Quest for Glory III: The Wages of War is Worse

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I once saw an interview with Josh Mandel, a great adventure game designer who worked at Sierra during its heyday.

Most Sierra games (like Quest for Glory 1 and 2) used the old “text parser” interface, leftover from the text adventure games.  I had always wondered why Sierra stuck with this old interface for so long, considering that LucasArts (and others) had shown how good “point and click” was.  Watching the interview I got my answer – Mandel (and presumably others at Sierra) hated point & click.

When I heard that, I thought he was crazy.  Anyone who’s played Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, heck even Tass Times in Tonetown, knows that even early point & click was a far cry better than playing “guess the verb” in Zork.

Now I’ve played Quest for Glory III, and I suspect the entire game was a brainwashing exercise to try and get people to agree with Mandel.  And in a sense, it’s really quite impressive – because QfG3 takes this simplistic, flexible, tried and true interface and stuffs it up.

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Still not as hard as fighting the interface


Imagine playing a point and click where you can’t tell what you’re clicking on, or what items on a screen can be interacted with AND you can’t reliably tell the difference between the command for “please stand on the edge of the screen” and “LEAVE THIS F—ING SHOP NOW YOU BASTARD”.  Well imagine no longer – welcome to Quest for Glory III.  The game that sent me to a walkthrough not because I couldn’t solve its puzzles, but because I couldn’t solve its f—ing interface.

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I’m going to assume that anyone reading this has a passing knowledge of the Quest for Glory series.  But quickly – it’s an adventure/RPG/punch-out hybrid where you choose one of three classes (thief/wizard/warrior) and each class has different skills that allow each puzzle to be solved in different ways.  You can read the earlier reviews here and here.

I felt that this “three solutions to every problem” angle was diluted somewhat in number 2, but now it’s almost completely out the window because the developers couldn’t be bothered figuring out how to use a thief in the African savannah.  You can play as a thief, but you’d better be prepared to save-scum to avoid combat.  So really there’s two answers to every problem – warrior and wizard.  Technically there’s a fourth class, Paladin, but it’s functionally the same as warrior except combat is a bit easier.  Wheee.

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Combat is much the same as the earlier games – a poor-man’s Punch-Out except using RPG stats to figure out if you successfully dodge or hit.  I’ve never really spoken about the combat in QfG before, but I’ve found in all games that as an arcade sequence it’s not that good. It’s quite hard to figure out when an enemy is dodging or attacking, I’ve always found it easier to just keep pressing “slash” (or “fireball” if you’re a wizard).  It worked in the earlier games, it works in Quest for Glory III, and it’s still not much fun.

But what about the puzzles?  Sierra made some excellent adventure/puzzle games, surely they got that bit right?  Well, no.  A depressing amount of the puzzles can only be solved once certain arbitrary events occur.  For example, a lot of the game is locked out until some African tribesman capture a “leopardman” prisoner.  What makes that event occur?  Well I’ve played the game three times through now, and I have no bleeding idea.  It’s just an arbitrary event you’re given no foreshadowing of, and one you could easily miss considering there’s no reason for you to return to the village other than “random wandering around becaue I’m stuck”.

Sure, Quest for Glory III has a brand new engine and a significant graphics upgrade.  Yes, its art and sound direction does vividly bring to life the lands of “Tarna” and “Fricana”, and yes, they’re marked improvement on earlier efforts.  Apparently this game was quite well received at the time, and I suspect most players were blinded by these factors.

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The trademark humour is still there, and it’s still pretty good.  I particularly got a kick out of some of the then-current references that many modern gamers wouldn’t get, but that’s obviously just the nostalgia talking.

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But as an adventure game?  It’s probably the worst I’ve played for a long time.

I’ll close this short review (probably the shortest on this whole site) with an explanation of the “interface puzzle” that sent me trawling through the internet for answers.  So I was right at the end of the game, and I’d brought the magical McGuffin to the King, and all I needed to do was say “here’s your McGuffin”.  So, naturally, I clicked the “talk” icon and then clicked on the King; the way I’d been interacting with NPCs the entire game.

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The mouth icon is “talk”.  Note that there’s no clear definition of precisely which part of the mouth needs to be positioned over the person you want to talk to

When I did this, it showed up a list of things I could say to the King, none of which was “here’s your McGuffin”.  I tried each dialogue option – nothing.  I tried talking to other NPCs – nothing.  I tried giving him the McGuffin – nope.  I tried giving the McGuffin to every other NPC – nope.  I tried every item in my inventory on the King – nuh-uh.

Give up?

I had to click “talk” on myself.  I don’t think I would have figured that one out for a long, long time.


Release date:              1992
Purchase date:           12 September 2014 (via GOG)
Complete date:          April 2019
Platform:                     PC
Time spent:                 Approx 25 hours
Lead designers:          Lori Ann Cole and Corey Cole
Developer:                   Sierra On-line
Publisher:                    Sierra On-line

Recommended for:  The nostalgic.

Not recommended for:  Anyone else.  Play the original Quest for Glory instead, it’s a lot better.


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4 thoughts on “Quest for Glory III: The Wages of War is Worse

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