Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness
First posted on 12 June 1998. Last updated on 07 July 2010.
The Quest for Glory series is among my favorite adventure game series ever. It combines the great fun and imagination of classic role-playing games with the skill and thinking of classic adventure games. This, plus the simple but enticing idea of becoming the hero of a town and rescuing it from evil, makes the game compelling. This fourth installment of the series, Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness (also known as Quest for Glory: Shadows of Darkness), continues in the grand tradition of its predecessors with even better graphics. Unfortunately, the game is hampered by bugs that turn it instead into a mediocre sequel in the end.
The story picks up where Quest for Glory III: Wages of War has left off. In the midst of your celebrations over your last victory you are seized by a mysterious force and wrenched into an unknown and dark cave. How do you get there and what are you to do? These are the questions you must answer in this decidedly darker tale. During your quest, you must save the town of Mordavia from the evil that haunts it. Gypsies, vampires, new friends, and old enemies, await you on your path toward becoming the hero of Mordavia.
You have 2 choices for the game installation, either as a DOS or Windows version. Make this choice wisely because you are stuck with your decision! A saved game in the DOS version cannot be loaded in the Windows version, and vice versa. This is an unnecessary incompatibility. Other than the fact that the DOS version has a more colorful cursor, there is really no difference between the two in terms of gameplay and control. The graphics in this sequel are nice but not spectacular. Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness is released only a couple of years after Quest for Glory III: Wages of War. It is therefore not surprisingly to note this game shows no dramatic difference in graphics or sound quality from its predecessor. The artistic style of the drawings and the fighting sequences have been changed slightly, but I do not think that neither of these changes represent real improvements. Interestingly, the box for this game bears only the title "Quest for Glory: Shadow of Darkness" and does not acknowledge that this game is the fourth title in the Quest for Glory series. The game is released in both Floppy Disk and CD-ROM versions. The CD-ROM version is released subsequent to the Floppy Disk version in December 1995. The CD-ROM version features 8,000 lines of dialog not found in the original version. It stars the voice talents of John Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, Raiders of the Lost Ark, King Solomon's Mine), Bill Farmer (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and the Beast, Rover Dangerfield), and a voice cast of over 20 seasoned Hollywood performers.
Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness is among the earliest titles to use the upgraded SCI1 (Sierra Creative Interpreter, version 1) engine. SCI1 is an extension of the original SCI. It now supports a point and click interface, 320x200x256 VGA graphics, and digitized sound effects. Among all of game titles that employ the SCI1 engine, this game is the only one that allows a choice of topics to "Tell" or "Ask About" during a conversation, rather than a pre-scripted conversation that is automatically played in its entirety when the "Talk" cursor is clicked on the character. Another unique feature is the addition of a "Skill Level" lever that controls the difficulty of the combats and the puzzles. Unlike the original SCI, there is no standard debug mode in SCI1 games, since it is taken out entirely before the game is released. This game is among the few titles to first employ a 32-bit DOS extender.
The gameplay is good but not great. I have always enjoyed playing this series in a third person perspective. It works well for adventure games of this type. The basic interface is similar to the previous titles. It is intuitive and easy to use. Conversation is a vital portion of the game. Asking the right questions can help to solve many puzzles. The graphical interface makes asking the right questions much easier than in the first two games that use a text interface. The revamped fighting interface seems much more like an arcade than the interface used in the previous titles. The fighting is just is not as enjoyable, challenging, or fun as fighting in the previous games. The choices of characters available in this game are based on traditional role-playing games—a Fighter, a Magic User, or a Thief. In addition, a Paladin character exists as a "bonus" character type. It is only available to players who have completed one of the previous 3 games of the Quest for Glory series. The Paladin class can only be chosen if no dishonorable action has been done previously. The Paladin has similar abilities and tasks to the Fighter but has the opportunity to fulfill certain special honor related quests in the game. He also can gain magical abilities, including Healing and Protection.
The puzzles and story in this sequel are probably the most complicated so far in the series. With a single exception, all puzzles are completely reasonable. There is 1 puzzle that falls into the classic "dead-end" category without any warning. You have to meet a certain person early in the game. If this is not done, you cannot finish the game. However, there seems to be no reason (other than a programming choice) to why you cannot meet that person later in the game. This oversight is very frustrating for me as I am about a month into the game when I have to start over from scratch because I realize what is going on.
Few characters from the previous have made return appearances to this sequel. These include Ad Avis from Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire (now in a transformed life figure, or rather lack of) and Baba Yaga from Quest for Glory III: Wages of War. At the end of the game, the hero is whisked off to Silmaria—no doubt as a plug for the next sequel Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire. If you have enjoyed the previous games of the series, it is comforting to know that this sequel follows the same tradition of interesting puzzles, building skills, interaction, and even fighting as its predecessors. It is worth importing your character from the earlier games and continuing to play through the series.
The production of this title is its biggest weak point. The game is full of bugs, as if Sierra On-Line has released the beta version for our use. The reason is rumored to be the growing pain of the adaptations of the SCI1 engine and the 32 bit DOS extender in this game. There are several bugs that are hardware specific to the speed of your system. For example, when I play the game on a Pentium Pro 200, there is a scene (the Chernovy encounter) in which the system continuously crashes and the only workaround is to run a program like MoSlo that slows down the speed of the computer or, in my case, to run it on my old 486SX/25. Sierra On-Line is aware of this bug and lets you know of its existence but offers no patch to fix it. There are several other bugs in which patches have been developed. Some of these bugs are subtle in that they do not give out error messages or crash the system but prevent a vital event to occur in the game so that you may play forever without being able to finish. All of these bugs are simply inexcusable! Beta testing should have been more thorough. All bugs that are caught later should have been fixed instead of being just told of a complicated workaround.
While the puzzles are challenging and the story is intriguing, Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness is only a mediocre game. If you enjoy the series previously, I recommend playing this title as long as you are prepared for all of the bugs that follow.