Quest for Glory III: Wages of War - Rumblings of War

by Alex

And so the Hero of Spielberg and Prince of Shapeir’s journey to Tarna begins! As Chet eloquently described in his initial Quest for Glory III post, this entire series is “tight.” Chet stole my thunder a little bit, as this is an aspect of game design I wanted to save for the final rating, but now is just as good a time as any to discuss it here, since I completely agree with him.

My preferred term is well-crafted. Playing a well-crafted game provides an experience that feels satisfying and complete. The polish put into games like this speaks of additional effort beyond the 90 percent required to make the game at all. It’s this last 10 percent that separates the decent from the good to great games.

Here are some characteristics of well-crafted games; feel free to add additional characteristics in the comments below:
  • There are few, or no, wasted screens or moments: every character and scene provides some kind of information to the player or something to do.
  • Characters don’t act in ways that contradict everything that has come before.
  • The game’s mechanics and game-world rules are well-explained and consistent throughout, both to the player and to the other characters.
  • The game’s story hangs together on its own internal logic.
  • There are few, if any, plot holes.
  • There is no deus ex machina.
  • Villains don’t just appear out of the blue.
  • The explanation for each puzzle can be found within the game as opposed to the use of brute force inventory testing.
  • The player is rarely, if ever, left wandering around bereft of direction.
There are more, but I think it’s safe to say that the Quest for Glory games meet these criteria. From personal experience, I contend that The Secret of Monkey Island provides an equally well-crafted experience. Conquests of the Longbow and King’s Quest VI are other games I can think of that uphold this ideal. Please let me know of others in the comments.
Okay, enough philosophical waxing. Let’s get on to Wages of War. A few important points before we begin:
  • I am very familiar with this game. As such, I will try not to provide a walk-through or a blow-by-blow account of what I did. I will also play through casually, taking things as they come and not using advanced knowledge of what will happen to sequence-break or solve puzzles in advance.
  • I am going to leapfrog where Chet ended his most recent post, providing my take on things. Chet will then leapfrog where I stopped, and so on.
Got it? Good! But lest you think my preamble was done, there’s still the question of how one becomes a paladin in the first place . . .

From Fighter to Paladin

In anticipation of Wages of War, I played through So You Want To Be A Hero? and Trial by Fire as a fighter, becoming a paladin so as to fulfill Trickster’s ambition of entering into the ranks of the truly noble and honorable. Not that Trickster isn’t a noble and honorable guy himself. I didn’t grind obsessively during these playthroughs, so please keep your snickering at my paltry statistics to a minimum.

Alex the fighter at the end of QfG I and the beginning of QfG II.

Certain actions in Trial by Fire provide not only Honor, but a quantity of a hidden score called Paladin Points. 34 Paladin Points are needed to become a paladin, in addition to an Honor score of at least 75. So here’s a quick rundown of what you need to do--and not do--in order to turn your character, be they fighter, magic user, or thief (yes, it’s possible) into a paladin:
  • Be polite to Aziza

The magical fox in Quest for Glory I advises that it pays to be polite, even to rude people.
If this is the case, then there is no reason to not be polite to polite people, such as Aziza.
  • Give money to the beggar more than once
  • Return Soulforge, Rakeesh’s magical sword, after using it to beat the Earth Elemental without being asked (fighters)
  • Giving Omar his purse back after he drops it while reading poetry in the Fountain Plaza

Anytime, O bearded man/Of your rhymes, I am a fan.
  • Not killing Walid during the Eternal Order of Fighters initiation (fighter)

Oh Issur . . . never change.
  • Not killing Khaveen after disarming him in combat near the end of the game even though he totally deserves it (fighter)
  • Casting Calm on Khaveen instead of killing him near the end of the game (magic users)
  • Don’t steal anything (thieves)
  • Don’t fight or otherwise harass the griffin
Do all this, and . . .

If Rakeesh thinks you’re worthy, then brother, you’re worthy!

Oh yeah! Don’t worry--the flame becomes blue in later games.

Being a paladin confers extra abilities, which we’ll get to later, as well as some quests that deviate from the fighter path. That’s right! The craftsmanship of the Quest for Glory series shines through another way in that the fighter does not become a redundant class! While it is very easy for a fighter to become a paladin in Wages of War, and while their paths are relatively similar, one does not have to become a paladin, and this changes the endgame. The paths diverge even more in games IV and V.

So here is my character imported into Wages of War, prior to allocating my 50 bonus points:

As you can see, now that Alex the fighter is a paladin, he has become worthy of using his full name, displaying his, shall we say, Silmarian heritage.

And here I am after allocating the points:

Let’s do this!

Now that we have this basic introductory stuff out of the way, let’s get started!

Welcome to Tarna!

Quest for Glory III’s story is brutally efficient, and I mean that as praise. Like a 1930s adventure serial or pulp classic a la Jack Vance, Edgar Rice Burroughs, or Robert E. Howard, Wages of War wastes no time in establishing the game’s premise and its stakes. There are no convoluted machinations or leaps of logic requiring advanced mental gymnastics and suspension of disbelief to understand, only a solid plot that is based upon what has come before in a logical fashion and gives the player a clear goal.

Wages of War picks up three months after Trial by Fire. Rakeesh and the hero have been summoned by Shapeir’s local enchantress, Aziza, to discuss some recent, distressing news. First, Aziza uses her magic table to provide a recap of Quest for Glory II’s ending as a springboard into her investigation as to what happened to Ad Avis’ body.

I always loved Ad Avis’ sideburns in this portrait.

Ad Avis’ death resulted in a huge release of magical energy, felt by spellcasters around the world.,Aziza fears that this could have disastrous effects. Further, in addition to his body never being found, the evil wizard apparently called out to a mysterious “Master” for help as he fell to his death. Now, Ad Avis never said this in Trial by Fire’s endgame, but it’s a small bit of retconning that doesn’t bother me in that it still ties in to other plot points; after all, Ad Avis does mention serving this Master for 70 years as he and I stood outside of the Forbidden City.

What’s more, Aziza received a disturbing message from Kreesha, a liontaur sorceress from Tarna who is also Rakeesh’s wife. Kreesha bears news that the Simbani--the tribe of Uhura, Shapeir’s guildmaster--and the Leopardman people of Tarna are at the brink of war, and she suspects demonic influence.

Recall if you will that Rakeesh had once been the king of Tarna, but abdicated the throne to his brother in order to fight their leader, the Demon Wizard, and force him back to his own dimension. In the process, one of Rakeesh’s hind legs was injured and had never quite healed right. And because he was a paladin first and king second, Rakeesh now travels the world, righting wrongs and fighting evil wherever he can. This explains how he ended up in Shapeir in the first place.

I agree to accompany Rakeesh back home to Tarna in order to investigate the causes of the discontent between the Simbani and the Leopardmen and see if negotiating a peace is possible, as well as finding out whether Kreesha’s suspicions of demonic activity are true.

No sweat, right? That’s what being a hero is all about!

It’s little details, like making sure to include the Sultan’s
right-hand man Ja’afar here, that show this series’ craftsmanship.

Before the portal to Tarna appears, Rakeesh, Uhura, and I say our farewells to the Sultan, my adopted father.

Remember this?

The Sultan thanks everyone for their service, expresses his regret at their leaving, and gives me a magical shield. Now, the gift changes depending on character class: fighters and paladins get the shield, the thief gets a set of magical grappling hooks, and the wizard receives a gift from Keapon Laffin, Shapeir’s magic shop owner.

Anyway, the ankh-shaped portal soon appears, and we are soon Tarna-bound.

Seeing the Sights of this Magical City

Tarna, as explained in the Famous Explorers’ Correspondence Course included in the game box, is both the name of the kingdom and its capital city. And would you look at this place?! Pyramids, giant statues, a river, palm trees, mountains . . . it’s simply beautiful. Wages of War does a great job of making Tarna seem like an expansive, thriving city despite consisting of only fifteen or so screens. A big part of this is, as discussed above, making sure that each screen has a purpose and stuff for the player to do.

The portal deposits us into Kreesha and Rakeesh’s home. Greetings are exchanged, and Uhura and her son Simba head back to their village, leaving Kreesha and Rakeesh to discuss the situation. Kreesha is worried that the Demons may have taken advantage of the release of magical energy caused by Ad Avis’ death to come once again into Tarna, manipulating the Simani and the Leopardmen into war. Demons, you see, feast on and gain power through death. And since the Liontaurs are likely to aid the Simbani, whom they depend on for meat, the scale of bloodshed would be quite huge. Thus distracted and weakened, the Demons would be able to roll in and perform mop-up duty, getting their revenge on the Liontaurs.

There are other concerns as well: A peace mission was sent to the Leopardmen, but there was only one survivor. Even worse, Rakeesh and Kreesha’s daughter Reeshaka was the leader of the mission.

In two days, Rakeesh plans to visit his brother the king and explain his plan to investigate and try to negotiate a peace before the Liontaurs follow the Simbani to war. I’m given free rein to explore Tarna until the meeting.

First, I crank things up to max difficulty. No messing around here!

A quick aside: Check out my inventory. See that sapphire pin? It was a gift from the jewelry merchant in Shaipier, given to me after I defeated all four elementals. You only carry that to Tarna if you import your character from Trial by Fire. And speaking of the katta, my friend Shema had given me a note to give to the only katta in Tarna, her cousin Shallah.

Only one katta in a cosmopolitan city like Tarna? That’s weird, right? No, not really. See, Tarna isn’t as diverse as one would expect. It consists of Liontaurs and humans, though humans are restricted from the eastern part of the city where the Liontaurs live, and Kreesha is actually the only Liontaur who lives among the humans. That is another thing Rakeesh laments, although he hopes that the talk of war will force the Liontaurs to treat the Simbani, and therefore all humans, with respect.

Enough chatter: let’s explore!

The middle plateau.

One thing I like about Wages of War is how the first two in-game days are all set-up. Although the player is railroaded to a degree, there is still some autonomy, and after this the game opens up. It’s a design choice that threads the needle between linearity and non-linearity that keeps the player from feeling too constrained while allowing the narrative to move forward.
Tarna consists of three plateaus:
  • The upper plateau, consisting of the Hall of Judgment, the King’s Chambers, and the Temple of Sekhmet.
  • The middle plateau, consisting of the Welcome Inn, Kreesha’s house, and the Apothecary.
  • The lower plateau, consisting of Tarna’s world-famous bazaar.

The upper plateau.

For no reason whatsoever, I head to the upper plateau first, chatting with the guards about King Rajah, the all-female, six-member Council of Judgment who makes the laws, and Sekhmet, the Liontaur’s goddess. Feeling pious, I head to the temple.

The Priestess, a member of the Council, appears to chew me out for being a filthy human who dares defile the holy sanctuary . . . until the statue of Sekhmet starts to speak. It tasks me to return with something called the Gem of the Guardian in order to be judged and have my future told. A side-quest! Excellent!

I visit the Apothecary next. He’s a pretty mellow dude named Salim Nafs who seems straight out of the 1960s.


I have a groovy time chatting with him about chakras and auras and the I-Ching and other stuff that was big well before my time. Oh, he’s also interested in Shapeir because he’s been having dreams about dancing with a tree who turns into a woman. Now who does that sound like?

Ah yes! Julanar, the plant-woman the hero got the Fruit of Compassion from in Trial by Fire! While not able to free her soul entirely due to not being in love with her,I was at least was able to ease her suffering. Clicking the “Mouth” icon on myself allows me to tell Salim about Julanar, which makes him, like, totally happy man! He vows to head to Shapeir on the next caravan there to free Julanar with the gift of true love . . . once the talk of war is over, of course.

Of note, Salim also provides me with a recipe for a dispel potion should the need for one just happen to arise as it did in the first two games. He also informs me that he only has a limited supply healing pills to sell, being out of their crucial ingredient: the feather of a honey bird (he still has poison cure and mana pills, though).


Two more side-quests! I love stuff like this.

