Review: Guards Guards!

Vimes! Vimes!

I’ve had a bit of an enforced break from my Discworld readthrough due to Library availability, but finally got my hands on Guards Guards!

For me personally this one is a bit of a classic, while not the first Discworld I’ve read, it is probably the first Discworld I read that I found myself really getting sucked into the world and the characters, I loved Carrot and while my young self didn’t 100% get Vimes I enjoyed his growth too. I have to confess (spoilers sort of) my younger self also didn’t realize that Pratchett was going to subvert many expectations and fully expected Carrot to finish the story king of AnkhMorpork!

Guards Guards is the first ‘Night Watch’ or ‘Vimes’ book one of the recurring characters which in my opinion is the most popular of all the Discworld series, I think there is just so much character within these stories that its hard not to get attached and drawn into the tale. Guards Guards is also set entirely within Ankh-Morpork and its very fun getting to know the city and the world a bit better.

Something which hits a bit harder nowadays is the interplay of politics in Discworld. In my youth I largely took the world as a joke, but now much of Pratchett’s writing seems like a scathing critique of the world. That said I was intrigued by interactions with Vimes and the Patrician. As I’ve mentioned earlier the Patrician is actually in many of the early Discworld novels but is somewhat less developed, he is initially presented as a haughty placeholder ruler, however in Guard’s Guards we get a bit more development. And to be honest its quite strange. On the one hand the Patrician is depicted as fairly cold and more than willing to do evil (perhaps for good ends?) and also a master 4D chess manipulator, yet he also obviously has some sort of good or honorable streak in that his ends seem to be relative peace.

There is a highly unusual speech at the end of Guards Guards, much in the same format of dystopian novels where the ruler/authority explains the ethos of the dystopian world. The Patrician explains that humanity is basically a wave of evil, with islands of idealistic goodness among it. He sees his role as keeping the population organized enough to prevent chaos.

I would love to pick Pratchett’s brain about what his thoughts were behind this interaction. Obviously Vimes is our MC and thusly would be the favoured point of view (e.g. gritty honour) although through sheer competence and control its not clear whether Pratchett thinks the Patrician is a monster, necessary monster, or ultimately good. I do feel as the series continues that the Patrician largely is portrayed as ‘good’ but that doesn’t mean that his speech is the be all end of.

Probably my favourite thing about rereading Guards Guards is the anticipation of some of the upcoming amazing Guards books. Feet of Clay has always been a favourite, and Men at Arms is great too.

Dangerous Amnesia: Examining a Specific Trope

Technically that would probably result in executive function difficulties!

So quite a while back I did a post about Writing Amnesia: a risky trope where I talked about Amnesia, while being a relatively common story trope, can be a little difficult as it can undermine character development. I decided to revisit the topic as I recently played a game which used a very niche aspect of the trope where the MC has amnesia, (re)discovers a nefarious plot and in fact finds out that they themselves were a major part of it along the way.

(Some Spoilers ahead largely for a pair of games Amnesia the Dark Descent, and Lamentum)

While I’ve recently encountered this more in horror video games, it is a common trope in (usually B-grade) murder mysteries where the killer ends up being…. The Main Character Themselves.

This is not always pulled off with amnesia, although its often employed as otherwise the whodunnit story would make no sense (and sometimes still doesn’t) and is often a bit over the top as an obvious attempt to be ‘twisty’ rather than an intriguing story.

But today I’m more interested in a more cosmic horror perspective where characters delve into a mystery only to discover they’ve already delved into it before, and – at least in the games I’ve played! – , have done a considerable amount of wrong along the way to their goals.

In Lamentum the story beats go something along the lines of: our MC Victor meets and marries Alissa, who falls incurably ill after their marriage. We initially see the pair travel to Grau Hill were an obviously magically problematic statesman Edmond lives and promises to look into a cure for Alissa. Very quickly things take a turn for the eldritch as Alissa disappears and Victor awakes after some kind of episode and the mansion is full of freaky monsters.

While its obvious something ‘has happened’ its only as the game progresses and we meet some other characters that the amnesia elements comes into play. The initial hint is that all the characters Victor meets appear to know him, but not Alissa (although this sort of doesn’t quite work as will discuss later). As the story furthers we finally learn that Victor has in fact been a major part of the magical goings on (which is a very soft way of saying multiple majorly evil deeds) – not a recent visitor caught up – and in fact Alissa died and Victor’s goal is to resurrect her.

