Konung: Legends of the North
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.
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
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.
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.
|Beyond Divinity and Shadows Awakening||Legend of Dragoon and Code Vein|