When I was a child, one of my first experiences with PC-gaming was with the King’s Quest games. I really adored this series as a child and got to also experience other titles by Sierra, such as Quest for Glory. While it seems like Sierra is more of a distant memory of what it once was, for better or worse, another company sharing the same nostalgic traits as Sierra has taken its place. Infamous Quest got support through Kickstarter and have already made two titles: Quest for Infamy, and our title for today: Order of Thorne: The Kings Challenge.
A bard’s tale
While practicing his skills with the lute, our protagonist of the story, Finn the bard, is on his way to take on the king of the fairies’ challenge. Whoever can accomplish the “king’s quest”, will be rewarded with a wish. The challenge is a simple one: find the queen who is playing hide and seek. After meeting up with the competitors, Finn sets out to find the queen and support those in need he meets during his journey. The plot is quite straightforward as it revolves around only finding the queen, but the journey certainly is a memorable one. Despite being a small adventure, they packed it with plenty of characters both likeable and others you are meant to dislike, from the misunderstood queen of the spiders to the greedy gnome. All felt intriguing, memorable and imaginative. Most are also a part of quests that will support the goal of finding the queen, making you have closer interactions with them.
What also supports the adventure, besides the characters, is the narrator, who is quite a humorous one. He will comment on your actions, what you see, and what happens around you in the world, usually with some wise cracking jokes to accompany it. Even stronger is our main-character. He is not any special guy, he is just a nice person who wishes to do what is right and supports those in need. It might sound simple, but just simply being a good guy without a huge backstory or being the chosen one, is a nice change of pace. He does have some backstory, which is related to his father, but never uses it as a means to be good. He simply is good-hearted. There is also some lore that you can choose to listen to that is intriguing, but does not play much of a role, except for giving you a slight idea about what the sequel will offer.
Story Score: 8/10
Lover, not a fighter
On your quest from the king, you quickly learn that this is a traditional point and click-game, with the left mouse button to walk, talk, interact, pick up and use selected items, and the right mouse button to look and get insight from our narrator. You also have a pouch, where you store items and your lute. Like many point and click-games, you will have to talk to people, gather up clues and pick up, combine, trade or use items. It is even outright told to you that to get something, you will have to compensate, which is a nice touch. No puzzles felt obscure or bizarre, and the townspeople were helpful, but still made you think and take notes, making the journey feel progressive and rewarding. You even have achievements which are cute and seem to be there to show you how far in the game you are, rather than finding minor secrets.
While a bard is the perfect example of a jack of all trades, master of none, Finn is a more unique one. Not being much of a fighter or a thief, the only real ability he takes with him, is his lute. Similar to many 3D Zelda titles, his songs are used for plenty of puzzles in creative ways and was a fun extra to have. Similar to most items however, most songs are often for a few occasions or perhaps even for just one scenario, which is a bit of a shame. Luckily, the lute itself is often used for plenty of puzzles. One big annoyance is the hard-mode for it. Having the lute-mode set to easy, you simply select a song and Finn will play it. If you play it on hard, you will have to play it in a Simon Says-style, which is fun. The problem however, is that before you can play it, you must first choose a song, listen to it, and then you can replicate it by playing Simon Says. This breaks the flow, since you can definitely play much faster than what the game does, and some songs are easy to remember. This is minor, but still an annoyance.
While most of the game has a good flow and never feels bizarre with its puzzles, the only exception is a small maze near the end. It can be a drag and while luckily not one that will keep you stuck for hours, it still feels like a huge contrast when all the other puzzles and brainteasers were much better made. But then again: everything else had such a good flow in general, that while it only lasted about 3 hours, I had a blast with exploring the world, its inhabitants and the puzzles.
Gameplay Score: 8/10
More than just honoring Sierra
Order of Thorne takes heavily after old Sierra-titles, most noticeably King’s Quest 5 and 6, with its own personal take. The pixel-art is well done, with a huge variation in colors, and the character-designs are intriguing. The portraits for the more important characters and minor scenes for special events are also a nice treat, giving us more detailed presentation of our characters. It is also quite imaginative in its design and while traditional at times, it is definitely a charming presentation with its own take. They even have a shield, when a situation (such as cutscene) pauses you from using the mouse, similar to KQ’s crown-cursor. The areas are lovely and while you are restricted to one forest-kingdom, each area is memorable and has unique touches to it, such as the dark swamp and the bridge with the trolls.
The music is a weird, yet lovely mix of both symphonic tunes, fitting the fantasy-realm, and some minor cheer-rock that is a bit cheesy, but I can’t help but love. The voice-actors do a good job representing the inhabitants of this world and everyone feels unique. What I really love is especially the over-the-top acting in some of these characters. They really went all out with their performances, giving us colorful and enjoyable characters to chat with.
Presentation Score: 8.5/10
Order of Thorne: The King’s Challenge was a nice time, with good puzzles, lovely characters and a charming world to explore. It has some minor issues, but still comes recommended for anyone who enjoys a good, old school point and click, without the puzzles being too bizarre. With its minor, yet neat entry, I am really excited to see what the next episode will bring. Nonetheless: this is a challenge that is certainly worth taking on yourself.