The Order of the Thorne – The King’s Challenge
Publisher: Infamous Quests
Developer: Infamous Quests
Release Date: 01/26/2016
“The King’s Challenge” is the first part of an intended series of point-and-click games about Finn the bard. This first game focuses on introducing you to the character and the world he inhabits. The story is light at heart, gameplay is relatively tame, and the run time is a few hours at most. Is this a great start to a new series, or merely a ten dollar advertisement for something potentially better down the road?
So we’ve established Finn is a bard. He’s also at least a second generation bard. His goal is to go on an adventure that will inspire him to write his magnum opus. He’d also like to live up to being his father’s son, as his dad was kind of the best bard around. To meet this self appointed high expectations, Finn enters himself into the King’s Challenge. This year’s task is simple. The winner is the first person to find the queen. She’s not missing, or anything, but rather squirreled herself away as part of the challenge. The reward for winning is getting a wish granted by the king, but for Finn, the journey is a reward in and of itself.
There’s not a whole lot going on here, really. The plot is straight forward as you can get. However, the game let’s you explore the history of the area, complete with library books and tales woven by monks. There’s a lot of back story here should you choose to find it. Even if you don’t, there’s a decent sized cast of characters to interact with, even if most of them only have a line or two before walking off the side of the map. One of your fellow challenge takers even gives up five feet from the first door.
It can be humorous at times, especially during scenes involving a particular gnome, but the overall tone is hardly comedic. This is more of just a light, carefree fantasy adventure. It does end up building to a larger story, but only after the credits have rolled. The intent here is simply an introduction. While the quest gets completed, and there’s a sort of closure, it feels like you’ve simply read the first couple of chapters of the first book of a fantasy trilogy.
Visually the game intentionally goes for an outdated look. While there is a good use of color to detail the world around you, the characters are pixelated messes with little distinguishable features when viewed from a distance. You won’t even see faces. However, during conversations, character portraits pop up that have some minor facial animations. So you do get to see what people look like then. The game’s intro is meant to seem like an old VHS tape from an 80’s TV show that has been worn out quite thoroughly. It’s a neat effect, although the look doesn’t persist. For the most part, what you get is generic, but serviceable, fantasy fare. Detractors of pixel art need not apply.
The audio is very hit or miss. The music is perfectly fine, and the tunes for the lute are quite enjoyable for the brief time they run. It’s the voice acting, however, that starts to go bad. While the narrator, who has most of the lines, is fine, several others are absolutely dreadful. We’re talking impossibly squeaky voices and god awful accents. The worst offender is a fairy named “Chucker”. I nearly turned the sound off the first time I heard him speak. The good news is you can adjust the volume to your heart’s content. That is, if the game doesn’t randomly reset your audio settings.
This is a straight-forward game from start to finish. You left click on an area or item to interact with it, and use the right click to have the narrator give you his thoughts. An inventory can be accessed by moving the cursor over the top of the screen, and the puzzles in the game typically involve using something from this inventory to interact with the world. If the man asks for a mushroom, you give him that mushroom. It’s easy. The key is to figure out what items go where, and which items can actually combine to create new ones. It’s about exploring and trying. There is no way to fail the game, so you just have to keep trying things until something works. For the most part, the puzzles are somewhat logical, if a little inventive. For example, I promise that luring a raptor with chicken noodle soup through a swamp will make perfect sense in context.
One unique mechanic to the game is playing songs on your lute. Throughout the game, you’ll acquire new songs that can be played at anytime. However, these songs have magical properties that can get you through puzzle sections if played at the right time. For example, a talkative turtle teaches you a song that can tame a raptor long enough for you to set up your chicken soup trick. It makes sense! I swear! You can choose to play the lute in one of two ways. Easy mode lets you just click the song you want to play and be done with it. Hard mode, however, has you replicate a series of notes in a short mini-game akin to Simon. It’s amusing enough, but there only for those who want it.
While typical inventory puzzles are commonplace, the game makes sure to make conversation a huge part of the game. Talking to people can open up options and move the game forward. For example, you wouldn’t know about using chicken soup to lure a raptor unless you stopped to talk to the librarian. It’s not a ground breaking mechanic to be sure, but it’s something that some adventure games forget to do. It makes the characters you meet feel far more important.
Playing through the game will take you around three hours. There’s not a lot of content to be found here. The game kind of feels overpriced at ten dollars. There’s no reason to go back to the game once you’ve finished either. All of the achievements can be earned in one go, and you’ll see pretty much every neat story trick as long as you don’t try to rush. It’s the epitome of a one and done game.
Short Attention Span Summary
“The King’s Challenge” is a solid point-and-click on the gameplay front. However, it’s short length, and occasionally troubling presentation make it a bit harder to recommend than others. While the story is light, it’s also part of a planned series that seems to be going in a more exciting direction. This game feels more like a quick prologue until the real story comes out. The good news is that a demo is out for the game, so you can try for yourself to see if the style is up your alley. If you decide to get the full game, it won’t be a bad time at all.
Tags: infamous quests, PC, the order of the thorne