Zork: Grand Inquisitor
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|Zork: Grand Inquisitor|
|Director(s)||Laird M. Malamed|
Zork: Grand Inquisitor is a graphic adventure game developed by Activision and released for Windows in 1997, and for Macintosh in 2001. It builds upon the Zork and Enchanter series of interactive fiction video games originally released by Infocom, and sees players attempting to restore magic to Zork, solving puzzles and using spells. The game features a notable cast of characters, with stars including Erick Avari, Michael McKean, Amy D. Jacobson, Marty Ingels, Earl Boen, Jordana Capra, Dirk Benedict, and Rip Taylor. Zork: The Undiscovered Underground was written and released as a promotional prequel to the game.
Zork: Grand Inquisitor is a first-person point-and-click adventure game that allows the player to have a 360 degree view of a majority of the pre-rendered location (dubbed "Z-Vision"). This visual freedom applies to the horizontal axis only; looking up and down is restricted, although possible in some locations, while in other locations, the view is fixed. Like Zork Nemesis players move around by left clicking the mouse when the cursor changes to an arrow (to move to another location), golden when over an interactive item (like a door), or a hand when something can be picked or dropped in a spot (like a rope). In addition to playing as themselves, the players also play as three other characters at specific moments in the game to recover important items. When the player dies, which can occur in certain spots through mis-timed or wrong actions, the game cuts to a computer terminal on which the player's fatal action and its consequences appear in prose form, much in the fashion of the original Zork trilogy, complete with a score and the player's rank.
The game utilizes an inventory system, which stores items the player finds in the game, and can be accessed by right-clicking. Items can be viewed by placing them on a special device that brings an up-close view of them. In addition, the inventory also stores important items, such as a spellbook, and a bag of zorkmids (Zork's currency). When not in the inventory, players can find side menus on the top left and top right of the screen that allow quick access to items and spells. Most spells found in the game are added to the player's spell book as they are discovered, and include rezrov, throck, obidil and snavig, amongst others, many of which originated in Infocom's original series of Zork and Enchanter games.
Much of the humour within the game stems from various sources, including the ludicrous Inquisition policies and propaganda. Example humorous quotes found in the game include:
- 'Shun magic, and shun the appearance of magic. Shun everything, and then shun shunning.' - Grand Inquisitor, Mir Yannick
- 'I hate adventurers...' - Inquisition Guard, after the player magically seals them in a tent.
- 'Your sword's blowing glue! Let me try that again... Your sword's glowing blue!' - Dalboz
- 'I heisted a whole lot from the Inquisition. Well... I know a guy, who knows a guy who heisted them, and I paid him.' - Antharia Jack
- 'This is a paid announcement: "The Grand Inquisitor rules!"' - Voice of the Inquisition (voice provided by David Lander)
- 'And never forget who is the boss of you — Me! I am the boss of you!' - Grand Inquisitor, Mir Yannick
- 'The Underground Underground. It's a subway! It's a political movement! It's a subway and a political movement!' - Dalboz
The game also makes frequent use of self-parody, containing numerous references to staples and clichés of the traditional adventure genre. One example come from two items almost invariably found and heavily used in almost all Zork games - a tattered map and an elven sword, which are found in a glass case at the start of the game, with the notice above it saying: "In case of adventure, break glass!" Another example is Antharia Jack, whose character is a parody of Indiana Jones.
Zork: Grand Inquisitor was one of the first computer games to include true closed captioning so that the hearing impaired could play without missing any of the sound effects and spoken dialog in the game.
Much of the game takes place within the Great Underground Empire between various locations, including the magic university of G.U.E. Tech, Hades, the Steppinthrax Monastery, a viewing point above Flood Control Dam #3, and Dalboz's house. In addition, the player visits Port Foozle at the beginning and during an excursion into its past, along with time travel trips to the famous White House of Zork, and the Great Sea, before finishing upon the Flathead Mesa. A fast travel system is provided in the form of a series of teleportation stations within the Underground, that can transport the player between them by inserting a map into the device. In addition, the player can also use the Underground's Subway System to travel between four stations for major locations.
The game takes place during a time when magic fell and disappeared in Zork from around 100 years before the game start, in which during this time the Inquisition rose to power through the advancement of technology. As a result, many rules were formed by them, with Inquisition megaphones installed to continuously spout propaganda (mostly ridiculous types), such as a reminder to all Inquisition residents to have standard loudspeakers in their homes, blaring standard Inquisition propaganda at all times. Any violation of the numerous rules of the Inquisition, resulted in offenders being given a swift and effective punishment known as "totemization" - a process in which a person (or animal) is put through a machine called a Totemizer, which confines their spirit into a small metal can called a "totem," and then seals it for eternity. The punishment was designed by the Frobozz Magic Company as a more effective alternative to the death penalty, until the Totemizer fell into disuse and was locked in a deserted warehouse in Fenshire, whereupon the Inquisition found it following the fall of magic and had the Frobozz Electric Company (formerly the Frobozz Magic Company) restore it for their uses.
