King's Quest 8: Mask of Eternity review by Al Giovetti
By Al Giovetti
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King's Quest 8: Mask of Eternity
The Computer Show interviewed Roberta Williams about this title at Electronic Entertainment Exposition in May of 1998. Roberta wanted to give the graphic adventure gamers who did not like Quake or Doom the chance to experience those types of games in a different way.
This is the 8th game in a series of games that began with the first King's Quest in 1984. King's Quest is arguably the most popular adventure game series in the history of computer games, with over seven million copies sold.
The King's Quest series has spawned a whole series of Quests including Space Quest, Police Quest, Hero's Quest (later named Quest for Glory), Liesure Suit Larry (Quests), and Gabriel Knight (another Quest). These graphic animated adventures have been the staple of the industry and have kept thinking adventure gaming alive while others have deteriorated into mindless violence.
Mask is the first game for Roberta in the King's Quest series since 1994 when King's Quest VII (7): The Princeless Bride was released.
Roberta's past and current games emphacize story over violence. This is a most corrageous attitude where a failed game can mean a failed company. The story in all king's quests is the focal point from which all else radiates. To quote the immortal bard, "The play is the thing." Mask shines like the sun, and is the flame that says to others, you can do it without violence, profanity, and nudity. The game is good clean fun.
Sierra has been smart in other areas by diversifying into other product lines. Product lines that stay on the shelf long after the flash in the pan games have gone. Products from their family software line, which include Generations, Land Designer, USA Streets and Destinations. The Computer Show has shown these products in their television show version this season with much success with our viewers in various cities. Copies of tapes are available for $19.95 on request.
From monster story-teller Roberta Williams, who created the original and best-selling Phantasmagoria. Blend of heart-pounding action and role-playing elements with rich story line reinvents the adventure gaming genre. Unparalleled freedom of movement with unlimited camera control in both 1st and 3rd person perspectives. Seven immense worlds and dozens of mythical characters provide more than 140 hours of game play.
I was unsure what to call this game to start. Roberta Williams and Sierra have been known for years for the King's Quest series of games which were, up until now, graphic adventure games. Sierra calls this game a 3D Adventure. I am stumped?
Lets examine the facts: The game has real-time combat. The game uses a 3D engine and interface that has a roving cinematic camera. 3D monsters attack you from all sides. These are the features of a 3D shooter or 3D action game.
Mask has communication with the characters in the lands you explore. Mask uses an inventory and the objects in the inventory are used to combine with other objects and can be used to solve puzzles and exchange for other objects. There are really weird physical puzzles. These are features of a graphic animated adventure.
Mask uses levels and statistics. Fighting increases your experience level and causes you to gain levels progressively as you acumulate more and more experience by killing monsters and completing tasks. Mask has features of role-playing adventures.
So what do we call this game? Is Mask a 3D action, graphic animated, role-playing adventure? All things considered the game is closer to a role-playing game than a graphic animated adventure. The important thing is that Mask has retained the feel of the graphic animated adventure game and the previous King's Quest games. The look has changed but the feel is the same. Playing King's Quest 8 is like coming home again. We were sad when we finished the game and our adventure was over. We cannot wait until Roberta gives us King's Quest 9.
Many of Sierra's games, for example, Police Quest, now called SWAT, are moving toward 3D games. Is this copying the success of games like Quake and Doom? I don't think so. The 3D game has been gaining ground ever since the first vestiges of it were seen in Dungeon Master which was introduced almost ten years ago for the Atari ST machine. Mask is first and foremost a story game with some fighting thrown in.
The interface is very interesting. Roberta has made it quite functional but seems to be avoiding the abilities that have been in this type of game since Dungeon Master. You cannot side step. In Dungeon Master, Quake, Doom, and others of this type you can side step arrows and spells with a simple keypress or control device move, but there is no control to let you side step or straife in Mask. Straifing is firing your ranged weapon in one direction while looking the other direction. Straifing is a function of the ability to side step and is a very devastating move. This writer suspects that the game designers felt that straifing and side stepping would have made the game too easy. So when you are aching to make these moves, send a letter to Sierra and maybe they will put the moves in the next game.
You can choose to have a third person or first person view. The scrolling inventory list across the top appears only outside of combat when you raise the mouse pointer or hit a hot key. The interface with weapons, armor, healing objects, magic potions, rocks and the rope and hook are arrayed optionally along the bottom.
The rope and hook allows your character to climb cliffs and walls to get on top of buildings. Connor climbed into a great many buildings in the game with the rope and hook. Easily used you come to an area where the rope and hook yellow arrow lights up in the lower right corner of the screen to indicate that you can climb up or down here, click on the hook and look up or down and set your hook and climb. A neat animation accompanies the process appropriately different for whether you are climbing up and down. This new feature added a newness to the game and made it fun.
