Horror of horrors, magic has been banned from the Zork Empire. The great underground has been sealed off and the Grand Inquisitor rules with an iron fist. He has set a curfew, and the first thing you do in the game is break curfew. You look around, but none of the inhabitants seem to anxious to help you either. Your choice is clear, you will have to bring down the Grand Inquisitor and restore magic.
You will soon find yourself in possession of a magic lantern. The quest is to find the three magic items that store high magic, deep magic and middle magic. Find these items and you'll be well on your way to restoring magic to the kingdom.
There are three major characters in this story; the Dungeon Master (voice provided by Michael McKean), the Grand Inquisitor (played by Erick Avari) and Antharia Jack (played by Dirk Benedict). They do a splendid job. The music is nice, subtle and suitable, not annoying. The 3-d sound system for the other noises is very impressive, you can frequently hear a bit after you move away. The graphics and the navigation system are just as impressive as Zork Nemesis.
Old storylines are mentioned, old characters and the box includes a timeline of the history of the Zork empire. You get to see the historic White House (famous since Zork 1), Flood Control Dam number 3, along with many new locations. If you played a number of the old text games before, you'll pick up more of the jokes. If you haven't, you will still be able to play the game and have fun.
Death is very common under the rule of the Grand Inquisitor. Remember this and save *often*. The death screen is a cute idea, you suddenly get a command line and typed commands, just like the old Zork games. It does get annoying if it takes more than three passes to get beyond one puzzle. The first one I had was very funny for someone who *has* played in the Zork empire before. Spend too long in the dark and a grue will eat you. The game then asks "It was dark. What did you expect in a Zork game?".
Pay attention, particularly to the Dungeon Master. He will give you clues and hints, but you have to listen to him. As ever in this kind of game, be sure to thoroughly explore the areas as you go. If a puzzle stymies you entirely, you may be missing an item or a spell. Try doing something else for a while. The game is relatively non-linear. While you do need to solve certain things before you may progress to others, there is a good deal of leeway in how many things you may be able to accomplish.
Unlike Zork Nemesis, this game has 1000 points (that one had a mere 9). However, it seems that the points aren't based on the old, 1 point for looking at item x. If you win, you will have the full 1000 points. I appreciate that, I don't like getting to the end of a game to find that I've managed to miss 3 points somewhere along the line.
If you are stuck, remember your spells. There are relatively few times that you need to combine items in your inventory to make something new. The spells are frequently the key to the puzzles.
I had a bit of trouble with saved games, and once had a saved game that I could no longer make progress in. But these seemed to be minor glitches and my computer is *not* up to the specs on the box. This game did seem to be easier to navigate then Zork Nemesis, but that may be that I was accustomed to the navigation system this time around.
This is one of the easiest Zork games I've played. I solved most of the game in a weekend, and only resorted to a walkthrough because of the trouble with saved games that I mentioned above. This game would be particularly suitable for relatively new or medium level adventure game players.
The game does include a lot of death, and a few times you have a limited amount of time in which to solve one puzzle. But as long as your pay attention, you will get the clues you need to solve the puzzle. I wouldn't recommend that you start this game then set it aside for too long. It would be far too easy to forget a subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) clue. Most clues are given the first time you enter a room or view an item. Miss that, and you will have to work harder to make up for it.
If you loved the original Zork, you may or may not like this game. There is no question that it is quite good for its type, but it is fairly unlike any of the text-based Zork games.
My favourite Zork games were the Enchanter series. This isn't nearly as difficult as those games were, but it does remind me of them.
For those who played Buried in Time, the Dungeon Master reminds me a lot of Arthur. A character you get to cart around with you who says some useful and useless things a lot of the time.
There is a game of strip Grue, Fire and water. It is very hard for you to lose this. I tried to lose once out of interest. It's kind of fun that the guy is the one who ends up stripped (to his boxers) and the woman wins. Dirk is definitely sort of cute...
Good thing the box identifies Benedict's former TV show. It makes for a cute joke in the game, but I had never watched the TV show in question and so would have missed the joke.