The Best Sierra Adventure Game

I was only partially raised by my parents. They taught me some things: tying shoelaces, manners, the gentlemen's sport of cricket. But growing up alongside Sierra adventure games, they taught me pretty much everything else, from asinine grammar to correct police procedure to the very alarming fact that almost everything in the world can kill you at any moment.

This story originally appeared February 2015.

From the first Police Quest through to the last King's Quest, I've played every single adventure game Sierra ever released. Some as a kid, some as an adult, but almost all of them have left a strong impression on me for one reason or another, whether it be for their setting, brutality or weird adherence to strict rules of authenticity.

Controlled by typing text commands (or, in later years, wonky mouse interfaces), tough as nails and sometimes dealing with niche subject matter, they weren't for everyone then, and definitely aren't for everyone now (typing sucks and Leisure Suit Larry has aged particularly badly).

But they're still worth remembering. Lucasarts may have brought more accessibility to adventure gaming with their elegant SCUMM system, not to mention a more light-hearted approach to an inherently frustrating genre, but Sierra games had a quirky sense of humour of their own, and were in many ways braver with their design.

The Origins Of A Classic Lucasarts Adventure

In a lot of ways, Maniac Mansion is where it all began for Lucasarts (or Lucasfilm Games, as it was know back then). The company's first big adventure game hit, it set the tone for a decade of classic titles that would define PC gaming for an entire generation.

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So they're as deserving of praise and reflection as any Monkey Island game is. And no single Sierra adventure game is worth more praise than Quest for Glory II.

I love Police Quest's educational value. I have a soft spot for Space Quest's brand of shitty joke. Leisure Suit Larry had a certain charm (but fuck King's Quest).

The original Quest for Glory, released in 1989

But it was Quest for Glory's unique brand of adventuring that shines as the best use of Sierra's various skills. It brought everything Sierra did so well in all those other series — a deep, cohesive world, tough challenges, memorable characters and a roguish sense of humour — and tied them all together.

Oh and it pioneered a bunch of other stuff as well, stuff that if you dig playing more modern games you'll appreciate as being way ahead of their time.

Quest for Glory was a hybrid series. They combined Sierra's traditional adventuring with RPG-like elements. The first game was important because it laid down this bizarre template, which included stuff like:

  • A day/night cycle that ticks away in real-time. Certain characters and events will only take place during certain times of day.
  • A convincing (for the time) open world, comprised of more traditional adventure game areas (rooms, town squares, etc) surrounded by tiled wilderness areas the player would need to explore and eventually map and/or memorise.
  • A strong RPG spine. Players would choose a class at the start of the game, and this class would affect the way they approached the game and its puzzles (thieves could pick locks, etc).
  • Stats for those classes were improved, just like in Elder Scrolls, by actually performing their actions. The more you threw rocks, for example, the better your throwing skill became.
  • The preservation of stats through the series. Players could save their base stats at the end of the first game and carry their character through to the next game, and the next.

Quest for Glory deserves a ton of credit for this bold design, but Quest for Glory II is better because, well, it just does it all better.

Quest for Glory II's combat

Why? For one, it makes the most of its real-time setting. Unlike other QFG games, which simply pass from day to night, QFGII has an actual calendar. It ends after 30 in-game days, and certain events and characters only appear at specific times in specific places. Miss them once and you might have missed them forever. This could have been stressful, in the same way Majora's Mask can be for some people, but since you're given a whole 30 days to get around it's generally pretty chill.

For a game from 1990 to have built such a living, breathing world was one hell of an achievement.

Map of Quest for Glory II's city of Shapeir/ oldgames

It's also a truly memorable setting. The Middle East these days is usually just a video game battlefield, but perhaps benefiting from the fact that it was made before the first Gulf War, let alone the second, QFGII immerses the player in a rich Arabian fantasy world, which (and this is a series constant, to its immense credit) gets past the temptation for casual stereotyping.

Oh, and it also laid the groundwork for future design staples like Elder Scrolls' guilds and BioWare's morality system. QFGII let the player complete unique quests based around each class, where fighters could join an order, wizards a school, etc (though, in a nice touch, players were free to join all of them if their stats could handle it).

A reward for finishing the game by making the "right" choices, meanwhile, meant that honourable players could finish QFGII as a Paladin and get a sweet sword, which they could then transfer and show off in later games.

All this came together to make you feel like you weren't just progressing through a chain of puzzles; you were role-playing in the truest sense of the word, playing a central part in saving a world that lived and breathed, whose inhabitants had jobs, and likes, and dislikes, and stuff hidden in their bedrooms.