Otherwise Mask has some very interesting choices. There are four healing objects and four protective potions arranged laterally on the interface panel which is optionally at the bottom of the page. The spacebar toggles the panel on and off and there are hot key equivalents for most actions, including one-key activation of healing objects and protective potions.
The protective potions include shield, enhanced strength, reveal hidden objects, and invisability to minor monsters. Healing objects and these four potions are the only real magic that the character has access to, except for several special things. There are special permanent strength spells in several locations in the game that enhance attack and defense power. There is also a healing well or spring on every level of the game including the final dungeon.
Fighting has not been an important feature in any King's Quest game up until this 8th incarnation. In previous games fighting was determined not by your fast reflexes but by how prepared you were before the fight by finding certain essential items that vanquished the foe. These fights were more like puzzles than combat.
Mask uses real-time combat with a variety of different foes, and has a boss monster at the end of every level. Mask has incorporated the feature of real-time combat into the animated graphic adventure.
Combat difficulty can be selected to be easy, moderate, or hard when you start the game. The combat when set on easy mode should satisfy Roberta's fans who deplore combat but like the story telling, communication and problem solving portion of the games that she has excelled at in past King's Quest games. The moderate and hard settings should satisfy the curiosity of those who have played her previous games for the fighting game phenomenon.
Fighting involves drawing a weapon and clicking it on the part of the monster that you want to attack. The parts of monsters determine how quickly the fight is over.There is one fight where you must chop of the dragons heads by hitting his necks or you will not kill the monster. There is another special monster where you must see him to damage it. Even the fighting portion of Mask contains some very interesting puzzles.
Puzzles are the essence of the animated graphic adventure and the role-playing adventure, whichever one of these genres that Mask fits into. There are a number of physical puzzles. You will certainly be very tired of jumping lava pools in the Barren Region and poisonous rivers in the Dimension of Death. In Frozen reaches you will find jumping up onto a block of ice enough to turn you around. Many players do not like physical puzzles and arcade sequences, and if you fall into that category you will probably tolerate these nusaince puzzles just to get to the other more fullfilling portions of Mask. If you like jumping puzzles there are enough here to keep you happy.
Other puzzles are the traditional combine this object with that one to form another object and use this object at the right time and location to move the plot and the game forward into another area. Wall switches, keys, reveal potions for invisable monsters, rocks to trip floor plates and traps. Rocks to crack ice. Fire items to melt ice. Ice items to freeze water. Spell components to combine to give permanent strength. All of these actions and puzzles entertain.
Most of the objects needed to complete the puzzles can be picked up prior to getting to the puzzle or can be found near the puzzle itself. You have to keep alert to pick up everything that is not nailed down.
Some puzzles have clues to help you. Various signs throughout the land hold the clues to complete certain puzzles. In the Realm of the Sun you can listen to the wispers of the stoned archons. The whisper weeds hold secrets in the Swamp. In the Frozen reaches you need to use a medallion to decipher the script.
There are clues that are sometimes very specific and other times somewhat obscure. A more obsure clue is found in retrieving the Stone of Order. In retrieving the Stone of Order, Connor needs to put things in thier proper order, and color and sound hold the key here.
The most difficult puzzles involved jumping from rock to rock on a two dimensional matrix of platforms. One puzzle involved the striking of a drum and prime numbers with the goal of being able to traverse a broken bridge with burning alive in lava as the price for failure. Others have you jumping in sequence to blocks with symbols on them.
An archon or custodian of the Mask of Eternity has betrayed his trust and split the Mask into five fragments in a bid for power. You play Connor Mac Lyrr, a young artist in a suburb south of Daventry who makes his first appearance in a King's Quest game.
At the beginning of the game Connor finds the piece of the Mask that falls near his house in Daventry while talking to a pretty girl. The girl and all the other inhabitants of Daventry including King Graham (cracker) and his minister have all turned to stone. The peaceful land that Connor once painted has turned dark and is filled with twisted and evil monsters waiting to pound Connor to pulp.
A Daventry sorcerer who saved the upper part of himself from turning to stone sets Connor on the right track to becoming the Champion of Eternity and putting the mask back onto the pedistal where it belongs in the Realm of the Sun. Connor's oddessy takes him through seven lands to find the four other mask pieces and battle the minions who have despoiled these realms. Many sub-plots must be completed in these other lands to set things straight there before Connor can continue on with his quest to restore the Mask.
Typical of everything Roberta Williams does, the story is a good one. You will enjoy this game regardless of the reservations that you may infer from some of this article. Mask is another Roberta Williams story masterpiece. I would like to echo Johnny Wilson's sentiments when he said, "She was pivotal in founding the computer game industry ... I hope she never stops."
Roberta shares her thoughts on the subject, "I hate to call what I do games. I think of them as interactive stories. Every story has to be well-written and engaging, but it's up to the designer to add the interactivity--the roundness of exploration and the challenge of the puzzles."