For the dispel potion, I need to find:
  • Water from the Pool of Peace: The pool of peace is apparently a very groovy nirvana in the savanna. Its waters have magical properties.
  • Fruit from the Venomous Vine: Somewhere near Tarna are spiky, poisonous vines that bear a sweet, delicious fruit.
  • Gift from the Heart of the World: Somewhere in the jungle is a gigantic, magical tree filled with good vibes and stuff. What the gift is, Salim doesn’t know. He just tells me I’ll know it when I see it.

On the honey bird front, the feather has to be acquired non-violently or it won’t work. That shouldn’t be a problem, since I’m not in the habit of torturing small, defenseless animals. Really.

I don’t feel like retiring for the day, so I skip the Inn and head to the lower plateau to visit the bazaar.

The bazaar consists of four screens full of merchants to chat with and buy stuff from. That is, I would buy stuff, had I the Royals and Commons used as currency in Tarna instead of my Shapeirian dinars. Thankfully, there is no maze to navigate in order to find Tarna’s money changer. He’s just there in the northern section of the bazaar.

When I find him, he’s arguing with someone. The man later runs off as the money changer cries out for help.

As a bona fide hero, there’s nothing to do but run after the wrongdoer! On the next screen, the thief is apprehended by two Liontaur guards who request that I follow them to the Hall of Judgment. There, I witness the thief’s sentencing: he is declared to be without honor, something that doesn’t bother the thief, Harami, in the least.

I like his Frank Zappa mustache.

The thief shuffles off, and then Rakeesh (where’d he come from?) and I are called before King Rajah.

The hero kind of looks like Luke Skywalker here.

Rajah and Rakeesh get into it about Rakeesh being old and honorless, needing a human to fight his battles for him. I defend Rakeesh, and listen to their brotherly bickering. Rajah wants war to avenge his niece’s death, and is aghast that Rakeesh doesn’t share his bloodlust. Rakeesh, for his part, does not want to act hastily on incomplete information, asking for time. They need to discuss further, so I am asked to leave, which I do. I stop in to Kreesha’s to have a quick chat, where she explains that being declared honorless means a person is no longer treated like they even exist. Yikes!

I head back to the bazaar, and while I’m not able to explore it all before night falls and I retire for the night, I’m going to combine the trips and describe what I did:

Upper-Middle Bazaar:
  • The honey seller provides more information about the honey bird. Turns out the little guy is immune to bees, so people follow him to a beehive where he distracts the bees enough for the people to smoke out the bees, get the hive, and extract the honey. The people then leave a little honey for the honey bird as a gift. Not only is this good to know, it gives me an excuse to buy a jar of honey.

  • I buy a tinderbox from the junk sellers, who are based off of the classic 1970s sitcom Sanford and Son. With the tinderbox, you can light Salim’s water bong and get one of the game’s more amusing deaths (to the tune of the opening riff from Cream’s version of the blues classic “Steppin’ Out”).

You’re only allowed three tokes, man . . .

Well, that escalated quickly!

Nancy Reagan approves.
  • The weapon seller offers fine daggers and throwing daggers for sale, as well as ceremonial spears.
  • The oil seller sells oil. I don’t buy any, but I can see how a thief would need this.
Northern Bazaar:
  • The money changer changes my money. Turns out the guy was Rasier’s money changer and fled when the old Emir was deposed. He appreciates my tales of his home, and also provides some interesting information when asked about rumors.

  • I buy a few waterskins from the leather merchant. He also sells zebra hides, for some reason. I decline to buy.
  • The fruit seller sells fruit. I buy and eat some because fruit is healthy. Yum!
Lower-Middle Bazaar:

  • There is a fish seller, a bead seller, and a rope seller. While they’re all friendly enough, even the old bead lady who doesn’t understand a word I say, I don’t buy anything. 
  • Note that to the east is the entrance to the Liontaur section of the city. I am not able to go there at all, which is a little disappointing but oh well.
Lower Bazaar:

  • I find Tarna’s only katta and give him Shema’s note. He’s very friendly, as are all katta, greatly appreciating the news from home. He is an artist by trade, carving local fauna out of wood.

Word gets around, doesn’t it?
  • The meat merchant is a very talkative humanoid dog. It’s possible to bargain him all the way down to one common and buy a bunch of meat as rations.
  • There is a cloth merchant who sells bolts of cloth as well as fine robes that the Simbani often wear for formal occasions.
  • The amulet merchant is a sleazy sort who has an awesome afro/mustache combination akin to 1970s NBA players. I wholeheartedly approve.

