King's Quest III: To Heir is Human is the third game in the King's Quest series. It is the first game where you play as someone other than King Graham of Daventry. It is famous for its particularly brutal Copy Protection.In the game, you are Gwydion, the slave of the evil sorcerer Manannan; you cook and clean for him, but long for freedom. One day, Manannan decides to go on a journey, and the race is on— you now have the ability to explore the land of Llewdor and find a way to escape the evil man. But escape is only part of the adventure— you also have a burning desire to find out who you are, where you came from, and how you can get home...This story seems unconnected to the earlier two King's Quest games. Gwydion has no obvious link to the royal family of Daventry, and people initially disliked this game because of it. The connection between games is revealed only at the end of the first act, and if you've played the later games, you know what it is already.
This game provides examples of:
Adult Fear: Graham paralyzed by grief. His son was kidnapped from his cradle and enslaved by his enemies somewhere, his kingdom has been burnt to cinders by a dragon that his best efforts cannot defeat with innocents suffering and dying on his watch...and then his only remaining child offers herself up as a Human Sacrifice. The canonical game doesn't play it up, but the Fan Remake games and Fan SequelThe Silver Lining don't make an attempt to downplay it.
And by "mess up", we mean misspell a single word. Thankfully the parser ignores any and all punctuation, and none of the spells involve words that are spelled differently in British English than in American English.
Black Cloak: Manannan wears one. He's also linked via later game to the Black Cloak Society, which may or may not be a Legion of Doom.
Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : The wizard has the nasty habit of punishing you for arbitrary reasons. More importantly, if you happen to carry any magical components, including such innocuous items as a fly's wings or a cat's fur, or have misplaced the magic wand, he will kill you instead. ZAP!
The innocuous items punishment is justified, however: Manannan might have raised you from childhood, but he's not been nice about it, and he's absolutely paranoid that you might learn to do something about that before he can find another child to raise (at which point he'll kill you).
And Gwydion is far from Manannan's first child slave, and according to a diary in the AGD remake, not the first to attempt using the wizard's own spells against him. No doubt he's become Dangerously Genre Savvy over the years.
Cats Are Mean: The black cat in the wizard's house really hates Gwydion and can even kill him if he's not careful! Also, you defeat Manannan by turning him into an obviously mean-tempered cat.
Copy Protection: An infamous case—you need the manual to cast the spells, and you have to cast them exactly as they are in the book. The spells are very complex and one typo will have you dying. Oh, and you absolutely have to cast several of the spells to beat the game. In the freeware remakes, there is obviously no need for copy protection spellcasting, so spellcasting is heavily simplified in one and the other has the instructions on screen instead of requiring a manual.
Did Not Think This Through: If Manannan kidnapped Gwydion as a baby, then he would have to deal with a crying infant and changing diapers for a long time. The manual handwaves this by stating the wizard would summon spirits to do that for him, but none of the spirits are seen or mentioned in-game.
By the time Gwydion is reasonably grown, Manannan no longer needs the spirits to help deal with this. Still, it would have been interesting to see at least one of them in game.
Digital Piracy Is Evil: That so many people remember being frustrated by this game is a sign of how widespread piracy was even back then: the game is remarkably easy if you have the actual game manual which contains the spell formulae. Gathering the ingredients and casting the spells covers about two-thirds of the game.
Distinguishing Mark: Gwydion has one that shows he's Prince Alexander of Daventry. That's on his backside, mind. Which his sister Rosella asks he reveal as proof. The AGD fan remake has him Deadpan Snark that he hopes the entire kingdom won't ask him to prove himself the same way.
Does Not Like Men: Smaude in the AGD Remake, due to having little experience with anything other than the bandits and pirates that frequent the nearby city. Gwydion can change her mind if he passes her tests.
Drop-In Nemesis: Manannan will use any excuse he can to appear out of nowhere, and either torment you for not performing your tasks, or just flat out kill you on the spot for doing something that might be a threat to him. Finally getting rid of him feels really good.
Evil Laugh/Evil Gloating: AGD's remake has Gwydion pulling this off pretty well. The former when he gets hair from the cat while able to understand animals, and the latter when he gives Manannan the cat cookie.
In-Universe Game Clock: You only have about 20 minutes to explore the land before Manannan returns. If he catches you outside (or if you forgot to re-hide the secret chamber), then he punishes you. Fortunately, he leaves after a while and you can explore some more. You also have to time yourself so you reach the pirate ship in time, and the once on the ship, you have to wait until they spot land. In the later part of the game, the clock is much less important.
