King's Quest III

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King's Quest III: To Heir is Human is the third game in the King's Quest series. It is the first game where you play as someone other than King Graham of Daventry. It is famous for its particularly brutal Copy Protection.

In the game, you are Gwydion, the slave of the evil sorcerer Manannan; you cook and clean for him, but long for freedom. One day, Manannan decides to go on a journey, and the race is on-- you now have the ability to explore the land of Llewdor and find a way to escape the evil man. But escape is only part of the adventure-- you also have a burning desire to find out who you are, where you came from, and how you can get home...

If this story seems unconnected to the earlier two King's Quest games, that's because it is-- or rather, it seems to be. Gwydion has no obvious link to the royal family of Daventry, and people initially disliked this game because of it. The connection between games is revealed only at the end of the first act -- Gwydion is Alexander, King Graham's son, who had been kidnapped by Manannan as an infant. But if you've played the later games, you know that already.

Tropes used in King's Quest III include:
  • All There in the Manual: All the formulae.
  • Baleful Polymorph: If you mess up even once while casting the spells, you turn into some horrible creature. Also, this is what the cat cookie does to Manannan.
    • And by "mess up", we mean misspell a single word or forget a comma. Especially infuriating if you're Canadian or British, and use a different spelling for certain words.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti
  • Black Cloak: Manannan wears one. He's also linked via later game to the Black Cloak Society, which may or may not be a Legion of Doom.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The wizard has the nasty habit of punishing you for arbitrary reasons. More importantly, if you happen to carry any magical components, including such innocuous items as a fly's wings or a cat's fur, or have misplaced the magic wand, he will kill you instead. ZAP!
    • The innocuous items punishment is justified, however: Manannan might have raised you from childhood, but he's not been nice about it, and he's absolutely paranoid that you might learn to do something about that before he can find another child to raise (at which point he'll kill you).
    • And Gwydion is far from Manannan's first child slave, and according to a diary in the remake, not the first to attempt using the wizard's own spells against him. No doubt he's become Dangerously Genre Savvy over the years.
  • Cats Are Mean: The black cat in the wizard's house really hates Gwydion and can even kill him if he's not careful! Also, you defeat Manannan by turning him into an obviously mean-tempered cat.
  • Copy Protection: An infamous case-- you need the manual to cast the spells, and you have to cast them exactly as they are in the book. The spells are very complex and one typo will have you dying. Oh, and you absolutely have to cast several of the spells to beat the game. In the freeware remakes, there is obviously no need for copy protection spellcasting, so spellcasting is heavily simplified in one and the other has the instructions on screen instead of requiring a manual.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Manannan's idea of punishing Gwydion is to force him to do the Y.M.C.A. dance.
  • Did Not Do the Research: The sequel, King's Quest V Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder, consistently misspells the name Manannan, except in the NES version.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: That so many people remember being frustrated by this game is a sign of how widespread piracy was even back then: the game is remarkably easy if you have the actual game manual which contains the spell formulae. Gathering the ingredients and casting the spells covers about two-thirds of the game.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The Oracle explains that Graham has passed this due to Rosella being chosen as a Human Sacrifice, which is why he cannot fight the dragon.
  • Drop in Nemesis: Manannan will use any excuse he can to appear out of nowhere, and either torment you for not performing your tasks, or just flat out kill you on the spot for doing something that might be a threat to him. Finally getting rid of him feels really good.
  • Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Annoy the pirates, and you're thrown overboard as shark food. Jump overboard at Daventry's coast, and you'll have to dodge one.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Manannan.
  • Fairy Tale: Typical of the franchise
  • Fan Remake/Video Game Remake: Three of them. Crystal Shard started one with the original graphics and a fleshed out plot; Infamous Adventures created one with better graphics and the original plot. AGD Interactive announced one with better graphics and some tie-ins to their King's Quest II remake. The former has been aborted, the second is complete, the last came out early 2011.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: The Three Bears, Medusa, pirates and a three-headed dragon.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Dan McNeely as the eagle in the AGD remake.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The only way to defeat Manannan is to make him have a taste of his own remedy.
    • In the Expanded Universe material, the cat he keeps was a rival of his, and he's done this more than once.
  • Human Sacrifice: Rosella. It's up to you to get her out.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: You only have about 20 minutes to explore the land before Manannan returns. If he catches you outside (or if you forgot to re-hide the secret chamber), then he punishes you. Fortunately, he leaves after a while and you can explore some more. You also have to time yourself so you reach the pirate ship in time, and the once on the ship, you have to wait until they spot land. In the later part of the game, the clock is much less important.
    • You also have to complete the wizard's tasks within (entirely reasonable) time limits, or he punishes you non-fatally. Unfortunately, the wizard's tasks are randomly assigned: you can waste ten to fifteen minutes waiting for him to announce he's going on a trip (for fifteen minutes), which is the only time you have to gather spell components and cast spells. The pirate ship leaves port twenty minutes after a certain event in the game that may happen before you rid yourself of the wizard. Hope you can get that done quick!
  • Inept Mage: Gwydion, unless you help him master the goddamn spells.
  • Late Arrival Spoiler: Gwydion is Prince Alexander. It is referenced many times in all of the later games. This reveal is very easy to miss in this game itself.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: Gwydion is actually Prince Alexander, Graham's son, who was stolen from the family when he was an infant.
  • Pixel Hunt: One of the ingredients you have to collect for a spell is a snake skin. It is a brown squiggle in the desert-- where, incidentally, there are hundreds of other brown squiggles. Happy hunting!
  • Point of No Return: Once you're on the ship, that's it. Hope you got everything you needed back in Llewdor.
    • And again, once you're off the ship, and at various points in the mountains. These are less crucial, though.
  • Save the Princess: The oracle has just dropped a few bombshells. Massive three headed dragon attacking the faraway land of Daventry, the princess is being sent as a Human Sacrifice. Even better, kid, she's your twin sister. The ship at the dock is headed that direction. What are you waiting for?!
  • Shout-Out: The last part of the game takes place in the area of King's Quest I Quest for The Crown.
    • In the AGDI remake, the music that plays when you die by falling sounds like the end of the Inspector Gadget theme song.
  • Smooch of Victory: From your sister. Ew, not like that, you pervert.
    • It's a kiss on the cheek. Still, the embarrassing "proof of identification" (a birthmark on his bum) more than makes up for it. Yes, you end up mooning your sister...
  • Staircase Tumble: Careful on those stairs leading down to the wizard's secret workshop in the basement. Sometimes the wizard's cat will sit on the steps, causing you to trip over it and go flying.
  • Timed Mission: You have to hide your stuff before the wizard returns. You also have to catch the ship before it leaves.
  • Talking Animal: Justified, as one of the spell recipes gives Gwydion the ability to understand the language of the animals. He can't talk to them, however.
  • Unwinnable: Many, this being a Sierra game, but of note is the fact that you will never progress to the second half of the game if you don't have the manual with all the spells in it.