King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder review

The Good: Beautiful hand-painted graphics, streamlined point-and-click interface, one of the first Sierra games to have a talkie version.
The Bad: Contrived story and gameplay (particularly in the first half of the game), some nasty dead-ends, voiceover is often annoying.
Our Verdict: A step forward in graphics and interface; a step backward in story and character development. Play it if you're a King's Quest fan, but if you're just looking for a good point-and-click game, skip ahead to KQVI, which is so much better.

What do fairy tale themes, fetch quests, an assortment of sudden deaths, and an escape from an evil wizard have in common? If you said a King's Quest game you'd be right, but can you guess which one? How about if I throw in hand-painted graphics, a point-and-click interface, and a talking owl that's gone down in infamy as one of adventure gaming's most despised sidekicks?

(Okay, we all know I'm talking about King's Quest V since that's the title of this review, but thanks for humoring me.)

Upon its release in 1990, King's Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder had a lot to live up to. As the first in the series--and one of Sierra's first games, period--to forego the text parser for point-and-click interaction, it's a drastically different game than the ones that came before it. The graphics also received a facelift, with 256 color, hand-painted backgrounds, close-up dialogue portraits, and more overall detail than in any previous King's Quest installment. The game was initially released on floppy disks for DOS, Amiga, and Mac, and it even made its way onto the NES, although with significantly scaled-down graphics. In 1991, KQV was revamped in both DOS and Windows versions on a CD release that included voice acting—another milestone for a Sierra title.

KQV puts King Graham back in the saddle as the protagonist after a two-game hiatus, this time on a quest to save his family from certain death at the hands of an evil wizard. As the game opens, our hero is taking a quiet stroll through the Daventry woods, completely unaware that a baddie by the name of Mordack is currently tearing the castle out of the ground--with Graham's family still inside it--and poofing it into thin air. Lucky for Graham there was a witness to the event, a talking owl named Cedric who happens to be hanging out in a nearby tree. Being the trusting sort, Graham travels with Cedric to the land of Serenia to see Cedric's employer, Crispin, another wizard who will apparently be able to help. (Hey, there's no reason for Graham to be extra cautious before flying off to a faraway country with a complete stranger. It's not like his entire family and castle just got torn out of the ground by an evil wizard or anything.)

It turns out Crispin can't help after all and he's actually on his way out of town, so all he does is toss the king a broken wand, offer a little crusty advice, and push Graham out the door to get started on his quest. "What should we do first?" Cedric asks, to which Graham responds, "Hey, let's go explore the town!" Not exactly the reaction I would have expected from a guy whose entire family and castle were just torn out of the ground by an evil wizard, but hey, Graham's done this sort of thing before. Apparently he knows something I don't.

I'll get this out of the way now: Cedric is a really awkward addition to this game. I don't hate him as passionately as some of the fans out there, but I understand the sentiment. With his vest and monocle, he's dressed like a character out of a children's book, which doesn't jive with the story being told or serve the series' mainly adult audience. He's constantly providing what's supposed to serve as comic relief at moments where it's not really called for, and his presence rarely moves the story forward. Presumably Cedric was included in the game for reasons that seemed very important to the designers at the time, but in retrospect, King's Quest V probably would have been a better game without him.

KQV has a significantly improved look and feel compared to previous games in the series. Let's start with the point-and-click interface. The action icons are stored on a bar at the top of the screen that displays when you move your cursor over it and hides when you move your cursor away from it. (In addition to selecting the action you want from the icon bar, you can also cycle through them with the right mouse button.) The original disk version of King's Quest V has a more complicated selection of icons with some redundancies (most notably, two different walk icons that do essentially the same thing). The CD version's interface is streamlined, with just six icons (walk, look, talk, use, inventory, and options). When you click an icon, your cursor takes the shape of that icon, and you can then make the action happen by clicking the cursor somewhere on the screen.

The game's other big upgrade is its highly detailed, hand-painted graphics. Even by today's standards, the graphics are gorgeous. Ambient animations, such as running water, gratuitous passersby in the town, and smoke coming out of chimneys, can be controlled by a "detail" slider in the options menu to make the experience even more immersive. In addition to providing added detail, the paintings often make use of perspective in a way Sierra games never had before this, with scenes shown from varying distances and angles, such as close-ups of characters having a conversation, or a top-down view of a cliff as Graham climbs up.

