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My Thoughts on TSL a Decade Later.

Started by GrahamRocks!, July 26, 2022, 04:31:27 PM

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For those of you who don't know, I'm at the home stretch of a King's Quest Marathon, and I of course, played through every canonical game and a good chunk of the fan games as well. One of those being The Silver Lining. To copy and paste what I wrote about it a couple days ago:

[spoiler]King's Quest Marathon Day 24: The Silver Lining.

The year was 2012, mid to late March. I was 19 years old when I discovered The Silver Lining fangame all those years ago, still barely out of teenager age, and not nearly as mature as I am now. If I remember correctly, I'd recently gotten into King's Quest that year (or close to the year prior more likely) through Pawdugan's retrospective on the series, on, long before it was renamed to Channel Awesome, long before I realized that a lot of the creators there tended to have their own website/YouTube channels so there ultimately wasn't much of a reason for me to follow a hub site, and long before the mass exodus of that site's creators to greener pastures due to controversies that I shall not discuss here. The point I'm making here is that, at that time I was young, naive, foolishly believed anything opinionated that someone on the internet said about a game or film or cartoon must be true, and I'd laugh at seeing the rage and angry reactions (it was a very different time) at whatever media they were posting about, take it at face value, and assume that their opinion was 100% true or at least somewhat true enough that nobody disputed them. So it was with KQ in general- I'd been under the impression that Cedric was terrible, that Rosella was whiny, that Mask of Eternity was a slap in the face, and that AGDI just for daring to do something different with their remakes was superior to the original game in every way. I was under the impression that KQ was an alright series, but bottomed out as the games went on, before finally stopping at MoE. So when I discovered The Silver Lining afterwards, being played by a prominent Let's Player (at the time, he hasn't done much in years), and I watched him struggle with the puzzles (the candles and chess puzzles in particular gave him a hard time IIRC), react to certain scenes with a laugh or a soft "awww", and praise the developers, I fell in love. I had to get it and play it myself, because even just watching it was a fun time.

So I did. I got through all four episodes, and found myself enjoying it quite a bit. So much in fact, that not only did I join the Phoenix Online Studios forum community soon afterwards under the name "GrahamRocks!", but their version of Graham, how he was written and portrayed, was basically "my" Graham for years. I wrote fanfiction too (not much, only two stories, neither finished), and basically made my own little universe that smushed together the Classic canon, the AGDI canon, and the TSL canon into one amalgamation. It was awful, and I do not look back on that with pride, but I did then. It was a good couple years.

Then 2014 hit. And then, there were whispers of something new. I paid them no heed at first, but eventually even I couldn't ignore them and I fell for it hook, line, and sinker with excitement. Ah, but that's for another day. The point is, that news as well as my seeming lack of ability to "improve" the King's Quest Omnipedia (to which I shudder to think of what kind of damage I could've caused by my editing now), as for whatever reason my screenshot folders weren't cooperating, made me table TSL for a while. And then tomorrow's subject came out and everything blew up. But again, tomorrow. I left TSL behind in awe, for eight years.

For eight long years, I didn't touch it. In fact, in face of the new thing, I wondered and stressed over whether or not this new thing was actually better than TSL, and like Valanice near the end of episode 4, I was afraid to face my past. What if I replayed it and realized, "Oh no, this is far worse than I remember!"? Would I still laugh at the snarky narrator, the in-jokes only I'd get from being a POS forum member, the references to past Sierra games, the lighthearted moments in general? Would I still appreciate the voice acting? The deeper storytelling? The characterization that made me smile? The music that soothes my soul enough to stop and listen fully and gets me pumped and ready for action? For years, those questions burned at the back of my mind and I was too much of a coward to answer them myself.

This year, I have finally. In fact, this is part of the reason why I began this marathon in the first place, to force myself into replaying it again and seeing if it still holds up after I've grown up a decade and am aware of what good writing is and can properly critique something on my own.

