I’ve played a lot of Artifex Mundi games, some great, some not so great. Though, with judgement to the side, I think we can all agree that they dominate the point-and-click puzzle game space on console. It seems as though that each and every month, we see them releasing something from their impressively deep portfolio. This time, we’ve got Queen’s Quest III: The End of Dawn. The question is, however, where does this game sit in terms of depth, quality, and innovation? I can gladly report that it’s actually a fairly decent adventure.
Players take on the role of alchemist Eliana; a young girl that’s on the cusp of finishing her training at the Zora Academy of Alchemy. In order to complete her training, Eliana is sent on a dangerous mission to nab a powerful, ancient artifact. Though, much to be expected, it doesn’t take long before crap hits the proverbial fan, ultimately sending Eliana on an adventure full of twists, betrayals, and more besides. The story is relatively predictable throughout, but then, I suppose we should really chalk that up to our own expectations.
Whatever the case, that’s the plot structure. Queen’s Quest III: The End of Dawn does fall victim to the issues we see in a lot of games from Artifex. First and foremost, the animation is poorly executed. Several times I witnessed effects and cinematic beats that were sloppy, carelessly implemented, and, by and large, laughable. That’s not to mention the predictably poor voice work that’s present throughout. Though, my biggest gripe sits with the game’s pacing. This just seems to be all over the place, hurting the overall adventure as a result.
That being said, it’s entirely possible to enjoy Queen’s Quest III: The End of Dawn whilst overlooking these few drawbacks, but still, it would have been nice to see some more effort spared for these elements of play. Now, if you’ve played an Artifex game before, you’ll know exactly what to expect from its gameplay. If not, (shame on you) allow me to fill you in. You don’t have any direct control over Eliana, and instead, an on-screen cursor that you’ll use to move to and from locations, engage with characters, and interact with your surroundings.
There’s an inventory system in place, and you’ll use this to gather wares and useful objects along your travels. These objects tend to fit into a puzzle of some sort, usually away from the place in which you discovered them. Honestly, it’s relatively straightforward. Outside of that mechanic, you’ll enlist the help of a fairy early on; a tiny creature that will fetch you items that would otherwise be well out of your reach. Then, there’s your magic amulet, an amulet you’ll infrequently use to defeat the occasional enemy, or, gain access to an item.
The magic amulet comes with a small puzzle game whenever it’s used, but in truth, this merely feels like filler. You’ll do little more than replicate a short combination of colors, and then utilize its magic as demanded. That’s the fundamentals out the way. To the game’s credit, there’s many different types of puzzles elsewhere in the adventure, puzzles that vary quite considerably in regards to complexity and design. Rarely did I need to skip a puzzle, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how stumped the game had me on occasion.
The crux of play sees you moving from location to location as you solve a variety of brain twisters along the way. Whilst there’s a fair bit of backtracking involved, the game handles its content delivery quite well. There’s a wide range of areas to traverse through, and although most new locales are blocked off by puzzles and the need to gather items from said puzzles, it never gets all that taxing. Yes, as alluded to above, the story’s pace is a bit awkward, but in the face of everything the game gets right, this is easy to forgive.
The game’s puzzles steal the show here, and there’s many different types you’ll need to suss out. Naturally, hidden object puzzles play the larger role, and here, you’ll need more than just perception to see you through. The game’s hidden object puzzles are deeper than just looking at a screen and locating items from a list. Instead, you’ll often need to pick up specific items and have them interact with objects before finding a piece of the puzzle you need; such as unlocking a box with a key, slotting a gem to a fitting, and, you get the idea.
There’s many more puzzle types besides. Given the game’s alchemy theme, you can expect potion brewing, potion usage, and other like-minded elements. Outside of that, there’s puzzles that see you matching pairs, puzzles that see you using runes, puzzles that see you manipulating objects to form a correct alignment, and several other, cleverly struck additions. If you’re here just for the puzzles, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. There’s a hint system in place, but, I would caution against its use because it defies the game’s point.
The game’s campaign takes roughly five hours to run through, with an extra hour or two thrown on top of that when taking the bonus chapter into account, and that of the sheer number of collectibles that you can pick up along the way. I’ve had a lot of fun with the game. It strikes a good balance between complexity and accessibility, being that it has a tendency of keeping you on your toes but never pushing you to the point of frustration. It’s nice to see an Artifex game that has a solid difficulty curve for a change, that much is true.
In regards to the game’s visual and audio presentation, Queen’s Quest III: The End of Dawn gets a pass for the former, and thumbs down for the latter. Whilst the game looks absolutely stunning across all of its gorgeously designed locations, many of which are simply breathtaking, the game’s audio design pulls the magic short through its aforementioned poor voice acting and its generic cues. This seems to be a running trend for Artifex, and it’s something I hope they break in the years to come, because it’s just getting silly now.
The bottom line in all of this, even with its predictable flaws in mind, is that Queen’s Quest III: The End of Dawn is an easy game to recommend, especially if you’re a fan of the developer’s work. The whole adventure does a stellar job at challenging its players through some smart puzzle work, and ensures that repetition is kept at bay through its impressive content variety. Still, one has to point out that the formula is beginning to run dry, but nevertheless, this will no doubt go down well with those that still find enjoyment in it.
Much like any other game from Artifex Mundi, Queen’s Quest III: The End of Dawn will serve you well if you’re seeking a decent point-and-click adventure that’s chock-full of interesting, diverse puzzles. The entire experience is predictably pulled shy of greatness due its hit and miss story, its poor animations, and its shoddy voice work, but, in grand scheme of things, the game does manage to maintain player engagement through variety and innovation.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.