Screenshot Longings

One of the safest ways to make me miss an MMORPG and make me want to jump back in, is when I see beautiful screenshots by active players. I love taking screenshots myself and browsing through old albums makes me feel very much like looking back on events that have happened in real life. I think that’s when games are at their most powerful: when you live the in-game experience and are fully immersed in the environment. The same is true when you get fully engaged in guilds and other social groups of course, although the single-player experience still has a lot to offer in MMOs that allow you to go solo.

Coming across a new twitter account by fledgling LOTRO player Burcwyn, I was reminded of the power of screenshots this weekend. Burcwyn has a great eye for capturing atmosphere and story, and LOTRO remaining my favorite MMO that I’m not playing, his screenshots sent a pang of nostalgia for Middle Earth through my system. I have written before on the magic of this particular game so it’s wonderful watching new players discover it for the first time. I hope he keeps up his Flickr gallery in the coming weeks and months!

LOTRO peace

While I’m still playing FFXIV and am woefully behind my own screenshot documentation there, I have been thinking of returning to LOTRO myself lately. It so happens that I was even gifted a co-workers lifetime account a year ago but have never found the willpower to start over with a new character on there. It was bad enough leveling my Loremaster past Moria the first time, I really don’t think I can start from scratch. The much bigger issue I have however is that nobody I know is really playing LOTRO regularly anymore.

The game is so many expansions ahead of me that it’s really overwhelming and I’ve never warmed to the slow, static combat. The only thing that would get me to play again would be a steady, committed group of another 2-3 like-minded players which can keep the same playtimes as me and remain serious about it. Which is essentially why I’m not playing LOTRO and never will be playing it for more than a split-second maybe, which I would likely spend in the Prancing Pony playing my lute.

PPI peace

It is what it is. Nobody I know of keeps up regular MMORPG commitments anymore, let alone appointment gaming. Some groups start off with enthusiasm and dwindle away within a fortnight. They fall apart because of playstyle differences and different advancement speeds, or whenever another title happens to release an expansion that needs to be played desperately. MMORPGs are at best a regular vacation resort for those of us who still love them. We return every now and then but it’s rare that somebody we used to meet is vacationing there at the same time.

Alas, the screenshots and memories persist. Middle Earth remains beautiful and whoever gets to dip into its magic for the very first time is in for a treat. Enjoy it while it lasts, I say.

FFXIV Endwalker Reveal

There was a lot of hype regarding a big reveal for FFXIV this week and some 10 hours ago Square-Enix finally answered the community’s most pressing questions:

  • Yes, there’s going to be a new expansion and it’s called Endwalker
  • The approximate release date is Fall 2021
  • The story will be taking the Warrior of Light to the Moon and Garlemald
  • Yes, they’re finally adding a fourth healer to the game: the Sage
  • Another new class will be melee dps (to be revealed in May)
  • Level cap will be raised to 90

While the teaser trailer didn’t particularly blow me away, the over two hours long announcement showcase covered a lot of ground as to what to expect for Endwalker. As final as the title of the next expansion sounds, Yoshi-P was quick to point out that it marks both a ‘New Dawn’ while simultaneously ending the long story arch of Hydaelyn and Zodiark in 6.0. He was also very clear that he had no intentions personally to go anywhere and was going to remain at FFXIV’s steering wheel for the foreseeable future. Good news.

Thavnair Zone

As for the Garlemald Empire, nothing concrete was revealed other than that it will be part of the Endwalker storyline. A final showdown between Zenos and the Warrior of Light was hinted at while Yoshi-P mentioned it was all going to get complicated (again). Considering how great an expansion Shadowbringers has been, I really look forward to finding out where the story is going!

The design approach, or ‘cultural flair’ if you will, of some of the Endwalker zones scream sub-tropical (some commenters have said latin American) and are very colorful. I’m not much into the whole Dancer class vibe so I’m steeling myself for another experience à la Stormblood rather than Heavensward. Us high fantasy, renfair dragonslayer types can’t always win.

Thoughts about Sage

So the fourth healer class in FFXIV is going to be Sage which came as a surprise to me personally. Yoshi-P has pointed out many times in the past how difficult it is to balance the healing meta in FFXIV while keeping the gameplay fresh and different for each class. Playing a WHM myself when I’m not melting faces, I prefer the pure and powerful healer type (why play anything weaker than the best healer?). For this reason I’ve never been much into SCH or AST.

