Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire
Dragon Fire is decidedly the final game in the Quest for Glory series as it wraps up the story tightly (maybe too tightly) leaving few loose ends for the hero to continue adventuring. Fresh from my disappointment with the latest King's Quest title from Sierra, and considering the Dragon Fire box cover that implies it is anything but a Quest for Glory, I must admit I installed it with some trepidation. What a relief when it turned out to be a Quest for Glory game! Still, although it is fun, this last heroic journey isn't the best in the series.
If you haven't played a Quest for Glory title, very briefly, it's a series in which you get to play the hero and do lots of good deeds to earn and maintain your reputation. Although the series is highly puzzle oriented it also has combat components together with minimal statistics which give it a roleplaying flavour. But never has it shifted too far into the roleplaying arena as the combat is not generally intensive or difficult and the adventuring bits have always been light-hearted fun. It is typically set in mythical lands of wizards, centaurs and gnomes and each title has allowed the player to choose the occupation of their hero: Wizard, Thief or Fighter, with the opportunity to become a Paladin if you are extra honourable. Depending on your choice, and depending on the skills of your character, the problems may be overcome in different ways.
The introduction tells the tale of the island Kingdom of Silmaria. Once, long ago, a dragon threatened its peace, but after much turmoil the beast was ensnared in its lair by the raising of seven magical pillars. Now, after many years of dragon-free bliss, there is danger once more. Someone is plotting to gain power and freeing the dragon is on their agenda. The King has been assassinated and hoards of creatures are terrorising the land. Only a Hero can put things right and your good friend Erasmus the Wizard has summoned you to take care of matters. To this end you must enter the Rites of Rulership, the traditional trials through which the rulers of Silmaria are chosen, and, hopefully, expose the baddie in the course of your endeavours.
If you do not have a character to import into this game from a previous adventure, your first task is to design your character by choosing a name, occupation, and distributing skill points. Then it's off for a brief chat with Erasmus before you are deposited in the game. My advice here is not to break your neck trying to enter the Rites or you may literally end up with a broken neck later because you won't have sufficient experience. Relax. Spend some time getting the lie of the land, hone your combat skills, explore the town, take a boat trip and enjoy :) .
It isn't a chore to go exploring because the graphics are bright and colourful and perfectly reminiscent of the Quest for Glory games. I was quite at home and more than happy to leisurely look around. The town of Silmaria is quaint and you will meet up with a gathering of old friends from previous adventures. There's also a good sprinkling of in-jokes to bring back memories and I was pleased to note that my hero's dancing prowess wasn't too rusty.
Talking to old friends and new is essential, and especially when you begin the Rites because they have some good tips for you. The voice acting is pretty fair even if some of the conversations are grating, but all this is a matter of taste. There is text for all dialogue except in the opening sequence.
Now for my complaints. My first disappointment with Dragon Fire came when reading in the manual about the difficulty levels. Although it is highly commendable that you can adjust the game difficulty the problem is that the hardest level makes both the puzzles and combat harder and, of course, the easy mode makes both easier. Fine, but this design ignores the fact that lots (the majority?) of players sit on one side of the fence or the other and favour either combat or puzzle solving meaning that it is essentially not possible to play the game from your preferred perspective.
As well as this, however, the combat isn't very inspiring. Really, no matter whether you choose mouse or keyboard, it's pretty much reflex based and just a matter of clicking or pressing buttons like crazy. This makes it more difficult than in the last game in which a separate combat screen made fighting a breeze. It also has the effect of making the combat more prominent in Dragon Fire thus changing the feel of the game somewhat. This change is probably due to the fact that it was at one stage intended to be multi-player to satisfy more combat fans, so, even though this option isn't included, the balance has suffered. This orientation towards combat is also evident in the story or in the aims of the seven Rites you must complete in that most of them are directly confrontational, thus they don't allow the same flexibility in problem solving as in previous games. By this I mean you generally overcome the baddies in combat rather than relying on more inventive means such as turning them into frogs and the like.
Because of the vagaries of the combat system it is likely that you will die a lot, but you can easily resort to a saved game or to an automatic save to replay the sequence. It can be frustrating, but if the combat doesn't measure up then there's still a lot of puzzles and they are of the usual variety such as finding particular items and using them appropriately. To this end you must look around carefully for clues, talk to people, and read everything, especially if you want to successfully construct the two flying contraptions that are essential to completing the trials.
Dragon Fire is an entertaining game, but it's lost some of the old spark in this episode. Also, it's plagued by a sprinkling of continuity problems as well as by some dreaded bugs. The interface is simple point and click although the lack of a separate action cursor can have your character dancing around sometimes when you attempt to manipulate something and end up just walking in that direction instead. You can navigate by mouse or keyboard and the inventory layout works well with a handy 'belt' or display at the bottom of the screen where you can store a limited number of items and spells that you might need in a hurry.
Long time Quest for Glory fans (I'm one of them) probably can't resist Dragon Fire, but be prepared for a change in emphasis. All in all I quite enjoyed it, and it does have some replay value as different things happen with different characters. If the combat is annoying the adventuring problems are fun though I must admit I was surprised when I arrived at the end and was presented with a list of the things I hadn't done. GET MARRIED! Marry one of the characters such as Erana or Elsa? Not only was I not inclined to romance these women in the course of my travels, but having played the previous games, I didn't think that the relationships lent themselves to romance. Of course you don't have to tie the knot if you think it's all too silly.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1999.
All rights reserved.
Pentium 166, Win 95, 32 meg RAM, Sound card, 6x or better CD-ROM, 600 meg hard drive space.