The third chapter in The Silver Lining is upon us and while it's bigger and better than the first two, it's still not very good.
Posted by Andy Chalk (February 26, 2011)
The Silver Lining is a long-in-development project created by a group of dedicated and obviously adoring King's Quest fans who want to redress what they see as the failure of the last official King's Quest game to properly wrap up the series. To say they persevered against all odds is hardly overstating matters; this is the group, after all, that ran headlong into Activision's legal team and came out in one piece. I admire that determination to get this game done, especially since the whole thing is being built by volunteers and given away free, and because of that, and a flickering hope that things might get better, I've been loathe to really drop the hammer on it. But with with the midway point of the series reached and passed in The Silver Lining Episode Three: My Only Love Sprung From My Only Hate, I think it's time to quit beating around the bush and just tell it like it is. And it is, to be blunt, pretty bad.
If you want a point-by-point breakdown of the gameplay elements and other such aspects of the game, I invite you to read my review of the previous Silver Lining chapter, Two Households. They're virtually interchangeable from a technological standpoint, which means that My Only Love suffers from most of the same flaws: it's visually atrocious, the voice acting is bad and sounds like it was recorded using microphones picked up from the Blue Light Special table at K-Mart, the load times between scenes are distractingly long and the writing... my God, the writing.
My Only Love opens in the Royal Castle of the Green Isles, where the player is expected to get up to speed by conversing with various characters. But these dialogs are painfully awkward and overwrought, as each person talks about how special and wonderful the various members of King Graham's family are, which is all the more remarkable given the various misfortunes that have befallen them over the years. The narration revealing King Graham's agonized inner thoughts is just as bad and often worse. It's some of the most hilariously purple prose I've ever run into, and making matters worse is the fact that there's just so damned much of it. I blew just shy of a half-hour listening to the yammering of a handful of characters in the castle after first starting the game, which only came to an end when it crashed on me - possibly the most merciful fatal exception error I've ever run into.
It's symptomatic of the biggest problem to plague My Only Love and, I think it's safe to say at this point, The Silver Lining as a whole. There's an understandable need to accommodate gamers who may not have played the first two chapters, but shoveling mountains of dull exposition at them is not the way to do it. There's no faster way to lose your audience than to bore them.
My Only Love is considerably bigger than the previous two chapters, but that doesn't necessarily make it better. There's a lot of roaming around to do, a pile of inventory items to collect, a few entirely unintuitive (and classically Sierra) puzzles to solve and of course all that terrible chit-chat to sit through. There's substantially more gameplay than in the previous two chapters, at least in part because there was almost no actual gameplay in the previous two chapters, but it hardly feels like it because of all the awful monologues and glacial pacing. Even just wandering through the game's various scenes quickly begins to feel like a chore because the sparse, bland and sometimes downright ugly visuals just aren't up to the task of creating an interesting and engaging fantasy environment.
It adds up to a very slow-moving test of patience that I wouldn't suggest anyone without a substantial amount of time to waste or a deep love of Roberta Williams tackle without a walkthrough. Fortunately, at least one is already available, but while a walkthrough will get you through a game, it won't make the experience fun. In this regard your mileage may vary, and it's possible that as someone who hasn't touched a King's Quest game since the late 80s I simply don't have the taste and patience for this style of gameplay anymore. But aside from a quick jolt of nostalgia, I just don't see a whole lot of enjoyment to be had here.
But that's been the case with every Silver Lining chapter, hasn't it? It's pure fan service, made by and for serious King's Quest lovers desperate for a King Graham-based finale to the series. Even in that capacity there are too many weak spots to say it's a success, but at least there's some discernible level of appeal for the die-hard fanbase. For gamers without that level of personal investment, however, the story is entirely different. It's free, so it's not as though you've got a lot to lose, but all in all The Silver Lining Episode 3: My Only Love Sprung From My Only Hate simply isn't worth the bother.
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