The Sage has been introduced as another ‘varied healer’ in the showcase which means a mixture of healing, mitigation and dps. What I’ve seen of the play style so far with the 4 Noulith weapons performing different actions, it’s not gonna be my cup of coffee.

Sage FFXIV

Maybe the most exciting reveal about Sage for me personally is the fact they will be revamping AST to become the second pure healer next to WHM in Endwalker. SCH and Sage will occupy the varied healer role and thus become more distinct from the other two, registering differently in the duty finder as well. AST has always had fabulous class design so maybe I’ll be able to enjoy it more after the changes.

No words as of yet on glamour overhaul

One area the announcement showcase sadly didn’t touch upon was the glamour system and glamour inventory issue. While the system has been improved over the years, it is still leaps and bounds behind many other MMORPGs, forcing players to deal with physical items (and physical single-use dyes) that occupy a fairly restrictive inventory space. Considering FFXIV has the one-character-for-all-classes approach, keeps adding 2-3 classes per expansion and is piling on gear sets like no other game does, this is an increasingly pressing and frustrating matter for FFXIV players.

Gear is the true endgame and we all know it, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed we’ll see great changes in this department for Endwalker. Keep your varied healers, gief more shinies space!

Games I’ve Played: Cloudpunk

Cloudpunk is a more recent title that I acquired on Steam and that got some glowing reviews for its retro design and cyberpunk world building. Not similar in any other way to Cyberpunk 2077, it’s basically a chill Fedex game where you’re delivering parcels of more or less dubious origin across the city of Nivalis. Every now and then you get to make a choice none of which ever feel particularly meaningful.

I really enjoyed exploring in Cloudpunk for the first two or so hours. The vertical city is superbly made and oozes cyberpunk atmosphere in a dark yet glam way which reminded me of a darker version of the 5th Element. Exploring the different maps is interesting at first and gets better once your HOVA vehicle is somewhat upgraded for smoother navigation. The HOVA is capable of landing on different parking hubs from which you get to continue on foot in either 1st or 3rd person. Besides the fetch and delivery quests, there’s a ton of talking to NPCs and looting involved too. Every now and then a side quest is triggered but they seem rare and mostly repetitive. Nothing really stands out in a good way.

Putting another 4 hours into the game, things started to go downhill fast. You keep delivering parcels to different city blocks and listening to the often unnatural or inconsequential dialogues that are peppered across the city. At some point you unlock a companion AI that insists on presenting and acting like a dog who is an old friend of your character Rania. He is called Camus which is almost insulting considering what a dull character he turns out to be. The dialogue and jokes between them are horribly written at times and the twist of an AI acting like a pet isn’t nearly half as clever as it sounds. The fact that Rania’s voice acting is fairly bad too doesn’t improve matters. There’s an underlying background story to her character that gets unfolded ever so slowly and made me care exactly zero about her for this reason.

After almost 8 hours of monotonous delivery quests, the final nail in the coffin were dialogues between Rania and various NPCs which insisted on randomly introducing politics. There’s a quest in which you escort a male prostitute android to his next client. The game makes clear to point out that androids are lesser citizens and property of the real humans despite their sentient capacity. On the road, the android insists on educating you that he has chosen to become somebody’s sex property out of his own free will and that sex work is work, as you go through a series of cringey dialogue choices which feel like the game is trying to trap you on some non-existent bias.

Another random quest has Rania talking to a singer/songwriter who really likes the style of a family heirloom (a flower) she’s carrying. When he proposes to purchase it off her, she starts lecturing him about cultural appropriation and then scams him out of a bit of cash, selling him a fake version of the heirloom.

Why these topics needed to be awkwardly thrown into random side-quests in a game that otherwise has no narrative ambition beats me. They felt disconnected and poorly executed like so many things in Cloudpunk once you take the time to dig a little deeper. It’s a crying shame because from the outset, the game had the potential to become a 10/10 indie title thanks to the immersive city and atmosphere. The synthwave soundtrack is pretty good too, although you end up listening to the same tame themes for most of it.

There’s much that could’ve been done with the gameplay, had there been any stakes to it and an existing, engaging story. Alas, it’s repetitive gameplay, poor writing and unlikable characters that bring the game down so much I decided to quit. Cloudpunk is boring and that is really one of the worst verdicts I could give a game such as this!

Games for 2021

I haven’t played many different games in 2020 despite having been under soft lockdown for most of it. My three games of 2020 were probably Spiritfarer, A Short Hike and FFXIV, the latter still being my go-to MMORPG. I’ve had a good time with FFXIV last year for about three months but then my motivation plunged again as I hit the classic endgame token-gear grind. It is always the same with that game. But yes, it DOES still have lots of shiny armor!