- "AFGNCAAP" - The player, who Dalboz names as "Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally Ambiguous Adventure Person". Arrives in Port Foozle as a Frobozz Vacuum Salesperson, just before curfew is to begin, and becomes embroiled in a quest to restore magic to the world and stop the Grand Inquisitor.
- Dalboz of Gurth - A skilled magic-user and the former Dungeon Master of the Underground, until magic disappeared. Discovering magic could return, he attempted to inform Yannick of this but was silenced as a result, to stop him from revealing this fact to anyone else, with his soul trapped in a lantern as a direct result. Journeys with the player as a source of wisdom, and to aid them in restoring magic. Voiced in the game by Michael McKean
- Mir Yannick - The Grand Inquisitor, and main antagonist of the game. Seeks to shun and destroy magic completely, replace it with technology, and rule with absolute control over the people of Zork. A former magic student at G.U.E. Tech, who failed miserably due to a deficiency in magic, he is devious, cunning, and ruthless in his pursuit of his goals. He discovered the long-lost Totemizer and rose to the position of Grand Inquisitor and head of the Frobozz Magic Company, which he renamed Frobozz Electric, persecuting all magical beings and magic users. Played in the game by Erick Avari
- Y'Gael - The Lost Enchantress of the Empire, who desires to see magic return and the fall of the Inquisition, she aids the player when she cans from a parallel dimension. Played in the game by Jordana Capra
- Antharia Jack - A famous adventurer in his time but only on TV, who ran a gambling club in Port Foozle sometime in the past, falling in love with a woman after she beat him at "Strip Grue, Fire, Water". He later converted the club into the port's local pawn shop by the time the game begins. He unwittingly impedes the player's progress at the beginning, but later aids them in trying to stop the Inquisition. Played in the game by Dirk Benedict
- Lucy Flathead - A descendant of the Flathead family, gifted with the ability to read minds. Was part of the magic resistance, until she was caught defacing a poster and totemized as a result. Aids the player in finding the artifacts needed to restore magic, after being found in a bin in the Inquisition's "Perils of Magic" exhibit. Played in the game by Amy D. Jacobson
- Griff - A somewhat small, timid, and cowardly species of dragon, caught by the Inquisition quite easily after failing to bluff his way to freedom and fainting at the sight of a guard's sword. Totemized by them, he is found by the player at the Underground's Crossroads, and aids them in recovering the artifacts needed to restore magic. Voiced in the game by Marty Ingels
- Brog - A small, blue-skinned, hairless troll-like creature, he is dim-witted, stupid, but strong and loves nothing else but to eat rocks. He unwittingly totemized himself when he broke into the Inquisition's facility within Steppinthrax Monastery, believing it to be a cave to hide in. Found by the player beyond the gates of Hades, he aids them in recovering the artifacts needed to restore magic. Voiced in the game by Earl Boen
The game begins with a newsreel discussing the recent "liberation" of Port Foozle by the Inquisition from the "tyranny" of magic, along with the closing of the Underground and the shunning of magic, before revealing that the Grand Inquisitor himself, Mir Yannick, will appear before the people upon Flathead Mesa the following day, to unveil a grand plan called "One Vision", described by him as a new future for the people of Quendor. That evening as a curfew is about to begin, the player, a salesperson for the Frobozz Electric Company, arrives in Port Foozle and notices a strange glow coming from the docks. Investigating it, the player finds a lantern and takes it to a local pawn shop owned by Antharia Jack, a famous adventurer of the Underground, who offers to look into it, only for him to confiscate the lantern when it's discovered to have magic within it. After framing Jack for arson to get the lantern back, the player finds it contains the imprisoned soul of the Dungeon Master, Dalboz of Gurth, who urges the player to enter the Underground where they can talk safely. Once there, Dalboz names the player "Ageless, Faceless, Gender-Neutral, Culturally Ambiguous Adventure Person" (or "AFGNCAAP" for short) and then asks them to help restore magic to the world, and stop Yannick from purging it and taking control with a world of technology.
Aided by Lost Enchantress, Y'Gael, in the form of a spellbook, AFGNCAAP journeys across the underground, acquiring various spells, and soon learns that Yannick was a failed student of magic, which explains his reasons for wanting magic to be gone. Along the way, they also listen to a message left behind by the Wizard, Belboz, in the G.U.E. Tech university, revealing that three artifacts are needed to restore magic to Zork: the Cube of Foundation (representing Middle Magic), the Coconut of Quendor (representing High Magic), and the Skull of Yoruk (representing Deep Magic). Unfortunately, all three were lost in time in specific locations, and the only way to reach them is travel to their location via time tunnels situated around the underground. Because doing so in person would be fatal, AFGNCAAP instead uses the totemized spirits of three magical beings - Griff, a cowardly, small dragon, Brog, a dim-witted but strong, small troll-like creature, and Lucy Flathead, a mind-reader and former magic resistance member - to retrieve the artifacts, with each getting their hands on a specific one in the past, and storing them in a Living Castle that Dalboz had been raising and which AFGNCAAP charms with magic. During her trip to Foozle's past, Lucy grows attached to Antharia Jack, who in turn falls in love with her but curses his luck when she is forced to leave the past.
