King’s Quest Chapter II: Rubble Without a Cause. Versions Reviewed (PS3, PS4 and PC versions)
Final Score: 7/10
I continue my review series, this time on second chapter of the reimagined King’s Quest. Again it pretty much stands on its own merits, and is a great game in its own right (though in some ways it does rely on knowledge of the previous chapter, and your choices in that chapter).
Again I'll choose to avoid major spoilers. The game begins with a young King Graham looking into the mirror and seeing a vision of an Older Graham, being chased by a dragon. This appears to be foreshadowing but its relevance is as of yet unclear. The story takes place some point after events of the prologue in the first chapter (and this series version of King's Quest 1 events), Graham has been crowned king recently (though its not clear how much time as passed since he became king, but likely only a few months to a year, as he hasn't yet settled into the position, but he's also not grieving on Edward's death either). After some goofy shennangins by his Royal Guard that annoy the young king, Graham decides to leave the castle to get some air, during a storm.
Outside the castle he encounters Olfie the Troll who discusses his successful quest for Edward, and that Edward made the right decision in choosing Graham, even if Graham doesn't quite understand it yet.
Olfie takes Graham to the Town Square to visit his friends, while looking around the square he is captured by the goblins from the first chapter, who take him down to their underground lair. While their he discovers that others have been kidnapped, and each in various stages of health, with some doing poorly, and others still strong. This sets off a quest of him trying to find a way to escape but also, keep his friends health up in the process. This is not easy, and depending on choices made characters can get worse until their bodies are carried away. But who remains 'alive' can help you solve puzzles and eventually escape.
In the Present, Old Graham is recollecting about his past to himself, and his grandchildren come in at different points to hear parts of the story. But it seems they aren't listening in to every part of his story, and alot of it is simply 'in his head' as memories. The magic mirror still shows key moments from time to time.
But depending on who you save, or how many you save, will affect the amount of story you see, and may even block off content and locations. This adds replay value, but may also make some of the story a little less clear.
The writing is overall great, though perhaps a bit too many anachronistic references to modern topics, but the story does take a slightly darker direction than the previous game. There are some decent nods to events of KQ1 (though it changes a few details), and at least one of these references holds an extra relevance in the game (assuming you discover a certain secret area).
The game still suffers from a few weird nods to King's Quest places, locations or characters without much context or completely out of context of the sources of those references. The few name drops are unimportant really, and are used in a random location for the sake of a joke (in most cases, just about anywhere could have been listed instead).
However, the references to the previous chapter are really well done for the most part, especially how they link your choices from the first chapter. Although there might be a few parts where the game gets confused on which choices you made in the previous chapter. This is probably a bug.
The ending is still pretty clear (even if you miss saving half of the victims), and is overall stand alone. But an additional scene offers a cliff hanger, and introduces more questions.
Again the characters are alot of fun, and its interesting to learn what they have been up to since the previous chapter. But you might not learn all there is to learn from them unless you keep them happy and healthy. This is a neat feature, but someone doesn't figure out how to save them, might leave them losing whole chunks of story, and making the overall story more confusing.
Length & Exploration
My first playthrough took about 3-4 hours. Some of this has to do with me running around trying to figure out what I hadn't found yet. There is alot to explore, and even optional secret areas, its possible to beat the chapter and miss a third to a half of what the chapter has to offer. By the end of the playthrough I had lost most of kidnap victims, this likely limited me from accessing additional optinion content, or encounters.
If you are careful and do things in just the right order to save the maximum amount of victims, you may be able to extend the game to 5-7 hours. But this is just my estimate, and I will have to figure things out on future play throughs. It does help that you can skip dialogue in chapter 2, which will speed things up in a future playthrough.
But, the chapter does feel shorter than Chapter One, but replay value is probably greater. As there are many solutions, and mistakes will cut you off from sections of the chapter, but not block you from beating the chapter.
Representing a kind of prologue, you get to see some new areas in the Castle including the Castle Throne Room, the Hallways, and you can see beyond the front gate into the town inside the castle walls. The scenes for the throne room and castle hallway are nice nods to the classic architecture for the throne and hallway seen in the original King's Quest 1 and King's Quest 3.
As for exploration, once you end up in the underground, the Goblin Caves are probably roughly as large as the Troll Underground in King's Quest VII, maybe a little larger. There is alot of nice exploration, the areas are big and beautiful and imaginative. It is easy to get lost, and some places are very hard to find, and can be overlooked during a playthrough. But unlike the optional 'forshadowing' easter egg areas in the first chapter, these optional locations offer more items, puzzles, and story, and are well worth finding.
There are still 'deaths' but they are a bit harder to find, and I only found two places where I could die, and get a few random voice overs. If there are others, I don't know exactly.
Sound/Voices & Characters
The music in the second chapter is still a highlight just as it was in the first one. There are a number of new motifs as well.
The voice acting is just as great as the original, and there are plenty of returning characters from the previous chapter, as well as a few new characters introduced who maybe important in future episodes. These new characters voices are well chosen as well.
