When King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember launched earlier this year I was pleasantly surprised; whilst by no stretch of the imagination did I expect the game to be bad, I didn’t expect to love it quite as much as I did. Developers The Odd Gentlemen did a great job of modernising the classic ‘point and click’ series and bringing it to a new audience.
Of course, that was only the beginning. This revival is a five part series, so we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s to come. After what has felt like a long five month wait we’ve finally got the second chapter in the series, King’s Quest: Rubble Without A Cause. The question remains though – will it live up to the standard set by the first chapter?
The story continues on from the first chapter, albeit a little further in the timeline. Graham, our clumsy yet lovable hero, has ascended from being a mere knight and is now the King of Daventry. He learns being a King isn’t a simple job though and is brought down to earth with the stress of his duties. As if things weren’t tough already, Graham, along with a number of the townsfolk, gets kidnapped by goblins and is held in a goblin prison. Thus begins a new adventure for freedom and hopefully the saving of the townsfolk along the way…
It’s another enjoyable tale to embark on and in a similar vein to King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember is ripe with references to classic entries in the King’s Quest series – I’m sure long-time fans will appreciate the reference to ‘impossible puzzles’ or perhaps the giant beanstalk. The script is well written too, with plenty of the humour you’ve come to expect carrying over to this new entry. The first chapter made me genuinely laugh out loud and it was the case here too, especially given the quality of the voice acting that really brings the script to life.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t feel as fleshed out this time around though. Whilst it’s full of King’s Quest charm, there are too many things left unexplained, leaving players to fill in the blanks themselves. Take Graham’s ascension to the throne for example – whilst you’re clued in that the previous King had chosen him to take the throne, a little more context would’ve been appreciated, especially for players ready to commit themselves to the five part series. The same can be said for the scenes with Graham’s granddaughter; the last chapter ended on a cliff-hanger with an aged Graham being involved in an accident of sorts, but instead of exploring what happened things return to normal, albeit with Graham’s arm in a sling. It’s not a huge issue, but it cheapens the ending of the previous chapter a little.
Still, there’s plenty to discover within the story and you’re also given the option to make your own choices to how exactly it will progress, something that coincides with one of the new more interesting gameplay dynamics introduced in King’s Quest: Rubble Without A Cause. With the familiar cast of townsfolk locked up in the goblin prison, you’re given the task of choosing who you want to rescue from their cell to help you escape. There’s a twist though – each prisoner has a health meter, meaning you have to carefully manage resources in order to make sure everyone survives. With a daily cycle that drains townsfolk’s health and limited resources, you’ll have to use a combination of wit, compassion and perseverance if you’re going to make sure everybody lives to see another day. It certainly adds a real sense of urgency to what is typically a stoic game, but it’s a great addition that really changes up the gameplay. You’ll be making a few tough choices though – watching your presumed deceased friends get carried away is heartbreaking. It certainly warranted a few playthroughs from me; being the hero I am, I desperately wanted to save everyone.
That’s the only real new innovation this time around though, with a notable absence of interactive action moments. Whereas King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember featured interactive scenes such as a tense race and a first-person shoot out, King’s Quest: Rubble Without A Cause is a little short on those moments. Whilst the puzzles are still very clever and perplexing, a few more action sequences would’ve added an enjoyable twist on the constant puzzling.
The bulk of King’s Quest: Rubble Without A Cause takes place within the dark depths of the goblin prison. Whilst it lacks the colour and personality of Daventry, it’s still a real treat to explore. There’s an assortment of areas that have a noticeable fairy-tale like theme, whilst some areas feature the kind of beauty that you wouldn’t expect to find within the miserable pits of the goblin headquarters. It certainly has a presence, something owed to the fantastic graphics that make up your surroundings.
The Odd Gentlemen set the bar high with the aesthetics of King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember and it’s certainly managed to reach those heights again. The world looks fantastic, with the little details like the rain running down the roofs of buildings and running water bringing the world to life. The same can be said for the character models that again look fantastic and are well animated – I particularly liked that a hungry Graham strutted around with the demeanour of an angsty teenager.
I came across a few odd graphical issues this time around though that I didn’t notice in the first chapter. There was a real choppiness in the frame rate in transitions from area to area – whilst issues like this can normally be ignored, it became very noticeable at times. I played on the Xbox One version and I’m not sure if it’s an issue that can be found on other platforms.
There was also a cutscene that was incredibly badly animated and ended with two characters constantly walking against a wall. Considering the high standard that has gone into most scenes in the game, I was left baffled – it felt out of place and as if it was rushed in last minute by the developers. I don’t know if it was a simple oversight, but considering the attention to detail elsewhere it was a real oddity.
Nevertheless there’s nothing game breaking to be found and there’s still been room for a few improvements. You can skip previously viewed scenes this time around – something that would irritate me in the last chapter whilst constantly checking out items, desperately trying to find a solution to some of the puzzles. There’s also a bigger sense of replayability, especially since you can easily end your playthrough without saving everyone.
King’s Quest: Rubble Without A Cause was always going to have a difficult job keeping up with the high standard set in King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember, and it does fall slightly short. That’s not to say it’s a bad game by any means though – this is still a great adventure that will keep you hooked from start to finish. It just doesn’t feel as fleshed out as the original, has a few technical issues and also a much shorter playtime that doesn’t offer as much bang for your buck as the previous entry.
The game still looks great though, there’s an exciting tale to be told and the music and voice acting is outstanding. Some of the new mechanics really innovate the established formula, adding a sense of urgency to each task you perform – it really is tough being King. Whilst King’s Quest: Rubble Without A Cause isn’t as good as King’s Quest: A Knight To Remember, it’s still a great adventure worthy of the King’s Quest name – lets just hope the wait for our next adventure isn’t quite as long!
– Looking after townsfolk is innovative and adds a sense of urgency to the game
– Fantastic visuals bring the world to life
– Great sound design with more incredible voicework
– Puzzling conundrums that are both clever and enjoyable to solve
– Story isn’t fleshed out
– Not as many interactive scenes as the previous entry
– A few small technical issues
Format Reviewed: Xbox One