The amnesia part of the trope serves several functions in a story like this. First it provides some obvious extra intrigue personal to the MC, rather than simply exploring a horrorland we are also teased with some information about their own involvement. The amnesia is a necessary element because otherwise it raises the question of why the MC doesn’t reveal their knowledge or behave with their knowledge intact. Something that Lamentum does quite well is that they position the MC’s action as essentially the same, e.g. one Victor ignorantly continues the process to resurrect his wife even though he is oblivious to the plot.

There are some limitations however – having a character with amnesia can risk repetition, e.g. it gets fairly old fairly quickly when every character you meat has the same “how do you know me, have you seen my wife” dialogue. The obvious problem being that the story doesn’t want to reveal that Alissa is dead too soon so have to make it so the characters simply never heard of her (despite the being whole reason Victor is there).

This is a major problem of the trope where its practically useful for creating intrigue and mystery but also highly risky where readers/players will feel vaguely annoyed either at being kept in the dark or by unnatural contrivances.

Ethics

The other side to this amnesia trope is that its used to ‘whitewash’ the character ethically so that their own evil actions can be drip-fed to the audience. This makes sense as stories can depict morally corrupt characters from the get-go, but it does create a significantly different tale. Having a more apparently heroic character be revealed as part of the evil creates a uniquely tense situation at the climatic end of the story where you have some powerful choices to be made – will the MC return to the evil plan, or fight against it. Also obviously avoids potential audience disgust at the beginning.

(if for example the MC’s evil actions were revealed from the start it wouldn’t make sense to have a choice like that in the end as they’d still just be working through their plan)

Again their are some obvious risks here. Revealing that the MC has been up to depraved stuff might alarm audiences, or disrupt the flow of the tale. How this is done is key, in the case of Lamentum its actually quite a deft strategy where Victor’s involvement AND wife’s demise are revealed together – it might seem a little tacky but it creates an interesting double effect. At first the plot seems like it may be leading towards a revelation that something went wrong with trying to cure Alissa and thusly her disappearance. However when its revealed that she in fact passed away and Victor’s goal is a resurrection, this ramping up of stakes makes us more comfortable with his increased immoral behaviour for said goal…

Note: I am not saying that this technique justifies evil actions OR that audiences would feel neutral. Rather that the double reveal makes it easier to accept than not.

So like my previous post I think there are some general risks to using amnesia which I’ll quickly summarize below:

You need to be careful not to erase your character OR effectively create two characters (unless that’s the effect you want)

Characters actions need to be integrated carefully – if an MC is punished for forgotten actions they will seems like a victim, if they are not held accountable they’ll seem like a villain.

Contrived reveals only stretch so far, an advantage of video games is you can place plot information pretty much where you want in the game to have it work, in a novel it will be hard to explain to an audience why an amnesiac MC only bumped into other characters in order of plot reveals.

Anyhow – hadn’t posted for a while so figured I’ll find a post out of the most recent game I played ­čśÇ

Thoughts?

Review (Non-Fiction): Corruptible

The basic of Klaas’ work is to explore the adage of absolute power corrupting. Of all the non-fiction I’ve been reading regardless of topic this has to be one of the best balanced in terms of historic anecdotes, interviews, data and evidence and explanation I’ve read. It’s one of those books that I just got absorbed in and then suddenly was like ‘wait, its almost done?’

With an interesting non-judgemental but not so open minded their head falls out approach, the book explores many angles of power, ranging from local (e.g. police forces) to presidential and corporate. The main themes of the book are what sorts of people are attracted to power, what sorts of systems encourage or discourage corruption and finally how to encourage more legitimately competent people to power.

There is no particular stand out parts (because its all good) but I guess what stood out to me is some of the bizarre and horrific things people have done in positions of power whether tyrannical Home Owner Association presidents or Tyrannical genocidal presidents the book basically speaks for itself in terms of relevant.

Probably the final note is that this book felt quite positive, the strategies for reducing corruption didn’t feel as out of reach as some worldly solutions feel right now, which was nice!

