The Wheel of Dubious RPGs Episode 45-46: Konung and King's Quest VIII

Avatar image for arbitrarywater
ArbitraryWater

15972

Forum Posts

5508

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 58

Edited By ArbitraryWater

Konung: Legends of the North

Oh did I mention there are three of these games.
Oh did I mention there are three of these games.

Developer: 1C Company

Release Date: September 3, 1999

Time Played: about two hours

Dubiosity: 5 out of 5

Russiosity: пять out of пять

Would I play more? Very seriously considering an encore stream. Dunno if I’d manage to play the entire thing though.

Konung is… special. I’ve flirted with Eurojank plenty of times for this series, but this is the first time The Wheel has really delved into the magical world of true Eastern Bloc RPGs. And make no mistake, if 1C being the developer wasn’t sign enough, Konung is extremely Russian in all the ways you’d expect. It has a lot of ideas, explains itself very little, and felt less comprehensible the more I dug into it. It also was an absolute pain in the ass to get running with OBS and at one point even crashed aforementioned capture software mid-stream. Oh there’s also a special bug exclusive to the GOG version (which otherwise runs… fine-ish as long as you aren’t trying to capture it in a window) where the game will eventually crash if the music is on.

The Baldur's Gate we have at home:
The Baldur's Gate we have at home:

But let me backup a little and explain first. Konung is a party-based isometric CRPG not entirely dissimilar from Baldur’s Gate, which came out the previous year. It’s also a very non-linear, sandboxy game with city building elements(?), crafting mechanics, three separate character storylines(?) set in a mythical version of seventh-century Scandinavia(?) As one of three ex-immortals, it’s your job to become king of the land and get all three pieces of the dragon amulet, or something. Choosing between the four standard RPG classes, (Warrior, Ranger, Merchant, and Leader) determines how many party members you can recruit (from literally any male villager running around with a sword, naturally) as well as your starting stats and abilities. I mostly spent my time on stream wandering around very slowly, fighting various forms of giant ants and saving compulsively.

It was only as my patience wavered that I realized I could increase the game speed by pressing + on the numpad… which sure isn’t explained. Much like a lot of the game, actually. The tutorial tells you how to pick items up off the ground and recruit characters, but in true fashion doesn’t actually explain the structure of the game. I very intentionally did not look up any external documentation regarding this game (at least outside of “making it run with OBS” which for games like these sometimes requires DgVoodoo and sometimes requires DxWnd) and so my experience was wandering around mostly empty wilderness areas, fighting ants by right clicking them and occasionally using a healing potion, and slowly, slowly making my way between different towns while getting questionably translated quest dialogue. Even sped up, Konung seems like a deliberate game, and I’m not entirely sure if there’s some magical rough gem buried underneath. But there sure as hell is *something* there, and I think I’m going to want to find out more.

The first video is only 20 minutes because, as mentioned, the game actually crashed OBS for a second

King’s Quest VIII: Mask of Eternity

Just a reminder that this outsold Grim Fandango 2:1
Just a reminder that this outsold Grim Fandango 2:1

Developer: Sierra On-Line

Release Date: December 14, 1998

Time Played: About four hours

Dubiosity:5 out of 5

Tis: Beyond My Reach

Would I play more? Fuck me, the answer is probably yes.

Now, you may be wondering “Arbitrary, what’s a point-and-click adventure game doing in my dubious RPG wheel? Isn’t such filth better relegated to ZombiePie’s area of expertise?” Well friend, I have great news. In their attempt to revitalize the series for the 3D era, Sierra On-Line decided that the best course of action was to turn King’s Quest into a 3D action-adventure RPG. In doing so, they killed the franchise and relegated it to the same purgatory as Ultima. Also, I saw the speedrun for this game at AGDQ 2021 and it seemed like the exact level of trash I wanted to feature on my blog and stream that I am ultimately the final arbiter of. I’m sure Roberta Williams has her share of regrets about this one, but given this was after she and her husband Ken had sold the company, I bet the giant pile of money and upcoming yacht retirement probably eased it a tad.

