Saturday, May 19, 2018

Quest for Glory III: The Roads Not Taken

Rakeesh rationalizes having a thief for a friend.
The role of the thief in the Quest for Glory series has always been an ambiguous one. He is, first and foremost, explicitly not the "rogue" of most D&D-derived games, who uses his stealth to explore dungeons and pick locks on chests looted from monsters. The Quest for Glory thief is a proper thief. He burglarizes houses and fences stolen goods to a guild. And he doesn't just steal from rich misers: his targets in the first game are an old lady and the town sheriff.

On the other hand, he's also a hero. He drives out Baba Yaga and prevents the return of Iblis. So how are we to regard this? Is he principally a good-hearted hero whose nature cannot help a little mischief on the side? Or are his heroics, while unquestionably bona fide, simply part of a larger scheme that requires access to barons and sultans? Or is it largely up to the player?

Quest for Glory III seems to take the former position. Rakeesh offers some gentle advice to keep his thieving friend in line, but he recognizes that the hero, irrespective of a little pilfering, is a champion at heart. However, my best recollection is that Quest for Glory V takes the opposite position on the question, which caused no small amount of role-playing chagrin when I first experienced that game. I could be mis-remembering, though, so I'll cover that when I get to it.
I'll try, Rakeesh.
What's indisputable is that a thief doesn't have very much to do in Tarna. Rakeesh is up front about this: "Tarna is not a good place for one of your skills." You can make the thief sign to just about everyone, and hardly anyone recognizes it.

Man, when I'm in charge of the guilds, I'm going to make the sign much less stupid.
The only people who respond are Rashid (the rope-seller) and Harami. Rashid is a retired thief. Both warn you that there's no guild in Tarna, and thus no place to sell stolen goods, and that being declared "without honor" really sucks. However, you can pay Rashid 50 royals to get some rope-walking lessons that greatly increase your agility.
On the other hand, that's a lot of money.
The money is well-spent because rope-walking is the thief's primary means of puzzle-solving. The thief's story starts with the Sultan of Shapeir giving him a set of "magic grapnels" that you can tie to a rope. They automatically grab on to things when thrown, which makes them different from regular grapnels in ways I don't really understand.
Yes, okay, technically he explains what makes them magic.
Each class solves small puzzles differently. For instance, to get the fruit from the poisonous vines, the thief uses his magic grapnel. The wizard casts "Fetch." The fighter or paladin throws a dagger to rescue a meerbat from the vine, and then the meerbat later leaves one of the fruits as a thank-you gift. But in these small-puzzle solutions, the characters aren't bound to their class-specific solutions. If the thief has magic, he can cast "Fetch," for instance.
There are only two large-puzzle solutions that differ among the classes: returning the Drum of Magic and Spear of Death, and defeating the demon wizard in the endgame. Here, your path is determined by your class and not your skills. Thus, the thief, no matter whether he passed the W.I.T. initiation in Quest for Glory II, cannot create a wizard's staff and challenge the Leopardman shaman. Nor can a fighter with thieving skills steal the Spear or Drum. Only a fighter or paladin can become a Simbani warrior.
Sneaking into the Leopardman chief's hut with my rope and magic grapnels. I also had to toss some meat to the panther below.
The thief's primary contribution to the crisis is bypassing all the B.S. the other classes have to put up with. He doesn't have to become a warrior or face off against the Leopardman shaman. He approaches the problem from a simpler perspective: if the main issue is that the Simbani have the Leopardmen's Drum and the Leopardmen have the Simbani's Spear, the solution is clearly to steal them both and put them back where they came from.
Inside the Leopardmen leader's hut. I had to free a noisy monkey from its cage and sneak over to steal the Spear of Death. As a bonus, I could loot a treasure chest by putting some oil on the squeaky hinges and picking the lock.
It's actually quite easy for the thief to bypass half of the quest and lose out on the associated points. He really only needs to steal one of the artifacts and return it, at which point the village leader happily turns over the other. On my first pass, I freed Johari before realizing it was time to steal the Drum of Magic (or even how to do it). She led me to her village as she did for the other characters, and I stole the Spear from the leader's hut. Returning it to the Simbani led them to immediately give up the Drum. But to get full points, I needed to steal the Drum first, then steal the Spear, then return the Drum, which in the end was a bit superfluous.

