Zork Nemesis

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Zork Nemesis: The Forbidden Lands
Zork Nemesis cover.png
Cover art
Developer(s) Zombie LLC
Publisher(s) Activision
Engine Z-Vision
Platform(s) Windows 95, MS-DOS, Macintosh
Release date(s) Windows, DOS
  • NA February 29, 1996
Genre(s) Graphic adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

Zork Nemesis: The Forbidden Lands is a 1996 graphic adventure game developed by Zombie LLC and published by Activision. It is the eleventh game in the Zork series, and the first such title not to appear under the Infocom label. It was released for Windows 95, and ported to MS-DOS and Macintosh by Quicksilver Software. The game's plot was written by Cecilia Barajas, Nick Sagan and Adam Simon. The game's budget was 3.5 million dollars.[1]


The player takes on the role of a nameless adventurer, charged by Vice Regent Syovar the Strong to enter the Forbidden Lands to investigate the disappearance of four prominent citizens:

  • Madame Sophia Hamilton, portrayed by Lauren Koslow
  • Bishop Francois Malveaux, portrayed by W. Morgan Sheppard
  • Doctor Erasmus Sartorius
  • General Thaddeus Kaine

Additionally, the player is to investigate the rumor of a curse put on the Forbidden Lands by a being known only as "Nemesis," which has already claimed as a victim the player's predecessor, Agent Karlok Bivotar (whose diary, included with the original release as a feelie, provides additional back-story, a few clues and a numerical solution that allows the player to bypass a particularly gruesome puzzle).

Upon entering the Forbidden Lands, the player finds a message left by the spirit of Alexandria Wolfe. The player enters the Temple of Agrippa to find the four citizens mentioned above (known as "The Alchemists"), held in coffins. Each of these alchemists is master of one of the four elements, and its corresponding pure metal. As the player purifies their respective elements in laboratories within the temple, they are granted enough power to be able to speak of what they have done, giving insight into what has happened here. The "Nemesis" has "killed" them, holding them in a state of eternal torture. The player also learns the ill-fated story of two of their children — Kaine's son Lucien and Malveaux's daughter Alexandria.

Charged with learning the truth and defeating the Nemesis, the player travels to each of these characters' private dwellings to find their personal laboratories and retrieve pure samples of their elemental metals. In the game players visit:

  • Frigid River Branch Conservatory (Hamilton, Water, Copper)
  • Steppinthrax Monastery (Malveaux, Fire, Lead)
  • Grey Mountains Asylum (Sartorius, Air, Tin)
  • Castle Irondune (Kaine, Earth, Iron)

In these places, the player learns of a sinister past surrounding the six characters and the so-called "Nemesis."

It is warned that some elements of the plot and certain scenes in the game may not be suitable for children.


Zork Nemesis employed technology Activision dubbed "Z-Vision Surround Technology." This gave users a simulated 360-degree view of each location visited. It was one of the first games to employ such technology. As such, although it added new depth to the gameplay, it appears dated and pixellated by today's standards. Zork Nemesis only allows panning either horizontally or vertically at any position, not both at the same time as with later games, such as The Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time or Myst III: Exile. Details were far more difficult to make out in the panoramic scenes in Zork Nemesis than in the still screens. The sequel, Zork: Grand Inquisitor, made significant improvements to the Z-Vision system.

Zork Nemesis, like other adventure games of its time, made use of live actors. Each of the six major characters, plus several additional characters, were played by actors. The game features a significant amount of screen-time for the actors, thanks to its use of flashbacks at key locations (or objects) and the use of monologues in which a character addressed the player explaining and justifying his/her actions.

The player's character in Zork Nemesis is never identified, but the hint book refers to the character as "she," and one male NPC looks at the main character and remarks, "Hey, you're beautiful!" — however, this response is a result of artificial mental stimulation, and so would likely happen regardless of the gender of the player.

Zork Nemesis was one of the largest games of its time, occupying three CDs. This was due to the large amount of full-motion video and panoramic scenes. The disks were, however, organized to minimize swapping.


Zork Nemesis was a significant departure from the rest of the Zork series. Many long-time fans of the series criticized its sombre atmosphere, which was in stark contrast to the playful, light-hearted spirit of the previous entries. For example, players must decapitate a nude corpse and attach the severed head to a machine in order for it to speak. Those for whom it was their first exposure to the Zork series, on the other hand, generally approved of the game's realism and found it to be a game that could stand on its own merits. Critical reviews for Zork Nemesis were universally positive, with PC Gamer awarding it a coveted Editor's Choice rating in its December 1996 issue.

Regardless, Activision seemed to ultimately side with the long-time fans: the next game in the series, Zork: Grand Inquisitor, is more in keeping with the light, jovial atmosphere established by the earlier entries in the series.


  1. ^ Kasvi, Jyrki J.J. (May 1996). Vain 3 500 000 dollarin tähden (in Finnish). Pelit. pp. 60–61. 

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