WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the Quest for Glory series of games
A few days ago I posted a number of songs from video games that help me focus while writing. One of the songs I featured was "Meeting Katrina" from the video game Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness. Shortly after I posted this, I posted a message the following message to Twitter:
Quest for Glory is a series of adventure games by Sierra Entertainment that were released between 1989 and 1998, with a total of 5 games in the series:
The series was originally called Hero’s Quest, but this caused quite a bit of confusion, since boardgame manufacturer Milton Bradley had a board game called HeroQuest, which also had a video game adaptation. It is because of this confusion that I first got in touch with the game: when I was ten or eleven I had asked my parents if I could get the video game adaptation, but instead of that they got the Sierra Game. While I was disappointed for half an hour or so, I was very intrigued by this game, and played it for many hours, eventually getting stuck on the puzzles.
I also introduced my best friend Floris to this game (better known as Dutchtica online, and he’s the person I was referring to in my tweet), and I’m reasonably sure I never would have finished the game without his help (which is also true for a number of other games, most notably Secret of Mana, which is another story entirely).
After finishing this game, I lost track of the series for a bit. I knew there was a sequel (the end-game credits of part 1 announced this), but I had never seen it in stores, so eventually I forgot about it. That is, until my father bought our first CD-Rom drive, which came with a number of sample games. One of the games in question was Space Quest IV, also by Sierra Entertainment. On this CD -ROM were a number of video game trailers, one of which was for Quest for Glory III: Wages of War. I immediately recognized it as being the third part in the series of which I had only played the first part, but I was rather confused by the name change (I still knew the first part as "Hero’s Quest"). Even so, I knew what to look for now, and a few months later I saw the Anthology CD (which includes parts 1 to 4) at the nearest computer store. As soon as I could afford it, I bought it.
I’ve spent countless hours playing these games, and despite most of the games being over two decades old, I could still replay them with every bit as much excitement as when I first played them.
A few years after I bought the anthology, Sierra released a fifth and final installment to the series: Dragon Fire, and it is this game that is the cause of this blog post.
Dragon Fire is probably my least favorite installment of the series. The style of gameplay is radically different from the previous four games, and the story felt rushed to me. The graphics look awkward compared to the previous games (this was in the early days of 3D). Even so, it is still a very enjoyable game.
Dragon Fire has the hero perform a series of challenges to prove his worthiness as King of the realm of Silmaria, the so-called Rites of Rulership. The fifth of these challenges has the hero travel into the underworld of Hades to get water from the river Styx. It is here that the hero is faced with a difficult choice: he has to choose between his two love interests from Quest for Glory IV: Erana and Katrina. One of them will be returned to life, the other sent into oblivion.
The first time I played this game, I choose to resurrect Erana, being the "nobler" of the two women. I later discussed this with my friend Floris AKA Dutchtica, who instead argued that I should have chosen Katrina, on the basis that Erana barely knew the hero, whereas Katrina truly loved him and sacrificed herself for him. I did not agree at the time - in part due to Katrina being the cause of the conflict in Quest for Glory IV. But now, years later, from a story and character perspective, I have come to conclude that Katrina is a far more obvious choice.
I will try to explain my choice by elaborating on the two characters, and the role they play in Quest for Glory IV:
The archmage Erana is one of the most famous wizards to have ever lived in the world of Gloriana, and she has spent most if not all of her life working to bring peace wherever she went. Her magic has always been used for protection and defense, and most of the Quest for Glory games feature locations that have been enchanted by her to prevent violence (all except Quest for Glory II, if we assume her retreat in Dragon Fire is similarly enchanted). When the last Boyar of Borgov Castle attempts to bring the demon Avoozl into the world, it is Erana (together with the Paladin Piotyr) who prevents this, at the cost of her own life, but this is not common knowledge. Her spirit is left trapped in a crystal inside the cave used to summon Avoozl.
In Quest for Glory IV, Erana appears in the dreams of the hero whenever he sleeps in her enchanted garden (or next to her staff in the town square), and through these dreams they slowly create a bond, and for her part: feelings for the hero.
Much like Erana, Katrina is also a powerful sorceress. But contrary to Erana, Katrina’s intention are not noble. She is a vampire, and the master of Ad Avis, the antagonist of the second Quest for Glory game (who also reappears in Shadows of Darkness). It is Katrina who brings the hero to the valley of Mordavia, and meets him as he escapes Avoozl’s cave. Throughout the game, through a number of mysterious encounters at night, the hero gets to know her better, though nobody in the town of Mordavia seems to know her. Katrina is the one who seeks to unleash Avoozl, in order to plunge the world into eternal darkness. She’s also the person who has abducted the daughter of Mordavia’s innkeeper and turned her into a vampire.
Her reasons for wanting to free Avoozl, a creature of utter darkness, are surprisingly simple: if the world is plunged into eternal darkness, there is no longer any need for her to sleep in her coffin during the day, and she will no longer be helpless.
Her reasons for kidnapping the innkeeper’s daughter Tanya are similar. Her only other companions are her servants, and the sorcerer Ad Avis, who deeply hates her for being able to control him. Tanya, however, loves Katrina despite her abduction, and Katrina later admits that Tanya brought her great joy. It was loneliness that drove Katrina to this action. Her rage at the hero for stealing Tanya back (and restoring her back to life with Erana’s staff) further exemplifies this.
Finally, in Quest for Glory IV’s final battle, Katrina throws herself in the path of a spell cast by Ad Avis, which causes her to be taken by Avoozl before the hero is able to stop the summoning (which happens, ironically, by freeing Erana’s soul).
So why do I feel I should have chosen Katrina over Erana? The primary motivation I had for choosing Erana were her past contributions. She has caused much good in the world, whereas Katrina has caused much harm. But a recurring theme in Quest for Glory is giving people second chances, and allowing them to better their lives. Harami from Quest for Glory III comes to mind, but Elsa von Spielburg (from Quest for Glory I and V) is also a good example: being accepted despite her time as brigand leader. Given his history, the hero would believe in second chances, and would be more than willing to give Katrina one.
But more importantly still is the bond that exists between the characters. Erana and the hero do not really know one another aside from the dreams they shared, whereas Katrina and the hero have talked to each other at length (assuming the player doesn’t skip the dialogue, of course). Given how the story evolves, the hero’s bond to Katrina would be far more personal (unless he was some sort of huge history buff with a crush on a historical figure).
And finally, I guess I feel that Katrina is simply a far more interesting character than Erana is. They are both characters that have made great sacrifices, but it’s important to keep in mind that each character is defined in many ways by their experiences in life. There are many hints throughout Quest for Glory IV (especially in the fortunes the Gypsies read) that Katrina did not come where she is by choice, and is simply trying to make the best of a bad situation. She is a flawed person in many ways, but in many stories the flawed characters are the most interesting.
Therefore, after all these years, I agree with my friend Floris: Katrina was the better choice.