Thursday, May 24, 2018

Quest for Glory III: Summary and Rating

Note that the box character is explicitly the paladin.
Quest for Glory III: Wages of War
United States
Sierra On-Line (developer and publisher)
Released 1992 for DOS
Date Started: 1 April 2018
Date Ended: 18 May 2018 
Total Hours: 25
Difficulty: Easy (2/5)
Final Rating: 46
Ranking at time of posting: 256/290 (88%)

Even if originally unplanned and somewhat interpolated between Trial by Fire and Shadows of Darkness, Wages of War is a worthy game that continues the series' admirable efforts to walk the line between heroic epic and whimsical fantasy. As I did with the previous games, I had a lot of fun playing it, as evidenced by my insistence on going through it 5 times.

However, I must conclude that while (to my limited perspective) it performs just as well as its predecessors as an adventure game, it does slightly less well as an RPG. I think this is less because of the game's approach and more because of the issue that a lot of games experience in which character development is less palpable the further the character gets from his starting skills. Here, any character who built his attributes and skills to near-200 in Trial by Fire can coast through the game, winning every combat and passing nearly every skill check without having to put in any effort. The only exceptions I can think of are "Throwing" and the "Agility" attribute, both of which must be developed to the mid-200s to win the warrior initiation rituals.

As for spells, the game seems to have completely forgotten the skill level attached to them. I guess "Flame Dart" and "Force Bolt" did more damage as my skill went up, but there was no threshold attached to successful uses of "Juggling Lights," "Fetch," "Reversal," "Open," "Trigger," or any of the puzzle-based spells. This was also true of a few non-spell skills like "Climbing" and "Pick Locks." It's important that the series not abandon skill checks because what makes the games such good hybrids is that knowing the solution to the puzzle isn't enough: you also have to have developed the skill to a high enough level to use it successfully.

My fighter was the only character to face a true challenge, starting with statistics lower than a veteran character coming from Trial by Fire. This allowed me to experience the changes in the combat system in a way that I couldn't with the previous characters. I think Wages of War's combat mechanics are the best of the series so far: It's clearer when you need to dodge or parry, and you can't just spam attacks. Moreover, the wizard is effective enough (and has enough mana points) that he can survive in combat entirely as a spellcaster.
Enemy movements help determine the best times to slash or thrust.
The poor thief limps into Shadows of Darkness having enjoyed no place to practice his skills. There are only two locks to pick (and the nose trick no longer works). There are a couple of places to climb, and one (the Anubis statue at the end) that you can climb repeatedly, but none of them seemed to increase the skill.

Finally, I'll note that achieving a perfect score is much more of an achievement here than in previous games. A lot depends on luck, and it's easy not to realize that you've missed a potential encounter. For instance, if you encounter Harami in the bazaar during the day and agree to meet him at night, you get 4 points. But if you encounter him first at night, you can progress with his side-quest, and yet you miss the 4 points.

Several points are dependent upon temporary dialogue options. For instance, you get 2 points for telling Kreesha about the leopard woman after you dispel her but before you marry her. So if you don't trek back to Tarna between dispelling Johari and marrying Johari, you can't get those 2 points. Similarly, you get 2 points by talking to Uhura about marriage after marrying Johari but before giving her any gifts. Other points depend on selecting the "correct" dialogue option while meeting with Rajah or the Laibon. If you try to cover everything, you may miss out on the point-giving option when he gets tired and kicks you out.

Finally, I think some of the points are just bugged. The walkthroughs I consulted say you get 3 for reading the bulletin board in the tavern, but I just tested it and got none. I also don't think my paladin got the points he was supposed to get for defeating the Demon Worm towards the end, nor defeating an ape man for the first time.

Since points don't affect the character's skill or power, it's easy to say that it's no big deal if you leave this game having missed 25 or 30 of them. On the other hand, points are important because they're the only way to tell that a player has experienced most of the game's content. As we saw with my "Bad Chester" experience, many of the actions and moments in Wages of War have no practical value in terms of the direction of the story. Giving gifts to Johari, helping Harami, participating in the Sekhmet ritual, playing the mini-games in the Simbani village, and most NPC encounters and dialogue options are reflected only in points. It's too bad they're not more practical. It would be cool if the number of points earned in each game was translated to a bonus pool of skill points that you could allocate at the beginning of the next game.

I expect Quest for Glory III to rate about even with II, which was a bit lower than the first one. I think the lesser RPG elements will be balanced by higher scores in game world and combat. Let's see.

