Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire

Posted by Greg Wallace.
First posted on 28 March 1999. Last updated on 04 July 2010.
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Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire
Each character begins with a wire frame that the game animators use to structure movement. Later, color and texture are added to define the shape.
Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire
As the hero, you are summoned by Erasmus to go to Silmaria.
Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire
The role-playing element is evident in the assignment of character attributes.
Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire
You prepare to compete in the Rites of Rulership.
Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire
An overhead map makes traveling a breeze!

Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire is a game that exists largely due to its strong fan base. After the disappointing sales of Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness, Sierra On-Line temporarily shelves the series. Eventually, fans convince the company to allow co-creator Lori Cole to finish the epic story. Since its inception, the game has found itself in a position of living up to a great legacy. In early 1999, the new management at Sierra On-Line announces the closure of Yosemite Entertainment, the original Oakhurst facility for the company. Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire is the last game in development by Yosemite Entertainment. As such, this game represents not only the end of a series but the end of an era. While it is unfair to judge the game based on this unwanted publicity, it is difficult to divorce such facts from the message the game has come to represent. The message is that while this sequel is truly an excellent game, it also has its share of flaws as the defining final chapter for the Quest for Glory series.

The story of Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire is an exciting, albeit unoriginal, tale of action, adventure, romance, and betrayal set on an exotic land. Having succeeded in the defeat of an oppressive tyrant in the last adventure, our hero (you) finds himself thrust into the center of a vengeful madman's plan to seize the thrown of the Kingdom of Silmaria.

Long ago, an red dragon named the Dragon of Doom is inadvertently set loose by the wizards in Atlantis. The resultant destruction by the wrath of the dragon causes the sinking of Atlantis and leaves the mainland in ruins. With effort, the dragon is eventually driven into a cave guarded by magical pillars that has since imprisoned the menacing dragon. The story begins with the news of the assassination of the King of Silmaria. Lost without its king, Erasmus the wizard quickly sets forth the Seven Rites of Rulership. These rites form an ancient contest to decide the next ruler of the land, in the event that the King has no heir. Knowing that the contestants are prime targets for the elusive assassin, you agree to enter the trial in the hope of luring him out. During the trial, you also contend with other contestants as well as the vengeful madman behind the scheme of destruction. Along the way, you meet many old acquaintances as well as make new friends and new enemies. You also learn that the spell which binds the pillars imprisoning the dragon can be broken by the blood of a murdered man and that the assassin's evil intention on the contestants is tied to this ancient curse.

Yosemite Entertainment has made some interesting choices regarding the graphic engine used in Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire. With this engine, all the hand painted background sets are displayed exclusively using Apple's QuickTime VR. that proves to be a mixed blessing. While the game runs very well on a low-end machine, it does so at the expense of nearly half a GB of hard disk space. In contrast, character generations in the game all occur in real-time 3D and are voxel based. While they are wonderfully animated, they frankly look pixelated and blocky up close. Moreover, the talking heads used for dialogs are all poorly animated and are definitely a step-down from the hand drawn portraits in the last game. The engine used in this game also seems to restrain the artistic freedom of the designers, as nearly every scene is viewed from a similar angle upon a pre-rendered fixed background with the camera severely zoomed out. According to Sierra On-Line, among the many new features in this game include real-time 3D characters developed in SoftImage and 3D Studio Max, high quality 3D pre-rendered panoramic backgrounds using Silicon Graphics technologies, 3D sound effects, and a full TV/Film quality soundtrack.

Composer Chance Thomas has created for this sequel the finest musical scores ever found in an adventure game. The music fits perfectly and adds a lot to the mood of the game. In contrast, sound effects are rather uninspired despite technically excellent, especially given the fact since Sierra On-Line has access to a professional foley studio. This game is among the few titles that actually accredit the voice actors as being members of the Screen Actors Guild. Ironically, the voice acting from these members seems less professional than those from past titles.

Quest for Glory is the first attempt by Sierra On-Line to combine traditional graphic adventure techniques with some role-playing elements. This allows the use of a skills system to develop a character's performance. The choices of characters available are also based on role-playing games--Warrior, Wizard, Thief, and Paladin. Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire boasts more than 10 hours of recorded dialog, a 3-hour score, an estimated 20 man years of artwork and animation. It is among Sierra On-Line's most ambitious projects to date.