Sadly, you are not able to buy this, or any other amulet, from the guy.
  • There is a drummer banging out sweet beats. I give him a handful of Commons in his collection plate, increasing my Honor and providing a few Paladin Points. You can see how one could spam this in order to max out the Honor stat, if one was so inclined.
All told, Tarna’s bazaar is a wonderful, colorful place that would be kind of fun to visit in real life. The only thing that would make it cooler is if there were other townspeople wandering around they way there were in Trial by Fire.

Nothing left to do but head to the Inn.

I love this place. The music, the atmosphere, the way you can see the sky darken outside as the sun sets and the lights in the city slowly turn on . . . it is very evocative and works in creating the game’s mood. You may scoff at this, used to the 21st century’s incredibly realistic gaming, but back in 1992 this was revelatory.

The Welcome Inn is run by the Welcome Woman, Janna Jamil. She loves to chat, giving information about Tarna and its history, as well as explaining the mouth-watering food on the Inn’s rotating menu.

Sign me up!

You can flirt with her if you want to work on your Communication skill, but the Welcome Woman is married and, hey man, I’m a paladin! I take this honor stuff seriously! I’d much rather check out the room and get some sleep . . . but not before checking out the bulletin board.

The bulletin board is a callback to the first two games, and in the absence of an adventurer’s guild, it might as well be in the Inn (see what I did there?). There’s not much, just a list of laws (don’t use magic, don’t be a jerk, blah blah blah and so on), an ad for the Apothecary, a note from Kreesha about being Tarna’s one-stop shop for magic (she’s one of the few Liontaurs to study magic, aside from her son Shakra, who lives in Silmaria), and a note from Rakeesh about honor.

Yawn. Time for sleep.

I, for one, would love to stay here . . . provided there could be some kind of screen on my window.

Out in the Savannah

The next day, after finishing up my exploration of the bazaar and chatting with the guards at the gates of Tarna, I head out into the wilderness to see what I can see.

These guys provide some more backstory about Rakeesh, Rajah, and the demon war. And as with the guards on the upper plateau, they are different at night and have different dialogue trees.

As you can see, the overworld is huge. As I walk across this gorgeous map, my path is denoted by a red trail, being stopped for random encounters which take me to a separate savannah screen. I fight two crocodile men, loot their corpses, and make my way to an interesting rock formation to Tarna’s southeast.

(I’ll talk about combat later, since it’s not my favorite in the series.)

At the rock formation I find some meerbats (think: meerkats with wings) trying to get fruit from what appears to be the venomous vines Salim was talking about. I see one of the bigger meerbats fly down, agitating the vines which grasp at him, and escape unharmed but without fruit.

Before I can do anything, a message pops up on screen telling me that, in order to get enough rest prior to meeting with King Rajah tomorrow, I need to head back to the city now.

How responsible!

Heading to the Simbani Village

The Speaker calls the meeting to order, asking Rakeesh and the hero of they swear on their honor to bring peace. SPOILER: The only way a fighter can not become a paladin in this game is if they say “no.” But since I’m a paladin, I swear the oath and prepare to speak with King Rajah.

This meeting is more of the same as the last one The hot-headed Rajah takes pot-shots at Rakeesh, who handles them with grace as I stick up for my friend. I’m then told to leave while the brothers converse privately, meeting up with Rakeesh at the city gates so we can journey to the Simbani village together.

A little travel sequence follows, where Rakeesh fills in some lore, provides wilderness survival tips, and gives class-specific insights into the Simbani and the hero in general. As a paladin, Rakeesh talks about how my abilities will increase as I do more good.

First, I will gain the ability to make my sword erupt in blue flame. Next comes the ability to heal. Third comes the ability to sense danger. Lastly, I will gain the Honor Shield ability, providing extra protection from physical and magical damage when my sword is aflame.

