King's Quest VI
|King's Quest VI:
Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow
Cover art by John Shroades
William D. Skirvin
|Producer(s)||William D. Skirvin|
|Programmer(s)||Robert W. Lindsley|
|Release date(s)||September 30, 1992|
King's Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow is the sixth installment in the King's Quest series of adventure games produced by Sierra On-Line. Written by Roberta Williams and Jane Jensen, King's Quest VI is widely recognized as the high point in the series for its landmark 3D graphic introduction movie (created by Kronos Digital Entertainment) and professional voice acting (Hollywood actor Robby Benson provided the voice for Prince Alexander, the game's protagonist). King's Quest VI was programmed in Sierra's Creative Interpreter and was the last King's Quest game to be released on floppy disk. A CD-ROM version of the game was released in 1993, including more character voices, a slightly different opening movie and more detailed artwork and animation.
The name of this sequel is a pun on the common phrase "here today, gone tomorrow". This pun is related to the abrupt departure of Prince Alexander after the events of King's Quest V, where he was just rescued by King Graham along with Princess Cassima, who asked Alexander to come visit her at the end of that game. King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human also contained the word "heir" in its title and also featured Prince Alexander (then known as the slave Gwydion) as the main character.
Gameplay is designed using a point-and-click interface. The player is given a toolbar of the functions walk, look, action, and talk as well as inventory items. This was an evolution over earlier games in the King's Quest series in which the player must perform actions by typing commands in a text window. King's Quest VI was the second game in the series to feature this interface, after King's Quest V.
A booklet titled "Guidebook to the Land of the Green Isles", written by Jane Jensen, is included in the game's package. Aside from providing additional background to the game's setting, this booklet serves as part of the game's copy-protection. The player will not be able to pass the puzzles on the Cliffs of Logic that guard the Isle of the Sacred Mountain without information from the booklet. The booklet also includes a poem encoding the solution to one of the puzzles in the labyrinth on the Isle of the Sacred Mountain. In the re-released edition, the guide is part of the manual released on the game CD.
Travel between the islands that make up the game world is accomplished by means of a magic map. Although a magic map had been used in earlier games of the series such as King's Quest III, its implementation in King's Quest VI was different from earlier games in that it was only used for travel between islands, which could not be reached using the walking interface.
The game takes place almost entirely in a fictional kingdom called the Land of the Green Isles. The kingdom comprises several islands, and is described as being largely isolated from the outside world. The player can travel between different islands after obtaining a magic map.
The center of the kingdom is the Isle of the Crown, which has an Arabian Nights theme. The Isle of Wonder is inspired by Alice in Wonderland, and the Isle of the Sacred Mountain is inspired by Classical mythology. The Isle of the Beast is heavily forested and scattered with magical barriers. There also are additional hidden areas. One of these is inhabited by a tribe of druids, while another gives the player the option to confront Death.
The game's opening cutscene shows Prince Alexander haunted by his memories of Princess Cassima, who he met at the end of King's Quest V when they were both rescued from the wizard Mordack. After seeing a vision of Cassima in the magical mirror that his father acquired in the first King's Quest, he sails to find her. At the beginning of the game he is shipwrecked on the shore of the Isle of the Crown, where he learns that the vizier Abdul Alhazred (named after the author of the fictional Necronomicon) has assumed control in Cassima's absence, and plans to force her to marry him. Alexander must explore the Land of the Green Isles in order to find and learn what he needs to rescue Cassima from the vizier.
A significant aspect of KQ6's story and gameplay is the option for the player to receive different endings based on choices made during the course of the game. Partway through the game, the player has the option to pursue either the "short path", which finishes the game rather quickly, or the "long path", which contains more puzzles and leads to a more satisfying ending. Upon completing either path, the player is given a clue about what choices would have led to the other ending. In addition to the two main paths and endings, the game's endings also contain many minor variables based on optional tasks in the game that the player may or may not have performed. Almost half of the game's quests are optional, many have multiple solutions, and because of the game's open world design players can solve most in any order.
Development and release
King's Quest VI was a collaboration between veteran designer and King's Quest creator Roberta Williams and industry newcomer Jane Jensen, who would go on to write the critically acclaimed Gabriel Knight games. The game was animated using a rudimentary version of motion capture technology, in which actors were filmed performing the characters' actions. The footage was then edited on a computer to more closely fit the hand-painted backgrounds.
Some of the packaging for the game contained an audio CD featuring the song "Girl in the Tower", which was written and recorded for the game. There was also a pamphlet encouraging players to call a variety of radio stations and urge them to play the single; this campaign was unsuccessful, as many radio stations threatened to sue Sierra. At least one CD version of the game includes this track on the game CD (rather than as a separate CD single) and plays it accompanying the closing credits. The package containing the original version of the game exists in four versions, varying based on the country and release: black, white, red, and blue.
King's Quest VI was initially released for MS-DOS in 1992, on nine floppy disks with dialogue and narration presented in text only (with the exception of the intro sequence, which was fully voiced). In 1993, a version on CD-ROM was released for Windows and MS-DOS. The Windows version contained higher-resolution character portraits seen when a character was speaking. This version also featured full voice acting and a retouched interface (the icon bar and items were increased in detail and the text boxes were re-colored from yellow to brown). Another difference between versions was the introductory movie, which was edited and narrated differently in each version. Sierra offered a discount to registered owners of the floppy-disk version who purchased the CD version.
The second King's Quest Collection had a number of editions in which the CD with King's Quest VI did not include the "Girl in the Tower" theme song audio CD track, so the Windows version simply crashed during the credits and the DOS version played the credits with no music. The King's Quest Collection release by Vivendi in 2006 includes the Windows version of the game, but is set up to run the MS-DOS version with text and speech in DOSBox.
King's Quest VI sold 400,000 copies in its first week. Dragon gave the game 5 out of 5 stars. Chuck Miller of Computer Gaming World stated that the number and quality of puzzles made King's Quest VI the first Sierra adventure in which he did not miss the older games' text parser. The magazine stated that while the graphic and sound were as good as other Sierra games, the animation was especially lifelike. It concluded that the game was "the best of the King's Quest games to come out of Daventry, and Sierra's finest adventure to date ... [it] has all the signs of becoming a classic". PC Format magazine was less positive, giving the game a score of 72%. It liked the lushly drawn graphics and pleasing sound, but disliked the game for overuse of sudden death and being too limiting.
When reviewing the CD-ROM version, Computer Gaming World's Charles Ardai compared the game and series to "vanilla ice cream", but praised the "incomparable" graphics and stated that the voice acting was "much stronger" than in the previous game. He concluded that "King's Quest VI is a heartily inoffensive game full of light touches and not a great deal else"; however, "for plain vanilla, King's Quest VI on CD-ROM is about as good as it gets".
In retro reviews, made in the late 2000s, Allgame gave both the PC CD-ROM and Macintosh adaptations 2½ stars out of five, while Adventure Gamers gave the game 4½ stars out of 5. King's Quest VI was inducted into GameSpot's Greatest Games of All Time.
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