I don’t know why 2020 proved to be rather uneventful for me gaming wise but 2021 is shaping up to be a better year if some previews (and release dates…) can be believed. I came across this Youtube compilation for the Top 20 Open World Games in 2021 in December and was actually surprised to find myself excited for quite a few of them, namely (in order of appearance):

  • Towers
  • Little Devil Inside
  • Fable 4 (highly doubt that it’s 2021)
  • Everwild

Another title that I am absolutely waiting for is Crimson Desert. I adored Black Desert’s world building and graphics, so a single-player experience would be very welcome. There are still rumors that the game might feature co-op play too which would be awesome and way better than trying to make it another MMORPG. I mean, just look at it – it’s glorious!

I was also very happy to learn about a new upcoming Fable last year. I never fully got over the discontinuation of Fable Legends, so it’s exciting that Microsoft agreed to give an open world title a chance. That said, I have my reservations about Playground Games pulling it off, given the only games they’ve worked on before were the Forza series. Speaking of games without certain release dates, what on earth happened to Hollow Knight: Silksong and Hytale? Both of these were supposed to get a releases or at least release dates long time ago yet seem to have fallen into obscurity.

As far as new MMORPGs go, I have not the faintest idea what to look forward to in 2021. I’m not even sure there will be any that deserve the title MMORPG, most lineups I’ve checked just seem to talk about survival or pvp-centric multi-player online games. I guess, I’ll just have to wait and see!

Getting back in the saddle

The blog is finally fully updated which took a couple of hours, not least because of SSL certification madness and trying to remember everything that goes into it. The internet has become a very complex place in the past years and self-hosting is its own mini-game. I am glad this site is finally considered ‘secure’ by today’s browser standards. Everything is easier with a little help from your friends.

A new year means different things for different people. I am not big on new year’s resolutions but after 2020, I have been anxious to fix not just the blog but myself. After the last six months especially, I feel like a wreck physically. All the homeoffice work has caught up with me in ways I clearly underestimated. I have all sorts of back issues and developed a mean BDS (thoracic spine syndrome) that can feel like a heart attack when it’s having a field day. Then over the Christmas holidays, the sciatic nerve on my lower back almost immobilized me for several days. I’ve always had bad posture problems but everything has gone bonkers with Covid restrictions. Being indoors a lot more clearly also doesn’t help my overall immune system. Also, I am getting 40 this year and fuck that aging thing.

New desk setup is great!

It’s my own fault really, there’s not much else to it. I have a great desk setup and working space at home but I neglected to account for the overall impact of homeofficing. It wasn’t so bad between March 2020 and July because I was gardening a lot during that time and also getting away to the lakeside during summer. But fall and winter have aged me inordinately and now I’m struggling to establish some sort of routine back to well-being. I’ve never been sporty but now I feel like I am 70 years old (although I have no idea how 70 year olds feel).

Anyway. I recently came across the YT channel by German fitness coach Gabi Fastner and she may be the first who doesn’t annoy me after 5 minutes with some overly enthusiastic antics and pep-talk. She’s got a huge library of great beginner exercises that are easy to do and fun. There’s trainings for all kinds of purposes including fascia-based stretching units which have already helped me quite a bit. Right now the goal is to do a 30min course per day and see how I feel in a few weeks time. There’s really no excuse not to do it as I am working from home full time and can easily do it over lunch break.

The New Year begins with baby steps. Every day where I’m not weighed down by aching nerves in my back, is a good one. I shall report back on this in a few weeks time to review the progress I am making (hopefully)!

2021

Time flies. It’s been three years now that I haven’t mustered the energy or courage to return to this blog. I’d like to think that real life has kept me rather busy, which is true, but the star of MMO gaming has also waned for me these past years as it has for many. The blogroll needs updating as several long standing bloggers have disappeared in the meantime. As I went through the list this morning, my eyes fell on Psychochild’s blog with sadness; I realize his blog is offline now but I do not have the heart to remove the link. I miss his voice in the community, he was one of my oldest blogging buddies.

All the more I rejoice in the fact that quite a few have kept true to their usual busy schedule – Syp, Bhagpuss, Telwyn, Shintar and Wilhelm to name a few. For those who follow the Battle Bards, there have been no breaks or hiatuses since we started in April 2013. That is something I am proud of and Syp has never failed to remind me that my blog awaits. I am glad that my little corner of the internet still stands and that I’ve never made grand gestures of departure.