1. Game World. For this, I can pretty much just quote Alex's final rating at The Adventure Gamer:
Tarna as a city and a land is an absolute joy to behold. Wages of War’s African-inspired setting was unique at the time, and remains so to this day. It’s an underused milieu, as evidenced by the popularity and aesthetic impact of Marvel’s recent smash Black Panther movie. Audiences, whether in movies or games, like to see things that they have not seen before, and Wages of War delivers.
But I also agree with Alex that the story is a bit weaker. Everyone is too-easily manipulated by the demons, whose overall plan really isn't that clever or original. Still, this doesn't detract too much. In general, Wages of War offers almost everything I'm looking for in this category. Score: 8.
I didn't talk about it much while playing, but the documentation perfectly complements the game setting. At the same time, so much exposition is delivered in-game that the documentation is almost optional.
2. Character Creation and Development. I continue to admire Quest for Glory's skill system, and the satisfying way that attributes and skills increase as you use them. Some of them are delightfully unintuitive, such as the way intelligence increases when you perfectly-time a dodge or parry. (I still have no idea what "Luck" does or how it goes up.) The increases are regular and rapid enough to be satisfying, but you still have to grind (which isn't necessary) if you want to reach the end with perfect scores.

Perhaps most important, the series is a rarity in offering tangibly different experiences for different classes, to the extent that I had to replay it several times to see all the content. The differences among classes seem to grow more stark with every new game in the series. In So You Want to Be a Hero, the differences amounted to a couple of side-puzzles (that anyone could engage in if they had the skills). In Trial by Fire, each class had a side quest but mostly followed the same path. In Wages of War, class choice makes fairly significant changes to the story.

My primary quibble in this category is what I discussed above: the lack of necessity of character development, particularly if you import a character from Trial by Fire. And in some ways, the series seems to be losing its grip on the importance of skill level to success. Score: 6.

3. NPC Interaction. As usual, we have a great cast of characters here with individual personalities and interesting back stories. More so than the previous games, each character has different dialogue "trees" for different points in the game, so it's very easy to reach the end without having spoken to everyone about everything. The need to click on yourself to explore various "Tell" options was disconcerting at first, but it ultimately added to role-playing, as did the time limits imposed by certain conversations. I have to tell you, though: I miss the need to take notes and type the dialogue options. All the clicking made it too easy to go too fast and overlook key bits of information. Score: 7.
Even this guy had a whole dialogue tree.
4. Encounters and Foes. I found the enemies less imaginative in this entry. Almost all of them could have come from Dungeons and Dragons but with different names. (In particular, why name a charging lizard-beast something as bland as "dinosaur"?) The puzzles were a bit too easy, as usual, and mostly involved having the right item rather than doing the right thing. However, there were occasional multi-stage puzzles that offered a satisfying challenge, including the thief missions, the wizards' duel, and the endgame sequence. Score: 5.

5. Magic and Combat. Slightly improved. The combat control panel is easy to master, whether you're just fighting or switching between physical attacks and spells. It's clearer when you should time dodging, parrying, and attacking, although the monsters aren't hard enough for it to really matter. The wizard can engage in combat solely as a wizard, and spells like "Calm" and "Dazzle" do what they're supposed to do pre-combat. I like that good throwers can take down enemies with daggers and stones. But the system remains mostly optional, with too little in the way of tactics, for a very high score. Score: 4.
6. Equipment. Pretty weak on the RPG side. The paladin gets a weapon upgrade, and the fighter can if he becomes a paladin. Other than that, weapons and armor remain what you started with. Almost everything else is a puzzle item except for the pills. Score: 2.
Does anyone know why my thief carried this thing around for the entire game?
7. Economy. Unfortunately, quite bad. Some easy improvements in this area would have affected the whole game. The problem is that you start with as much money as you need to get through the entire game. This leaves no incentive to fight for gold, for the thief to steal the chests in the two huts, or even to engage in the "bargaining" mechanic. It also encourages you to make a single trip through the bazaar and buy everything at once instead of prioritizing--and returning now and then to get new dialogue options with the NPCs. When the economy is too generous, there is basically no economy at all. Score: 1.

8. Quests. There's a solid main quest and several character-based side quests reflected in points rather than story outcomes. As I covered in my experience with "Bad Chester," I was disappointed that so few of the options really mattered in the endgame. I feel like a few tweaks could have made this better: if you didn't give the gifts to Johari, or help Harami, or free Manu from the cage, or even meet Yesufu, they simply don't show up. The player then has to overcome more enemies than if he had his full contingent of sidekicks, and may fail if he doesn't have enough pills. (This approach would have made the economy more relevant, too.) This also would have forced the player to pay more attention to Sekhmet's prophecy and fulfill its various clauses. Ah, well. Score: 4.
I don't think I previously offered this cool shot of all my companions fighting their doppelgangers.
9. Graphics, Sound, and Interface. The VGA graphics are really the best we can expect with the technology of the era. They look beautiful and evocative, and they make great use of the setting and theme. I particularly love the way the overland map is framed as if you're looking from high atop a southern mountain, with trees in your immediate periphery. 
I like this shot of the Lost City with my thief surrounded by corpses of ape men. He had to kill one every time he came down from the Anubis statue, and he was trying to build his "Climbing" skill.
Sound effects were fine. The disagreements that I have with most players about music are only going to get more hostile as the quality of music compositions increases over the years. As I've noted repeatedly, while I can appreciate the effort that went into the game's score, I still don't want to hear it all the time. This is true in other aspects of life, too. Take any of my favorite songs--Louis Armstrong's "Potato Head Blues," Louis Prima's "Just a Gigolo," Sarah Vaughn singing "For All We Know"--and put them on in the background while I'm trying to concentrate on something else, and I'll ask you to turn them off. To me, background music is like a background television show or a background movie: it distracts from, rather than adding to, the foreground. This is why my GIMLET doesn't include music in this category.