If I have one complaint, it's that the mechanics for stealing the Drum of Magic (which, admittedly, as above, isn't necessary) are a bit unintuitive. With a guard posted outside 24/7, there's no way to sneak into the Simbani leader's hut. You have to wait for nightfall and then use the eye icon to look at the side of the hut and note a crack big enough to cut a hole with your dagger. I'm not sure there's anywhere else in the game that the eye icon actually leads to action instead of just description.
The Laiban's hut also has an optional chest. It's too bad money isn't more valuable.
In the endgame, the thief claims the jeweled eye of Anubis by simply climbing up the statue. In the confrontation with the demon wizard, the spell icon is grayed out, lest the thief attempt the wizard's approach. Instead, he makes his way from pillar to pillar with his rope and grapnels, then uses the same to yank the wizard from behind into the Orb, knocking them both into the portal and closing it.
'Cause "backstab" doesn't exist in this setting.
My thief did worse than my wizard in points: only 476/500. I'll talk more about the points in the final entry. He did end up with the highest statistics, however, and is capable of magic. I used it extensively in combat.
My thief is positioned well for his adventures in Monrovia or Moldova or whatever.
My primary regret with the thief is that there was no way to sneak into Rajah's chambers and loot them. I think Rajah deserved some kind of comeuppance for his brash, bullish behavior in the game, but he was mostly discarded after the peace conference. He's presumably marching on the Leopardmen's village even as we celebrate our victory in the final sequences.
I don't need to recount the paladin's adventures in detail since you have Alex's narrative at The Adventure Gamer. I did rather like the gameplay. Slashing enemies with a flaming blue sword was awfully satisfying after my last two characters basically poked at them.
An epic battle shot.
Making his sword glow with blue flames is one of four skills the paladin gains over time. The other three are the ability to sense danger, a light "heal" spell that comes with 5 magic points, and an "honor shield" that basically acts as a "Protect" spell, reducing damage in combat. Of the three, "danger sense" is the most useless--it basically activates any time an enemy attacks, a situation that is already pretty obvious. The game even seems to make a joke about the low utility of the skill.
I think "incredible" is the giveaway that the message isn't serious.
In case I missed seeing the two huge demons, my paladin sense would have served me well.
The skills appear when you cross various thresholds in "paladin points" which are in turn earned by increasing your honor. This is done with various actions throughout the game, primarily being polite to people with hellos and goodbyes, as well as acts of charity. The funny thing is, you can artificially drive your honor to its maximum in a few minutes just by spamming donations to the drummer in the bazaar. 10 royals allows for 100 donations, and you have dozens of extra royals by the end of the game. (Later, in my fighter game, I found that you can spam losing honor by walking repeatedly away from Harami while he begs for help.)

The paladin's game is front-loaded on the Simbani side, as he must become a Simbani warrior before he can pay the bride price for Johari. This involves giving a horn from a dinosaur to the Laibon, then participating in a long contest that involves running, throwing, and wrestling, with several opportunities to outsmart your "opponent," Yesufu. Even if he beats you at every contest, however, you still pass the initiation.
In this case, it was me.
As a reward for his passing the initiation, the Laibon gives the hero a boon, and the hero chooses the Drum of Magic. When Johari eventually leads him to the Leopardman village, he just hands over the Drum and the "peace conference" sequence commences.