What has always made the Quest for Glory series unique is its style of gameplay. This sequel is no exception. Among the coolest aspects of this game is that you can import a character from any of the previous titles in the Quest for Glory series. An imported character starts at a considerable advantage and is the only way to play as the Paladin (though a pre-made Paladin is also available). Each character has his own unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. The only problem with this system is that it may be hard to identify with your character since he lacks any real personality and can only be a white make in his twenties.

The Rites of Rulership is an interesting plot device but can occasionally make the game to appear as forced, even though only a couple of these quests involve timed elements. This is not to say that there is no gameplay that is optional. There are numerous sub-quests available for each character class. You can even woo and marry 1 of 4 women from the game. You are also free to accept or refuse the throne at the end! A handy summary log tells you what you have found and what you have missed at the end when you finally win the game.

Unfortunately, the action elements in Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire have some hefty problems. The largest problem is undoubtedly the decision to move combat into the game world instead of using a separate screen or module as in previous titles. Fighting is an infuriating and confusing clicking frenzy that is exacerbated by poor camera positioning and inaccurate physical modeling to portray depth of objects away from the screen and the distance between each other. Since traveling in the game is accomplished via an overhead map, random enemy encounters require the player to be dumped into a separate screen anyway. This thus defeats the whole point of using an in-game combat system. I also resent the fact that there is no strategic option available as in the last game of the series. While one can adjust the combat difficulty at any time with no penalty, it only replaces frustration with tedium.

In comparison, the adventure elements in Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire are handled much better than its action counterparts. The interface should be familiar to anyone who has played adventure games previously. It works well except for a few quirks. For example, combining items is much harder than it needs to be when the entire inventory cannot be displayed in the game window. The small "tool belt" stores the frequently used items but it cannot be scrolled. Some players have complained about the lack of labels for hotspots, making pixel hunting a tiresome experience. The thing that most strikes me as odd is the lack of spoken narration. All messages in the game are presented in a small text window at the top of the screen. This position is not convenient since it is impossible to watch the text window and the playing field at the same time.

While the main quest remains the same in the game, most of the sub-quests and subplots are character class dependent. The different abilities of the characters demand different approaches and solutions to different puzzles. The character class affects both the reactions of NPC (Non-Player Characters) toward the player and the paths available to the player to complete the quests. Certain areas may be only accessible by a character class but not another. Some of the sub-quests include the search for the Ring of Truth (Paladin), the quest to become Master Thief (Thief) and Champion Gladiator (Warrior), and the creation of a mystical staff (Wizard).

The initial release of Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire has been plagued with bugs. Most of these bugs are just nuisance, but a few are worth noting. Characters files above a certain size cannot be imported. The Hydra cannot be killed by the player alone. The game can crash when entering the Dragon Blood cave. The sorceress refuses a marriage proposal no matter what you do. All of these problems have been fixed by the patch. The multiplayer option, a much promised and requested feature, is not included. It is also worth noting that porting saved games between different patched versions can have unpredictable results. This sequel is yet another title in the series with a pitiful manual. The monochrome booklet contains no character profile or background story to assist the novices. The game, however, includes a nicely designed reference card, though the information detailed there should have been included in the manual as well.

This game requires far too much knowledge of the previous titles in the series to be truly enjoyable. Balancing the needs of the veterans and the needs of the novices are always difficult, but no real effort is made to help to involve the latter. In fact, even veteran fans may be confused by the frequent cameos of obscure characters from the previous titles. The plot also tends to trip over itself frequently, making such amateurish mistakes as revealing the identity of the villain in the opening movie! My biggest disappointment is perhaps the dragon itself. Much noise is made about the creature in the prologue, yet it turns out to be nothing more than a small pawn in a larger game.

Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire neatly ties up many loose ends set forth by the previous games in the series. Its unique gameplay combining role-playing and action with adventure elements should broaden its appeal to the vast gaming public. It is unfortunate to witness the demise of Yosemite Entertainment without which this great series cannot have existed. Veterans of the series should not be disappointed with this game, albeit it may not be the best in the series. Newcomers to the series should first seek out previous titles from the local bargain bin and then try out this game afterwards. Even veterans whose memories have been clouded by time are well advised to use this game as an excuse to revisit the earlier titles. Incidentally, the release of this game marks the 10-year anniversary for the Quest for Glory series. Despite its few flaws, Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire is a thoroughly enjoyable sequel that is set in the grand tradition of the Quest for Glory series.

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