While this month’s upcoming King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity is getting decent reviews, it’s certainly a departure from KQ’s illustrious roots. The game is being pushed as a new direction in the KQ franchise. Despite the critical reception of Grim Fandango, Sierra seems to be working up a eulogy for the adventure genre, and Mask of Eternity is poised to leave long-time fans out in the cold (or pinning their hopes to Gabriel Knight 3, still in development).
But adventure gaming lives on underground, thanks to the World Wide Web.
Text-based adventure games were one of the first staples of home computer gaming. Yet the genre’s fallen into almost complete obscurity by this point, replaced by graphical adventure games. But there’s something lost in our race toward better and better graphics (or toward 3D action representations of Daventry). In many ways the text-based interfaces allowed your imagination to fill in the gaps, much like reading a book. It’s a skill games rarely ask you to exercise anymore, but it doesn’t have to become a lost art.
Fantasy Quest brings back the text-based adventure game, but with a twist: You play it entirely on the Internet. I don’t mean multiplayer Internet gaming like QuakeWorld, but a game you play entirely in your Netscape browser! It takes text-based adventure gaming and makes it instantly playable--you only have to wait for the normal Webpage to load and you’re already playing the game!
Sadly, you do lose interactivity with this; it’s not a Java applet. So it really becomes multiple choice instead of a text interpreter as with the old Infocom games. However, the choices are pretty numerous and funny in themselves. There’s always a few “silly” choices that don’t matter. Then overall effect feels somewhat like a text-based SCUMM game--you’re still clicking to interact, but clicking on what you would have typed.
The story is a fantasy-based adventure (the name isn’t false advertising). There’s plenty of humor and interesting characters to meet, and the world is far more populated than that of the Zork series. Anytime you die, there’s an “Undo Last Move” button as well, so your game is never really over. It’s different than the Infocom writing style, but quite enjoyable in its own right.
Why You Should Check This Out: Fantasy Quest brings back old-school text-adventures with enough fresh features to make it relevant again. Internet gaming in your browser? Crazy! Yet underneath the technical glitz and glamour is the real deal: a fantasy adventure with new worlds to explore. If you’ve missed the heydays of the Infocom text adventures, this will bring you back to that time in a heartbeat. Who doesn’t love a trip down memory lane now and again?
Erik "wordsmythe" Hanson contributed significantly to this article, as I am a King's Quest newbie