King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder!

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The revised box art.

King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder is a graphical adventure game developed and published by Sierra On-Line and released for MS-DOS in 1990 and later ported to several other platforms. This game pioneers Sierra's upgraded SCI1 engine. In the game, King Graham returns from a stroll to find that his castle, and his family, have disappeared! A friendly owl named Cedric takes Graham far away to the land of Serenia to meet with his master, a wizard named Crispin. From Crispin, Graham learns that his castle was magicked away by an evil wizard named Mordack who Graham must vanquish.

I first played this game shortly after it was released at my cousin's house. Each weekend, I would come over, and we would get a little further in the game. My cousin eventually beat during the week, and he showed me the ending when I came over the following weekend. After buying the King's Quest Collection on Steam, I decided to play the game through again. It was then that I realized that there was a small portion of the game that I hadn't seen at all. So, having very little memory of it, I played the game through to completion and beat it completely by myself on 2018-10-07.

Status

I own King's Quest V in the King's Quest Collection on Steam. I have beaten it.

Review

Good

  • The background graphics are phenomenal for the time, and still impressive decades later.
  • Many actions that other games would simply describe are fully animated, and animated well.
  • The graphic icon menu and cursor system, though it simplifies the game, is well-designed. The icons and cursors are intuitive and well-drawn.
  • The music is very well-suited for the game.
  • The updated features of the SCI-1 engine, 256 colors, more audio devices, graphic cursors, etc. are fantastic.
  • The CD-ROM version of the game has full speech. The voice acting of the Narrator and King Graham are both pretty great. Also, the mouth animation has been synced to the voice-acting fairly well.

Bad

  • To help with immersion, I think adventure games should be designed in such a way that a very careful and observant player should be able to beat the game without dying. However, a large percentage of the puzzles in KQ5 require you to first die in order to have information available to solve a later puzzle.
  • There aren't any alternate ways to solve puzzles, and only a handful of optional puzzles, making the point system kind of... well... pointless.
  • The sprite graphics are poorly colored. It's clear that they were originally drawn using the default EGA palette and then upgraded to 256 color.
  • The mouse cursor flickers so much it's distracting.
  • A couple of the puzzles are a bit abstract, while others are incredibly obvious.
  • I don't care for the slapstick comedy in the game or the stupid magic words used by Crispin in the ending.
  • Though he's supposed to be a hero, Graham never fails to take advantage of someone else's misfortune. Oh, this golden needle is yours? Give me the cloak! Your spinning wheel? I'll take your child's favorite toy as payment!
  • The revolving perspective of the labyrinth under Mordack's castle seems to have been designed just to be hard to map, which is rather annoying.
  • Mordack's castle in general is both dull and frustrating. Most of the rooms are essentially empty except for some random encounters with Mordack, Manannan in cat form, and the blue beast. Each involves watching a long death animation before being able to restore, and only one of which can be stopped permanently. Waiting for Mordack to fall asleep is especially unreasonable.
  • The CD-ROM voice acting for the bulk of the secondary characters is pretty bad.
  • The CD-ROM version occasionally crashes with an "Out of handles!" error message.
  • For some reason, several of the graphics, the portraits especially, have small sections of repeated graphics indicating that they weren't originally drawn to the correct size, and then copy-pasted to be larger.

Ugly

  • There are far too many ways to put the game into an unwinnable state. Although a large portion of them are fairly obvious, a few are pretty sneaky.
  • Some of the puzzles have completely ridiculous moon-logic solutions.

Media

Box Art

Documentation

Maps

Videos

Technical

King's Quest V uses VGA graphics supporting up 256 colors on the screen at a time. In order to have more attractive graphics, each screen uses a different set of colors. However, to ensure that sprites like King Graham and Cedric use the same colors on every screen, 64 colors from the total 256 are the same in every screen. These are eight shades of gray, red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, and magenta. The remaining 192 colors are based on the artwork of the background artwork. This is why the sprites of KQ5 kind of stand out from the background, and why they're all made of similar colors.

Links