Taken by itself, the music here (credited to Rudy Helm) is superbly composed. It's approached as a true score rather than just a bunch of individual melodies, which means the same motifs are used across multiple songs, but with different tempos, harmonies, and keys to represent different settings. Alex linked to a YouTube video containing the full-length versions of all of the game's songs, and the entire "album" clocks in at 90 minutes. Several compositions follow classic sonata-allegro form and others seem inspired by Debussy's orchestral impressionism.

I turned it all off while I was playing. You know what I preferred to continual background music? When I walked up to Baba Yaga's hut in Hero's Quest and there was like a six-second leitmotif and then it stopped. So I apologize to composers and video game music lovers everywhere, but this is going to be a constant issue and there's no point getting on my case about it with every game.
I preferred the text parser to the point-and-click interface, although I admit that the latter has uses for targeting. I remain impressed with how many individual screen objects had a "look" description attached to them; I couldn't have clicked on more than 25%. But I had all kinds of other problems with the interface, including an "Action/Special Items" menu that refused to stay active, an inability to coax my character off the edge of the screen, and crashes to the desktop every half hour or so. I realize that some of these are likely to be emulator issues, but I have to rate what I experienced. Score: 4.

10. Gameplay. I'm sure I said the same things about the previous two games: a little too linear, a little too easy, and a little too short--but only a little. The series continues to get major points for "replayability." Score: 5.

That gives us a final score of 46. Hmm. That's actually 4 points lower than Trial by Fire, which I didn't expect. It appears that a couple of slight gains (game world, combat) were overrun by several losses (economy, quests, interface, gameplay). As always, I trust my current opinion more than 4-year-old memories, so we'll leave it at that. The difference is a small one. (For readers unfamiliar with my scale, I should point out that a score of 46 puts it in the top 15% of games I've played on this blog.)
The ad emphasizes the right sentiment, but boy does it use the wrong screen shots.
The Adventure Gamer's score came in the other day at 68, which was two points higher than Trial by Fire and the same as the original Hero's Quest. (And keep in mind that they're more generous overall.) This bolsters my opinion that it's equal to its predecessors as an adventure game.

I guess my own GIMLET contributes to the idea that Wages of War is the least of the series (assuming that I rate the next two games higher), but I still think Matt Barton goes too far in Dungeons and Desktops when he says that "most fans of the series regard it as pedestrian at best." I would think that most fans, like me, would regard even the least Quest for Glory better than the average game of the time. Contemporary reviews don't offer any suggestion that the series has dipped. Jeff James's review in the January 1993 Computer Gaming World is unabashedly positive, lauding the "exotic new landscape" of Fricana, the "sumptuous hand-painted graphics," and the soundtrack. The only "blemishes" he found were a few bugs and the frequency of enemy encounters. (Alex mentions the latter, too. I didn't find the frequency to be so much overly-frequently as bafflingly variable. Sometimes I'd cross an entire screen of savanna with no encounters, and other times I couldn't walk more than an inch between them.) In his conclusion, James explicitly calls Wages of War the best in the series so far. This is echoed in the April 1993 Dragon, which starts out by saying, "This is by far the finest of the Quest for Glory adventures."

(I've long passed the point of finding new ways to make fun of Dragon for giving nearly everything 5/5 stars, but for the first time, I've forced myself to read several full issues, and I think I realize the reason: they rated everything. They didn't limit their "Role of Computers" column to RPGs. The same issue that has the 5-star Quest for Glory III rating also rates several adventure games [King's Quest VI also gets 5 stars], Battle Chess [5 stars], and @#$%ing Miner 2049er! No wonder actual RPGs always seem to jump out as cream-of-the-crop.)

In a time too far ahead to try to estimate, I'll determine if I agree or disagree with the other common assertion that fans find Shadows of Darkness (1993) the best in the series. I don't know how much longer I'll be doing this, but I can guarantee I won't stop before then.