I don't know why, but I found the paladin's endgame more confusing than the thief's or wizard's. First, he fights the demon wizard's gargoyle directly, which is no big deal.
He's no match for my honor fire and honor shield.
Afterwards, he has to use his shield to knock the gargoyle's body over the chasm, then click on the body to cross it. The demon wizard re-awakens the gargoyle and has it grab the hero's legs. The hero then has to throw his sword through the demon wizard's chest, and finally knock the Orb back through the gate by again bashing it with the shield. There's nothing wrong with this, exactly, but it involves a few moves that you're not used to making in the rest of the game. For instance, no other puzzle requires the use of the shield as an active object.
The paladin gets a good animation here.
There was an odd bit during the end sequence for the paladin, and Alex didn't mention it during his account. I'm not really sure who was speaking here or why the paladin was the only one to get this message. I should also note that the paladin also senses danger just before suffering "Otto's Irresistible Dance" at the end.
Who's speaking? The skeleton? The orb? The gate?
Anyway, my paladin ended with 479 points and some reasonably high attribute and skill statistics.
As if four times wasn't enough, I ran through the game a fifth time with a fighter created in-game--the only character I didn't import. I was determined that he remain a fighter, not promoted to paladin near the endgame (which happens if your fighter behaves with honor), so I role-played him as a reluctant hero. He certainly wasn't very polite in his interactions, didn't go out of his way to do side quests and stuff. When I talked to Rajah and the Laibon, I talked about things I wanted to talk about.
That didn't always go well.
I didn't cut quite as many corners as I did with "Bad Chester," but I didn't hit all of the side quests, either. Since he started with skills well below that of the imported characters, I had to spend more time leveling him in combat and running from enemies when I got weak. (He was the only character to face any serious difficulty in combat.) Otherwise, his experience for most of the game was almost the same as the paladin, minus the blue flame and danger sense.

For my guardian ritual, I chose the most obvious symbols--sword, fist, sword--and gave the most direct and brutal options during the questions. Sekhmet still judged me worthy--but barely.
This sounds more like something a thief should have gotten.
Some interesting things happened during my initiation ritual to be a Simbani warrior. First, since I was going for low honor, I left Yesufu stuck in a hole instead of helping him out. The game let me proceed through all the other challenges and through the end of the ritual before Yesufu ratted on me and I suffered an instant-death screen.
But the Simbani clearly have an open-door policy to tattle-tales.
Note that the game didn't bother to pretend that I actually "died" in any way--just that I made a decision that made it impossible to continue. This was precisely the sort of thing I was looking for (more often) with "Bad Chester."
Second, because I never learned how to control the wrestling contest on the balance beam from Uhura, when I had to wrestle Yesufu, the game took over and made all my moves. It messed up most of them, and I automatically lost. Yesufu was declared the better warrior. This didn't really impact the rest of the game at all except that Yesufu asked for the Drum of Magic and then gave it to me.
The game throws the match.
The only other major difference from the paladin's experience is that Yesufu gives the hero the Spear of Death to fight the demon wizard. You don't get to fight regular combats with it, but rather you use it during the final sequence, in lieu of the paladin sword, to impale the demon wizard. In total, it was a bit disappointing. I had been led to believe by some commenters that fighters and paladins had different questlines in the game.

The fighter was the lowest-performing "real" character, with only 411 puzzle points and 76 honor points.
Miscellaneous notes:

  • I didn't realize until the fourth game that you only ever need one poison cure pill. Taking one both cures poison and inoculates you against future poison.
  • I reloaded an old save to see what happened if I cast "Trigger" during the duel with the Leopardman shaman. It was pretty messed up.
No one should have this much power.
  • During my thief's experience, I came across this reference to the "little people" of the jungle, who set the trap that ensnared Johari (at least by one account). Are they an unseen race, or does it refer to the talking monkeys?
  • Every character had a different selection of weird encounters on the savanna. They included a variety of simple signs, a charging rhinoceros that you must dodge, a brief Laurel and Hardy skit (they're in the French Foreign Legion a la Beau Hunks), and a lengthy encounter with "Arne Saknoosen," an aardvark miner and explorer.
  • Both my thief and my paladin got so good with throwing that they could often bring down enemies with rocks or knives before those enemies could get into melee range.
You won't be poisoning me!
  • Despite occasionally winning, I didn't really get Awari until my paladin character played. For some reason, I thought you could only capture stones on the opponent's side of the board. I didn't realize you could wrap around your "home" area and capture your own stones. I was wondering why Yesufu would suddenly add several stones to his bank without the "I be capturing your stones" dialogue. I thought he was cheating.
  • I lost count of how many responses Janna had to "flirt." She seems to have a different one for each visit.
Lori Cole proves that she could be successful in other genres.
We still have a lot to discuss in reference to the way points are earned and how the skills develop during the game, but I'll save those topics for the summary and rating. For now, I'll just say that I think I like the wizard's path best, but I'm glad I have all classes saved for Shadows of Darkness.
Final time: 25 hours


  1. No mention of the Awful Waffle Walker? One of the strangest bits of the game..

    1. There's also a silly fake-out death screen for when you leave a camp fire burning and walk away.

    2. I wasn't dumb enough to wander around the veldt with no food, so I didn't experience that particular one.

  2. "Or are his heroics, while unquestionably bona fide, simply part of a larger scheme to that requires access to barons and sultans?"