I am glad to say, that I shouldn't have been so worried! Even this many years later, with this game's future uncertain, with all the criticism I could indeed give it, I still enjoyed myself! If anything, I'd say that doing this marathon and looking at both official and fanmade material before this point (chronologically no less!) was a brilliant strategy on my end, because honestly, the characterization had a lot more impact on me this time, now that I know how these characters are usually portrayed. Alexander in TSL is a great example, as typically we see his journey as Gwydion, see his defeat of Manannan and returning home to kill a dragon to save his homeland, but aside from him learning a few new things and growing more kinder in 6, we don't see much of how his childhood as Gwydion effected him beyond "very organized, can be deceptive and sneaky, but overall nice scholarly guy", and whether or not he even thinks of his Gwydion days is a hit or miss depending on the writer (Companion embraces it as part of himself that he can never truly shed, most fangames have him drop it entirely, the novel The Floating Castle it's barely acknowledged at all etc). TSL throws their hat in the ring, and has him effected so much by what he's experienced that he's traumatized and Cassima is slowly helping him through it, but sometimes it's not enough. That was an interesting point of characterization for me, because most people wouldn't bother to do that. Most fangame would just have him pick up Manannan by the scruff as a cat and say firmly, "My name is Alexander," with no repercussions or baggage seen. TSL obviously wanted to go in a different direction, and it works. Hell, it works for everyone in the main family from Graham's determination and kindness shining through, to Rosella's bright energy, to Valanice's secrets and her sweet bond with Graham, to Cassima (who gives a great speech to her people in episode 4 about overcoming adversity) and Edgar's clear love for their partners (especially Edgar! They really did a great job with him and Rosella's relationship, especially after my one complaint is that there needed to be more interaction and chemistry between them and this delivers), to Alexander trying to better himself. The characterization, I'd say that part of the writing, is where it really shines. Also, the stuff with the Black Cloak Society felt a bit better this time around, a bit more solid and better established over time, and instead of shirking it, Graham faces it head on at the end. I like that, way better than AGDI's "It's nothing to worry about," way of doing it.

The music is also wonderful! Oftentimes, I would just stop and listen to the many good tracks and let them play out (seriously, so many good tracks! The Archdruid's Theme, The Nature Spirit, Pan's Flute, the piano instrumental of The Day You Were Gone, the City of the Winged Ones, Cassima's Speech, the entire Tower Sequence theme, the Map theme, I could go on!).

Now, of course, the game's not perfect. I still despise the Isle of the Beast segments in episode 4 (the droning somber music, the hedge maze is hard to maneuver, Beauty's characterization feels off, if I wasn't using a walkthrough I'd hate the digging puzzle even more than I do, and it contains one of the more terrifying deaths for poor Graham if you try to get something you're not allowed to have yet early on). I don't think anyone likes the plot twists with Manannan and his connections to Valanice at all. There are also some continuity mistakes, and while one normally could chalk this up to it being an alternate universe (which at this point, I do), this game was supposed to be a sequel to the classic canon and clearly did deviate from it a few times, and I'm sure that some people are angry about it. Most of the cast is fine, but there are a few holdouts, minor NPCs mostly, same with the characterization of others not directly involved with the story like Jollo being a bit TOO goofy at times.

I know a lot of people didn't like the later bits of episode 4 (the opening of Pandora's Box, and the battle between Graham and Shadrack) for being too hard, but despite my troubles with them, I didn't mind those sequences much. The music helped!

Now to address the elephant in the room: In the question of, "Where is episode 5?" to that I sadly have no answer. The last developer update was three years ago, in 2019, right before the Pandemic hit, and we have no news since. For a lot of older fans, those who supported TSL and enjoyed it, this slowly has gotten them to leave and give up on the game entirely because the wait has been far too long and they've moved on, cursing their names and looking back bitterly on what we got. I can understand that, but I didn't approach it that way. To me, whether episode 5 ever sees the light of day or not (game, script release, concept stuff etc), I'll still enjoy what I played tonight, with all its flaws and highlights, and I'm glad I finally did after all these years.[/spoiler]

I just thought it'd be nice to share with you all, as this is technically where I got my start. Thank you!


I have a similar story to share. I hadn't touched the King's Quest games in years, but recently replayed the entire original series plus TSL, now from a more mature perspective.

Yeah, I don't like that we're left with a cliffhanger to which we may never see resolution. But I found myself truly impressed with what the team did here - from the graphic art and emotional music to the intricate plot and rich backstory, the effort, ambition, detail, and above all the passion the team put into this project is obvious. Even more so in light of the uncertainty they faced and the knowledge that their only direct reward would be words of appreciation such as these.

Any fan of the King's Quest series should not hesitate to play TSL. And anyone who's done so and enjoyed the game should be grateful to Cesar and the rest of The Silver Lining team for giving us the opportunity to continue the adventure with them.