You also have to complete the wizard's tasks within (entirely reasonable) time limits, or he punishes you non-fatally. Unfortunately, the wizard's tasks are randomly assigned: you can waste ten to fifteen minutes waiting for him to announce he's going on a trip (for fifteen minutes), which is the only time you have to gather spell components and cast spells. The pirate ship leaves port twenty minutes after a certain event in the game that may happen before you rid yourself of the wizard. Hope you can get that done quick!
Inept Mage: Gwydion, unless you help him master the goddamn spells.
Late Arrival Spoiler: Gwydion is Prince Alexander. It is referenced many times in all of the later games. This reveal is very easy to miss in this game itself.
This spoiler caused massive backlash against Sierra On-Line when the game was first published: the previous two games had involved the adventure's of Graham, and the third game introduces both a new protagonist and a new land, both of which are completely unconnected to the first two games. Fans cried Ruined Forever, and many of them were angry with the creators. ..until they got to the reveal.
Magic Map: When Gwydion first finds it, the map is completely blank. As he explores Llewdor, though, the map lights up and he can quick travel to that location. Even more than that, when he is both on the pirate ship and the coast of Daventry, the map updates so that it reflects the new region.
Moses in the Bullrushes: Gwydion is actually Prince Alexander, Graham's son, who was stolen from the family when he was an infant.
Nintendo Hard: Even compared to the other games in the series with the overabundance of Moon Logic Puzzles and stupid deaths, the addition of a time limit in the first half of the game forces the player to keep a very strict schedule in gathering everything they need to thwart Manannan, not to mention the Copy Protection puzzle listed above. The AGD remake is far more forgiving in both these aspects.
Only the Worthy May Pass: In AGD's remake, Smaude/Medusa makes Gwydion answer questions to test his personality to see if he's worthy of not being turned to stone. Later on the ghost of the Pirate Captain who buried the treasure then makes you pick up items according to their true value in order to deserve the booty.
Pixel Hunt: One of the ingredients you have to collect for a spell is a snake skin. It is a brown squiggle in the desert—where, incidentally, there are hundreds of other brown squiggles. Happy hunting!
Point-and-Click Map: Well, move-cursor-with-arrow-keys-and-press-enter map, anyway. Unique in that the map is an (optional) actual item that must be found, rather than just a feature of the interface like most other examples of this trope.
A gag in the AGD remake has a pirate going through your belongings, who finds the map, points out Llewdor to the captain, and gets whisked away back to the town.
Point of No Return: Once you're on the ship, that's it. Hope you got everything you needed back in Llewdor.
And again, once you're off the ship, and at various points in the mountains. These are less crucial, though.
Save the Princess: The oracle has just dropped a few bombshells. Massive three headed dragon attacking the faraway land of Daventry, the princess is being sent as a Human Sacrifice. Even better, kid, she's your twin sister. The ship at the dock is headed that direction. What are you waiting for?!
Sequel Difficulty Drop: Not the original game, which is very much Nintendo Hard and a massive Difficulty Spike, but the AGD remake made some of the more frustrating mechanics more forgiving. Items that Manannan will kill you for having glow blue in your inventory, the timer is color-coded to let you know how close he is to returning/waking up when he leaves/takes a nap, and the Copy Protection puzzle is limited to your standard icon commands (with the instructions right in front of you in-game) instead of having to type it all up from your manual without even a single typo. However, it's still very difficult and tense.
It's a kiss on the cheek. Still, the embarrassing "proof of identification" (a birthmark on his bum) more than makes up for it. Yes, you end up mooning your sister...
Staircase Tumble: Careful on those stairs leading down to the wizard's secret workshop in the basement. Sometimes the wizard's cat will sit on the steps, causing you to trip over it and go flying.
Talking Animal: Justified, as one of the spell recipes gives Gwydion the ability to understand the language of the animals. He can't talk to them, however.
Threatening Shark: Annoy the pirates, and you're thrown overboard as shark food. Jump overboard at Daventry's coast, and you'll have to dodge one.
Timed Mission: You have to hide your stuff before the wizard returns. You also have to catch the ship before it leaves. There is a timer specifically for this purpose: when someone tells you that you have X minutes to do something, make a note, and be ready for when that time comes up.
Unwinnable: Many, this being a Sierra game, but of note is the fact that you will never progress to the second half of the game if you don't have the manual with all the spells in it.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Graham is supposed to have a magical shield that makes him invulnerable, as one of the treasures from the first game. So why exactly doesn't he use that against the dragon?
Just because he has a defense against the dragon doesn't mean he has any weaponry capable of a counterattack. In addition, the loss of his infant son and the appearance of the dragon have driven him into deep depression, preventing him from mustering up the courage to act.