Sierra quest: Quest for Glory 3: Wages of War (1992)

 If there's ever been a game in a long-lasting series that feels like a side note, the 3rd part of Quest for Glory is exactly that. And that's a shame, really, as it has an African themed setting that is rarely seen in games. Though, in the end, if you think about it, QfG3 really is just a side note: when Quest for Glory 2 ends it proudly proclaims, that the quest will continue in Shadows of Darkness, but as Corey and Lori Cole felt, that the plot of Shadows of Darkness was a bit too heavy for a hero of only two big quests under his belt, they decided that it would be better to an another story in order to let the hero mature a bit. Thus Wages of War was born.

This time around you can play as a paladin. If you did things the right way in the previous game, Rakeesh awarded you with his magical sword "Soulforge". That pretty much means, if you play as a fighter, you have the best weapons and armour at your disposal from the get-go. Not that there's a ton of weapons to buy in the game. That's just as sparse as ever.

The result of me being a goody two shoes in the previous games

QfG3 begins when the hero follows liontaur paladin Rakeesh and warrioress Uhura to their homeland Fricana. Rakeesh has been summoned back as shadows of war are shading the sun-baked savannas. So while Rakeesh is trying to find a solution from diplomacy he tasks the hero of Spielburg and Shapeir to look around in order to find out what really is going on.

The intro shows a replay of what happened to Ad Avis at the end of QfG2. The Enchantress also mentions, that the body of Ad Avis wasn't found despite people looked for it. The plot thickens.

Before I say anything else, I do need to state, that Wages of War is quite a lovely looking game. It has very strong art direction and the African theme is quite unique in games. The Egypt inspired liontaur city Tarna is nicely detailed and realized and the tribal Simbani village is charming in its simplicity. While the remake of the first game was done with the same style, I do find the art style of Wages of War to be a stronger of the two. And just like the VGA remake of the first game, Wages of War is fully mouse-driven, so no more text parser for this series.

But then we come to the big but: the game itself feels much smaller from the previous two. Unlike in the previous games, the surroundings of Tarna and the Simbani village are done in a completely different manner. Where the previous games presented the wilderness areas in the same way the city locations were shown, this time wilderness is a map screen, where you travel between the locations. This makes the game feel even smaller and shorter than it should be, as the locations themselves aren't particularly large.

One part of the world map around Tarna and a view to a Simbani village.

Everything about the plot lines and quest structures in QfG3 feels a bit half-baked and underdeveloped. There's no additional stuff for the different classes to do. Thieves especially don't have anything to do, as there's no crime to speak of in Tarna nor in the Simbani village.  You can, as always, solve missions in different ways, but unlike the previous games it never really feels like a game where you'd actually care what character you play as.

There are a couple of points of interest in the map besides Tarna and the Simbani village, but nothing that really would warrant an overhead map in the size it is now, as the world just feels very empty. I do believe that the main reason for the overhead map is a budgetary one more than anything else, as they'd have needed a lot of screens in order to make the world feel bigger. Now they got away with four map screens.

The combat again. This time around you can't just blindly smash a button, you actually need to wait a second for a hit to land. Still, there's no real reason to use any defensive moves even against the tougher monsters.

The combat is, again serviceable, but nothing really spectacular. That's a common theme, I feel, with the series, as none of the games really excel in this particular area. Also bulking up some of the skills is ridiculously simple on modern systems. Even under DosBox the throw skill is the simplest to build up, as when you crank the game speed to max and pick up a ton of stones you can throw them faster than a machine gun shoots. This makes gaining the maximum points as a simple task of furiously clicking the mouse button for a couple of minutes.

Another thing besides feeling a bit empty, Wages of War doesn't really have that many actual quests in it. The most important one is to prevent the war and defeat the evil demon behind the threat. Then there are smaller, less heroic and more ordinary adventure puzzle type quests, like helping the pharmacists in the creation of a dispel potion. Some things in the plot are tied to time, but most of it is pretty free roaming, albeit firmly structured so, that when you reach a certain point in the game other things just start to unfold until you come to the end and defeat the demon.

Wages of War was one of the first games that made me wish for higher resolutions.

In all honesty, unlike the previous two games, all the things you do feel a bit detached from a larger arc. You do things and while they are part of the prevention of the war, they still feel more like busy work. There's no real feeling of urgency, which is underlined even more on additional playthroughs of the game.

All said and done, Wages of War feels incomplete. While the world and the settings are great and the writing is mostly just as good as ever, I can't help but think that as a game it could have been much more than it is. Now it's interesting entry to the series, but nothing really to write home about. If there's one title in the series that I'd say isn't essential playing, it's this one.

Tarna during the day and the night. Again, QfG3 has a day/night cycle, but on my playthrough, I stumbled upon a bug that turned that cycle off for the rest of the game and I was stuck on daytime graphics even during nights.

Wages of War is a part of the Quest for Glory collection available at GOG.

Rakeesh with his wife Kreesha. I've always liked this little scene.