GameSpite Journal 11 | King's Quest: Mask of Eternity

Sierra | PC | 1998

January 8, 2012: My video games backlog is becoming depressing. It includes games I bought over a decade ago. Thief, XCOM Apocalypse, Abomination, King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity; I own all of these games but have never beat any of them. Some I’ve never even played! Before I move on to newer games, I need to start shortening this list, starting with those now in their teens.

Jan. 10: I’ve decided to play Sierra Studios’ King’s Quest: Mask of Eternity first. If anyone’s library deserves a second look, it’s Roberta Williams. Her body of work comprises half my early gaming memories!

Jan. 15: Things are off to a smashing start! My Eternity CD doesn’t work. That’s not quite true; the CD works, but the software on it doesn’t.

Jan. 20: Broke down and bought the game again through They promised me “it’ll just work.” They mostly deliver on their promise. I can now play the game, though without the benefit of my fancy graphics card though. There also seem to be quite a few graphical glitches, and the game crashes at random intervals.

Jan. 21: It seems did keep their promise. The graphical glitches and random crashing are part of an authentic Eternity experience.

Jan. 22: Damn, this game is ugly. Remember King Quest VI? Remember how bright and colorful it was? How every island screen was alive with little details? Not here. Eternity’s artists seem to have an inordinate fondness for browns. Even the other colors in this game are brown! I don’t know how they managed to make their blues, look brown but they did. Also, these 3D models? Everything is made up of big, blocky triangles. I know this is an old game... But, Quake II, Metal Gear Solid, Half-Life, and Grim Fandango all came out the same year, and all of them look better than this game.

Jan. 23: Why is there combat in my adventure game? I might be able to look past this if the combat were meaningful in any sense. But, it’s not. An enemy runs up to me, hits me, and I click it until one of us dies. Its only purpose is giving Sierra an excuse to include a health bar, an experience bar and consumables rhat only exist to facilitate combat. It isn’t challenging; it isn’t engaging; it’s just wasting my time.

Jan. 24: My game crashed. I lost an hour plus worth of “work.” I forgot the number one rule of Adventure gaming: Save often.

Jan. 25: Why are there platforming puzzles in my adventure game? They’re not complicated, but Connor controls like a tank, his jump arc is wonky as is the landing animation, and the camera isn’t helping. Like the combat, it doesn’t add anything to the game. I’m getting the sinking feeling that the designers had a check-list when making this game.

Jan. 30: Oh, this adventure game has a lava zone and an ice zone; check-list confirmed.

February 5: Earlier, I wracked my brain trying to remember why my younger self never beat this game. I’m pretty sure I never got past the third zone. I remember why now. This game is not fun.

Feb. 12: Okay, that’s enough. This will just have to be one of those things in my life left undone. It’s not enough to say that this game is mediocre. That might be the case if it’s name were merely Mask of Eternity, but it’s not. Right there at the top of the box it says “King’s Quest,” and that means something. Some other studio could get away with pushing out a game this mediocre and I wouldn’t care. Mediocre games are released all the time. But, this was Sierra On-line! These were the people who introduced graphics to adventure games, then sound cards, then CDs, then voice acting, and then a FMV game worth playing! Again and again these they innovated. No, this game is offensive. I don’t know what else to say.

I think I know what it is that bothers me so much here. Eternity was designed by committee. Roberta Williams may have penned a story, but no one single person would have designed this game. No, people unfamiliar with game design sat down in a room and looked at all the most popular games and made a list of all the things they had in common. They then sent that list down to creative types and said, “Make a game with all these things in it.” And those people did. And we ended up with this Frankenstein’s obscenity that I’m going to burn with fire (it’s the only rational thing to do when you are faced with monsters).

Feb. 17: I didn’t expect to end this exercise feeling hatred towards a game I was only ever ambivalent to before. But here I am, seething and depressed that this was how things ended for Sierra and King’s Quest; that this was the note that their song ended on... Now, I don’t want to even look at the rest of these unplayed games. Twelve years after its release, Mask of Eternity is still ruining things.

By Jonathan Howard? | July 21, 2012 | Previous: Heavy Rain | Next: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass