The Legend of Kyrandia: Fables and Fiends (or The Legend of Kyrandia: Book One) is a 2D point-and-click adventure game, and the first game in the Fables & Fiends series. It was developed by Westwood Studios and published by Virgin Games in August 1992.
Players take on the role of a young prince who must end the tyrannical chaos of an evil court jester in his kingdom. The game makes use of a simple interface system that allows the player to interact with objects and people, while solving various puzzles using a variety of items and special abilities.
You start off with a decent cinematic sequence that introduces Kallak - a mystic - who’s also your grandfather. Your parents were murdered by the evil jester Malcolm, who shows up out of nowhere and turns Kallak to stone. He leaves a note behind that you’re supposed to show to Zanthia so she can tell you what to do next.
Though the characters and plot are introduced quickly and simply, it’s a bit generic here and all you know is “I’ve got item A that needs to be taken to location A” … so off we go.
Interacting with the game world is pretty straightforward and involves just clicking on everything. The cursor only changes shape to indicate a direction you can move, but if you can interact with something (or pick it up) you won’t know until you click on it. When you can pick something up, the cursor takes the shape of the thing you’ve grabbed, and you can either drop it or put it in one of the 10 inventory slots you have available.
The game will remember where you drop items, so though you have limited inventory slots, it’s really not a big deal. Some of the puzzles involve trial and error so you may want to collect a bunch of duplicates of items before attempting the puzzle. For example, the birthstone puzzle involves placing gems in a specific sequence (randomized on each playthrough). If you put the wrong stone on the alter, it vanishes and if you need the same stone later, you’ll have to go find it in the forest again.
I picked up a bunch of duplicates before attempting this puzzle and just dropped them on the ground in front of the alter. Then as I muddled may way through the puzzle I had more than enough gems to eventually solve the sequence required to move on with the game.
You’ll meet Malcolm pretty early in the game, but he just sort of taunts you and leaves you alone. He’ll show up again later to delay your progress but hiding a key item you’ll then need to find, but other than that he doesn’t really pose any sort of threat to you.
I played through the DOS CD version of the game, so I got to “enjoy” the voice acting as a result. You can tell they swung for the fences a bit here - especially the actor that played Malcolm. It’s not the worst voice acting for this era of game … but it’s pretty bad.
The puzzles in this game really aren’t that difficult, and are typically just a series of fetch quests. There are a couple of ways that you can die, so it’s important to be diligent with your save-game hygiene. I got caught off guard a couple times and found myself replaying large sections of the game because I bumbled into a death scenario accidentally.
Your main goal in this game is to amass magical power so that you can fight Malcolm and free Kallak from the stone spell that was cast on him. This is done by getting an amulet that displays in the lower-right portion of the screen as 4 stones. Each time you learn a spell one of these stones lights up, and if you click it you’ll cast that spell.
Seeing as you only have 4 spell slots I would have expected magic to play a larger part in the game, but it really doesn’t. Heck, the spell that turns you into a pegasus is only used once and the final spell you learn from the ghost of your mother is used twice.
Once you use these spells, all magic becomes unavailable, but these charge back up after a little while and you can use them again.
For me, the biggest challenge of this game was navigating the maze that is the caves. You find yourself trapped after stepping on a pressure plate, and you’ll need to go collect bricks to weigh down a counterweight to reopen the gate. This involves navigating a maze, but any time you go to a dark room you’ll be killed.
You find fireberries that you can pick up and drop to illuminate a room, but you can only move up to 3 rooms before the berries become ineffective. If you drop a berry it’ll keep that room lit thereafter, but you’ll need to make sure that once you run out of berries, the next room you go to contains a bush with more berries.
The ScummVM wiki helpfully shares a map of the caves, so I ended up using that to get through this section a bit quicker. Typically this type of spelunking involves getting 3 berries, going to one room, dropping a berry, saving, then going to the next room - rinse - repeat. If you run out of berries and die in the next room, reload and pick a different room.
It’s tedious, but not overly challenging.
Though you’re trying to get magic spells, the second half of the game also involves mixing potions that act as single-use spells. This was just another excuse to pad the game out with backtracking fetch-quests, as mixing the potions wrong involved depleting consumable items you’d then need to go back and re-fetch to try again in a different combination.
I really didn’t enjoy this section as it felt forced and wasn’t really introduced meaningfully.
You’ll eventually make your way to Kyrandia castle where Malcolm is, gain the final spell, navigate another maze, solve a couple more puzzles and face off with Malcolm. The final fight is a bit anticlimactic and just involves trial and error until you land on the right spell (make yourself invisible) and stand in the right place (in front of the mirror on the right).
Malcolm casts the spell to turn you to stone, it bounces off the mirror and turns him to stone instead. This frees Kallak from his and you become the new king of Kyrandia. Mission accomplished!
The first installment in the Legend of Kyrandia series is nothing groundbreaking. Some of the writing is clever and I really like the main villain, though he doesn’t really do anything during the game other than show up a couple times to delay your progress.
If you’re going to play this game I’d recommend ScummVM with MT-32 device emulation for the music and sound. The music is much better in MT-32 mode, as are a lot of the adventure games from this era that supported this audio device.
I’m looking forward to the sequels to this game, though the initial entry didn’t really make much of an impression.
|The Legend of Kyrandia: Fables and Fiends
|August 1, 1992
|Amiga, DOS, FM Towns, Macintosh, NEC PC-9801
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