However, I'd say characters have much less to say in this chapter, and for the most part you'll be dealing with either internal and external monologues by Old Graham, or Young Graham, or you will be hearing mumblings of unintelligible goblins.
Still a strong point in this series. It's fluid and expressive.
There is however some jittering moments including one 'arcade sequence' where the screen doesn't scroll smoothly, and looks buggy. There is also a few places where Graham's inside of a pipe, and seen from a cross-section perspective, and his cape hangs out below through the cross-section whereit shouldn't be. There was also a few pathing issues where characters walking into or out of an area ended up walking into the walls, and getting stuck before the scene changes, and they just 'vanish'.
But overall everything looks great.
Not much to add here. The underground areas are beautiful, and feel very different than the areas seen in Chapter 1, so it seems very original. There are alot of mushrooms, glowy lichen, jelly fish, bat manta type creatures, and other glowing things, giving most areas a strange glow.
Still most old and new characters seem to lean more towards cartoony than realistic even more so than in the previous chapter. The Goblins in particular, but given unique personalities based on their animations and movements.
Puzzles in this chapter are a mixed bag. Most are relatively easy, especially if you have an understanding of certain fairy tales. The health system adds a neat touch, but depending on choices you make, the order of those choices, you might be blocked out of certain solutions, and then railroaded down a specific path. There were a couple of puzzles that I found tough, not so much because the puzzle itself was tough, but because I had a hard time finding an optional secret area, that gave a clue to the puzzle. Though I pretty much knew the solution to the puzzle without that clue. Another solution I knew what to do, but I missed the oppertunity to do it, because solving another puzzle ended the 'day' before I could complete the other puzzle (leading me to lose a chance to solve other puzzles in time, and save some of the victims).
So depending on how well you do, and if you do things in the right or wrong order you might have many of the puzzles blocked out, but you'll still reach the ending. Its a challenging puzzle in itself to figure out the right order of how to solve the puzzles so you can access even more areas and new puzzles.
But the railroading down paths and loss of puzzles also hurts the flow of the game, and in some cases makes the story more confusing than it should be.
Hopefully a future chapter can introduce item on item inventory puzzles. The simple item 'trading/using' puzzles still feels like a limitation in this game.
Not much more to say here, the game again has a fun mix of characters, interesting puzzle system, great music, and introduces a beatiful new world and areas in Daventry. But it feels a bit less refined than the previous chapter due to the ability to miss large chunks of content by blocking them off due to poor choices and decisions.
Many of the same problems as in Chapter 1. Animation clipping issues, especially with Graham's cape (see his cape as he walks through pipes). Still too much use of puns, Graham is still a tad too goofy, than he was in the original series.
The ability to skip dialogue in this chapter is welcome, but unfortunately it doesn't appear as if they added this feature back into Chapter 1 as of yet. This still needs to be done.
Again I put the overuse of random name-droppings from previous games without context is a bit too much. I know players may not catch the references, but couldn't the references actually make more sense to people who might actually catch the references?
The choices and potential for mistakes are getting much more complicated now... The save system is not adequate, and doesn't offer alot of room for trial and error. This game needs more save slots, and the ability to save at any time.
There should be an option to replay a chapter, and not have to delete a previous chapter to do it. One shouldn't have to play through 'previous' chapters in order make sure their choices make it into later chapters. A seperate 'restart' chapter for Chapter 2, and later chapters would be welcome.
This chapter was a decent follow up to chapter one. While it is shorter, it introduces some imaginative gameplay mechanics with the character strength and health systems. Even if this also potentially blocks you out of content if you make the wrong choice, but it also opens up replayability.
The game is building up new mysteries, and there are some mysteries from previous chapters, that still need to be explained. But the individual story itself being told in this chapter stands well on its own. I will have to replay the chapter several times to find those things on the 'scoreboard' screen that I overlooked, and save others I missed saving.
I grade this chapter a bit higher, for the originality of health system. I also give it points for adding more 'fairy tale' influence, and puzzles starting to intensify a bit. Although overal its shorter and somewhat weaker puzzle design (and more linear) than the first chapter. However, several of the flaws prevent me from giving it an even higher number. Having Graham wear the Crown instead of his Adventures' Cap throughout most of the story is a great touch, as is unique way his old hat makes a comeback in the story (avoiding spoilers).
I still recommend people play this game, and continue with this chapter. I look forward to next chapter where Graham will finally start aging hopefully, and we get to hopefully meet Valanice in the series for the first time (and not just in the shadows). Hopefully, the game will mature with Graham, and add more serious elements. But hopefully next chapter can return to form with more puzzles, characters, and interactions.
Note: I had initially given this chapter a 8.7, however after additional playthroughts it looks as if there may be a large amount of cut content, and some of the characters are completely missing (Acorn and Whisper for example, and a larger encounter with "Mordon"). These sections would have added larger replay value, and added to the plot and continuity between chapters, but the absence leaves the chapter lonelier than it should be, and considering some of their interactions as seen in the game's script would have added for some additional interesting alternate puzzle solutions.