2020 wasn’t my favorite year for obvious reasons but it’s brought back some introspection and the mind for doing creative things. I even started painting again and of course my absence (some 15 years) from the medium shows. They say creative skill is like a muscle and so I will hang in there and make it a more regular exercise. The same goes for writing of which I am doing a lot more again and it feels good.

So, here’s to a year of more writing, blogging, painting and drawing as well as spending more time outdoors again and hopefully being freed of pandemic scares. Happy New Year to all of you who are still lurking out there in the shadows!

Happy Monty in the snow

WoW Classic: Are you yearning for the good old, bad days?

As revealed during this year’s Blizzcon, WoW Classic is coming summer 2019 and will be part of the regular WoW subscription, with no additional costs to subscribers. An exclusive Blizzcon demo of the game has been released in which players get to either quest in the Barrens or Westfall as a level 15 character, for a limited amount of time. Having followed discussions on the demo and supposed leaked screenshots on youtube and twitter, it really appears Blizzard are going for that mostly unaltered vanilla experience. All the while we must ask ourselves if we are truly ready to return to 2004.

WoW Classic: Are you yearning for the good old, bad days?

Kotaku published a very amusing first impressions post on Classic WoW, aptly titled “The WoW Classic Demo Is The Hell We Asked For“. Already the first paragraph had me laughing and cringing because so much about vanilla WoW is tortured nostalgia to the veteran player, an emotional struggle between yearning for our early days and knowing better. Really, I know I know better – but I also know that there is an undeniable, irrational pull towards Classic WoW. Lord, save me from myself!

I once wrote a rather detailed account on the struggle that was vanilla WoW raiding. I wrote it for myself more than anyone, lest I forget how brutal and time-consuming it truly was. We tend to forget these things, we forget how there wasn’t a guild bank or a keyring or dual specs. The list is endless.

As an MMORPG player with limited amounts of time these days, I am mostly over the grim satisfaction mindset. The virtue of suffering that was a badge of pride in oldschool games, holds no fascination for me. Look, I have done it all, had it all, what could I possibly gain from WoW Classic?

WoW Classic: Are you yearning for the good old, bad days?

Old Westfall with buddies.

But then I also remember why I cannot stomach WoW today and suddenly the notion of an Azeroth without achievements, dps meter min-maxmania and flying mounts sounds very appealing! I would probably hate the graphics but Blizzard are letting players opt-in the new character models, at least (which I think is a wise choice). I can see myself walking down that road from Northshire Abbey once again. I can see myself stop at the Lion’s Pride Inn, wondering if I should go kill Hogger next or murder murlocs at Eastvale Logging Camp while looking for that dead soldier. I’d like to see Stormwind as it once was, a smaller city without harbor. I’d like to hitch a ride on the Deeprun Tram because it’s still faster than flying to Ironforge.

And then, arriving at Ironforge I would undoubtedly make for the auction house which is where it would hit me full force: there is no guild I belong to, no guild spot where we used to hang out, no familiar guild tag hovering under my character’s name. My friends are all gone and there is no Syl, the holy priest, without them.

So I’m thinking if I was to return to Classic WoW, I would probably have to roll a vastly different character with a different name, indeed maybe this would be the time to roll horde. In any case, that’s a big “if”!

Monty is very skeptical of all this WoW business!

Another one bites the dust…but LOTRO has a time machine

Yesterday is history….or is it? It appears we are standing at a fork in the road where the MMO industry is concerned right now. Studios are shut down or sold or both, like Carbine recently and now Trion. At the same time, we got established longtimers like WoW and LOTRO suggesting the future of MMORPGs may really lie in the past. Battle for Azeroth isn’t doing so great but there’s still that Classic WoW to look forward to (maybe). And LOTRO is…well, edging ever closer to the inevitable Mount Doom. Every now and then I amuse myself by imagining LOTRO suddenly getting 10 million subscribers, with the devs frantically trying to prolong the books’ journey even more. There’s room for much hilarity there and dwarven drinking contests. But now it appears there’s another way that has me legit excited: LOTRO Legendary servers were just announced!

“Join us this fall on a Legendary World and make a fresh start with a brand new character; see Tolkien’s bustling realm anew, whether for your first or fiftieth time. Initially, the Legendary World will begin at the very start of the game and run through Angmar, then open new regions and levels over time. Relive the legend: where everyone is here and the story is now.” (lotro.com)

I’ve never gotten over the fact that I wasn’t there for LOTRO’s launch. I was there for FFXI, WoW, Rift, GW2, Wildstar, FFXIV and many others but LOTRO came at a time when I had no time for more games. It is also notoriously not beginner-friendly at all with an overwhelming amount of content and systems to get to grips with as a latecomer.