  1. Man, I love this game.

    It's not my favorite of the series (that's probably QFG2) and it's likely not the best (QFG4 is a strong contender), but it's beautiful and inspiring and thoughtful and fun in a way that I've found few other games to be. Is some of that nostalgia? Sure, but the game found me at the right time for me to appreciate all that's best about it.

    I love playing apprentice paladin under Rakeesh's mentorship and the more complex definitions of heroism and honor that add nuance and maturity to the series--QFG3 is in many ways adolescent, moving from a more straightforward worldview in the first two games to a more complicated one. (Rajah isn't a great leader but he's not an evil one and he's not the villain. Harami isn't a kind man but he's sympathetic. And also in the adolescent vein, our hero discovers sex and romance for the first time!)

    I love the magical duel with the shaman. I love the majesty of the Heart of the World. I love being able to spend so much time with characters like Yesufu and learn about him and his people.

    And yes, I love the setting. I'd be excited to see someone with a deeper understanding of East African cultures and history offer an opinion on what works well here and what doesn't--where research and unfortunate stereotypes (I'm not thrilled with the Simbani dialect) and fantasy intersect--but we're looking at one of astonishingly few games that tries to do right by any part of the African continent and treats its characters with a measure of respect. I credit this game with my long-time enthusiasm for African-inspired fantasy. In a more just world, it would have spawned a host of imitators, and we'd be seeing modern AAA fantasy RPGs in a hundred more flavors than "pseudo-European."

    I think some days how much I'd love to have an original piece of Sierra art. And when I think about that, I think about this game. It looks great.

    Anyway. I just wanted a chance to ramble and praise.

    1. > It's not my favorite of the series (that's probably QFG2) and it's likely not the best (QFG4 is a strong contender), but it's beautiful and inspiring and thoughtful and fun in a way that I've found few other games to be.

      I strongly agree with this and I have zero nostalgia for any of the series, having only discovered any of it in my late 20s. It definitely shows the sign of being kind of a stopgap game, but it has a lot of value in its own right.

    2. "QFG3 is in many ways adolescent, moving from a more straightforward worldview in the first two games to a more complicated one." That's a really good way to think of it. There are fewer "gray" characters in the earlier games.

      "I'm not thrilled with the Simbani dialect." Do you mean the use of real Swahili words or their somewhat stilted English?

    3. I was thinking of the stilted English, yes--the Simbani are the closest analogue to a real-world culture in the game (the Liontaurs are inhuman and the Leopardmen magical, giving them some distance from their influences; whereas the Simbani are more directly inspired by the Maasai), and there's a long history of written dialect being used to portray characters as foolish, foreign, or both. The game generally treats the Simbani pretty well, I think, and portrays them as a unique culture with aspects that are positive, negative, familiar, and foreign. For me, the dialect feels like it takes them closer to stereotypes, not pushes them further away.

      There's certainly an argument to be made for dialect in writing (see the recent "lost" Zora Neale Hurston book), and others will see the QFG situation differently--certainly, I believe everyone's hearts were in the right place. But within the context of an otherwise nuanced and complex web of cultures in fictional Fricana, giving only the Simbani a fairly simplistic dialect stood out as a negative for me.

      I still love the game, of course.

  2. It can´t compare to true RPGs with full character development like the ultima series, might and magic, magic candle, dnd or others. It´s an action quest game. Graphics good, different paths, great (and hard to program that--big flow charts needed to remember how things fit!). Please though let´s realise although it´s a good series and maybe is close to semi-RPG, it´s not an RPG in the pure sense.

    1. Will someone ban this dimwit already?

    2. I concur, although he's anonymous so... maybe we can just shame him into going away?

    3. He still has an IP address, so should be bannable.

    4. Well, he's not wrong. The QFG games are not "RPGs in the pure sense." They're hybrids. I've said that repeatedly throughout my entries. The reason they rate so high is that even by the early 1990s, few RPGs "in the pure sense" were telling decent stories, including memorable NPCs, or bothering to include a sense of fun in gameplay.

      I don't think we need to call for banning people. Just slide by the comment and move on.

  3. Excellent review. It is obvious that although the game has problems, it is still an enjoyable product. Your review really gives me all I need to know, without playing the game myself. Your writing has really taken off and I appreciate the time you put into this. I never saw this game in stores growing up. It was just Goldbox, Ultima,or Wizardry. Frankly, I prefer EGA to VGA but that is my own thing. Congratulations on another great review!

    1. Thanks, JJ. Nothing to add, but I always appreciate this kind of comment!

  4. "The poor thief limps into Shadows of Darkness having enjoyed no place to practice his skills."

    Don't worry about him, QFG4 gives the Thief a lot to do, from what I remember. Also contains a super-creepy guildmaster with an obvious literary callback that was probably lost on most players.

    Really, QFG4 gives every class a lot to do, but the Fighter's adventure seems weak in comparison to the Paladin's once again.

