Over the years Sierra has established a reputation for itself as a quality programming house, producing graphic adventures in its own unique style. Game content aside, users have a love/hate relationship with the Sierra style - cinematic opening sequences and scene setting, occasional use of animation, mouse controlled character movement. But love it or hate it, you can't deny it is one of the elements that makes a Sierra product something distinctive and special.
Sierra's latest offering, Conquest of Camelot, involves you taking on the role of the legendary King Arthur in his quest for the equally legendary Holy Grail. The games designer, Christy Marx, tells us that the King Arthur story is an unfathomable mixture of myths, legends and truth, and that her own interpretation draws on a number of these not strictly within the, traditional Arthurian set. In practical terms, this makes for a game which feels more rounded than the usual myth/legend based adventure, providing a fuller background against which to set the all important task of Grail-hunting (it also means it's not too easy for anyone who knows their Mallory). The game comes on a hefty six disks - the whole of the first disk being used for the usual Sierra-style scene setting. And so, without further ado.....
As king of all you survey, life can never be problem free. In your case, the problems are close to home and start with the forbidden love between Gwenhyver your Queen and that famed knight of the round table, Lancelot. Your forgiving and tolerant nature has meant that you have turned a blind eye to their shenanigans, but their love has cast blight on your soul and caused a curse to fall on your kingdom. Fruit has withered on the vine, grain dies of disease and springs and wells turn foul. Your people are unable to farm, and are hungry - they cry out to you for a miracle. Meanwhile, a vision of the Holy Grail appears to you one day, and you send a trio of knights after it. They fail to return and, after a time, you set off yourself in search of both them and the Grail. Needless to say, the fate of the entire kingdom rests on your success (or failure).
Your quest begins in Camelot Castle, but soon extends to the South of England and later throughout Europe and the Middle East. That's a lot of locations (17 in England alone), and a lot of action - hence the six disks. The first step is to successfully consult Merlin who will furnish you with the map you need to make start on the English part of the search. You will need to prove your skills with the trusty Excalibur if you are to succeed in your quest, but brute force alone will not be enough. You will also need to understand matters like herbalism and the language of the flowers to help you along the way.
Many adventures look very pretty, and have appealing storylines, but its the parser that really makes or breaks an adventure. The authors of Conquest of Camelot are to be praised for their efforts in this department. Consider the following. There I was, in Camelot castle, trying for a quick pray for spiritual guidance before starting the Quest. I saw a couple of bowls on the altar, and decided to "Examine bowls". I was very helpfully informed, though I got the distinct impression that someone, somewhere was having a joke on me, that "They are not bowls. They are altar candles". Oops!
Scoring operates a little differently to usual in this game. You score three different types of points - for Skill (max of 368), Wisdom (max of 293) and Soul (max of 358). This system works quite well, except that unlike in previous games, scores are not continuously displayed on the work screen.
Instead you have to call up the menu bar and access scores from there. And as if to add insult to injury, scores are the bottom option on the furthest right menu. Remember that handy invention, the "keystroke alternative"? Well, for most of the menu options, there is a keystroke alternative, but, you've guessed it, not for getting a peek at your score. This makes life very tedious for those of us who want to keep track of the increments we gain from particular actions.
Conquest of Camelot will be a long time a-solving, even for the most hardened adventurer. It's a mighty game, and one which yet again reaffirms Sierra's position at the top of the adventuring tree.
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