LOTRO Legendary servers

So the prospect of rerolling on a fresh lvl0-50 server is very enticing. Or it was, until I started writing about it here. Now I remember that I only just arrived at Lothlorien on my Loremaster after years of on-and-off play. I have literally only gotten past Moria (eugh) and reliving the 40-50 grind fills me with cold dread. I wonder if these legendary servers are actually for people like me or not much rather for everyone else who always kept up with content?

This is what blogging does for you – sorting your feelings and thoughts out, killing off bouts of euphoria like a pesky fly. ALAS. I’ll smoke some old Toby and mull over these legendary shenanigans some more!

(P.S. Almost forgot that Monty pic!!!)

best doge

So long, cupcake! It was fun while it lasted

The recent announcement of NCsoft pulling the plug on Wildstar has sent the MMORPG sphere reeling ever since the news broke last Thursday. Veterans of the game have come out of hibernation to voice their disappointment and generally, the tune on social media has been one of regret if not surprise. As so many have stated, it’s particularly sad to see Wildstar go considering all of Carbine’s efforts to save the game over the past two years. From subscription to free to play to ingame tokens, shops and meta-currencies, Carbine kept optimizing their economics to ease new players into their MMO.

But those of us who followed the game and have played it for a reasonable amount of time, know that Wildstar never had the player base so many think it deserved and that was hardly a payment model issue. The numbers just never came until NCsoft dropped the title from quarterly reports in 2017 altogether. The recent player petition to save Wildstar from sunset has only reached 2500 signatures thus far. As much as I appreciate the sentiment, I don’t see what a petition could do in Wildstar’s case.

wildstar shutdown

„Wildstar did so many things right, but it lacked players“ is the general consensus and it’s one that does not satisfy. When Gordon Ramsay visits broke restauranteurs in his TV show, they all tell him that their restaurant’s issue is „not enough guests“. He rightfully pulls a face.

Recalling the launch days

Wildstar will go down as the smoothest MMORPG launch ever witnessed in my personal memory. From day one, the servers were stable, quests and grouping worked easily and the leveling process was solid. Players got a tutorial to teach them the basics and the bottomless well that is its famed player housing already unlocked at level 14. It launched with a standard monthly subscription model like WoW’s, it brought the polish, it brought a unique setting and game world, a roster of cool races like the Chua, two factions and decent character creation. There was group content, solo adventures, endgame raiding and the overarching storyline of Drusera and the Strain – really, there is nothing on the standard MMO buffet that Carbine didnt check off the list, while also surpassing rivals in the housing, cosmetics and soundtrack section.

Yet none of that helps to understand why this MMO didnt become a greater success. What I can do however is go back and scan every Wildstar post I wrote on this blog because like other early adopters, I stopped playing Wildstar after the server merges. So here are just a few excerpts I picked from different 2014 posts to give you a general idea:

“After seeing Carbine’s excessive 12-step attunement to raid entry in Wildstar which makes a 100 jailbreaks look decent, I am trying very hard to stay cool and understand what they were thinking and cui bono? […]it’s hard to stay positive when reading through the same old vitriolic forum discussions of “casual versus hardcore” that 12-step attunement infographic has sparked in Wildstar’s early community.” [source]

“There is no hiding in Wildstar’s raids – addons are seriously recommended, cooldowns must be juggled and adjusting your tragically limited actionbar for every encounter is a given. Execution demands a high level of focus because the fights are so mobile.[…]Considering how 40mans must feel in comparison, which are no less unforgivable, it becomes apparent why raiders have been crying out for Carbine to critically consider their endgame.[…]With subscription numbers dwindling and complaints both from the casual and hardcore (see the rest of the Q&A), Carbine cannot afford not to act. New content dumps may appease some non-raiding players but the fact remains that Wildstar endgame is tuned to a difficulty level that not enough people enjoy longterm.”