However, before we dive into the game itself, it should be noted that King’s Quest VIII has the special distinction of being the single most difficult game to get running of this entire endeavor. The GOG version of this game does not work on modern Windows computers. Yes, the digital distribution platform whose original pitch involved selling no-fuss versions of classic games and only legal avenue to purchase this game does not work. I imagine something with a reputation as rancid as Mask of Eternity is probably pretty low on the priority list, but to be clear I had to find an iso for this game and use an external fan installer on top of a bunch of other dark magic to make this game functional and capture-able. Not since I just gave up and did desktop capture for Lands of Lore III has a game given me hours worth of troubleshooting, and the fact that this is… this is what I did it for maybe says more about me than anything else.

How negative is this game's reputation among series die-hards? Bad enough that there are NO ACTUAL SCREENSHOTS of it on the wiki
How negative is this game's reputation among series die-hards? Bad enough that there are NO ACTUAL SCREENSHOTS of it on the wiki

While I think Tomb Raider is probably the more direct inspiration here, there’s exactly enough RPG here to make it qualify. You level up, fight monsters, and obtain increasingly better gear when you’re not awkwardly platforming or solving basic item use puzzles. As Connor, a righteous goober unrelated to King Graham and co, I spent my four hours less involved in solving obtuse moon logic item puzzles and more wandering fairly large, 3D environments in search of quest items, all while effectually murdering a whole lotta skeletons by clicking on them and having numbers vaguely go up in the background. Items are still used on things, blocks are occasionally pushed, and bits of solid voice acting, animation, and music remind you that there are actually some real solid production values at play here. But when you consider the year it came out and compare it to some of the other 3D games of the time, it’s a mess (albeit an ambitious one.)

I will be the first to tell you that I’m not a Sierra diehard by any means; my general opinion of classic adventure games is pretty low. But even I know that Mask of Eternity does not really feel like a King’s Quest game, nor is it an especially great action RPG. However, for my dark purposes, it is the exact level of dogshit that I want out of this streaming/blogging series. Like Ultima IX, it’s a special combination of accessible, janky, and franchise disintegrating that really captures my ruined soul. The third person camera is borderline unplayable, but it’s also abundantly clear that a lot of craft and care was put into Connor’s animations (I would not be surprised if there was some mocap work involved.) The game is weirdly violent by the family-friendly standards of the series, but the writing is still very much the hyper-earnest faux-medieval fairy tale fare King’s Quest was known for. The puzzles are dumb, but occasionally still have glimmers of that old Sierra nonsense. In other words, it truly is the best of all dubious worlds.

Now to be absolutely clear, King’s Quest Mask of Eternity is a bad video game and you should probably not play it. For all its accidental charm, I was starting to get fed up by the end of my time in the land of the dead (and would probably cheat my way through if I returned, tbh.) But it’s a showy disasterpiece that also epitomizes why this garbage attracts my interest in the first place. It’s not the most dubious game I’ve played in a series where Dungeon Lords exists, and only barely meets the definition of RPG, but this is absolutely something I think you at home should see. Just don’t play it.

The next blog will be the SEASON FINALE, at which point you can look forward to me taking a quick break from wheels (I will get back to Shadow Hearts Covenant, I swear) before moving onto new exciting ventures. Like maybe some of the things I suggested a few blogs ago.

PreviousNext
Beyond Divinity and Shadows AwakeningLegend of Dragoon and Code Vein
Avatar image for junkerman
Junkerman

683

Forum Posts

371

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 7

User Lists: 5

@arbitrarywater: King's Quest!

I played this game once at a friends house in elementary school probably 20 years ago. Later in life I tried to search it out for some reason, maybe just to have closure on a vague memory of a dude with a sun on his chest.

Anyway no matter how much I vaguely rambled about this game no one I ever cornered on the internet knew what I was talking about.

Somehow. Somehow I knew you'd eventually find it for me. And today is that day!

...I have absolutely zero desire to play it.

Avatar image for sparky_buzzsaw
sparky_buzzsaw

9597

Forum Posts

3772

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 39

User Lists: 38

That was sure something watching that stream of yours. All my young adult disappointments in Sierra, brought to life again. Ugh, what a shitshow that comoany devolved into. I'd love to see interviews of people who worked there at that time.

Avatar image for valorianendymion
ValorianEndymion

115

Forum Posts

7

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 7

User Lists: 9

I was thinking about the streams of King's Quest you did and something hit me: somehow, Sierra tried to resurrect the franchise, but missed the point so hard that they almost by accident made new Quest for Glory, except without any humor, colors or anything. Because when you look, the heavy emphasis in combat, have very little do to with King's Quest, but it could work for a Quest for Glory and going 3D is something that I could see if they tried one more game.