Unfortunately, the storytelling techniques didn't improve to match the graphics and interface. As usual, the plot borrows heavily from fairy tales and other common lore, and the gameplay is still of the classic fetch quest and inventory collection/combination variety King's Quest is known for. Help someone, get something in return that just happens to be something you can trade to someone for something in return... it's a very well balanced universe. True to his roots, Graham just loves to pick up seemingly useless items. (Not one, but two dead fish find their way into your inventory in this game!) In the end, most of the inventory-based puzzles make some kind of sense, but a few are just brutal, not because they're clever, but because they're completely random.

Continued on the next page...

AD King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder can be purchased at:
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Game Info

King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder

Mac, PC, Retro


Sierra On-Line

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Worldwide 1990 Sierra On-Line

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King’s Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder

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User Score

Average based on 10 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by TimovieMan on Oct 2, 2013

Typical early Sierra brutality

This was typical early Sierra brutality. Hundreds of deaths and dead ends had me restoring previous saves more often than in all the games I'... Read the review »

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About the Author
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Emily Morganti
Staff Writer


Dec 31, 2007

I have just completed this title and here are my impressions : My final score : 80 My final verdict : To be stuck or not to be stuck….If you manage to avoid being stuck in this game you are a true master adventurer…. Spoilers : Dead-ends, mazes and a companion that is always whining and his only advice to you is not to go here and not to go there…so why the hell I am playing the game for…. Number of times I needed a walkthrough : Twice 1)The first time was to check that I covered everything in the maps of mazes once I felt I’m done with them… 2)I missed an item along the journey and got stuck… My tips to avoid being stuck: 1) There are places you can visit only one time…SAVE those places to avoid starting the game all over from the beginining… 2)If you manage to get out alive from the damn desert with 3 items in your pockets you are done there… 3)Only one item to get in the castle maze… 4)Don’t let the cat catch the mouse or you are done with game… 5) There are items that you can use in various ways…If you dont get points for your action don’t do it or you will get stuck…Listen carefully for the approval sound when you get points…My most adorable character : The bitter Djinn who has been locked up in a bottle for 500 years and after releasing him puts me instead there for the next 500 hundred years…

Dec 20, 2008

I liked this game. The story is weak, no doubt, and the gameplay sometimes too stretched, but the atmosphere was nonetheless great! And I’m perhaps amongst the few that liked poor Cedric (or, at least, didn’t find him so annoying). Plus, the Cassima Theme is one of the most enthralling, captivating and powerful piece of music I’ve ever heard!

Fantasysci5 Fantasysci5
Mar 9, 2009

Am I the only one that actually *liked* Cedric? Tongue

Luna Sevithiainen Luna Sevithiainen
Mar 27, 2009

Just finished this one, and must say I had expected more from it . Story is simple,  but serves fine to keep the game going. You have a clear goal. Also liked the game-world, the graphics, the catchy music.

Too bad there are so many dead ends…for example because you don’t have an object that you can’t possibly have because you have overlooked another object that is a real pixelhunt. And then there are a few occasions on which I was completely stuck, only to find out that I hadn’t waited long enough in a room void of interactable hotspots to trigger a certain event…And of course the randomity of so many puzzles…To be brief: poor puzzle design.

Oh, I totally hated Cedric by the way Tongue I can’t belive how he can even be thought of initially as a comic relief, simply because he never is funny. Annoying Cedric, who only tells me to look out *after* I have ordered Graham to step of a cliff and fall to his death.

Too bad the talkie-version doesn’t have an option to turn on subtitles: especially the animals, who not only talk high pitched, but also with some sound-effect, are very hard to understand,.The good part of the talkie-version are of course the screams of Graham when you order him to fall off a cliff Tongue

A game with a lot more potential than it actually showed.

Feb 9, 2011

Even though the game was revolutionary for its day, with great VGA graphics, good sound, and point and click mouse interface, I still think it was a step down from the last game. I may be alone in this, but I missed the old text parser, especially in this particular game. There were also irritating puzzles and characters. In the end a fairly good game, but not as good as the hype that surrounded it.