King's Quest: Chapter 2 - Rubble Without a Cause (PC) Review

By Sandy Wilson 25.01.2016

Review for King

Sierra Entertainment and The Odd Gentlemen have decided to bring their labour of love, the King's Quest series, kicking and screaming into the modern age of gaming. To update the old DOS titles into a fully-fledged, yet chapter-based, 3D adventure, means jumping random hurdles in terms of design and carefully choosing which areas of the saga to focus on. In bringing it to the current generation of gamers they hope to capture some new audience and bolster their once loved series, hopefully with a view to making some more adventure games! Chapter 1: A Knight to Remember (which was released both on PC and PS4 platforms) was a pretty large success, and this follow up chapter took many months to come to life but was the wait worth it?

King's Quest always had a great sense of character even on the old DOS/early Windows it ran on. The little descriptive pieces of dialogue, the animation, the narration, and so on, these are some of the reasons why it is so fondly remembered. Its revival takes the wonderful and colourful characters and throws them into a 3D adventure title, shirking the series usual point-and-click style. Chapter 1 told the story of King Graham's rise from a nobody to a knight; it was well received and provided a fairly robust experience. Chapter 2 tells the story of the scary ordeal that he faced shortly after being crowned and how he dealt with it.

After a particularly stressful situation arises, a young Graham snaps and heads into town, where he is swiftly kidnapped by Goblins. Chapter 2 does a lot of things; some well and others... not so much. For starters, the setting is much more restrictive, unlike Chapter 1, which had a large open map featuring autumnal forests, a dragons cave, and other interesting areas in Daventry, Chapter 2 mostly takes place inside dark and dank grey caves - very clashing in tone with the first chapter. The undertones are so different with very little whimsy. Instead there are undertones of depression and the looming of death.

The game series relies on its characters pretty heavily, but with such an overarching tone of depression everything feels supremely off. Graham is more reserved (although his tired walk animation is golden), the villagers are ill and weak (to begin with), and the goblins have no real dialogue other than noises meaning the character interaction is limited. By the end of the chapter, Graham has some great character development and the tone shifts a little, but, ultimately, it takes the three-to-four hours of gameplay shine far less than the five-to-seven hours of myth, comedy, and vibrancy of the first chapter. Surprisingly. Graham's voice acting is one of the things holding this series together with his playful and fun narration (even though it suffers very slightly in this chapter)!

Screenshot for King's Quest: Chapter 2 - Rubble Without a Cause on PC

There are flourishes of creativity everywhere but this chapter chooses to focus on a more serious scenario where player choice influences the ending. The story is a lot shorter, but no less intriguing this time round. It tends to drag its feet as it forces puzzles upon the player and it holds a repetitive pattern of getting up, carrying out a few actions, and then going to bed. Generally, the setup is fine but after wondering the caves for a couple of hours, the hope that a trip into the town or extended world is squashed as the chapter heads towards its conclusion. It's really rather depressing.

While dark and usually grey of pallet, the caves do provide some fun and interest. One of the best quests in them is when Graham has to get the frog which was worthy of a wee chortle. The presentation of the caves and characters is still great and very storybook-like. The camera angles and little flourishes of colour really help to give life to the area. Had the chapter spent a little less time in the caves, and more time building a narrative involving more characters and places, the second chapter would have been real gold. Hopefully, the third one will expand massively, and have a little more intrigue from a slightly older, and more experienced King Graham.

Being a middle chapter it is understandable that the story ends on a cliff-hanger but the reflective story being told about the dilemma in the caves suffers a little. The main problem is that the story Graham's telling is a bit limp and less interestingly written than last time. The general vibe this chapter gives off is that a sacrifice must be made, and while it is possible to save every one of the townsfolk there must be one sacrifice at the end which feels a little mean of the developers. That's not to say the shift in tone is unwelcome. To many people this will be a great move proving that a darker more emotional episode is something that adventure games, even a King's Quest, actually need. It just doesn't work so well in this particular series, though, since it has always had a fun, bright outlook and lots of puns interlaced with an interesting, but not always very deep story.

Screenshot for King's Quest: Chapter 2 - Rubble Without a Cause on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

King's Quest: Chapter 2 - Rubble Without a Cause is ultimately a good experience, but for a game with only two chapters so far, the drop in length is a concern. The writing is still good when dialogue sequences take place, and the humour is excellent for the most part, although the length and atmosphere really bring this chapter down. It has moments where the sparkle is there and it leads into the next chapter quite well. It's so close to being great that it's painful. With high hopes for Chapter 3 the wait begins afresh.

Developer

The Odd Gentlemen

Publisher

Sierra Entertainment

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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