Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Zork and Beyond

It’s hard to decide where to begin with Zork.  Why not start with the gameplay since this is where text based interactive fantasy generally differs from the modern form of visually based video games.  The interface wasn’t particularly difficult to get used to.  For the most part, movement and searching the surrounding areas was very straightforward, however finding hidden passages was notably more difficult than typing “search room.”  Understandably, this is why such passages can be called hidden.  At various points throughout my gameplay, I came across several instances of the game alluding to objects that did not show up on a, “look around,” command, yet they were able to be retrieved when I would try to, “pick up object.”  I’m not certain whether such occurrences were glitches in the game or simply a disconnect in the information that should have been revealed by various actions.

The most entertaining part of the game was the vast set of actions and programmed responses to the less intelligent moves.  Case point:  “kill trophy case with sword.”  “This seems like a strange action to attempt.”  Of course, the most frustrating aspect of the game is the various mazes and nondescript passageways that do not set themselves apart from the surroundings.  The frustration lies not in finding a way through the maze, but the random thieves lurking about who would sooner stab you in the back without warning before confronting you.  However convenient that we carry an elvish sword that glows blue when danger approaches, it doesn’t seem to do much good when you are violently assaulted from behind.  At this point however, I did find the vast profane vocabulary recognition to be quite amazing in the game.  My biggest complaint about the game is the way you are entered back into the game.  Every time my character was killed, it seems that I was respawned at the starting point outside the house with all my possessions stolen and unavailable when I returned to the appropriate locations.  I did have one happy thief by the time I called it quits though.

As far as the story goes in the game, I found it rather annoying that many of the passages were blocked and while seemingly open-ended, the game funneled you into a number of specific areas that my character was unfit to handle.  Comparatively, more recent RPGs which function in a similar manner such as the Elder Scrolls series have overcome this obstacle by allowing more options to gain experience and items before embarking on a “main quest” which requires more skill.  My overall impression with Zork seems to be that while the game got frustrating at times, the overall flow of the game can easily be connected to that of later advances which build on the basic foundations that early games such as this set out.  Unfortunately Adventure/RPGs are not my absolute favorite genre and the slow start to Zork made it very difficult to become truly involved with pursuing the story more thoroughly.

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