Game Pile: Quest For Glory III

Wages Of War

There’s no avoiding that Quest For Glory 3 is the weakest of the four games. It was the first experience the Coles had with the new engine, and it shows. Combat in this one is low-contact and awkward, to allow users to use their mouse instead of the keyboard, but the system is un-tuned and messy. You can spam attacks or hit them in a more patient form and they don’t seem to make any difference. You burn stamina to attack, but you still need to attack a certain number of times to win, which means you might as well burn your stamina fast. Magic doesn’t seem to have much impact, so broadly speaking the best strategy I found was to amp your stats with mundane practice and steamroll combat.

The story continues in its grandness, with you, now the prince of Shapier, being taken off to a new land that needs heroes, on the request of your old allies Rakeesh and Uhura. You’re taken to the Egyptian-like city of Tarna, and its adjacent savannah and jungles. Instead of the earlier games’ room-by-room forest areas, you’re treated to a huge map, with little key locations on it – and you can wander to and from those locations. You can randomly encounter things along the way, and those things generate their own map markers. This system is honestly pretty cool, but since there are only five-ish screens of jungle to explore, you run out of interesting locations fast. There are parts of the game where the map has literally one thing on it to explore.

The story is solid enough, with gambits and negotiations. It’s also one of the rare times the Coles use a familiar storytelling device of betrayal, which means it stings when it happens, instead of being tiresome and predictable. The game has its flabby bits – as if in deference to the fact that grinding stats is useful, there are whole segments of the game where literally nothing will happen if you don’t want it to, giving you all the time in the world to grind. The music is lovely, the graphics are pretty good, and… and…

sigh

Runt of the Litter

Poor Quest For Glory 3. Nobody ever really wanted you.

If you played to the end of Quest For Glory 2, you were treated to a stylish little animation at the end of your hero staring out at the wild sands of Rasier, where the moon turned red and you were told that the story was going to continue in, dun dun dun, Shadows of Darkness. Then it didn’t. It continued in Wages of War, which came out of nowhere and expanded the stories of Rakeesh the Lionaur and Uhura the warrior.

The reason that the Coles offered for it in hindsight was that the story arc was designed to four sets of symbols: compass points, types of mythology, elementals, and seasons. Quest For Glory 3 fits none of these symbols. It’s literally an extra game, a game made to stand in between the feel of Shapier’s city and the tighter scope of Mordavia. I also think the aforementioned discomfort with the engine was part of it – I really do think the Coles weren’t sure about what they could do with the point-and-click style of game, and so Quest For Glory 3 came out as a test. The climax of the game is amazing, certainly as good as the climax of Quest For Glory 2, so it certainly showed that they could still put interesting pieces together…

It’s not a bad game. It really isn’t. It’s just lesser. In previous games, you’d often meet a person before they became important, there’d be some greater context to them. You’d meet them, then they’d be involved in doing something. Also, there were opportunities for the classes to differentiate themselves, while the greatest distinction here in Quest For Glory 3 was Paladin or Not Paladin. There’s a very clear hierarchy in Quest For Glory 3. Paladins get the most and most interesting stuff, since they have to introduce all your abilities. Magic users and Fighters get a nice little segment dedicated to them, and thieves…

It seems reasonable given that Quest For Glory 1 and Quest For Glory 2 featured extensive sections where the thief could leap ahead of the game’s economy and do things like live on a potion drip or run around with an armoury in his pockets, but in Quest For Glory 3, thieves have a surprisingly limited range of options for thiefy things to do. You have access to ropes as a new puzzle avenue, but there are only two locations I can remember where being a thief is meaningful compared to being anyone else. You can pickpocket off a drummer and you can commiserate with another thief, but that’s pretty much it. Compared to the elaborate fighter/paladin path’s obstacle courses, it seems honestly a bit rude.

Maybe I’m just sore about that. I always loved to play the thief, because even more than the mage, they felt like they were the clever character. The thief flirted with Dinarzad and overcame elementals with clever tricks, and danced circles around Khaveen – rather than spending time fighting directly. Even the two thief opportunities you have are basically identical.

The Setup For Shadows

The edges of greatness are here. The use of romance – and its rejection – is interesting. The character of the storyteller bringing the thief’s motivations into question. The honour system has a direct, tangible effect on the game, even if it is incredibly easy to cheat it. The use of a huge map with small key locations on it was interesting even if it fell flat. Mages received the first outline of the whole ‘staff’ mechanic. Fighters were given something more expansive than the Eternal Order of Fighters with its near-binary ‘be a dick/don’t be a dick’ choice. It even had a fun little cinematic moment where a fight was interrupted thanks to an earlier choice!

Quest For Glory 3 looks much better in hindsight, when you can compare and contrast it to its contemporary games, but it’s not as polished as its sequel or prequel – both games are made by people with more familiarity with the tools they have.

What’s really surprising in hindsight is how much Quest For Glory 3 tries to tell a big story. It has at its conclusion, a genuine Big Damn Heroes moment where characters from all throughout the story, and from different cultures, come together to fight for you, and it’s honestly rad as all hell. It’s little touches, like the way the painted backgrounds don’t have doors and how static the city feels compared to Shapier. It’s the way you can’t compare how much you hated Ad Avis to how much you hated The Demon Wizard (who if he’s ever named, I don’t remember it). It’s the way the bazaar’s denizens all represent puzzle piece retrieval places, and that’s it.

I remember enjoying this game, but no matter how much I loved it, I only like it when I’m done playing.

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