I recently learned about Conquests of Camelot
, a hidden gem in Sierra's classic adventure game collection. This is a game that never really got the attention of more popular series like King's Quest
, but it is so amazing I had to share some thoughts about it. This is an adventure game where you play as King Arthur going out in search of the Holy Grail. Which already, I'm sold just on that. They do take liberties with the legends, as you might expect. But it's still King Arthur. You're in control of King Arthur, exploring Camelot and doing all those Arthurian things.
To give you an idea, this is the map that you see when you leave Camelot: http://www.sierrahelp.com/Documents/Maps/Conquests/Conquests_of_Camelot_(England)_-_Map.jpg
All of those little dots you see are actual locations in Dark Age Britain. But here's the thing. You can only actually go to three of them. If you try going to one of the places that isn't directly linked to the plot, you get a message essentially saying, "No, dummy. Why would you want to go there and explore this vast open world of adventure and mystery?" In fact, after you leave, you can't even go back to Camelot, the place that you're the king of. I imagine that Arthur is about to head back to Camelot, and then he's just like: Camelot, tis a silly place
But more than just nitpicking about the game's limitations, I'm absolutely fascinated by the almost single-mindedness of its message. So at the time that this game was made, one way that they tried to prevent piracy was by having puzzles in the game that you needed to read the manual that came in the box in order to solve. King's Quest VI
, for instance, had a few puzzles like this at the Isle of the Sacred Mountain. But in this game, there are copy protection puzzles just everywhere you go. To the point where there are tests of Arthur's worthiness to obtain the Grail that are literally just, "Let me give you a quiz on the assigned reading. This pop quiz will prove your worth!"
Now by itself, the copy protection wouldn't be that bad. It's just a relic from another era of gaming. But then you have the ending. And by the way, spoilers here for anyone who was planning on playing this game from 1989. I'm pretty sure we're past the statute of limitations on this one. But it ends with Arthur finding the Grail--which he literally just picks up out of a hole in the ground--and a thief darts out and grabs it. And it's the same thief who stole all of Arthur's money earlier in the game. Only this time, Arthur is able to chase him down and get the Grail back. And so the last decision in the game is whether to kill the thief or to show him mercy.
And this is where it gets insane. So you decide to spare the thief because you're all about chivalry and mercy, right? So Arthur takes the Grail and starts to leave, and the thief runs up behind him and tries to stab him in the back. So Arthur turns around, and the Grail starts glowing. Now the Grail is going to judge the thief. And so you're thinking, "Oh, this should be interesting. I'm sure the Grail's judgment will be just yet fair." No. The Grail decides its going to get all Old Testament on this guy's ass. It just disintegrates him. His skin and organs are blasted away, and his skeleton drops to a heap on the floor and turns to ash. Apparently, God was just like, "Yeah, all that stuff about mercy was just for you
. I really just wanted him alive so I could have the opportunity to vaporize him myself."
So here we have a game where the climax is this thief being obliterated by the righteous judgment of God after Arthur proved himself worthy of the Grail by passing the Sacred Rites of Copy Protection. This entire game is basically one giant PSA about how stealing is wrong. I can almost see it ending with Arthur turning to the camera and saying, "Remember, kids. Stealing video games is bad!" And then there's just a "The More You Know" animation.