King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow

Posted by Eivind Hagerup.
First posted on 20 April 1998. Last updated on 27 July 2010.
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King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow! How true it is!
King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
The beautifully hand painted graphics draw in many fans of the King's Quest series.
King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
Whose domain have you entered?
King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
Prince Alexander seeks help to save Princess Cassima.
King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
Beware of the guard dog patrol!

Since 1980, Roberta Williams has brought us some of the best adventure games ever made. Many of these titles have pushed the limits of computer adventure gaming. Her signature King's Quest series is made up of such titles. King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown is the first adventure game to be modeled in a 3D like environment. King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne is the first adventure game to feature a recurrent lead character in an ongoing storyline. King's Quest III: To Heir is Human is the first adventure game to set in a large scaled world. King's Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella is the first adventure game to introduce a female lead heroine. King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder is the first adventure game to use a mouse driven, icon based interface. Now, the evolution of the King's Quest series has reached yet another plateau with the release of the next sequel—King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow.

At the end of King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder, Princess Cassima has invited Prince Alexander to her home, the Land of the Green Isles. The only problem is that Alexander does not know where this mysterious land is located, and no one around him has even heard of it. Since Alexander has already fallen madly in love with the princess, he is determined to set sail to locate his true love's whereabouts. When he hears Princess Cassima calling his name through a magic mirror, he suddenly sees a way to find this land by navigating using the stars. Unfortunately, when Alexander arrives at the Land of the Green Isles, he finds that the fair Cassima is in trouble!

As this game is made in 1992, it is unfair to compare the graphics of this title with the graphics of today's adventure games. When the game is first released, the graphics is considered to be truly stunning and the best you can get for its time. The backgrounds are all beautifully hand painted. Close-up shots are used to highlight key scenes. Costumed, video-captured live actors are used to provide frame bases for the animators. The majority of the melodic MIDI music is composed by Chris Brayman. Over 2 hours of original music is scored. The game is released in both Floppy Disk and CD-ROM versions. In the CD-ROM version, the audio soundtrack on the CD features the love theme "Girl in the Tower" composed by Mark Seibert. The few movie sequences are all nicely animated. The intro sequence is most impressive, especially in the CD-ROM version.

Different versions of the game support both DOS and Windows. To get the best of it, you should play the game in 640x480 mode in 256 colors. Neither the Windows nor DOS installation is difficult. I have not encountered any trouble in it playing on either system. The CD-ROM version contains a number of enhancements over the original. It contains digitized voiceovers and a revised soundtrack not available in the original.

The original version uses the SCI version 1 engine, an extension of the original SCI interpreter. It differs from SCI version 0 by the debut of a point and click interface, VGA graphics capable of 320x200 in 256 colors, and digitized sound effects. The point and click interface utilizes a toolbar at the top of the screen to allow selection of four functions (walk, look, action, talk) along with the inventory and general game options. The reason for this change is that the company feels the market for adventure games has changed to where most people do not want to take the time to learn to type, spell, or figure out just how to talk to a computer, but rather to simply point and click to initiate interaction.

The game is coauthored by Williams and Jane Jensen. Jensen is best known for her famed Gabriel Knight series. On the merits of this title, Williams has said, "King's Quest V broke a lot of ground: VGA, icon interface, and lots of acting. I'm pleased to say it also won the Software Publishers' Association's "Best Adventure Game" award in 1991. But I had to look at things from other angles for King's Quest VI: we needed professional voice actors, and the plot had to be less linear. Co-designer Jane Jensen and I bounced a lot of ideas around. We needed more optional puzzles, multiple solutions to puzzles, multiple uses for the same object; and a few "red herrings" and lots of timers so things would need to be done within a certain amount of time. King's Quest VI had to be harder AND easier than King's Quest V in that you can get through it on a minimal level. You'll miss half the story, but you'll finish. Valanice finally got some time on the screen; I knew she had to play a major part in a sequel. I wanted to get away from just putting together a jumble of puzzles in some sort of meaningless quest; you should have a clear sense of what you're doing and why, with some emotion behind it."

King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow is the second game in this series to feature an icon based interface. You point and click with the mouse. Of course, an inventory is available in which you can put your belongings. You also get a magic map eventually that allows you to travel between different islands. The voice acting is excellent and professional, especially Robby Benson (voice of Beast in Beauty and The Beast) as Prince Alexander. There is optional text subtitling. It is only too bad that you cannot have the text subtitling option on at the same time as the voiceover option.

The King's Quest series has always featured lots of creatures and artifacts from ancient myths and legends. This sequel is no exception. Among these are a minotaur, ghosts, an unicorn, and even the Lord of Death. Game management is done using the well known "Save and Restore" system, and you can delete your saved games directly within the game. Many of its puzzles have multiple solutions. Most of the puzzles are logical, but you may find yourself stuck sometimes due to a few dead-ends. Be sure to search every scene thoroughly before you enter the catacombs! As expected from Williams, the story in this game is very good and the script is well written.

Gameplay is more flexible than previous titles of the series in that nearly half of the game action can be optional and omitted without jeopardizing the ability to finish the game. There are 2 endings, a long ending and a shorter ending. If you complete the longer version, the game informs you where the alternative branch lies. Unfortunately, gameplay is also hampered by a few illogical puzzles and dead-ends. Solutions to several puzzles needed by Alexander require clues from certain cut scenes of which Alexander simply cannot be aware. For example, a lamp is shown to the player (but not Alexander) during a cut scene, and yet Alexander is expected to identify this lamp which he has never seen before in order to solve a puzzle later on in the game.

All in all, I find King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow to be among the best adventure games ever made and probably the best in the King's Quest series. The beautiful intro, the lovely music, the spectacular voice acting, and the well written story all make this game an all-time classic.

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