Reviews: Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire
A return to the glory days of adventure gaming that many claim no longer exists
Developed by: Yosemite Entertainment
Distributed by: Sierra
Release Date: 1998
Platform: PC, Mac
The category in Final Jeopardy is 1998. And the answer is the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Orson Welles's A Touch of Evil and Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire. The question? Name the three biggest anachronisms of 1998. As all you hep cats know, the Brian Setzer Orchestra has revived jive and the Dirty Boogie, Orson Welles's 40-year old celluloid masterpiece A Touch of Evil has been restored and rereleased to critical acclaim, and Lori Cole's Quest for Glory V is a return to the glory days of adventure gaming that many claim no longer exists. Many of you may have a negative connotation of the definition of an anachronism, but an anachronism can at times be humorous--as when John Wayne playing the title role in Genghis Kahn is spotted sporting a wristwatch--or it can conjure warm memories of a not-too-distant past before every game had to spotlight cutting-edge technology over plot and characterization--the primary components of Dragon Fire.
Dragon Fire is the fifth and supposedly last chapter of the hugely popular Quest for Glory series (I say "supposedly" because the fourth game, Shadows of Darkness, was also reputed to be the last until Quest fans forged together and petitioned Sierra). While it is usually necessary to judge a movie sequel by the preceding film(s) in the series, I think this is quite unfair to do with computer games as the technology needed to create these games changes so rapidly that the only constant is the writing--and the writing for Quest for Glory has always been top-notch. A game needs to stand on its own strengths and not on past glories if it is to succeed. So what say we pay the microscopic, mythological universe of Silmaria a visit and catch up on old friends and close this final chapter of their and our lives.
Regicide has been committed in the island kingdom of Silmaria, and Erasmus the Wizard has summoned you, the Hero, to join the deadly Rites of Rulership: a series of seven tests the combatant must pass to earn the right to rule as king (think the Twelve Labors of Hercules). Your purpose, though, is twofold; not only are you attempting to become monarch, but you are also on a mission to discover the true identity of the mysterious assassin. In what is a novel twist, if the player pays close attention to the gorgeous opening sequence of the game, then the assassin's identity is not a secret. So while we are playing the game as the Hero, we as the player know the identity of the murderer, and like a television viewer watching Peter Falk portray Columbo, part of the enjoyment is spotting the foreshadowing that will lead up to the exposé. During our quest, we will meet Pegasus and Minotaurs and Tritons. We will travel to the watery depths of Atlantis and to the airy heights of Pegasus Peaks. Old acquaintances will be renewed and new allies forged. Marriages may occur as well as deaths. This is a story rich in complexity and depth. If the main plot is not enough to hold your interest, then there are plenty of subplots that change according to the character you choose to play as: Paladin, Thief, Fighter or Wizard. I first played as a Thief for three days until I finally decided that my temperament was not suited to that character. When I started over as a Paladin, I was pleasantly surprised at the subtle nuances in the story, at the difference in the way goals were obtained. Areas that were accessible to my Thief character could not even be seen by my Paladin. The main goal is always the same regardless of what class of character you choose, but the varying subplots add a lot of replay value and variety. This is a story that is the cornerstone of the adventure genre and it thus receives a grade of A+.
Though the majority of the main puzzles in QFG V must be linear due to the nature of the story, the numerous subplots' puzzles are nonlinear. This helps to strike a nice balance in the game, as you never feel as though you are trapped in one especially difficult situation. Your inventory is always readily accessible, as are your weapons and armor (this also is, after all, an RPG). The most interesting aspect of the puzzles is the numerous ways they can be solved. A lock that can be picked by a Thief must be opened by other means if you play as a different character. Since this is a game centered around mythology, many of the puzzle solutions require utilizing items that are decidedly different from the norm. Hydra's teeth and magic spears will be but a small part of your unusual inventory. Some puzzles involve the time of day, for as sunshine fades into moonlight, areas become accessible that were before closed. Timing plays a big part in the successful completion of your quest, as does exploration. One side note about exploring: as you click for "hot spots" in the game, you will be treated to innumerable bad jokes and puns. There was a time when these bothered me, but adventure games have become so serious lately that I found these silly quips to be a relief. Puzzles--A.
Quest for Glory V's graphics are at times stunning. The prerendered colorful backgrounds become a panoramic feast for the eyes as your character travels across the screen. The polygon characters are for the most part extremely detailed, though there are times when a face or a body will appear to blur. This in a large part due to the attempt to create the illusion of 3D in a two-dimensional world. Characters literally shrink as they travel from the foreground to the background of a scene and become less distinctive. This also causes some major problems when attempting to execute a fight scene (more on that later). There were also numerous situations where I found myself walking into a wall or other object as I misjudged distances on the screen. Graphics--B.
Two components of QFG V that shine are the voice acting and the musical score. The characters' voices were all performed by professional Screen Actors Guild members, and their professionalism is evident. The various accents that populate the land never seem silly or out of place. The orchestral score by Chance Thomas, with the exception of Outcast (which has not been released yet), is some of the best I have ever heard in a computer game. In fact, Sierra thought so highly of the music that the company released it as a separate CD. Music and voice acting--A+.
One of my favorite elements of Quest for Glory V is the ability to track your progress via a quest log. Why some gamers insist on open-ended games that will allow you to go anywhere and do anything befuddles me. That is too much like real life. I want closure to my games. I want to be able to track my progress via a scoring system. There is a feeling of satisfaction knowing that you have completed the game and scored 97 out of a possible 100 points. What were those missing 3 points? Should I replay portions of the game? The problem with the scoring, though, is that I never knew how many points I had received for completing a specific task. The task would show on the list as having been accomplished and I had more points, but what was the value of the objective I had attained as compared to other goals? A dedicated point system placing value on objectives would have been very helpful. In what is a nice touch, though, at the game's conclusion you are presented with a list of the tasks you did not complete.
So, I hear you asking, what is the catch? There must be something wrong with this game. Well, there are two major problems. The space that is needed to load the game onto your hard drive is ludicrous--the smallest install is over 450 megabytes! Isn't the reason we have 40X CD-ROM drives to prevent such massive installations? Even worse is the fighting. Even after finishing the game, I never felt as though I had the "feel" of wielding my weapon. It was always more hack 'n' slash, or in my case hack 'n' miss as I often encountered problems judging the distance or depth of screen between myself and an opponent. As you maneuver your character to gain an advantage, he either shrinks or grows larger, making it difficult to gauge the distance and angle of your attack. To make matters worse, it seemed that the game would grind to a halt during every battle as I switched from my mouse to the keyboard in order to battle effectively. If I had not played as a Paladin, I cannot even imagine how I would complete some of the harder battles.
Is Quest for Glory V a game for novices or for those new to the series? Sure. Yet it can also be even more appreciated by someone who has played the previous games. It is a well-balanced and fitting finale to a beloved series.
Yassas Lori and Corey Cole and Efhareesto. It is indeed sad to realize that Quest for Glory V is probably the last in a long and splendid legacy of Sierra adventure games. Just keep in mind, adventure gamers, that sometimes from the ashes arises a phoenix.
Final Grade: A-
166 MHz Pentium or higher
32 MB RAM