King's Quest III: To Heir is Human
First posted on 20 November 1998. Last updated on 08 August 2009.
Roberta Williams' King's Quest series is one of the best adventure game series ever produced. The series is known for its great storylines and beautiful imageries. One of the best titles in the series is King's Quest III: To Heir is Human. Published in 1986, the game not only stands as a technological revolution for its time in the competitive genre of adventure and role-playing games, it is also a most enjoyable title to play.
From the marriage of King Graham and Queen Valanice a pair of twins is born—Prince Alexander and Princess Rosella. The Kingdom of Daventry is in rejoice, until the day when the evil wizard Manannan kidnaps Prince Alexander. Nothing has been heard from Alexander ever since, and the Kingdom of Daventry once again fails into deep sadness. More trouble awaits the kingdom when a three-headed dragon shows up and demands a daily human sacrifice. In the meanwhile, Manannan, the evil wizard of Llewdor, raises the kidnapped young boys and turns them into his slaves. When they reach the age of 18, he kills them for fearing they may become smart enough to discover his magic and turn against him.
The game begins 17 years after the kidnapping of Alexander. You play Gwydion, a slave of Manannan. Although Gwydion regards Manannan as a father like figure, he also fears that Manannan may soon kill him when he reaches 18 years old. His only escape is to defeat Manannan with the evil magician's own magical instrument and spell that turn Manannan into a cat. When Gwydion travels back to the Kingdom of Daventry after his escape, he finally learns of his true ancestry origin as Prince Alexander. With the kingdom still in trouble from the three-headed dragon, you must now guide Prince Alexander to defeat the dragon and save your lost sister Princess Rosella.
The development of King's Quest III: To Heir is Human has taken considerably shorter time than that of King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne. When the game is first released, many fans have erroneously protested that this game is not a true King's Quest sequel because it does not deal with the royal family of Daventry. The game is also criticized for being the first title in the King's Quest series where you do not play as King Graham but as the young slave Gwydion. It is not until months later when fans finally finish the game that the connection between Prince Alexander and Gwydion is discovered. This false outcry is probably related to the fact that there is no hint book or hint line service available back then!
King's Quest III: To Heir is Human is the first and only title in the series to feature automatic mapping or auto-map in the game. Many fans have complained about this feature, fearing that it may make the game too easy to play. It is not clear whether or not the negative fan response is the reason why this feature has not reappeared in subsequent sequels. Compared to the previous titles in the series, this sequel is a definite improvement and has revolutionized adventure game design. The graphic has been enhanced and the parser interface has been updated. The game is at least twice as big as its predecessors, and the storyline that features the struggle between good and evil is much stronger. This is also the first game in the King's Quest series where magic is introduced. The magic spells that are available in the game include Understanding the Language of Creatures, Flying like an Eagle or a Fly, Teleportation at Random, Causing a Deep Sleep, Transforming, Brewing a Storm, and Becoming Invisible.
King's Quest III: To Heir is Human uses a proprietary game engine called AGI (Adventure Game Interpreter) pioneered by Sierra On-Line. The interpreter provides the game interface and handles all subroutines used to display graphics and sounds. The game itself is then programmed using scripts written specifically for the interpreter. As such, the scripts themselves are platform independent, and can be played in any platform given the right interpreter. AGI is the first interpreter made by Sierra On-Line. It supports only text input and low resolution (160x200) EGA graphics of the IBM PCjr for which the interpreter is originally written. It is, however, the first game engine that supports a pseudo-3D graphic environment whereby characters or objects can be moved on screen in front of, behind, or over other objects on screen. It also uses vector graphics rather than bitmaps in order to speed up screen redraws while minimizing the size of the graphic data files.
This game operates with a similar interface as its predecessors. You control Gwydion's movement using the cursors. If you want to pick something up or you want to use anything, you must type in commands such as "pick up" or "look at". This type of text parser interface is common during that era. The auto-map feature automatically keeps track of the player's current position and places that have been previously visited by the player. Many adventure gamers, including myself, think that auto-map makes the game too easy and spoils the otherwise challenging gameplay. Like many of the older titles from Sierra On-Line, you must remember to save your game often. Sudden death is not uncommon if you walk in the wrong direction or do something strange to cause Manannan's untimely return. Having this said, the risk of sudden death may actually be on purpose by design, as Williams has previously elaborated, "...I'd add the pressure of an evil magician watching your every move, ready to kill you for any mistake." If you die in the game, you must start over again by loading a previous save.
It is worthy to note that the subtitles in the King's Quest series of games have always been in a tongue-in-cheek style. This game is no exception. The word "Heir" in the subtitle "To Heir is Human" is an obvious example of brilliant foreshadowing of the true relationship between Prince Alexander and Gwydion (in that they are one the same person). Yet, fans have not caught on this subtle hint for months after the game has been released. This sequel also introduces Princess Rosella, who subsequently becomes the main protagonist in King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride. In fact, Williams has previously said that she already has such an idea in mind during the design of this game, "Rosella was introduced toward the end of the game; seeing her on the screen for the first time, I suddenly saw her on her own adventures in a sequel."
For hardcore fans of the King's Quest series, there is an Easter egg hidden in the room just above the hole on the pirate ship next to the Captain's room. To access it, type in "JUMP ON LADDER" just when you walk into the hole and start falling (rather, have the words typed before you fall, then hit enter as you do), and you shall find yourself walking in the air. Unfortunately, you cannot leave the hole afterward, so save your game first before you try this trick.
King's Quest III: To Heir is Human is among my favorite games in the King's Quest series. It boasts a large game world, an elegant storyline, and beautiful graphics. What attracts me the most is that this title is the first game where magic is introduced into the gameplay. Any diehard adventure fan must experience the joy of playing this delightful title.