Review (Non-Fiction): The Displaced

So I have to confess something that I realized when I picked up this book. Hopefully I can explain this without sounding too terrible, but I noticed that I had a kind of “refugee trope” in my head, where I expected a sort of 3-act structure for stories about refugee’s, e.g. Act 1. suffering in country of origin, Act. 2 perilous journey Act 3. Struggle to fit in and find acceptance in new country.

Now that is nothing like the tales presented here. In fact this book almost acted as s debunking of the stereotyped experience I had in my head. For example the first story examined the author’s experience of changing their name to suit their new country and some of the weird and difficult moments this caused.

Similarly confronting many of the authors described the odd and unusual experiences they’ve had that don’t necessarily fit molds – one devastating story of a family separated by immigration explained wounds that never healed while their parents still lived. Some authors had moved with their parents before conscious memory and thusly had strained identities, one author earnestly explained the experience of returning to their country of origin and finding themselves out of place there as well.

So in summary this was a very useful read on many levels. It wasn’t tropey or exploitative of people’s suffering it was hugely insightful and helped me confront ideas about countryhood and refugee status in a way that made me think more deeply. The stories are all digestible in size and while I wouldn’t claim such a heavy topic was good for regular easy reading, the format does mean you can pick up and put down this book over a long period without losing anything.

Given where the world is at in 2022 and what might be heading our way with climate and inequality crisis this is a pretty important and relevant read, highly recommended and commended

Off-Topic: A Deep Dive into Kings Quest 2015

So I haven’t posted anything for a while, being a little drained and worn down by NZ currently being in the throes of the Omicron Pandemic, however on the flipside being fairly isolated and whatnot has created a bit of a nostalgia buzz and I finally played through the 2015 remake/reboot/adaption of Kings Quest!

For those who don’t know what King’s Quest is, but for some reason are still reading. King’s Quest is the flagship adventure game of the company Sierra Online that basically created the genre and in many respects basically computer games with actual graphics. Obviously there is a bit more detail to the history but I’m not actually here to summarize that! The real point is that I basically learnt to spell with these games (we’re talking back in the day when computer games actually had a text parser where you typed your actions) and I’ve replayed a few recently alongside with probably an even deeper dive in the Quest for Glory Series – which wholesomely combined RPG elements with adventure gaming.

So in my usual ‘up-to-date’ and ‘hot-take’ fashion its only taken me seven years to get around to playing a ‘recent’ reboot of the King’s Quest series which came out in 2015. For a big of developer background, by this time the original company had all but disappeared into merger/take-over oblivion but still existed in name and effectively in Rights for the various series of the 80s and 90s. If I have my facts straight there had been a few attempts to revive the series but it wasn’t until a group The Odd Gentlemen partnered with Activision that this game got made.

So settle in for some rambling about rebooting in general, gameplay thoughts and finally story.

Rebooting

Just a few words on the idea of reviving old series – just like other mediums there doesn’t seem to be much limits to reboots or endless sequels, however many video games genres I feel lend themselves to this process a bit more. There isn’t quite as much offense about revising a video game with a fresh lick of paint/graphics depending on the genre as say just redoing the same movie over and over with new (somehow worse) SFX (see Terminator Series)

But when it comes to Kings Quest I think there is a weird discussion to have. For one thing King’s Quest is so old (sorry everyone myself included) that it leaves a bit of a question make as to how to best update the series because almost everything about it will need it!

I mean how can you not love this? But if it were released today it would be intentionally ‘retro’ or possibly ‘RETRO’

There are a couple of points that I think are really challenging to consider. First is characterization. In many respects Kings Quest does not actually contain a lot of characterization. In the first couple King Graham is really a strong silent type and most character expression would be in the occasionally zany characters met on the journey.

Even the next couple of titles which in which the protagonists are Graham’s children, have fairly broad brush character develops. Chapter V sees a lot more dialogue, but still I would say Graham for example is is a fairly basic stoic ‘good king’ archetype. And the last two instalments while having the most character focus particularly for Alexander still kinda center around the idea of heroic individuals meeting zany characters on their various adventures.

Why am I going on about characterization so much, well I guess its a bit of an unspoken rule that since 2010 characters need character development, which might be a post in itself, but less cynically a modern remake of the classic for various reasons needed a bit more character work.