    Looks like you either dropped a few words between "to" and "that", or reworked this sentence and left something in.

  3. Before you play qfg4 be aware there's a major bug:

  4. Interessing... Keep up the good job

  5. We aren't sure, but Lori and I both think it was the orb speaking in the Paladin's mind. It's an Evil Artifact - Do Not Touch. By killing the Demon Wizard, the Paladin showed himself to be more powerful, hence a more interesting "master" of the orb. But somehow I think your average Paladin knows better than to fall for that one.

    The Little People of the Jungle sounds as though it refers to the Monkey People, but it isn't clear why they would be cooperating with the Demons by trapping Johari and leaving her near the Simbani village. Lori probably worked out a story about that of which only the tip of the iceberg is visible.

    I'm shocked, shocked!, that Pharaoh was misspelled in the last screenshot. I proofread the game text, but missed that error.

    If you thought Janna had a lot of responses, wait until you come across the mountain of conditional text that is Hero-U... in 20 years or so. Hey, we expect to still be working on the series then, so you might as well still be writing this blog. :-)

    The Warrior getting the Spear of Death makes sense given the D&D concept that certain powerful monsters can only be hit by magical weapons. The Paladin already has one, but the Warrior would be out of luck without getting a magic weapon.

    Awari is in the game partly because it fits the culture, and partly because I had an Awari set I picked up somewhere many years before we made the game. It's a pretty fun game in that the best strategy is often unintuitive. I brought the set into the office so the artist could use it as a model and so the programmer would understand the rules and be able to check them out against the physical game.

    1. Thanks for clearing up the bits of lore on the Orb and the "Little People."

      "Wait until you come across the mountain of conditional text that is Hero-U... in 20 years or so." I know you've suffered some delays, Corey, but please try to be more optimistic than that.

    2. Ha, I took that to mean that you won't get to it chronologically for a lot of years.

    3. Chronologically it will be quite probably more than sixty. .

    4. Right, I meant for the playthrough and rating. You'll have the game in your hands this year, hopefully by the end of June if we can get everything clean. We don't want to release another QGIV - that required a patch that took almost a year of programming time just to eliminate the worst game crashes.

  6. It´s like a choose your own adventure book. If quest for glory is RPG, then how about King´s Quest games? We´re stretching the leather a bit too much. I still hate that they humanized animals as tribes. I´d rather they have done aliens or just fictitious civilizations.

    1. The "humanized animals as tribes" trope has always bothered me too because I both like and dislike it equally. It falls in the "if done right" category but, as it regards taste, it's a pretty subjective category. On one hand it adds color to the game world and makes things a bit more interesting to look at, on the other hand sometimes it feels just like an empty reskin.

    2. QfG has lots of animal people, for better or worse, but in this particular case the primary tribes are human (the Simbani) and magic were-folk (the leopardmen) rather than the usual anthropomorphic furry things.

    3. check the addicts definition of a crpg, there is a reason this game is being reviewed and not King's Quest,QFG definitely fits his criteria. You can disagree with the criteria if you want but we're not writing the blog.

    4. QFG has three different classes with different approaches to combat and puzzle solving, stats that govern the success of these approaches (a wizard who trained his throwing skill can solve a puzzle by throwing, just as a fighter would, for example), and the character raises his stats during the course of the game.

      That falls squarely into the addict's definition of an RPG, and besides, QFG has always been considered to be (and advertised as) an adventure-RPG-hybrid, while Sierra's other games are pure adventure games without different character classes or stats that govern the chance of success of any given puzzle solution.