    I'm a bit sad that you didn't mention the end credits, those were hilarious when I was a kid and worth a laugh now.

    1. I have to confess: I didn't even watch them until now. They're cute. For everyone else's benefit: each credit has some in-joke animation. The programmer's computer turns into a monster; an artist smashes his computer with a huge pencil; the Coles change into fantasy outfits; the producer pops out of a gorilla outfit, etc.

  5. The blackbird is a running gag throughout the QfG series, a reference to The Maltese Falcon. There's one in every QfG game, though so far they've all been fake. Ferrari, in the second game, hires the thief to steal one, but when you succeed he reveals it as a forgery and explains that 4 such fakes exist.

    1. I figured it had something to do with that, but I didn't see what the joke was. Was there a fake Maltese Falcon in the first game, too?

    2. In the first game I think it's in the Bandit Leader's room at the end of the game, but of course you can't actually take any of that random treasure. In QFG3, it's in the junk shop (but can't be bought).

  6. I'm having a hard time finding much in the way of RPG elements in the game described in this GIMLET...

    - An imported character has high enough skills to pass all but two skill checks in the game, so practically no character development is necessary to win.

    - There is no functional economy, so no character development occurs here either.

    - There is no equipment to upgrade to, so no development in this regard.

    - There are no character requirements for the higher level spells, so nothing to develop here, just find them in the game.

    - You describe combat - a staple in all RPGs - as mostly optional.

    When the only obstacles between the starting screen and endgame are puzzles, I'm afraid you have an adventure game, not an RPG. If you removed the combat, skill values, economy and equipment (but left the puzzle items), is the game fundamentally any different? It sounds like the game COULD be a good RPG if those things were tweaked, but as you played and described it here, it sounds like a Kings Quest or Lucasfilm game, not an RPG.

    1. He did say an "imported" character with maxed out skills.
      A new character doesn't have those skills.

      Suppose you could import a character from the end of Secret of the Silver Blades into Pool of Radiance. You'd be in the same boat - there's no upgrade requirement(or even possibility), but we all agree that game is an RPG.

      If it fails on importing characters, but still allows meaningful progression on NON-import characters, then it still has that RPG element.

      It also contains inventory that isn't just puzzle-solving (healing/mana pills). Not a _lot_ of inventory and not a great economy, but it does have them.

    2. The weird little cult that wants to deny this game's RPG side has been awfully vocal lately. There have been plenty of RPGs in which character development and combat mechanics exist but are blunted because the overall game was a bit too easy. When that happens, we call out its deficiencies but we don't re-define the game.

      Please take heart that I said in my opening paragraphs that it performs less well as an RPG, and move on to debunking the moon landings or something.

    3. The moon landings were fake, 9/11 was an inside job, Finland does not exist, but QfG3 is definitely an RPG.

    4. As Corey Cole implied, this game series is closer to the feeling of a tabletop roleplaying campaign than pretty much any other game out there.

    5. I'm sorry, I am not part of a "cult" and do not see any purpose in name-calling. My comments were reasonable, thought-out and backed by numerous examples. I'm not saying this game isn't a CRPG, merely that in this particular playthrough, it appears the only challenges encountered were adventure-game style puzzles. Most of the elements I would consider part of a CRPG were absent from this writeup. Even the combat is arcade-action, similar to The Immortal (which is also not a CRPG).

      I'm sorry you do not like my opinion but I would appreciate being allowed to express it without insults.

    6. I'm not sure that the divide between RPG and Adventure genres is even that wide. Consider both Wizardry and Zork were attempts to adapt PnP tabletop gameplay. The text parser is supposed to mimic the typical command-result exchange that players have with the DM. Tabletop gaming has a type of improvisational problem-solving aspect that most cRPGs are poor at implementing. QFG certainly comes mighty close.

    7. The Quest for Glory series is as much an RPG series as the Ultima series, for example. Ultima 7 and Ultima Underworld are considered the highlights of that particular series but they have plenty of puzzles, conversations and the combat is more action based and mostly pretty easy.

      Gaming genres are pretty broad and allow for a wide variety of games within them, after all there's a lot of difference between the likes of Wizardry, Might & Magic, Eye of the Beholder and the likes of Mass Effect, Neverwinter Nights and Skyrim.

      I'm glad that this blog shows the variety and history of the genre especially including the hybrid games and other oddities that crop up from time to time.

    8. No reason to be offended metallik, the problem with you opinion is that it's already been expressed, and addressed, multiple times in the past. Your examples mostly argue that the rpg elements are weak, but are still there, which means it's a weak rpg, but still an rpg. Which is a more reasonable opinion to have, than that it's not an rpg at all. Also, there's an anonymous commenter that keeps saying the same thing as you on every post, and is really hung up on anthropomorphic animals, and it's kind of annoying... That's not you is it??

