If chapter one of the King’s Quest revival was the traditional bright and happy adventure in a fairy tale land, chapter two is more like that moment in Shrek when they wake up the dragon. There is still that wonder factor from the environment, but everything is darker and there is a legitimate threat in a world that, up until now, has been fairly passive (in comparison to a massive dragon chasing you).
Episode two’s story features Graham as a new king, and as things start out he isn’t finding his new role particularly easy. Having to deal with all the problems of the realm and then some in the opening scene results in Graham taking a walk outside into the dark and rainy town. But things don’t seem quite right, and before you know it goblins sweep around him and take him away to their underground home.
After fumbling around in the darkness, you realise you are in a prison cell with no way to get out and very low strength. Fortunately for Graham, the goblin home has been covered in cobwebs – and not being creatures to live in squalor, the Goblins decide that Graham is the perfect candidate to clean them up thanks to his height. As you leave your cell on your quest to clean all the cobwebs, you find the other members of the town have also been imprisoned, so as king you decide it is your duty to save them – although it’s not quite that simple, as they are all slowly dying.
Despite only getting to see the first hour or so, I can safely say that this is a much darker episode (in both tone and environmental setting). Characters can be killed off, and most likely will unless you are very good. The entirety of what I saw (apart from the intro) took place in the underground goblin caves, which is a very interesting and different environment. While there is a good chance it will open up later on in the episode, there was a lot more backtracking and returning to areas in this episode than the last. This doesn’t mean that it’s a disappointing environment, though: I’m sure there will be tons of great and surprising areas that are as memorable as those in the first once things start to open up, but having to constantly track back to areas you have seen tons of time isn’t the best.
But the art is still stunning. I learned on my trip that all the artwork is hand drawn, as in they get the 2D shapes of textures; draw on them; scan them in, and then wrap them around the models in the world – which seems like a crazy amount of work. Everything is different underground, apart from the returning character models (some of which have seen changes themselves), and the new goblins are incredibly cute yet menacing at the same time.
Puzzles feel slightly more challenging than last time, but one of the many solutions will usually make itself clear within a decent amount of time, whether that results in the outcome you wanted or not is a different story. A new mechanic of living through multiple days means that sometimes the solution to the puzzle isn’t possible until you have had a sleep, and offers up an interesting new mechanic. Most importantly, I never became frustrated with any of the puzzles, even when I was running out of ideas I would remember something I had forgotten about, sparking that aha moment.
The charm of King’s Quest is still ever present despite the darker tale, and (of course) the voice acting remains on point. The characters that you loved in the first episode are now in a very different situation, which means you are much more emotionally attached to them. How the story plays out will be interesting to see, and will most likely depend on how long things remain in the relatively small starting area.
Chapter 2 is certainly bringing a lot of new ideas to King’s Quest, but it keeps the charm and style of the first. The change in tone and location may be a move that some (especially the younger audience) don’t like, but now there’s a real sense of danger, which adds to the overall package greatly. Perhaps the most telling thing about episode two is that I refused to stop playing when the studio representative asked the first time, just so I could get an extra five minutes with it, and right now all I want to do is play more. I would happily skip all the Christmas festivities if it meant I could get the entirety of episode two right now.