So did the reboot land this?

Kinda

A common theme in my discussion which I will just spell out here is that the 2015 KQ is a really good game, its obvious the love an attention The Odd Gentlemen have for the original series and it never felt butchered. That said I do think there were some flaws present in the good work, which while not sinking the whole affair, just generally perhaps preventing the reboot from being a legendary return to form and just ‘good’

So obviously the main character and discussion would be about Graham himself. Graham in 2015 is presented in my opinion a bit well, “odd”. I think there was a bit of a snag here, TOG (I don’t want to write out The Odd Gentlemen multiple times) played around with a bit of meta story telling here, and they decided to present Graham as a sort of geeky, puzzle loving fantasy nerd (ouch, I think). Some parts I think work well, Graham comes across as quite earnest – which fits with the overall mood of KQ. However he also had these bouts of ‘excitement’ which felt a bit too memeish and silly. He also for example in Chapter 4 which deals with parenthood evolve into like a cliche boomer which was average laughs for diminishing returns on a genuine character.

Now many other reviews have pointed out that KQ is pretty silly, which is 100% true, but I think its a misstep to have Graham be silly as well. In some respects the earnestness and tone of the original series is captured by having a ‘straight’ (in terms of comedy) protagonist encounter the variety of zany creatures and situations. It also allowed for some of the changes in tone, allowing serious and dark moments throughout without it being as jarring.

Other characters are much stronger in the game although again really silly – it felt like a kind of weird twilight zone of not being sure if I was supposed to genuinely think about these characters or they were just silly. For the most part (more on this the story summary) Graham’s family were sidelined a bit too much which given the overall story was to the tale’s detriment.

So on that note – tone is really difficult to reboot for this series. The original series had a strange sort of tonal progression, like many ongoing series becoming darker at the story progressed, but shifting notably for games 6-7, which were also much sillier in feel than the earlier titles. So where should a reboot land? In the case of this game TOG went pretty silly, Daventry seems to be a kingdom written by Monty Python, with legislation riddled with addendums which either make little sense or exist to make jokes. The funny thing is, Daventry as a place barely features in the original series. KQ1 is set in Daventry, we see snippets of the kingdom in the opening and closing of other games, Alexander briefly returns to Daventry looked ruined AF in number III. In short we don’t actually have a nostalgia template for this place, so one sympathizes with trying to create a sense of Daventry for a new game.

So as a final note about reboots I think KQ is a tricky customer as you’ve got an interesting situation. I think usually with reboots is you either have a very popular franchise that is perpetually rebooted OR fairly historic but well known material that is old enough that audiences aren’t necessarily wound up about it they just want good stories to enjoy.

King’s Quest was a financial juggernaut in its time, and was the first of its kind when it began, but its definitely not old enough that people don’t care about it, in fact I’d say the majority of people aware of it remember it well and would be quite specific about desires for a reboot. However I wouldn’t necessarily say that group was necessarily very large, at least in practical terms, so you’re kind of left with a catch-22 of what you are trying to do with a reboot – you’d have difficult to please nostalgia fans (now that its to say fans are hard to please just that for the reasons above) and people who may not really be aware of the series. You won’t want a game that requires knowledge of the previous titles to enjoy, yet you want said people to enjoy too.

So as mentioned I think TOG did do pretty well with some mixed thoughts in.

Gameplay

Just out of interest I thought it would be worth mentioning the gameplay of KQ 2015. It’s a little confusing and might leave people a little confused so let me explain. The first chapter is relatively adventure game focused. That is a lot of the task are inventory puzzles, where you need to find item(s) in order to solve puzzles and advance the game. The interesting adding a branching storyline aspect which I’d address later, quick-time events, which I personally didn’t mind but many hated and some ‘puzzle’ elements.

Now this might require some explanation there is a difference between inventory and straight logic puzzles, they might seem like the same thing but can be quite different. Object/inventory puzzles usually involve some sort of finding and using objects as the primary problem solving mechanism. Often this involves finding items that other characters want, or using items on the environment to advance the game. It seems like a simple conceit, however can be extremely fun if you have creative setups or a good story attached, on the other hand this is also where notorious “moon-logic” can occur where a seemingly completely unrelated item is needed for a situation.