    9. Hey Joet, no I haven't posted in a long while, and hadn't really noticed the anonymous poster, whom I definitely am not. I'm not even talking about the QFG3 game in general, but rather this particular playthrough and GIMLET. Because of the overpowered character and no need to develop or buy much of anything, the only challenges left are those you'd find in adventure games, and to me, the challenges are what define the game.

      I gotta say, seeing this game score in the top 15% of CRPGs brings back memories of Jethro Tull beating out Metallica and AC/DC for the inaugural heavy metal grammy back in '89.. :)

    10. So you write a disrespectful post full of exaggerations and strawmen and then complain you're not treated with respect? Oh poor baby.

    11. As Corey Cole implied, this game series is closer to the feeling of a tabletop roleplaying campaign than pretty much any other game out there.

      Did he? I thought he was talking about their own tabletop campaigns. The feeling of a tabletop rpg depends on the players who play it and to a lesser degree on the setting. You can only be close to a certain style of playing tabletop.

    12. metallik- I can't watch the oscars anymore for similar reasons... But as far as biased reviews go, Chet does a pretty good job of sticking by the rules he sets, so you always know where he stands, even if you disagree

    13. This is hardly the first time that a game has rated high overall despite rating low on classic RPG elements. Pirates! was in the 40s, after all. If you want to argue that my scale shouldn't allow for such things, I'll disagree, but it's a valid opinion.

      What's tiresome, as Joet88 says, are the repeated arguments that QFG3 isn't an RPG at all. With multiple commenters repeating the same assertion despite the clear arguments against it, it's beginning to feel less like productive discussion and more like someone pushing an agenda.

  7. Wow, I didn't know the Coles were fans of Cerebus the Aardvark. That "Arne Saknoosen" is a spitting image of Cerebus, who was also referred to as "the earth-pig" in his earlier comics (the good ones). I see acknowledgment of this a bit online, and apparently this is a rare encounter in the game; I can't remember if ever ran into him or would have known what it meant if I did.

    1. This little reference haunted me for years as a fan of (early) Cerebus because it seems to have visual similarities and nothing else. Would love to know the story behind it!

    2. My library has the whole series so I decided to read it -- I'm almost done with "Reads", which is where the bizarre misogyny and red pill stuff comes to full fruition. I feel like I shouldn't keep reading, especially since he has a petition you can sign agreeing he's not a misogynist.

    3. Dave's an odd fellow.
      Personally, I don't think any character in the series is his "mary sue" (not even the character that's actually him). He tend to go at a lot of things with all piss and vinegar, and usually it's not because of a clear agenda - including judaism, capitalism, the catholic church, or even the Stones and Hemingway. When I tried to read some of his essays they seemed as confusing, conflicting, mad ravings. Or I just don't get the guy. Anyway. Is he a misogynist? Probably, but I honestly don't know. I'm not going to call him that because he really don't seem to like it (the Comics journal really went at him at the time, even publishing a caricature of him as a nazi guard - which was in extremely poor taste in retrospect. It also didn't make any sense).
      Is Cerebus a misogynistic novel? Probably not. There's misogyny in it, and a lot of it, but it's never glorified or presented as "right". The whole world of cerebus is a very oppressive and cynical one. Most if not all it's inhabitants are absolutely horrible people, ESPECIALLY the title character. Very clearly framed as a terrible person.
      Now, should you continue reading? I myself gave the series a lengthy rest when I reached 'Reads' as well. It kind of stops being a comic. It does come back though, and does so with a vengeance. While it doesn't tell the best story, the series showcases the best storyteling I've ever seen in a comicbook. Very consistently. If you're into comics, you should definitelly continue. 'Reads', you can skip. Try to find a summa or a more digestible version of what actually happens during those issues andthen DO pick up the later books (he also loses his mind agin in 'Latter days' unfortunately)

    4. Encountering Arne as a kid was a great moment and I'm glad Chester also got to meet him. I didn't know what and aardvark was, and even though I probably these days would consider the encounter a bit too easter eggy, at the time it was yet another fascinating tangent of the the fictional universe.

      In fact I think Wages of War had several visually striking, memorable moments. I think I had played a few VGA games before, Monkey Island 2 for sure, but something about this one was quite special.

    5. I'm not sure if I'm stating the obvious here or not, but since nobody else seems to have mentioned it, I guess it might not be obvious: Arne Saknoosen is, above all, an explicit Jules Verne reference. Arne Saknussemm is a character in Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth. The Coles seem to have misspelled the surname here, but then again, Verne's own Saknussemm seems to be a mistake as well, because this is clearly supposed to be a typical Nordic patronym, i.e. Saknussen. So, ironically, Saknoosen is closer to what it should be :).

      Needless to say, of course, the character can be a double reference - the name referring to one thing, and the aardvark appearance being a reference to this Cerebus the Aardvark you guys are discussing.

