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Zork Nemesis

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs




Copyright 1996, Activision

Zork Nemesis is an excellent and atmospheric “Myst-style” adventure game set in the Zork universe. It is unfortunate that the game is set in Infocom’s famous fantasy world that fans associate with a family-friendly, light-hearted sense of humor, because the world of Zork Nemesis is anything but whimsical. It is dark, serious, and full of mature content (e.g. depiction of torture and human sacrifice) that is definitely not suitable for children.

The game is set in the last days of the Great Underground Empire, a time of depression and decline when the land’s whimsical atmosphere is all but gone. Four of the Empire’s greatest alchemists have disappeared into the Forbidden Lands on the day of the Solar Eclipse while searching for the secret of the Quintessena, the Eternal Life. Bivotar, an imperial spy, was sent to locate them, but he himself has disappeared. Years later, you are tasked with following in Bivotar’s footsteps to unravel the mystery.

The first thing you will immediately notice is excellent SVGA graphics and a powerful interface that lets you rotate 360 degrees in every scene. Unlike all previous Zork games, the gameplay of Zork Nemesis is similar to Myst, focusing more on logic puzzles than inventory-based ones. As you explore the detailed gameworld and solve puzzles, you will gradually discover the shocking past through old letters and ghostly flashbacks of the alchemists’ lives, presented by FMVs starring real-live actors. Most puzzles are straightforward and logical, requiring only judicious note-taking and attention to clues. The acting deserves mention as some of the best seen – a refreshing change from the usual overacting in FMV adventure games, and make the huge 3-CD size all worthwhile.

Although Zork Nemesis does contain some references to the classic Zork series, they are tangent to the game (e.g. mention of grues in several old books) and otherwise could have been set anywhere else. So anyone looking for the whimsical humor of classic Zork games will be very disappointed with this very dark, mature sequel. But the truly fascinating story makes Nemesis a great game in its own right, and well worth a look by every adventure fan. If you are looking for a graphical Zork game that is faithful to Infocom’s legacy, play Zork: Grand Inquisitor instead. Highly recommended.

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