What type of story is King's Quest? It is a story of family values. "The King's Quest series is a chronical of old-fashioned values, heroism and truth. People find they can win by using their heads, and through good acts, hard work and intelligence, kindness and honesty," according to Roberta.
If anything the story is just a little too short. It is over much before you realize it. The shortness is more apparent when the game length is compared to another Christmas season release, Fallout 2 (Ed: Wasteland 4), which can take over 100 hours to complete even with an entire walkthrough. It appears to be the shortest King's Quest yet, and remarkably the entire story fits on only one CD-ROM. This is amazing in a game climate where as many as 8 CDs could be used for some games. The game can be completed in 30 hours.
Once the game is over, it is over. There is no going back and redooing Daventry or looking for puzzles or quests that may give you that extra point for your score. Many game designers realize that gamers like to go back and clean up the unfinished portions of the game without having to play it over again. Fallout 2 continues the plot well after you complete the game, and there is plenty for you to do.
The literature on the game says that puzzles can be completed in any order, which is true to an extent. Within the world that you are in you can do almost anything save a few tasks which may require better armor or strength. You are free to turn right or left or go forward and encounter parts of the level in free form.
Some tasks are ordered, requiring you to complete them before going on to other tasks. In the swamp you need to find the horn in order to listen to the whisper weed's secret. You need to give the wisper weed's secret to the swamp wisps to get the poison swamp water antidote. And you need to have the swamp antidote to fight the Swamp Witch. Killing the Swamp Witch is needed to get into her tower. The MASK piece is in the tower. And so on.
There are some places where the game is engineered so that there is no turning back which makes the game even more linear. In the Realm of the Sun you cannot go back to any other land, there is no teleport pad as there was in all the other lands. Once you enter the altar of the sun in the center of the third level of the Realm of the Sun (some may call it the fourth level) you must complete the game or die. You cannot retreat and heal and come back or go back to any previous areas of the game. Once you defeat the evil Lucreto in this last room the game turns off and you are stuck with no way to get back to the other lands to visit your friends or complete other sub-plots.
Three dimensional graphics give good details on the wireframed characters with texture mapped renderings hung on them. The textures and drawings are very good and are worthy of an excellent Sierra sequel. The worlds were created in 3-space, a powerful software tool used to create highly detailed backgrounds used in flight simulators.
Dynamic Lighting makes the lights of the world change as you move and affecting the objects near the lights. There are shadows for Connor and the monsters.
AnimationOnly occasionally did the animation jog or stutter on a 200 MHz Intel MMx chip with Voodoo 3Dfx. Sierra recommends the use of a 266 MHz machine. Many of the message boards report bugs or problems with persons who do not have 3Dfx, but we did not experience many problems. The patch that is available installed quickly and easily with the internet update service that Sierra has raised to an art form. Microsoft take note.
There are two traditionally rendered animated sequences after completing one of the levels and after completing the game. These animations were high quality on the order of an animated feature film by Don Bluth or Disney. Sierra really should consider doing a movie when it does a game, just like the Hollywood studios that commission games to leverage their movie properties.
Numerous cut-scenes add to the story line and the action by seemlessly taking control from the game player and restoring it after the verbal interchange or action sequence. these cut-scenes are done within the gaming interface without any change in the graphics. They make the animated sequences more believable and make a more unified transition from and to the player controlled portion of the game. I think we can applaud Sierra for a job well done.
Voice ActorsThe entire game uses voices for all dialog and to describe most items that you encounter. A large cast of professional voice actors were well scripted and professionally casted and recorded in Hollywood, California. The voice actors did a beautiful job.
Music ScoreThe mood music that permeates the game and sets off various more dramatic sequences in the game was well composed and executed
Sound EffectsThere are ambient sound effects that keep the suspense high. There a fight related grunts and clashes of steel. The sound effects are good and set of the product well.
UtilitiesSave games get very large approaching 3 megabytes making disk space a consideration. The install requires 400 megabytes and still spends significant time going to the one CD-ROM disk. Game saves are relatively quick and can be much quicker if you use a speed disk defragmenter program regularly.The game is probably very compressed on this disk. The install times for each level and any save games are very, very long and represent a large deficiency in the game time. If you die and must restore a save game, you will need to read something to while away the time. A nice feature is the optional sub-titles for those who are hearing challenged. The help dialog system pops up and suggests how to use the interface or certain objects in the game. The help system can be turned off, but it is a really good system for getting started without reading those nasty manuals. The manual is only 43 pages long and is supplimented with a quick start card. Nice documentation. As a reviewer I would have liked a credits list in the all too short manual.
Multi-player FeaturesUnfortunately, there are no multiplayer aspects to the game. In the game's present form, a multiplayer feature would not be desireable.
Cheats, Hints, WalkthroughKing's Quest 8: Mask of Eternity Walkthough
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