    6. Also Arne Saknussem was likely a reference to Árni Magnússon, the Icelandic scholar and manuscript collector in the original Jules Verne story.

  8. Just to follow up on the "Adventure Gamer" comment: This game currently is #8 all-time there, with a relatively high score. I think that reflects that it is a better adventure than a RPG, and the things that we look for there are better represented in this game. (I like to think that Chet's ratings are based on an idealized Ultima or Baldur's Gate game, while TAG's would be an idealized Monkey Island.)

    Our average rating over there is 43, but that's because we explicitly do not play EVERY adventure game. There are dozens and dozens (and dozens...) of dreck text and early graphical adventures that we don't touch except when a reviewer really wants to. That self-selection means that we lack the history coimpletionism of Chet's adventure and makes it so that our average ratings are a bit higher. If Chet only played A-list and some B-list titles, I'm sure the ratings would be higher here as well.

    All in all, a great review and I cannot wait for us to get to QfG4! Thankfully that is in 1993 so not too long.

  9. Is that seriously Dave Sim's CEREBUS on the night-time screenshot?!
    That's uncanny:

  10. Take any of my favorite songs--Louis Armstrong's "Potato Head Blues," Louis Prima's "Just a Gigolo," Sarah Vaughn singing "For All We Know"--and put them on in the background while I'm trying to concentrate on something else, and I'll ask you to turn them off.

    I think most of us can relate to finding vocal music, i.e. with lyrics and textual content, a poor fit for gaming and a very poor fit for anything that requires concentration.

    So, too, can I relate to the idea that most music -- except for extremely ambient stuff like Brian Eno -- interferes with my ability to concentrate on something with textual content. When I was a student, I didn't find that studying and music went well together, and I don't generally put on music when I read for pleasure (especially not fiction).

    But where you lose me is the idea that playing a game, especially a typical turn-based RPG, requires that level (or type) of intense concentration -- to me, games reside in an entirely different mental "space" that's closer to, say, a particularly entertaining form of washing dishes; once I've got the game's routine down, my "narrative self" is mostly idle and can daydream, woolgather, etc.

    Nor can I imagine how the modest, ambient instrumental soundtracks of most games (especially the era under discussion) would in any way crowd out my ability to focus on their content, which is almost never cognitively demanding in the way I experience when I'm trying to make sense of a technical manual, a philosophy text, an academic paper, etc.

    (If anything music, especially low-key ambient music, makes it much easier to focus on the game; silence only highlights the "this is just a glorified Skinner box" feeling that many RPGs already give me.)

    1. That's partially true but you forget he's not only playing for entertainment but documenting, judging and researching the game while playing it. If he loses focus, I doubt there'd be this blog in the first place.

    2. I think there's a wide variance in how people focus and relate to their senses. I have to focus deeply to get my job done and the most effective way I've found is to play catchy, repetitive music at a high volume. It drowns out the cross-chatter in my brain. I imagine I'm somewhere on the ADHD spectrum. It's slightly embarassing, so I always try to get earphones with very little leakage. I don't want my pod-mates to know I'm listening to Hello on repeat-1.

      But if I am like that, it's not surprising that there are folks that are sensitive to music in the opposite way. I think especially if you have a stronger relationship to music than I do. If I overhear someone talking about something I know and an interested about in a noisy setting, I'm more likely to pick that signal out than talk about, I dunno, sports or something. I don't know anything about music, so it washes over me, and I just appreciate it in a general, aesthetic way.

  11. Just a heads up, in your "Index of Games Played by Title" QfG3 is listed as (1991).

  12. As far as ambient music goes, you're going to enjoy Exile and the later Spiderweb Software games on that note, at least. Their creator is on the record as preferring to listen to music of his choice while playing games, and none of them have anything beyond brief musical stings. (Personally, my soundtrack for the Exile series is Beck's Mutations.)

  13. I would love to hear from Corey about the (possible?) Cerebus reference. I had made the same connection back when I originally played the game. Never got much past the first few graphic novels, but I did once get a signed Cerebus issue from Dave because of a bet he lost to Neil Gaiman.

  14. Somewhat tangential comment: there's another hybrid game that is clearly inspired by the QFG series, has a good story, and (IMO) does the RPG part very well: Heroine's Quest.

    When playing it, I felt a lot of the same wonder and immersion as when playing the original HQ1 as a kid (to me, this particular feeling was largely lost in QFG 3 and later, despite their many good points). The story is rooted in Norse mythology. The RPG aspects matter, and the mechanics seem to work well (I remember being genuinely concerned about getting too cold, being out at night far away from a shelter, being excited to learn that I can skin an animal to get meat (food) and a pelt (which can be worn)). The NPCs aren't static, have lives and agendas of their own, and (in some cases at least) respond differently based on how you treat them. It's mostly non-linear (except toward the end) with a lot of freedom to explore (or not) and a good number of optional subquests. (I only played it as one character class, so can't comment on how different the game is for the other two).

