Excursion to Zork
One of the guilty pleasures I pursued last year in between long sessions of Everquest 2 and Vanguard was a little game called Legends of Zork, produced by Jolt Online Gaming. Now, I know for any of us who took a computer science class or grew up in the 386 era Zork brings back fond memories of puzzle solving adventures with just the right amount of corny humor. Well, you may be disappointed to know that this isn’t the old Zork, or even a new spin on the old Zork really… no puzzles to work your way through, no rye to feed to the plants and not really much flathead humor. Legends is a browser based achievement game, with a little Zork flavor mixed in to give it a theme and draw in players.
In this game, you’re a recently unemployed wanderer who managed to steal some items of questionable usefulness from your former employer and have decided to try to make a living adventuring. This is an achievement game, so your goal is ultimately to try to climb the leaderboards and be the best that you can be, or at least have done something no one else has. You can view your character’s current level, equipment and Fanucci Gambit from the profile screen, my character’s is shown above.
The game is played in a browser window, no software to download. You begin your daily adventure in a home base, which begin with the white house with a mailbox in front familiar to Zork veterans and move on through cities and towns in the new Zork. My current base is Antharia, as seen above. While in your base your health is healed to full, and you can sell things you’ve collected on your adventures and bank your hard-earned zorkmids (both happen automatically) as well as spend your wealth on an ever growing list of weapons, magic spells and defensive items. Character advancement in the game comes from a system of skill points, each level you gain one choice on a table of skills that give you statistic adjustments that are used in combat.
Adventuring is done by moving to an adventuring area and choosing to explore. As you explore you spend action points, and for each action point a random encounter (like the one shown above with the renegade boots) is generated and resolved. All you do to explore is click a button, the actual combat happens automatically and the die rolls that you see above are shown to you along with the result. It’s simple as can be, but surprisingly addictive. Your % chance of winning a die roll is modified by your equipment and Fanucci cards as well as the enemy’s fighting style and base difficulty. At it’s heart this game is all about those statistics, and it rewards a min-maxing approach to gameplay.
A neat way they’ve made the equipment system not only about +stat bonuses on swords and spells is by introducing the Double Fanucci system. In this, you collect cards which can be used to build what are called gambits, four card hands that will give you a bonus to your attack and defense based on the point value of the cards you choose and their interactions with each other. The system isn’t as complex as it looks and I won’t spoil it here but as a newcomer you shouldn’t ignore it… the bonuses that your gambits give you are absolutely necessary to adventuring past the starting area.
Since I’ve last played it looks like they’ve added some new features to the game, such as a weekly lottery and trophies for achieving things in the game. If you enjoy achievement based gameplay I would say give Zork a try, but if you’re looking for the next great exploration and puzzle solving adventure then you’re going to be disappointed. This isn’t the old Zork and that’s really unfortunate, but on its own merit it is a game worth giving a look.
Special bonus for you nostalgia seekers! All three text adventure Zork games are available here. Now for the low low price of 0 Zorkmids!