In the present, Jack, who is saved from totemization by the player's actions in destroying Flood Control Dam #3, unwittingly informs Yannick of what AFGNCAAP is using in the Underground, after the Grand Inquisitor fakes an emotional breakdown, upon which Yannick quickly captures them after the third artifact is found, to stop them interfering in his plans and quell any further action by magic resistance members. Thrown into jail at Port Foozle, Jack regrets what he did and decides to help AFGNCAAP, supplying a scroll to escape with, before AFGNCAAP helps him break out and recover their items. The pair quickly escape from jail with the help of the Living Castle, which takes them to Flathead Mesa.
Once there, the player is told by Y'Gael to place the artifacts in specific levels of a radio tower situated on the Mesa. During this time, Yannick's announcement is revealed as the unveiling of a "radical new mind-numbing" piece of technology, called "Inquizivision" - a 500-channel, 24-hour TV network - which will secretly allow him to brainwash all of Quendor and cement his power. Forced to interrupt his announcement, Yannick spots AFGNCAAP on the tower along with the coconut and tries to grab it. However, AFGNCAAP prevents this by casting a spell that fuses the three levels of magic stored in the artifacts. The resulting blast from the spell restores magic to the world of Zork, frees the totemized spirits from their imprisonment, erases all Inquisition posters, and sends Yannick falling to his death. AFGNCAAP is also knocked from the tower by the blast, but is rescued by Griff.
Now freed, Lucy shares an intimate moment with Jack, kissing him, before taking her rightful place as Queen of Quendor and announcing to the people of Foozle of the victory over the Inquisition, the restoration of magic to all, and the re-opening of the Underground. The game ends with Lucy naming AFGNCAAP as Dalboz's successor, and making them the new Dungeon Master, whilst making her second act to be an explanation to Jack about time travel.
Zork: Grand Inquisitor was announced on January 22, 1997, with a release date set for fall of that year.
The Lead Designer was Margaret Stohl; notably, Zork Grand Inquisitor was nominated for a Spotlight Award for "Most Innovative Game Design" at the 1998 Computer Game Developers Conference, but lost to PaRappa the Rapper.
The original release included a feelie poster with a timeline of the history of Zork up until the events of the game, with pictures and short descriptions of major events, including the backstory of some of the characters; this encompasses all released Zork games except Return to Zork, which takes place 580 years after Zork: Grand Inquisitor.
According to Matt Barton of Gamasutra, "Zork: Grand Inquisitor did not sell as many copies as Activision hoped." The game received "average" reviews according to the review aggregation website GameRankings.
GameSpot said, "Compact and unspectacular as it is, Zork: Grand Inquisitor is a model of adventure gaming as good entertainment. Many of the genre's conventions (FMV, item hunting, absurdist humor) get polished to a high sheen here. It is funny and reflexive without being geeky or pointlessly ironic. The third-string actors exploit their comic trademarks to good effect. Real attention is paid to the pacing of the whole affair, so there are no overly quiet dead zones of tedious activity. And the puzzles are fun to solve rather than gratuitous brain-teasing exercises." Adventure Classic Gaming said, "One of the more distinguished, entertaining games of the last several years, Zork Grand Inquisitor is light and amusing (and in some places, very funny). It strikes a good balance between its tone and subject matter. [...] Overall, Zork Grand Inquisitor is the best looking game among the next generation titles of the Zork series. While it is a very good adventure, it is not a very good Zork." Destructoid wrote an article about it in the site's Games Time Forgot series, commenting "Not only is Zork: Grand Inquisitor a clever, well-written adventure game, but it's also one of the most singularly rewarding games a fan of Zork could ever play."
Zork: Grand Inquisitor was a runner-up for Computer Gaming World's 1997 "Adventure Game of the Year" award, which ultimately went to The Curse of Monkey Island. The editors called Grand Inquisitor "a wonderful return to form, with the best humor this side of Monkey Island." Similarly, the Computer Game Developers Conference nominated Grand Inquisitor for its 1998 "Best Adventure/RPG" Spotlight Award, but this went ultimately to Final Fantasy VII.
Two sequels to Zork: Grand Inquisitor were announced in August 1997. According to the staff of PC Gamer US, the games would "continue the adventure and round out the series as the final two installments in a new Zork adventure trilogy."
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