I had already gained the first two abilities in Tarna by performing honorable deeds like chasing the thief, giving the drummer money, giving Shallah Shema’s note, telling Salim about Julanar, and pledging my honor to bring peace, as well as chatting with Rakeesh and Kreesha about various things. Now I know what else I can look forward to as a paladin. Note that gaining the healing ability gave me 5 points in the Magic stat, even though the ability draws from my stamina and not magic points.

Overworld screen 2 of 4.

The savannah stretches onward. We stop to rest. Check the screenshot: You can see the village in the northern portion, and a body of water to its south. I wonder if that’s the Pool of Peace? If so, I know where two of the three dispel potion ingredients are. It’s just a matter of getting them.

The music here is SO GOOD.

The next morning, we make it to the Simbani village. We are greeted by Mngoje, one of the elders, who welcomes us and ushers us to see the leader of the Simbani, the Laibon. Uhura is there to meet us in the center of the village and bring us before the Laibon for a brief audience.

It’s always good to see old friends.

An audience with the Laibon.

Rakeesh and I explain our mission. The Laibon is heated over the theft of the Simbani’s prized possession, the Spear of Death. The Spear apparently kills whomever it touches, hence the name. The Laibon is convinced the Leopardmen are to blame. He explains the enmity between the two tribes. The Simbani operate during the day and are warriors, not magic users, which is far preferable to the sneaky, nocturnal, magic-using Leopadmen. The Simbani don’t like magic.

The audience is brief. The Laibon is not interested in listening to talk of peace, bidding us farewell.

We retire to Uhura’s hut for a chat. Rakeesh expresses his concern at the Laibon’s uncharacteristically brusque demeanor. Uhura explains that we will have to be patient to earn his trust and make him more receptive to our message of peace.

She then tells us it’s time to party.

I always liked you, Uhura.

After a feast, eating meat from the Laibon’s own herd, I head back to the guest hut with Rakeesh and talk a bit more about our mission, the Demons, the Leopardmen, the savannah, the jungle, Honor, being a paladin, the Simbani’s initiation rites, and Rakeesh’s plans.

Maybe not quite as nice as the Welcome Inn, but you can’t
say the Simbani aren’t open, welcoming, and hospitable.

Rakeesh will return to Tarna in the morning since his leg is hurting him. He advises me that, if I can find out what happened to the Spear, I might be able to avert war. My job is to gain the Simbani’s trust and slow, if not halt, their headlong rush into war.

All in a day’s work for a hero.

I rest up, waking alone and ready to get started in earnest on my mission of peace. Wish me luck!

And now the game begins.

Miscellaneous Notes:
  • The game has a dynamic music system, where the song in the background slowly fades out as the next piece fades in dependant on where you are. For example, the background music of Tarna’s middle plateau gradually fades into the Apothecary’s theme (a riff on “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane) as you walk towards his store. It’s a very cool effect.
  • Time passes very quickly as you walk across the overworld. It conveys a sense of lengthy travel, but it can make doing what you want in time a bit annoying.
  • There is an in-game help function explaining game mechanics at the title screen, as well as various ways to contact Sierra’s technical support and get hints.

  • The merchants’ dialogue in the bazaar changes from day-to-day, but eventually starts to repeat itself.
  • Any character can kick the fruit seller’s bowl of fruit to trip Harami or chase after him, in addition to more class-specific ways of aiding in his capture.
  • You can also view the game’s credits from the title screen.

Okay Corey: who did you two play?

Special Message: Hello, dear readers. I know that this post is very long. But this seemed like the most logical stopping point, as the first two in-game days serve as backstory and something of a playable tutorial. Things open up from here, I promise. And I highly doubt subsequent posts will be nearly this lengthy. Thanks for bearing with me, and we’ll pick it up next time as I try to figure out just what the heck is going on here. You guys have been awesome. Check out Chet’s blog to see his take on this game before coming back here. Cheers!

Session Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Total Play Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Puzzle Points: 66
Paladin Points: 26
Paladin Abilities: Flaming sword, healing

Inventory: Money, Soulforge (Rakeesh’s paladin sword), chainmail armor, magic shield, tinderbox, throwing daggers, poison cure pills, healing pills, mana pills, rations, waterskins, sapphire pin, jar of honey

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