Logic puzzles usually focus more on some sort of setup from a typical ‘puzzle’ type book, say for example a Chess scenario, or word-find. As far as I can recall King’s Quest games didn’t have any logic puzzles, so at first they seemed a refreshing additional to KQ 2015, however later chapters leaned into logic puzzles which reviewers generally felt was a misstep.

By a large TOG did a good job translating fresh gameplay onto a risky genre to reboot, so props to them! There are some worries which kinda tie into the story which I plan on Deep Diving next.

Story

For the above reasons TOG obviously had quite a challenge on their hands writing a story for KQ, and they actually produced something that if anything was memorable. If you are into this post I am about to summarize and respond to most of the entire story of KQ 2015 so SPOILERS (and possible boredom ahead)

The first thing worth mentioned is that the format of KQ 2015 is Old King Graham narrating past tales to his granddaughter Gwendolyn ‘Gwen.’ I have to confess I had two misconceptions about the game that made things a bit of a surprise, I thought the entire series was going to be about ‘early’ Graham as a Knight of Daventry and assumed that the old man in the shots was King Edward so I was surprised by Grandpa Graham.

So this narration style had pros and cons. To be honest, it felt a little cheeky on the part of TOG as issues with canon, retconning or even consistency within the game could be put down to Graham telling a story. that said the inclusion of interactions with Gwen and Graham were very touching and sweet and worked really well, especially around ‘death’ scenes and mistakes etc. So it sort of works and didn’t, I’ll address this further down the post as the issue is interwoven, but I did feel the narration did undermine the storyline. This even got to the point where I started questioning whether the game world actually ‘exists’ in a magical land, or whether Graham is just a good story-teller.

Anyway Chapter One is mostly set before Graham even becomes a Knight and is basically about Graham completing his Knight’s trails. There is a brief introduction which is a replay of taking the magic mirror from the dragon, in 2015 the dragon is much bigger, and appears to have someone actively feeding it. While it was a fun sequence it was a little confusing as it promised more significant of my choices during which never really eventuated.

Throughout Chapter One we are introduced to some inhabitants of Daventry, and some competing knights in the running. TOG due a strange branching storyline thing here, where three merchants are introduced – a blacksmith, a baker, and a potions/magic shop. While that element feels very KQ, the branching storyline is essentially who you rely on the most (or first) to complete some puzzles. Basically the format is that you can complete the game whichever, but get slightly different experiences usually in the form of dialogue.

I found the branches frustrating because it was a little unclear what I may or may not be getting myself into. For example at one point the Blacksmith asked if I wanted to apprentice with her the following year. This gave me the impression that this might determine how the next Chapter played, but I think ultimately was just more ‘points’ towards that ‘branch.’

Anyway to jump ahead about the branches basically by the end it seemed like the impact was simply on what lessons Gwen picked up from the stories and changed how she dealt with some problems in her story, which seemed a nice touch and I was fine with HOWEVER as the chapters go on the branching changes which characters you talk to at all which I found frustrating as the game didn’t feel replayable just for the sake of a few dialogue scenes but I did want to know what the varients were. Also (more on this layer) the 3 branches were kinda dropped for chapters 3-4 so it got confusing what was important or not.

Back to Chapter 1 we round off with a rather jarring and surprise death of one knight who was teaching and helping Graham, two knights defeated by rather sneaky means (slightly unkingly really) and discovering ‘Manny’ who originally presented himself as an ally is quite sinister (pro guess if you can work out his full name already – I didn’t, duh)

With the modern narration part I initially found it quite cosy, however by the end of Chapter One I already knew this was going to be a sad ending story. After various comments about ailing Graham the initial impressions is that he is getting older but not imminently about to kark it, however this takes a turn at the end of the Chapter were Graham fails to get out of bed to see Gwen and Gart (cousin) fence. Graham breaks his arm/collar and while that itself wasn’t the end of the world its the obvious sign-posting that this isn’t just going to be comfy Princess Bride style narration.

All in all Chapter One felt pretty good, Daventry to explore some pretty silly plot points but overall fun.

Now Chapter Two.

