Game Reviews
Kings Quest: Mask of Eternity
by Sierra

King's Quest is one of the original graphic adventure series. Designer Roberta Williams has crafted a world that continues to evolve, grow, and endear us to new characters in every installment. King's Quest has also been Sierra's springboard for new ideas and technologies, trying new ideas long before they're used in other games, or even by other companies. For example, the fourth installment of the series, The Perils of Rosella, introduced one of the first female heroines that you were to play. The seventh game, The Princeless Bride, featured gorgeous animation that gave the kingdom of Daventry a new look. In this eighth installment, The Mask of Eternity, Sierra uses a 3D engine to showcase the game world, one in which you move about freely.

The Mask of Eternity has been shattered, sending out a magical wave that turns everyone in its wake to stone. Only Connor, your character, avoids it by grabbing one of the shards of the Mask as the world changes. As the only person that could do anything about it, you begin your quest to restore the mask and put the world right once again.

The graphics engine in this game is similar in some respects to many first-person shooter engines. However, interaction here is built around adventure-type puzzles and quests, rather than straight combat. It's a very attractive world, and some new innovations have been introduced. When characters talk, for example, animated texture maps move their lips in sync with the voices rather than attempting to move polygon-based mouths, which works brilliantly. The environment is quite beautiful, although your line of sight isn't very far in any of the worlds you'll explore. Sometimes enemies can really seem to pop up out of nowhere, since you can't see very far in any direction.

Sound effects are very well done, and the music is excellent. The voice acting is among the highest quality I've heard in a game. It's very refreshing to hear characters speak and actually sound convincing in their roles. Too many games use non-professional talent to keep costs down, and the end result is less than impressive to say the least. Care was obviously taken here to cast the voice roles properly and it really shows.

Despite the 3D engine, which usually signifies an action shooter, Mask of Eternity is an adventure game. Your basic actions are to explore the environment, collecting objects and using them to solve the puzzles. Fighting, unfortunately, is required in Mask of Eternity, and while it is not as intensive as in a shooter, it is basically unnecessary and gets in the way of the puzzle solving. On the plus side, the battles are not as difficult as in a shooter, and a couple of them even help to progress the story.

Your quest takes you to seven worlds overall, each one large and expansive. Movement isn't as slick as it is in many current 3D shooters; there's no mouselook available and your forward movement is annoyingly slow, even when running. A map feature of sorts is provided, something that has been neglected in action shooters lately. The solution here is a static "paper" map that reveals the surrounding terrain as you explore it. Landmarks are labeled with pictures that are very helpful. Moving from world to world requires very long load times, which is alleviated a bit by the fact that the game engine copies a level to the hard drive the first time you enter it, then loads the data from there. In this way, loading saved games that occur on the world currently on your drive is faster, but movement from world to world is very slow. Even so, the game takes about 400 meg of hard drive space at any given time.

The game's puzzles are pretty standard adventure fare; you'll gather inventory and use objects with the environment to further your progress. You'll uncover clues, discover who is behind the whole thing, and attempt to put a stop to it. On the way, you'll travel to the land of the dead, a swamp held hostage by a witch, a gnome mine, lava-covered barren wasteland, frozen region, and others. The inhabitants are well developed, and many of them feature accents, mannerisms, and attitudes that showcase their differences. It is an interesting story, and Conner is a good character, although a bit on the "Boy Scout" side. The ending is satisfying, but the end sequence itself is too abrupt and anti-climactic. Much more could have been done to tie things up better, including a couple of things I was sure I'd see happen.

The game ran fine for a time, then things started to get a little buggy. One sequence could not be passed without Sierra's patch. Even after that, a couple of minor bugs still made things a bit aggravating, but nothing that couldn't be worked around. Fortunately, the patch I used didn't destroy saved games.

As far as adventure games go, this one has a good story and some difficult puzzles. Beginner adventurers should probably think twice before tackling this one. Advanced players will still find challenges in the way of tricky, although sometimes illogical puzzles. The story is very well written, and certainly worth any adventure fan's time.

Overall Impression

Bottom Line: Well worth any adventure fan's time. Good story and characters, very well crafted environment. Satisfying, although short, ending. Long load times, large hard drive requirements. The interface could have been a little friendlier.

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