King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human

1986 Sierra On-Line
Designed by Roberta Williams
Reviewed 1996 March 1

Rating -4 Linearity wide
Reasonability sporadic Connectivity moderate
Difficulty pedestrian Relevance moderate
Interface 3rd paned parser Real-time minor

You are a slave of the evil magician Manannan. As you approach 18, you decide to work towards an escape. You find Manannan's spellbook, gather ingredients, and use his magic against him. While doing so, you learn of your origins. You travel to your homeland, just in time to slay a dragon and rescue a princess.

King's Quest III presents itself via a second person view onto a simple cartoon background. Actions are indicated via text, although character motion is via arrow keys. It's crude, but functional. A large part of the game must be achieved in two (or three) real-time blocks. There's no time to sniff the daisies, because you don't know in advance how much time you will have.

The characters are crude icons, devoid of depth. The story is not much better. The larger part is a simple scavenger hunt for ingredients for magic potions, and the latter part is a short gauntlet run to save the princess. The story of your character is revealed in a few chunks through the game. The result is that a new goal appears -- defeating Manannan is not enough. The story is still short of a decent kindergarten reader.

The prequels were jumbles of fairy tale elements. Here, the world is original. There's still a Goldilocks scene, but otherwise Llewdor is its own place. It's a simplistic, rather dull place, but it doesn't feel like a mish-mash collection of scenes.

The bulk of the game -- collecting ingredients and defeating Manannan -- is fairly wide. Once you defeat the wizard, the game turns linear. The challenges are mostly the usual inventory based puzzles, but there are also several annoying real-time challenges. You have to avoid some bad guys by jumping out of the scene (they don't follow you, and mysteriously disappear when you return), and walking down stairs and paths can easily be fatal. These are neither difficult nor fun, they're just annoying.

There are one or two tough challenges, but most are easy. There are also many silly challenges. In addition to the several silly real-time challenges mentioned above, you are also faced with sudden death. At one point you have to choose a path (literally) from two choices, one leading to death. Also, you don't know when Manannan will return (or awake), so unless you're lucky you'll die once or twice just learning his schedule. Save early, save often.

There's little to like in King's Quest III. While the setting is better than the prequels, it is still poor. The characters simple icons with no personality. There's a bland, minimal dial-a-story. Finally, the gameplay is just as bad.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.

Solution by me.

Related reviews:

  • The King's Quest Series
    David Tanguay's Game Reviews
    Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.