The story of Chapter Two is in my opinion pretty bizarre and a little off the rails. Obviously wanting to switch ‘something’ up the plot is that freshly crowned Graham finds himself kidnapped by Goblins, along with his 3 village NPCs, the local merchant, and his knights.

It’s hard to express how uncomfortable I was with this section but I will do my best. The gameplay of this section is that you have to balance a number of daily activities inside the goblin cave to eventually free one other NPC to help you escape. You need to feed the NPCs regularly or they ‘starve’ you also find out that the wife of the baker is in fact pregnant.

You also have to feed yourself a couple of times to regain strength (thankfully you can’t starve too) and have limited food (1 leg o lamb per day). In between failing to save your friends and subjects there are also several typically ‘goblin enacting fairy tale’ (e.g. giving a Cinderella goblin a glass slipper) puzzles. Bear in mind that the mechanic of this game is auto-saving and no save scrimming to undo mistakes. So I worked out pretty quick that no-way was this game going to let characters die in this manner, but still I did not feel good about not being able to preserve most of my people AND it does have impacts in later chapters were you are unable to talk to characters who feel you left them to starve.

The whole point of the chapter was supposed to be about the hard choices of being kind, but the whole premise felt seriously un-King’s Quest like. One of the key features of the original games is you tended to help people as you went about your adventures, in the goblin cave it felt like you mucked around with goblin weirdos to get the items you needed.

Chapter Three

Thinks get a little weird here. In chapter three Graham retells how he met Valentice, so in terms of this Reboot this is the only ‘rewritten’ story. This tale plays a bit differently than before, and is more of a…. well… erm dating sim?

So the twist is that Graham goes to the tower as instructed by the magic mirror and discovered two fair maidens, who decide to introduce themselves as ‘Val’ and ‘ness.’ Its a little bit of fun, but uh, its also kinda totally cringe? Like I get that the original didn’t make a lot of sense either, but it had the shallowness of a fairy tale, when you add a bit of characterization and a bit of realism it kinda becomes more awkward than less.

Anywho, so the game here is muuuch less horrible at least than the original chapter, and mostly plays as little puzzles that lead you towards one maiden over the other. It’s kinda nice that you can just play it however you like and see what happens, OR try to match the other. You go on a couple of adventures and how you solve puzzles pleases or displeases each character. I also liked that you end up helping Hagatha a bit of a nice touch.

The awkwardness however increases exponentially when you learn in the next chapter that the unchosen maiden gets turned into an ice-queen and abruptly shattered without much thought. YIKES.

Chapter Four

So this is going to take some explaining so bear with.

Chapter four the game starts to seriously derail, there are strong points but some serious flaws too. Other reviewers have noted that TOG might have run out of time or budget and this half of the game definitely feels rushed and shoehorned as explained soon.

Chapter Fours see the introduction of Graham and Val’s children, very sweetly introduced and just as quickly Alexander is taken by Mananan!! dun dun dun. It’s actually a very strong sequence and really quite upsetting. There is a massive nod to original fans where Graham goes a bit nuts and runs around asking the animals of Daventry to help find Alexander – the nod being that those who have played KQIII will know if you cast the spell to hear animals you will hear the various creatures speak about your true heritage.

Unfortunately anyone who missed that might have wondered what the deal with that whole sequence was.

So then we immediately time jump to Alexander’s return. I have to admit I thought we might be getting a story about Graham and co dealing with Alexander’s absence and I guess even moreso than my comment above people not familiar with KQIII would have been like “WTF” how is Alexander just back. The story touches on but doesn’t really explain it either (also doesn’t mention why Rosella was never taken by the dragon but nvm.)

So the story of Chapter Four focusses on Graham trying to reconcile with his son, which is actually a great idea but somewhat KQ 2015 just sort of, I dunno, I’ll just keep explaining the story.

Graham decides to turn into meme Dad and take the family on an uncomfortable family holiday, we even get a puzzle of trying to tetris pack the wagon and car-trip word games. The plot then is discovering that the not selected girl is an ice-queen how and imprisons the family! Oh No. Thankfully no starvation this time, but Graham and Alexander have to do endless puzzles to escape.