    5. @Anon: "humanized animals as tribes" - if you mean the Monkey People, who play a very small role in the game, ok. The Leopard People are not humanized animals. They are humans with powerful magic that allows them to take on animal form.

      But really, you're complaining about having a sense of mystery and whimsy in fantasy writing. I think we'd have some rather dull and mundane fantasies without it.

      As for whether Quest for Glory is a role-playing game, I think it fits the definition more than most CRPGs of the period. Its roots are deeply in D&D and other tabletop RPGs that Lori and I played and game-mastered in the 1970s and 1980s. Great tabletop role-playing is about telling a story in cooperation with players as much, or more so, than rolling dice and crunching numbers. Quest for Glory mostly lacks the "arms race" of constantly upgrading equipment that other RPGs (notably MMOs) tend to have, but we've always felt that an RPG is about character development, not about what they're wearing.

      I've made the point before that early adventure games and CRPGs both came from the roots of tabletop RPGs. They diverged because early personal computers had very limited memory and storage. Adventure games emphasized story telling, CRPGs emphasized stats, combat, and sometimes equipment, but didn't have enough resources left over to tell good stories. We tried to find a sweet spot that combined the two arguably-crippled genres, in other words to make our games closer to a good tabletop RPG experience. But resources were still limited (still are, in fact), so we could only do that up to a point.

    6. Every time I write about a QFG game, it seems we have to defend its RPG credentials. It's not even that hard an argument: King's Quest doesn't have skills that increase as you use them. The character doesn't improve. And there are no random RPG-style combats. The idea that someone can't see the difference is a bit baffling to me.

      As for the "humanized animals," this anonymous commenter seems to have a particular issue with it. There are talking animals in just about every fantasy RPG, and it's hardly something that needs to be defended.

    7. I think humanized animals are just fine, in some cases even better than the typical fantasy races, because they portray clear images - stereotypes, if you want. That saves a lot of explanation ingame: you can tell how nimble, cuddly and cruel a person/faction is - or just draw them cat heads.

    8. D&D has talking dragons, fish men, frog men, and dozens of other anthropomorphic races. Why would it be odd for QFG or any other crpg or adventure game to have them?

    9. Since he would have accepted aliens, it seems he has a specific problem with anthropomorphic animals. Not sure why, using anthropomorphic animals in stories is as old as civilisation. In QFG I think it works rather well to give a sense of location. Cats: Desert, Lions: Savannah, Leopards, Monkeys: Jungle.

      Why does the leopardman chief have a leopard skin in his tent, though?

    10. I can see someone being offended by a "tribe of monkey people," as blacks have been degraded by being called "monkeys." It's a legitimate concern.

    11. Honestly, I think a reasonable person’s concerns would be ameliorated by the depiction of “monkey people” showing monkey behavior, not African stereotypes like the notorious “banned cartoons” from the 30’s and 40’s.

      To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a monkey is just a monkey. But there are those who get political power and personal jollies from finding dog whistles everywhere. We’d all be better off ignoring them most of the time.

  7. "The role of the thief in the Quest for Glory series has always been an ambiguous one." This is exactly the issue that the upcoming Hero-U game is trying to address, actually: the difference between Thief and Rogue. I'll be interested to see what you make of that.

  8. What I'm more interested in is why Cheetaurs react so differently to humans as compared to the Liontaurs and Centaurs.

  9. Every time I play the QFG series, at least since I first played it (Remember when it was called Hero's Quest?), I create a character that is a thief but with magic and parry. That way I have all the skills. I forget if becoming a paladin has any effect on your skills. If I remember there was something with importing to 4 that let you choose if you were a paladin, and that basically changed your skills so you didn't have thief or wizard abilities. Someone can correct me if I am wrong.

    The 4th one is my favorite. It had great graphics (for the time) and a better interface. Also, there was a naked woman (can't see anything of course) in a swamp and I was a teen when it came out so I kinda liked that part.

    I love reading about these games as I have not played in years, but it makes me want to. Thanks for the great blog!

  10. Arne Saknussemm is an important character in the Jules Verne classic, Journey to the Center of the Earth. Surely the aardvark encounter is a reference to that.


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