The first experience Xbox One owners had of Artifex Mundi’s Queen’s Quest saga came in the form of Queen’s Quest 2: Stories of Forgotten Past, which is rather odd because the inaugural instalment has never reached our gaming shores. Nevertheless, Queen’s Quest 2 did a cracking job at making up for the missing title with an interesting story and a host of great hidden object scenes. And so, the stage is prepared for the third game, Queen’s Quest 3: The End of Dawn, to make a royally grand entrance on Xbox One. But does it live up to its predecessor’s quality?
Unfortunately, the bar has been set too high for Queen’s Quest 3 and it doesn’t quite meet expectations. Despite that, there are a fair few positives to ensure that an enjoyable time is still possible!
The adventure begins with a child being left at the Zora Academy of Alchemy under mysterious circumstances, before skipping forward a number of years. The child, Eliana, has grown up to be one of the best students in the Zora Academy and she’s about to complete her training as an alchemist. A twist of fate sees the place come under attack from Gargoyles and so Eliana must aid her fellow academy students and staff members in withstanding the infiltration. This leads to her going on a mission to retrieve a trio of Dragon Crystals to ensure they don’t fall into the wrong hands.
There’s a steady pace to the narrative unfolding, with a handful of the mini-games used to deliver a history of the crystals’ origins to you. It’s worth noting that the narrator for these parts is simply brilliant, mainly due to possessing a captivating tone and offering great clarity to the words being spoken. The tale as a whole is a bit of a magical-infused rollercoaster ride in a world alongside fairies and elves, with triumph and betrayal going hand in hand to keep you on your toes. In terms of voiceovers, they’re generally passable, whilst the character assuming the role of the ‘baddie’ is voiced much better and, design-wise, very well suited to the role.
So far, it’s hard to knock the storytelling – for this genre, it’s a great tale – which can only mean that the flaws lie within the gameplay. The mini-games are usually pretty darn good at knitting together the experience and offering a change in-between inventory puzzles and hidden object scenes. Even though there’s fun to be had from pattern repetition, mixing potions and connecting pipes, you can’t help feel they’re overly familiar if you’ve played other Artifex Mundi titles. Now, that wouldn’t be too bad, however the inclusion of a couple of fairly frustrating trial and error type mini-games – e.g. lining up pictures where rotating one part moves another – really kills the vibe of what should be a chilled out adventure.
To add further irritation, the cleverly thought up hidden object scenes are consistently let down by horrible cursor accuracy. It’s an annoyance because sometimes you get told the correct object for the list is actually incorrect, so you can spend ages looking for other options. That’s a shame because of how great the variation within the scenes really is; without the issues plaguing them, they’d be a lot of fun to scour. The scenes aren’t limited to just checking off a list of named objects, as there are also those that have to be identified via shape or items that have to be interacted with to create what’s required.
There can however be no complaints about the inventory-based problems to overcome; whether it’s collecting a selection of necessary ingredients for a potion or simply acquiring a key that’s hidden in your current location, the items in the inventory always have a purpose. And should the searching of an area not be enough to keep you occupied, the inclusion of a whole host of collectibles to find will certainly make you attentive. In any of the main environments there could be a ghostly spirit, a funky hat or a crest to click on, and it’s a real challenge to pick them all out.
After the main story is complete, which could easily take over four hours, a bonus chapter unlocks. The tale follows Eliana again as she tries to help the fairies and put an end to another dreaded Gargoyle. It’s a real highlight thanks to the mini-games here, which are far more enjoyable; especially as a skill-based task is introduced, amongst other things. That’ll extend play by another hour at least, ensuring it’s one of the better bonus chapters from the Artifex Mundi games.
In the visual department, each area is hand-drawn to such a high standard that you’ll want to take in every little detail, no matter if it’s the intricacies of an apothecary or a magical city in the mountains. Sadly, the same can’t be said for the animated cutscenes though, which become pixelated and blurry throughout. On the plus side, the lovely still environments are complemented by a calming soundtrack for the majority of the time.
Queen’s Quest 3: The End of Dawn on Xbox One manages to possess a story full of intriguing plot points, some truly wonderful artwork, a cracking bonus chapter and a shed load of collectibles, all of which could have elevated this title to stand side by side with the very best that Artifex have to offer. Unfortunately, it’s held back by the mini-game selection, the terrible animation and a cursor issue which really puts a damper on every single hidden object section.
Unless you’re a loyalist of the genre, I’d wait for Queen’s Quest 3: The End of Dawn to get a bit of a discount to avoid being disappointed at what could have been.