I mean it. The entire chapter is forms of tile-puzzle after tile puzzle, until a few riddles and then NOT KIDDING an escape room for the family. The main drive of the story is that Graeme is having trouble accepting Alexander, who is a little jaded after being brought up by Mananan and Graeme is unhappy with Alexander knowing magic, oh and NOT REALLY PUNNING. I’m sorry but yes a major tension in this story is that Alexander does not like puns and Graham is pissed. By the climax Alexander finally gleefully drops a one-liner and thumbs up his Dad. BLURG. There is one amazing sequence where Alexander as an obvious stand-in of my own attitude gets sick of puzzles and Graham’s excitement for them and straight-up nukes one of the puzzle rooms, much to Graham’s dismay.

The story also shoe-horns Mananan back as behind the whole situation, which feels very much like we need to have the same baddy behind everything type storytelling and it kinda doesn’t fit because it just doesn’t seem to do justice the fact Mananan raised Alexander as slave for 18 years, or maybe that’s just me.

While that all happens we also get a lot of drama in the ‘modern’ setting. Gart the somewhat neglected cousin of Gwen – apparently is upset that Graham is naming Gwen his heir. However in somewhat manipulative red herring and after an awkward family dinner where Alexander and Rosella take passive-aggressive pot-shots at each other (seriously this is not what KQ is about team) we find out that Graham is in fact on death’s door…..

Chapter Five

So this is a pretty weird chapter overall and take a bit of explaining. Obviously based on the setup its going to be a tear-jerker, but how exactly is this going to play out? One last hurrah? Perhaps Grandpa Graham will manage a last ‘modern’ adventure.

Hat’s off to TOG they present something quite unique (and probably the saddest) Gwen settles in with Graham for another story, and unfortunately things are a bit off. Graham is having trouble remembering details, or is getting too embellished. What follows is an adventure game where the puzzles are impacted the narrators lack of memory, scenes can change for no reason and the interplay between Gwen and Graham is heart-breaking as we see Gwen struggle to understand why Grandpa isn’t making any sense.

Eventually Gwen herself takes over the story and the rest of the family listen to the conclusion.

Overall its emotionally pretty powerful and upsetting, but as mentioned earlier leans very far into the unreliable narrator trope, and it did leave some people quite confused, I think its pretty clear that the last story at least isn’t ‘true’ in any sense but is more about Graham trying to prove something as he worries about his legacy and Gwen telling a story to cope with her Grandpa about to pass away.

The ending while powerful does get undermined by a few things: First a sense of rushing. I feel like this series could have played out over many more chapters, as mentioned the branching of the tale was touted as very important in the beginning but fizzled out by the end (the general consensus was that Graham was going to face the dragon at least once more but this somewhat proved more difficult.) Also somewhat confusingly Graham’s death was portrayed a little oddly or something. Obviously the whole story is kinda building towards this but in the end we have a moving but brief scene where Gwen wakes up, and we assume control of her, we walk down the hallway to Graham’s room to find him gone. there is a letter about leaving the crown to Gwen and a candle she can softly blow out before nabbing his adventure hat and running off.

(there is also an epilogue where you can play as Gwen but this doesn’t expand on any of the other characters or previous events)

I guess I had mixed feelings about the whole process. I thought that TOG did a really good job toying with my emotions and being gutsy enough to risk such a storyline with a reboot. On the other hand I did feel a lack of closure as the story was very ‘front-loaded’ so to speak. It does seem pretty cheeky to have a whole chapter of a game depict Graham ailing but really have little material afterwards, even just maybe some dialogue from the other family members? Again I don’t want to be too harsh because what was presented was pretty powerful and memorably, I mean here I am still writing about.

In conclusion?

So at the time of writing this it looks like the rights of Sierra games are now with Microsoft and there has been mention of reviving old properties (so cross your fingers or email Microsoft or whatever). To be KQ 2015 is a welcome adaptation with a few flaws but nonetheless not so many that I wished the games never happened (which can happen with some reboots!)

One of my biggest upsets with any material is unrealized potential due to other pressures, which is something I think this series will be remembered for. It’s odd (see what I did there) that there really is a dearth of information about the production or reception of these games and TOG responses so some elements will be a mystery for now. I’d love to hear the developers thought processes and decision making. The dropped storylines, inconsistency in gameplay style are not really explained at this point.

So thanks for tagging along to my ramblings, have you played KQ 2015? Thoughts, anything to add?