    The title may sound like a knockoff of the original Hero's Quest, but it's not thatbatball. It captures the spirit and many of the best parts of the series, does some unique things (well!) and is an excellent game in its own right. I'd love to see this game played/reviewed here! Any chance of that happening? :)

    1. It's one of the two almost simultaneous games that were released inspired by this saga, the other being Quest for Infamy. Quest for Infamy was the Volcano, while Heroine's Quest was the Dante's Peak.

    2. Thanks for letting me know about this. It sounds like something that Irene would like. It's good to know that people are still making games in this style.

    3. Heroine's quest is fantastic, a true worthy continuation of the spirit of QfG, the only downside is the voice acting can be spotty. But, hey, it's free on steam.

      Quest for Infamy is just embarrassingly bad, it had some potential but you can tell it got rushed out the door when the devs got bored and the Coles' trademark humour replaced with what an 11 year old would find as the height of comedy.

    4. I've noted at least once before in these forums, the titles in Choice of Games' "The Hero of Kendrickstone" series are spiritual inheritors to the QFG game design style, looking at how heroes of different player classes would undertake different approaches toward dealing with the same problems. Totally non-graphical, but the situations allow you to fill in the blanks with your imagination.

  15. OOOk, so I love this game but yes, it works better as an adventure for the reasons explained: puzzles are more related to adventure game puzzles and not to endurance. But on the other game this makes to me clearer why I prefer well designed adventure games: you are free of the grinding, the repetition, and focus on the narrative.

    And I agree on the music. Somehow it has not the same magic as QFG1 or QFG2 (qfg2 to me is one of the better soundtracks to a videogame ever, just ever). It sounds to me uncannily closer to something like Police Quest 3.

  16. Slightly late response; I just got to this post.

    Why does the Thief/Rogue carry about a blackbird statue the entire game? That's a Maltese Falcon reference that was originally a throw-away art addition in Hero's Quest. It ended up (i.e. we decided on it) becoming an essential part of the Thief storyline. The holder of the raven statue has the right to declare himself or herself the King of the Thieves in any locality. Why he has it in inventory, I don't know; it was probably intended to relate to an interaction that got cut from the final game.

    We've kept the Raven as a Rogue symbol in Hero-U. It's a McGuffin, an important plot point, but again not actually used to do anything in the game. Just getting it is the object of several characters. The endgame talks about the consequences of trying to use it.

    Ref music: Lori frequently listens to generic fantasy style instrumental soundtracks while writing. She can't have anything with lyrics on, and sometimes gets to the point where she can't have any music playing.

    For Hero-U, we went through the quandary about how long and how often music should play. Originally I played an appropriate track each time the player entered a new zone, then went to silence. This got dinged by a previewer (for an indie game contest) who wanted continuous music. After some discussion, we compromised by playing a clip on first zone entry, fading to silence, and occasionally playing another clip if the player is there for a while. I think WoW originally used this approach until they built up a library of hundreds of hours of music that they now play continuously.

    The same reviewer complained that the music - written by an award-winning Australian composer - was "too generic", I guess because it's orchestral. Personally, the soundtrack is exactly what we wanted, and I love it. Lori and I have played through hundreds of hours of Hero-U during testing, and we rarely - if ever - get bored with any of the music.

    The major change we made as a result of alpha test feedback was to add dozens of additional sound effects for everything from weapons striking in combat to attempting to pick a lock.

    Arne Saknoosen - of course a tribute to Cerebus the Earth Pig. Also to Lori's and my fascination with aardvarks - I have a stuffed toy aardvark and we occasionally call our home the "Flying Aardvark Ranch."

    1. Oh, and Arne's name is a tribute to the mysterious explorer Arne Saknoosen from Journey to the Center of the Earth. I don't think we ever meet the character in the book, but his initials "A.S." appear frequently. I don't somehow think that Jules Verne intended Arne to be an aardvark. That part comes from our head canon and twisted imaginations.

    2. Really, if Jules Verne had intended AS to be something other than an aardvark, he should have specified. I feel like this one is on him, really.


I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters. I will delete comments containing profanity on a case-by-case basis.

3. NO ANONYMOUS COMMENTS. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. If you don't want to log in to Google to comment, either a) choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank, or b) sign your anonymous comment with a preferred user name in the text of the comment itself.

4. I appreciate if you use ROT13 for explicit spoilers for the current game and upcoming games. Please at least mention "ROT13" in the comment so we don't get a lot of replies saying "what is that gibberish?"

5. Comments on my blog are not a place for slurs against any race, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or mental or physical disability. I will delete these on a case-by-case basis depending on my interpretation of what constitutes a "slur."

Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.