It's just this little chromium switch, here... (derspatchel) wrote,
It's just this little chromium switch, here...

nothing happens

Here's a Strategy Guide for the new browser-based Legends of Zork online game:
  1. pres butan (the computer will role dise)
  2. Win
  3. (maybe lose)
  4. Go back to town (optional)
  5. Repeat until out of action points
That's pretty much it. The game, freshly-launched (and suffering a bit o' server trouble at the moment) bears much resemblance to Kingdom of Loathing and Legend of the Red Dragon for their turn-based RPG "come on in once a day and use your turns" style, and to Progress Quest for the fact that you don't really have to do much to play other than to pres butan.

What it doesn't resemble much is, well, Zork.

Oh, sure, there's a White House which you start at, and the Frobozz Magic Co. plays a role in the game (you start off as a Frobozz salesman, newly laid off with some time on your hands to go adventuring) and there's GUE Tech on the eastern coast of the western continent, and there's probably Flatheads as far as the eye can see somewhere, but that's pretty much it. The art, while nicely done, looks more Monkey Island 3 than any of the more recent graphical versions of Zork. Most damning, however, is the mail you get at the beginning of the game. It says "Dear Adventurer" instead of "Hello, Adventurer." Now that we can safely say that Zork is used for branding purposes only, we can move on and not have to talk about it again.

The gameplay is thin. Very thin. Your only source of action, adventuring, really is as simple as pressing a button. Combat is handled automatically, each fight depending on a 1d100 roll, and all your equipment and spells go towards determining which number you gotta beat (roll under, in this case) to win. There are skill points you get for levelling, but those are passive bonuses to your stats. Your spells don't do anything fun. Hell, they don't do anything. They're just stat modifiers.

With the exception of Double Fanucci cards (more stat modifiers!) every item you loot is just vendor trash and is automatically sold when you go back to town (er, your "base".) The only choice you have to make is which butan to pres to go: the Woods? The White Cliffs? The PVP Arena? (It really doesn't make any difference, there's no real goals, no area-specific loot, nothing to shoot for other than "get experience points.") Everything else is automatic.

And the online component is thinner than that. There's no user chat, though there is a "Zwitter" feed that shows you who just killed what, which is very useful for absolutely nothing. You also have the option of changing your character's status whenever you wish, and there's a familiar 140-character limit to that. Having a friends and enemies list in this case is not particularly effective unless you know your pals are playing too. "Group adventuring" is an odd dynamic which I really haven't gotten into, but it involves using some action points, being joined up with three other random players who want in on this, and presumably the computer does all the butan presing and dise roling while you wait.

There's also Arena PVP, but I haven't tried that yet because I didn't want to spend money or join a dating site to earn coconuts for more action points. That's right, signing up for "email offers" (spam) or dating sites (more spam) earns you in-game credits. This project is becoming more and more transparent, and I am becoming more and more sad.

And now, the inevitable comparisons: At least Kingdom of Loathing gives you choices, spells, quests and everything else with far funnier writing. At least Progress Quest runs in the background and doesn't purport to be anything else than a silly grinding simulator. At least Legend of the Red Dragon gave you a chance to score with Violet the barmaid or Seth Able the bard.

To say that Legends of Zork is a wasted license would be an understatement. To say that it is a waste of time would be an insult to wastes of time. Yet maybe the team behind it is working on improvements. Maybe they are cognizant of the fact that the game could, and should be deeper in order to keep players' attentions. Maybe they are working to implement more, tweak more, and offer more. And maybe it'll rain emeralds the size of plovers' eggs.

I remain cautiously optimstic, but my B.S. Sword is beginning to glow blue.

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