This game is a treasure because it was a 21st century video game developed in 1990. Go back and play it now and, aside from the text entry, it's full of forward-thinking stuff that many RPGs made even today forget (or aren't smart enough) to include.

Which is why it's the best Sierra adventure game. Too many of its labelmates were products of their era, important and fun then but only if you were lucky enough to be playing them at the time. Quest for Glory II was so far ahead of its time that it was fun in 1990 but also remains strangely relevant and approachable even today.

If you want to try it out yourself, but can't bear the thought of struggling through all that typing, some fans went and remade the game with a more modern interface. You can download that here.


Comments

    Yep, absolutely loved this game. Brilliant.
    I'm yet to play as a thief. Which this article has prompted me to do so.

    I actually agree that QfG2 edges it over the other Sierra adventures. I think second could be The Colonel's Bequest for the atmosphere.

    Honourable mentions for me are:
    The Adventures of Willy Beamish - Developed by Dynamix though but published by Sierra
    Space Quest 4 - For Gary Owen's narration
    Freddy Pharkas - The trouble taken for all the extra writing for a myriad of attempted actions
    Police Quest 4 - Unintentionally hilarious narrator's reaction when trying to act like an unhinged arsehole.

    Hmm, I don't remember this article when it was originally published, but:

    And no single Sierra adventure game is worth more praise than Quest for Glory II.

    I agree whole-heartedly. I loved all of the QFG games from 1 to 4, all the Space Quest and Police Quest games, but the one Sierra adventure that stood out above the rest was QFG2. It had a beautifully designed setting that was vibrant and alive, the best balance of humour and serious story development of any of the series, and it was the last of the parser interface games that gave more of a feeling of flexibility than the point-and-click adventures that followed.

    This was my favourite Sierra adventure game. I have such fond memories of the dozens of playthroughs I did, and still today it's one of my favourite games of all time.

    If only I could go back in time and play these games again for the first time! Because they're a product of their time. They're really too old to play now. For me at least.

    I enjoyed Police Quest (I actually finished the first by myself with no hints) but I really loved Space Quest 2, 3 & 4.

    4 is actually still kinda playable. I was drunk but I got through and enjoyed every moment of it a couple of years ago.

    Now I'm playing Crysis 3 and Witcher 3 digging the first, loving the 2nd, but I'm a jaded 37 year old with limited time. I question things now that at 10 I just accepted. I would give anything to be 10 year old me again, exploring these games on our 286 PC.

    Thanks for the reprint of this article. I really love thinking about the old days. I'm a gamer for life. I was born with it, molded by it. I saw games go from fairly terrible to what they are today. Late 90s was probably the zeitgest for me, but I have beautiful memories of the late 80s early 90s era as well.

    Last edited 26/04/17 8:25 am

    I agree QFG2 was a fantastic game, but I still consider QFG4 to be a better game. Just seemed to have more character ... like choosing between children though as I really loved them all (QFG V less so).

      I also really enjoyed QFG4, but it was pretty controversial at the time because Roberta Williams was heavily involved and she was had something of a reputation among some fans as dragging Sierra down.

      That aside, the reason I think QFG2 was a better game than QFG4 is the balance of humour and serious story. Where QFG1 was a little too far on the whimsical side, QFG4 was a little too far on the serious side, and QFG2 hit the nail on the head. I still loved the story of QFG4 and there were scenes that really brought out the tragedy of the setting or even made me cry, but it lacked that humour thread that bound some of the previous games together and I missed that.

      Good choice though, QFG4 is probably my second favourite Sierra game. I still listen to the soundtrack every now and then, the two Erana tracks and the adventurer's guild hall music in particular are hauntingly beautiful.

        I wasn't aware she was involved. Thanks for the info. Yeah, the soundtrack was great. Voice acting too I thought.

    Where have you guys been all my life! hugz!
    I've never met such avid Sierra fans.

    This article was a nice reminder of how much I loved the Quest games. I've been thinking fondly of Space Quest V the last week. Maybe it's time to boot it up. ^^

    The only one of their adventure games I ended up liking was Phantasmagoria. It also had a great ending where you just know the main character is going to end up spending the rest of her life in a room with padded walls

    An independent studio has actually remade this game., with updated graphic, UI, and playable on most modern systems. So if you want to check it out head over to ADG Interactive Studio's homepage and download it there.

    I love this series. I'm DMing my first D&D campaign and I've designed the world from these games. My players are starting in Spielburg, facing bandits, and eventually a hag... But I've changed the story to add some intrigue. I'm really looking forward to their progression to Shapier.

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