What an oddly lengthy release the King’s Quest reboot has had. Sierra and The Odd Gentlemen’s episodic revisiting of a long-dormant adventure game franchise released its first entry in July of last year, and though subsequent episodes took 4 to 5 months to come out, the finale has been released less than a month after the penultimate episode.
The episodes have also been quite varied in their approach, with some working better than others (I’d still argue that Chapter 3 stands above the rest by a fair margin). After playing The Good Knight, I feel that it ends up more in the middle of the group quality-wise, though I can definitely say that one’s opinion on the very first episode will influence how they feel about Chapter 5’s structure. Personally, while I think there are some specific elements that stop this chapter from rising above anything but decent, its bookends do offer some genuine highlights, including some great emotional payoffs for those who have stuck with this journey to the end.
Old, bedridden King Graham has almost finished recounting his greatest adventures to his granddaughter Gwendolyn, but as Chapter 4’s finale confirmed, his life is coming to an end. Increasingly frail and scatterbrained, Graham recalls his most recent journey, involving his final showdown with longtime antagonist Manny that threatened the entire kingdom of Daventry. Ultimately, Manny chooses not to defeat Graham with brawn, but brains, challenging him to revisit areas from the series’ beginning and solve numerous puzzles.
Though the later portion of The Good Knight is strictly linear, the part that players will spend the most time with returns to Chapter 1’s more conventional and open adventure game structure, as they explore various connected areas and solve traditional inventory puzzles and brainteasers. It’s likely that this tie to the series’ start was implemented to create a feeling of coming full circle, and the puzzles are generally fairly enjoyable.
Where this part lost me was its pacing and presentation. Every episode has had some reliance on the supporting cast of friends and family that Graham has built over the years, but here, you’re almost completely isolated. Occasional narration from Christopher Lloyd as Graham helps, but there’s still a feeling of emptiness. This lack of characters and recycling of environments makes me honestly wonder if The Odd Gentlemen had grander ambitions for this finale, but had to simplify it due to time or budget constraints. And just like my playthrough of these areas in Chapter 1, some sort of quick travel function would have made a big difference.
Then again, revisiting areas sometimes help to drive the point of the episode (and ultimately the series in general) home. Where the teenage Graham in the beginning could effortlessly climb and jump around, the old man he’s become has to recover after small jumps and climbing even the smallest ledges. Even in the present day frame story, Graham keeps yearning to go on one final adventure like his glory days, despite being too frail to walk.
This even extends to Graham struggling to remember certain locations and elements, which tie into both the visuals and even some of the puzzles in clever ways. Those who have grown attached to Graham will find some emotional resonance in this capper to his personal story, as both he and the player recognize the significance of accepting your time coming to an end and valuing your actions that will live on.
Indeed, once the exploratory portion ends, The Good Knight begins to resemble the kind of finale I was hoping for. One particular segment, while unimportant to the actual plot, provides a cute way for Graham and players to say one last farewell to certain characters, along with something that I won’t spoil but longtime King’s Quest fans will get a kick out of. The final showdown with Manny will also put your brainteaser skills to the test with a series of puzzles that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Professor Layton game, along with a moment I viewed as a likely Princess Bride reference (Which would make sense considering Wallace Shawn voices Manny).
The way the overarching story of Graham, Gwendolyn, and the rest of the royal family wraps up is also pretty satisfying, though I couldn’t help but feel that the denouement is delivered in a way that feels like a near-photocopy of the film Big Fish (admittedly, if you’re going to crib from an existing ending, it makes sense to borrow from a good one.) There’s also a genuinely sweet reference to the first chapter’s saddest moment, and a fitting reveal for Graham’s ailment that helps to enhance the feeling of coming full circle. Despite the chapter’s overall somber nature, you’re likely to walk away feeling uplifted instead of just sad.
If The Good Knight had provided its primary portion with more substantial storytelling to back up the exploration and puzzle solving, it would likely have received a higher score. However, if you’re more into traditional adventure games for their logical elements than story building, you’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of this final chapter, and even for someone like me who mainly enjoys adventure games for their writing, the resonance of the closing moments helped to make the freeform parts a bit more forgivable. King’s Quest has been a mixed bag from beginning to end, but ultimately, it’s not an adventure I regret taking.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game.
King’s Quest: Chapter 5 – The Good Knight makes some notable stumbles, but old-school adventure game lovers will find a lot to like, and the later portions provide a satisfying end to Graham's journey.
King’s Quest: Chapter 5 – The Good Knight Review