the game a bit longer, I’d say this would easily enter the 70 range.

      Still, QfG III never overstays it’s welcome, and leaves you wanting more. This is a good sign.

  5. Andy, where in the UK are you? Lori and I will be showing Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption in the Indie Showcase at Casual Connect in London next week. We're arriving a couple days early to do touristy stuff.

    Alex, this is just a guess, but it's possible that the extreme encounter rate you... encountered... could be because you pushed combat difficulty up to the max. A programmer might have decided that more frequent combats would help increase the difficulty.

    Quest for Glory III: Wages of War should properly be classed as a Lori Cole game rather than a Lori and Corey Cole game. I helped out a little at the beginning with the general concepts, and at the end with proofreading and maybe some descriptive text messages, but Lori did the lion's share of work on it. Sierra assigned me to a different project, converting SCI to the Sega Genesis CD, which took up most of the year during which Lori directed the QG3 team.

    We'll encounter this again with QG5, on which I worked as a programmer, but had little design input because it was mostly done before I returned to Sierra. And on Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption, where I certainly participated, but Lori along with Josh Mandel did almost all the writing. Hopefully I'll play a larger design and writing role on Hero-U: Wizards Way, particularly if the first game is successful enough to hire someone to take over my administrative duties.

    (I learned about this during Shannara, but didn't quite accept it - it's pretty much impossible for one person to manage a development team, pay the bills, answer correspondence, etc. while also designing, programming, and writing a game. Some or all of the areas suffer from neglect.)

    1. I'm up near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a few hours on the train north of London. I hope you have a great time on your visit!

    2. Thanks! This will be only my second visit to the UK, and Lori's first. I was 16 the previous time. :-)

    3. Corey,

      I’m almost certain the high difficulty rate is why the encounters were so frequent. It didn’t ruin the experience, though more of an incentive to fight, a la components to sell as in the first two games, would’ve helped.

    4. :(
      Missed meeting the Coles by a week, going to be in London the first week of June

  6. Oh wow I was not expecting CAPs, but I will take them and cherish them and store them in a special place in my browser's cache, thanks!

    Regarding the Quest for Glory series, having never played them before I can say that I am seeing the charm. I am through #1 and at my first elemental in 2 now. I had one or 2 parser fails that prevented me from going forward but I also remember playing things like KQ and SQ and I must say it is WAY better (I still love them though and found the blog reading up about the king's quests specifically).

    Notable things I like are solid dialogue options (the ability to say thank you and get a response is a simple but very nice example), the fairy dance scene was absolutely stunning and the elemental scenes with Aziza makes her really feel like a mystic with arcane knowledge, loved them.

    Oh and I killed the griffin, sod this Paladin thing that kill scene freaking ROCKED!

    1. Killing poor Merv is kinda funny I have to admit. I admire your gusto!

  7. I'd never gotten around to playing this or indeed 80% of the series (I had and completed the VGA version of QfG I back in the day, but never got around to starting QfG II), so I am greatly enjoying these chronicles - both here and Chet's. Looking forward to QfG IV and V! though, when I clicked on the blog's main page and started scrolling down today, I was nowhere near prepared to see that nostalgia-ectomy. As someone profoundly skittish about anything ocularly invasive, I... uh... did not react heroically, let's put it that way.

  8. Well, it wasn’t fun for me either...

  9. In the spreadsheet, the "Adjust" box for this game is empty and should be 1.

    1. Undone (because that made the final rating 69)!

      There was a slight miscalculation in numbers, and the final rating was 68 without adding the adjustment. As hero of Shapeir, Alex determined that 68 was the score the game deserved, so the bonus point unfortunately gets removed.

      Thanks for noticing the error, Laukku. It's good to know people read and take account of our spreadsheets!