(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
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.
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
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
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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