Avatar image for peezmachine
PeezMachine

606

Forum Posts

42

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 6

User Lists: 1

#4  Edited By PeezMachine

Oh man, Konung. A friend (with whom I enjoyed playing many off-brand games like Cutthroats: Terror on the High Seas or Data Becker's America) received a copy from his grandmother, had no idea what to make of it, and let me borrow it. I did.... marginally better. All I can really remember these 20 years later are the ants, and feeling kind of stuck because my leadership skill wasn't high enough to recruit more people but my party wasn't strong enough to get me to the point where I could get more leadership. Seeing it on the WoDRPG's has lifted a terrible burden from my soul.

Avatar image for arbitrarywater
ArbitraryWater

15972

Forum Posts

5508

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 58

@arbitrarywater: King's Quest!

I played this game once at a friends house in elementary school probably 20 years ago. Later in life I tried to search it out for some reason, maybe just to have closure on a vague memory of a dude with a sun on his chest.

Anyway no matter how much I vaguely rambled about this game no one I ever cornered on the internet knew what I was talking about.

Somehow. Somehow I knew you'd eventually find it for me. And today is that day!

...I have absolutely zero desire to play it.

Oh man, Konung. A friend (with whom I enjoyed playing many off-brand games like Cutthroats: Terror on the High Seas or Data Becker's America) received a copy from his grandmother, had no idea what to make of it, and let me borrow it. I did.... marginally better. All I can really remember these 20 years later are the ants, and feeling kind of stuck because my leadership skill wasn't high enough to recruit more people but my party wasn't strong enough to get me to the point where I could get more leadership. Seeing it on the WoDRPG's has lifted a terrible burden from my soul.

The Wheel of Dubious RPGs! Providing a public service for people who have vague memories of playing a weird-ass video game at their friend's house once, 20 years ago.

That was sure something watching that stream of yours. All my young adult disappointments in Sierra, brought to life again. Ugh, what a shitshow that comoany devolved into. I'd love to see interviews of people who worked there at that time.

There *has* to be some sort of oral history about the end of Sierra, right? Because boy there sure is a precipitous drop in that company's fortunes a few years after the Vivendi acquisition happened. Like, the late 90s happen, the Williams cash out and retire, and it's nothing but depression city until the name just gets picked up by Activision and briefly used as a sub-brand (and then that King's Quest reboot happened and you seemed to not like that at all)

I was thinking about the streams of King's Quest you did and something hit me: somehow, Sierra tried to resurrect the franchise, but missed the point so hard that they almost by accident made new Quest for Glory, except without any humor, colors or anything. Because when you look, the heavy emphasis in combat, have very little do to with King's Quest, but it could work for a Quest for Glory and going 3D is something that I could see if they tried one more game.

...the deep irony being that Quest for Glory V came out the same year and also killed that franchise. Look forward to my eventual Quest for Glory V stream, because that'll probably happen at some point. All I need to do is play through the other four so I can bring my character forward through the entire series. Like a true gamer.

Avatar image for sparky_buzzsaw
sparky_buzzsaw

9597

Forum Posts

3772

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 39

User Lists: 38

@arbitrarywater: There are high points to it. The voice acting is superb. The story, when it bothers to tell one, is outstanding. It's vibrant and a lot of the settings get the feel right. But my God, the gameplay falls off a cliff.

Avatar image for valorianendymion
ValorianEndymion

115

Forum Posts

7

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 7

User Lists: 9

...the deep irony being that Quest for Glory V came out the same year and also killed that franchise. Look forward to my eventual Quest for Glory V stream, because that'll probably happen at some point. All I need to do is play through the other four so I can bring my character forward through the entire series. Like a true gamer.

Oh my god, you are right! I don't know why but in my head Quest for Glory V was released way before, but now checking it, indeed came in the same year.

Avatar image for spiketail
spiketail

329

Forum Posts

3

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

Avatar image for styx971
styx971

301

Forum Posts

0

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 0

User Lists: 0

i'd never heard of konung but that one sounds pretty interesting in a something i probably would have loved to play when i was younger with more patience and limited options type of way, i haven't yet but i'll have to check out your videos.

kings quest is a series i've had a minimal curiosity from afar since that episodic reboot was a thing a few good years back and even if i have no interest in trying to play those old games i think the fact that this was another series that had a random off-shot type of entry like so many other things so thats cool even if it was bad.