Zork Nemesis

 

Genre:     Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Activision

Released:   1996

PC Requirements:    MS-DOS 6.0 or higher and/or Microsoft Windows 95 (English language version), 100% IBM PC compatible 486DX2-66 MHz processor, 8 MB of RAM, double speed CD-ROM drive, 75 MB total hard disk space, 16 bit high-color SVGA (640x480), thousands of colors, 100% Sound Blaster 16 compatible sound card and drivers, 100% Microsoft compatible mouse and driver.

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zork3.jpg (21666 Byte)

 

 

by gatorlaw

Zork Nemesis
(The Forbidden side of the great Zorkian empire)

Activision inherited a grand tradition with the Zork series. Zork predates Myst as the granddaddy of adventure games for most gamers. Started as a text series, the phrase such as "in front of you is a white house" along with  terms like Frobozz, Grueís and zorkmids set many an adventurers heart a fluttering. The first of the "graphic" Zork adventures was Return To Zork. It is one of the great classic games, in this reviewers opinion. When Zork Nemesis was announced, it is not an exaggeration to say many folks went wild. Along with Myst, Tex Murphy, Monkey Island and Gabriel Knight - it is a series with a large number of devotees. What arrived upon release was a different kind of Zork. This was a serious game, with dark overtones. To some this smacked of sacrilege - but I loved the game. I recently decided to re-visit Nemesis and see if the game was as good as I recalled.

The new Zorkian Image

I remember when I saw the first magazine ads and screenshots for Nemesis. Yes.. you read that right - the first magazine ads.. This was back when PC gamer actually covered all the genreís in gaming. Sigh. Anyway,  I was blown away by the early promotional copy. I had never seen such rich graphics in an adventure game before. The story line looked sweet as well. " In a Desolate Corner of the Underground Empire, an evil demon torments the land. Evil rules the Forbidden lands. Here the souls of the Empireís great Alchemists lie in perpetual hell.." Whoaa, stalking evil.. demons.. Yep, I was hooked.

When I pulled this game out - blew the dust off the jewel case and installed it on my trusty W98 PC - I expected to be let down a bit. It has been some time since this game was originally released. Wrong, wrong wrong. It looked great. I had forgotten how amazing the opening screen was. That tolling bell - the sun and then - eclipse and full solar flair. You find yourself on a desolate landing. Where are you and what are you doing here? The novelty of the Activision pan-vision or 360 degree scrolling curser has lost none of itís edge. I found myself thinking - "This looks so great! - I hope more games are developed like this!"  "Oops.. this is an old game - so I guess if they were they have been or not at all. Now granted the edges are a little fuzzy - and there is the dodgy transition moment here and there when moving from screen to another area. But still. It looks so good.. I quickly found myself utterly immersed in the game all over again.  

The visuals from the static, to the interactive environs to the sweeping cut scenes will thrill you again and again. I particularly liked the variations present. From the austere and frightening sanitarium to the male dominated resonance of the embattled castle domain. I was struck by the contrast of the deceptive serenity of the your first opening setting to the earthy beauty of the conservatory. I wish that Activision was still developing such games or that someone else would pick up the license and carry on with the great Zork tradition. Or maybe at the simplest level, I wish they would all look like this.

The story

One of the things I will never forget from my first exposure to this game  is the plot. More significantly, the ending. To this date, no game has ever taken me by such surprise, as did the conclusion of Nemesis. I canít say more or risk spoiling it for anyone who has yet to taste the exquisite plot development of Nemesis. The profound conclusion - perhaps ruins a replay a bit - as it will never ever be so unknown and newly discovered again. But I was surprised at all the sub plots I had forgotten and the details of how we got from A to Zork. Each of the principal characters has their own agenda, past histories and entwined relationships. Some are revealed through past event cut scenes triggered when you examine or interact with objects and places. Other details come from writings and visual clues left behind. Nemesis is a game where you may and should wander quite a bit. There is much to see and hear, some critical to game advancement - other just for fun or they serve to enhance the story development. I suppose you can get through Nemesis and bypass much of this - but you would miss much of itís charm and haunting story as well. I also couldnít believe that I recalled the game as so somber when there were many funny asides, signs and references liberally sprinkled through out the game. From the great waterworks to the history of Zork - there were so many side references and details that I had long forgotten. I reveled in the fresh remembrances. It is worth playing Nemesis, if for no other reason than to see how well crafted and perfectly detailed an adventure game can truly be.

Cast of Characters

The cut scenes and such are all in FMV format. Besides being a fan of mini movies and live acting in games in general - the talent used for Nemesis was well chosen. Similar to the actors used in later Tex games - many of these actors will be familiar or at least vaguely so. The plots attractiveness and credibility was in many cases built on the strength of these performances. Some were attractive, others disturbing and a others were that blend of good and bad we know so well. It added to the uncertainty of what was at stake and who we should believe as the game advanced. All served to suspend the idea that this was mere fiction. It is easy to become engrossed in the lives of these characters and the intricate plots and subplots woven around them.

Sounds, ambiance and other niceties.

Zork Nemesis was designed using a rich tapestry of music, sounds and effects.  As you wander around the various game locales there are accompanying sounds. The wind, distant sounds of battle or the melodious tones of an orchestra at practice.  There was a song in the opening place that resonated with me. I am not sure where I have heard it before - but many times I would just stop and listen.  Doors click, grind or slam. Echoes of past lives filter in. At times you get these audio glimpses when you look closely at an object - but other times it occurs when you enter a room or a new location. Again, like the acting, graphics and story -  the sounds and music helped weave this story together and seamlessly advanced the game play. The general mood of Nemesis was as I stated earlier somber and mysterious. But there was often a lurking levity, so typical of the other Zork games, present as well.

Limitations and Installing Tips

Even though I will always consider Nemesis at the top of many a gaming list - there are some things about the game that may irk others. I am aware that the free wheeling 360 panoramic movement available in the game - gives some vertigo or they canít stand the inadvertent spinning that can occur.  The game is primarily a point and click game but you will see scan arrow options. However, using these arrow shortcuts is entirely optional to the gamer. Also you can go into options and slow down the cursor movement. In addition to these issues, there are also two timed sequences. One has a 45 second window - It may seem inadequate but I found if I walked around places and got as much visual data as I could before I started interacting with items - I had plenty of time. The second seems to be timed - but I never ran short - so it must be fairly liberal on the meter.  There are instances, as in the text and first Zork CD Rom game where you can earn yourself a "games over" by a poorly made choice.  As with most adventure games, the save before you do something advice applies with Nemesis.  I ran this game on W98 and would recommend setting your colors to 16 bit and screen resolution to 640 x 480. It will run in other settings - just not as well.

Seek The Nemesis..

I found my re-visit to the dark side of the Zorkian empire and travels through the forbidden lands to be wonderful. I give Zork Nemesis an A.

Now for something extra after the game is over and done..

I decided to look up eggs to find in this replay of this great game. Thanks to www.eggs.com I enjoyed several.

1.  At any time during the game type in "CHLOE" (this one must include the quote marks)
2.  At any time during the game type IDKFA
3.  While at Satorians lab type in 309newdorma, youíll get a picture, type it in again and click on the head.
4.  While in General Kaneís Dungeon go to the head crushing device table. To the right of the skull is what appears to be a piece of metal - click on it.
5.  While at Kaneís secret Thallidium lab - there is a table with a book, above that is a row of bottles and at the end one large gray bottle. Click on it 11 times.

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