“Alas, for me the merges can’t come soon enough. Lightspire’s Dominion side has quickly turned into a graveyard, with probably 60% of its active members hosted by my guild and only one single other, competing guild in terms of raiding. The AH is dreadful, with entire subsections entirely empty or then, most likely offering an item or two by guildies (keeps the money in the family!). The costs for much coveted items such as runes amount to a subscription’s worth of platinum, just to get a basic gear set kitted out.” [source]

I gave Wildstar a very serious shot in 2014. I committed to a regular raid guild in order to do 5mans and try the raid content because there was no way in hell to get even that attunement done by yourself pugging. Pugging generally was never a real option – not because there weren’t enough players on day one, but because the dungeons were too frustrating to pug without voice comm levels of coordination and raid-like prep. If dungeons were hard even on “silver” mode, raids were….something else. There were maybe 3 raid guilds total on my server which doesnt make for happy competition. The long and tough attunement seriously affected recruitment efforts.

I consider myself a very experienced raider; I have cleared all of WoW’s classic content with my own guilds when it came out, all the way up to Sartharion 3D and Arthas 25. But when I took a group of my most seasoned WoW buddies to Wildstar’s standard 5man dungeons, lobotomy sounded appealing after hours of unforgiving twitchy telegraph combat. If this is how we felt, you bet others felt worse. And sadly, this never really changed.

How it ends

I don’t want to sound cynical when a game of such quality and promise gets shelved – I think Carbine are one of the greater studios out there and they did some unique things with Wildstar that I wish more people had experienced. Wildstar was often unjustly compared to WoW when it really did its own thing. However, no MMO shuts down because it “didn’t have enough players”.

I have probably spent between 300-400$ on Wildstar counting subs and later buying some ingame currency. But that is hardly the point. MMORPGs that don’t create enough traction within the first 3 months enter a dangerous vicious cycle: core players leave because of low population issues (raiding, economy, queues etc.) and new players won’t join when they hear about “dead servers”. If developers cannot or don’t act before the cycle starts, they are usually doomed.

In the end it’s many things that make MMOs successful, some less tangible than others. As players we are left to speculation and our personal experiences. Wildstar’s idea of group content difficulty remains its most baffling and confused feature to me to this day and it’s why I stopped playing it.

The game looked like fluffy bunnies, destined to appeal to a wide range of average raiders and casual “for the fun” players – yet catered to a hardcore crowd I’m not sure even exists in this segment of mainstream AAA-MMOs. Designing progression and core content for the few rather than the many may work for niche MMOs but otherwise, it is an unaffordable concept, well proven by WoW, FFXIV or GW2. It’s not the vocal minority that pays the bills.

Goodbye Wildstar! I thoroughly enjoyed your humor and whimsy, my wonderful house and Jeff’s soundtrack! To part, here’s my old Wildstar panoramas and of course, obligatory puppy pic!

Games I’ve played (and didn’t hate): King’s Quest

There is a new 2018 resolution on this blog that every new post will include a random Monty picture. I believe this is a fine decision in the public’s interest!

So I announced in my previous post rant that I would be back talking about games I actually enjoyed playing lately. They were moments of brief relief between MMO malaise and Steam anger that impressed me enough to write about it. This is a first such short review with more to come!

King’s Quest 2015

The King’s Quest reboot from 2015 by The Odd Gentlemen is a sight for sore eyes. Oldschool players may recall the old Sierra adventure games, personally I’ve never played them but I am very glad I discovered the reboot. Planned out as a 5-chapter release telling the tales of Graham from his early youth to older years, I have only played the first (and apparently best) chapter thus far which took me about 6 hours total. They were probably the 6 most enjoyable hours I’ve spent in a graphic adventure ever, including several Telltale titles.

King's Quest

King’s Quest

First of all, King’s Quest is absolutely gorgeous with beautifully detailed, handpainted environments, strong warm colors and magical light. The art direction creates the perfect synergy to the whimsical fantasy world the tale is set in – knights, dragons and bridge trolls abound. The voice acting includes such masterful actors as Christopher LLoyd as Graham who is an absolute delight here as he guides the player through the earlier parts of Graham’s life, commenting on funny details and mishaps as you step right into them with a steady dose of punny grandpa humor.

Dialogues are well written, charming, hilarious and do offer a few meaningful choices without being make or break. The order of solving challenges or finding items for puzzles is often random and there’s a no-pressure approach to it all as you can’t critically fail or lose. The first adventure played smoothly on keyboard controls with just a few camera hiccups.

Final verdict: The first chapter of King’s Quest is a graphical and narrative treat that keeps a perfect balance between guided experience and open path exploration. I’ve heard that chapters 2-5 increasingly get worse but even if you do not get a season pass, you can just enjoy the first chapter, which is more of a finished story anyway, for free on Steam zomg! I could not recommend this enough to fans of whimsical fairy tales with great writing, so go get this gem if you haven’t yet!