Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail
|Conquests of Camelot|
Amiga/DOS cover art
Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail is a graphic adventure game released in 1989 by Sierra. It was the first game in the Conquests series designed by Christy Marx and her husband Peter Ledger. The only other game in the series was 1992's Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood. Marx did the majority of the design work while Ledger created the game and package art.
The gameplay is typical of the Sierra adventure games of that time, however it is enriched with several arcade sequences, puzzles and riddles. Occasionally, some alternative solutions to puzzles were available.
Scoring was based on three kinds of points: Skill (when the player performs deeds that help him in his quest, or defeats enemies), Wisdom (when examining things, talking to others, or gaining hints) and Soul (performing good deeds to help others). The options provided a difficulty setting for the arcade sequences, but with lower points. The game featured a soundtrack of authentic-sounding medieval music composed by Mark Seibert.
The package included a map of Europe in Arthurian times and an illustrated manual called Liber Ex Doctrina (a Latin pun, for while it can be read "book (derived) from knowledge"—i.e. the game documentation—it can also be read "free from doctrine"). This book included information about the evolution of the Arthurian and Grail myths as well as Greek and Roman mythology; some of this information was required in order to answer riddles within the game.
The game begins at the decline of Camelot because of the love triangle between King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. This 'curse' brought famine and drought in the kingdom. After having a vision of the Holy Grail covered by a silver cloth, Gawain, Lancelot and Galahad departed on a quest for the Holy Grail. However, they did not return. The player controls Arthur in his search for the missing knights and the Grail.
The adventure itself concerns Camelot only briefly. The player travels across England in order to fight with the Black Knight and rescue Gawain. Then the ruins of Glastonbury Tor where a mad monk claims he has the Grail, left by Joseph of Arimathea; the player can also see the Glastonbury Thorn and open a well, the lid of which curiously resembles the Chalice Well. Afterwards, he visits Ot Moor where the frozen (due to the curse) Lady of the Lake challenges Arthur to a riddle in order to rescue the imprisoned Lancelot.
Arthur then leaves England in order to follow Galahad's traces. He arrives to Gaza (where he will be hosted by a man called Al Sirat, who will introduce him to the cult of the Six Goddesses) and reach Jerusalem. Arthur will be tried throughout his journey in Palestine, and acts of selflessness and helping people will add to his Soul point system.
The player is given a choice in how to proceed through the game: for example, the player may decide not to fight the Black Knight, but must face the consequences of those decisions; failure to save even one of the knights will result in the grail finding Arthur unworthy and killing him at the end.
The I of the official title, as well as the epilogue, indicated a sequel—probably Conquests of Camelot II—but instead Marx proceeded to Conquests of the Longbow.
The game was marked by immense amount of historic knowledge and folklore that is woven between the dialogues and the descriptions as the plot unfolds. The message boxes (narration) are the wizard Merlin speaking and counseling the player.
The narration makes a preference to less known forms of words, for example Gwenhyver, Excaliber, Gawaine, Launcelot, magick instead of the better known Guinevere, Excalibur, Gawain, Lancelot, magic. The parser however will understand all alternative forms without a problem.
Conquests of Camelot is heavily colored by its heavy religious overtones, since the game is centered on the recovery of the Holy Grail. If appropriate tributes are not made to Christ and Mithras in the beginning of the game, Arthur will never venture beyond the walls of Camelot, as the castle's grating will fall and kill him. If Arthur decides not to help even one of his knights, avoid thus the trials and arcade sequences, the Grail will also kill him at the very end of the game.
The Grail's power seems to be universal both as a Christian relic and an artifact (the cauldron) of feminine power of the Goddess in pagan folklore. The old gods, such as Mithras, Cernunnos and later Aphrodite are portrayed as real gods, but their powers and influence are in decline because of the advent of Christianity. In the ending sequence of the game, the Grail obliterates what purports to be Mithras's symbol in the chapel in Camelot (in fact it is a Labarum, an early symbol of Christianity).
However there are no religious authorities such as priests that are encountered in the game; the Mad Monk is revealed as serving the "Old Ones". If the player specifically asks Merlin about Rome, he will comment on the Bishop of Rome and the Christian Church, but this is the only mention of religious authority. However when the player moves the cursor around the map of England, Merlin will frequently comment on early legendary Anglo-Saxon saints.
Computer Gaming World stated that Conquests of Camelot's EGA graphics were inferior to those of previous Sierra games, and advised experienced adventurers to avoid the game because of its puzzles' low difficulty level. The game was reviewed in 1990 in Dragon #160 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 4½ out of 5 stars.
- The game's full title is rather inconsistent. The box art says Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail, while some versions of the disc read Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail with the 'I') and others read Conquests of Camelot: Search for the Grail (without the first 'The'). In the game, there is a title screen calling it Conquests of Camelot, followed by a screen with the subtitle King Arthur: The Search for the Grail.
- The manual of the game contains a text about the evolution of the Grail legend noting both its Christian and pagan significance
- Scorpia (July-August 1990). "Scorpion's View / "Conquests of Camelot" and "Loom"". Computer Gaming World. p. 48. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Lesser, Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk (August 1990). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (160): 47–52.
- Game presentation and download from Christy Marx's official page
- Conquests of Camelot screenshot gallery at welovedosgames.net
- Conquests of Camelot at MobyGames
- Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail at IGN
- Mod for Neverwinter Nights with elements inspired from the game; from the Neverwinter Vault
- Conquests of Camelot on the Sierra Chest