Three chapters into Sierra’s updated King’s Quest series, my younger, golden-aged obsessed inner child is ecstatic to find it is also the most consistently impressive episodic series to date. King’s Quest Chapter Three: Once Upon a Climb not only does the story transition in a way that anyone picking up mid-episode won’t be lost within the narrative, but the decisions made from previous chapters carries over in more meaningful ways than one might expect.
Once Upon a Climb is a great example of a multi-chapter game done correctly, triumphing over the last two, blending the results of Graham’s journey into one beautifully woven tale. King’s Quest isn’t the most innovative episodic series out there, but it’s definitely the most polished.
Graham’s story continues years after taking the throne, having become more experienced and strong throughout his rule. Now that Daventry is secure, Graham finds himself in another predicament, one much more personal than his last adventure. He is now a king, and a lonely one at that; yearning companionship in the shape of a queen, but he quickly learns this is more difficult then he could imagine.
The production values are still incredible, with cel-shaded cartoon-like graphics and brilliantly performed voice work that brings the characters off the screen. It’s once again told in framed narrative; an unreliably recounted tale by the elder Graham (still played to perfection by Christopher Lloyd) to his granddaughter Gwendolyn – and their relationship here is also expanded upon in beautiful ways.
Gameplay here is a little simpler and straightforward with none of the superfluous, stressful mechanics introduced in the second episode in play. You don’t have to babysit anyone, and you don’t have player meters to watch over – instead, you’ve just got a handful of relatively simple puzzles to get through a mostly linear adventure. You may shoot some arrows or pluck on the lute and there’s very little of the obtuse “try every item on every other item” adventure gaming standard in play. What the gameplay lacks in complexity, it more than makes up for in character.
With just two episodes left to go, King’s Quest Chapter Three: Once Upon a Climb continues to prove the series is well on its way to becoming the new standard for episodic gameplay, development, and execution. As much as I want that to be a reality (with all due respect to Telltale Games), two more episodes also means two more chances to drop the ball. As Sierra has thus far treated this rejuvenated a classic series with style and care, I pray it is the former rather than the latter.