On April 1st opened Legends Of Zork. I had seen it annouced before, but still everybody thought a bit that it was an April’s Fool. But no, there was really a game.. I had signed up for the beta but never heard from them.

So I jumped in and created an account. I can’t say I’m a Zork veteran — I know of it, have the collector’s on the shelf and on the ‘todo list’, and seen/played bits on the later (graphical) titles at a friend’s place. But Zork is one of those name that is revered by old timers, so my curiosity was titillated.

This is not a new Zork game in the sense that it is not a text adventure. It’s more of a Zork-inspired game. They started off with some of the lore and built from there. Of course you do start neat a White House. You pick which job you just got laid off from (you were a salesman for FrobozzCo International) – that decide what equipement/skills you start with. Didn’t see to make a huge difference..

This is a turn based game, and you start with 30 turns per day. Fights use one AP (Action Point), and going back to Base uses one AP too. You head out to explore and fight monsters, but you do have to get back to base to actually bank your loot. Yup, if you die on the trail you loose all your stuff! This does add an element of risk – if you head back home after each fight you’ll eat up AP real quick. But if you only have a couple of HP left do you dare adventure just one more time ? Greed is a bitch.

When I say explore I really mean picking a location. That’s pretty much the extent of the exploration part.. You pick a location, you can adjust if you want to fight at, under, or over your level (each location has a level range) and click explore. You don’t actually do anything during fights. The screen will show you the monster, your base success %, adjustements made because of your skills, items and fighting stance, and then start rolling between 1-100. If you roll under your final success % it’s a hit, otherwise you get hit and loose 1 HP.. At first monsters only have 1 HP but of course they get tougher with time.

You really have no actions to take DURING a fight. It’s more like playing a hero’s manager than actually being a hero – you decide where to go, but you then wait for the outcome. Hmpf. The fight screen looks more like a spreadsheet than a game screen.. It’s really not clear exactly what affects the outcome.. The only way to know more is to deduce that if you’re using one fighting stance and it’s giving you a boost, that means that this monster is probably using that other stance. Against another one it’ll be exactly the opposite – stances work in a rock-paper-scissor fashion.

What decides your stance is your equipment. A sword will have one type, a mace another. The really bothersome thing about items is that there’s only one source — the store. You get all kinds of loot during your explorations, but it’s ALL autosold when you get back to base !! There’s no feeling of getting an awesome drop that you can use. Everything is converted to cash and you use your gold to shop. So you really don’t care what items drop after the fights – you just might be interested in the gold value – it’s all pretty random. You also have limited capacity to carry items, so they’re another reason to get back to base. If your 100% full, you just won’t see any drops until you get back home. Odd. I’m guessing loot becomes more valuable at higher level, but so far (I’m level 19) it doesn’t really matter if monsters drop cash or items.

Your defense rating (and your defense stance) is decided in the same RPS way, and depends on the store. The thing with the store is that you’re getting diminishing returns for your dollar – the prices go up exponentially for gradually less power boost. We’re used to play games with a steep XP curve, but here we see the exact same thing on the equipment upgrade path. Kinda sucks. It also doesn’t really matter where you adventure. The monster will probably have slightly different skills and setups but in the end it all feels the same.

You can also equip one attack and one defense spell.. Like other items, it just adds to the fighting spreadsheet, it’s not like you can actually ‘cast’ during a fight.. The prices for spells are astronomical, even more so than weapons and armors.

As you level up, you gain skill points. They’re use to buy skills which can add cash drops from monsters, gives you rebates in shops, give you more hp, boosts your win chances against a certain stance or when you use a certain one.

After fights you sometime you’ll also get “Double Fanucci” cards. These can be equipped in different combos to boost your stats.. If you don’t visit the forums to get spoilers on how they work, good luck and plan a looooooot of time to get anything out of them. The thing is, they’re pretty much NEEDED to have any real chance… Odd.

You can also fight in the arena against other players, and put a wager on the outcome. This has been a steady source of income for me, by beating a coworker once daily and betting the maximum! I lucked out in getting better cards and even if we’re at the same level I usually get a 70% chance of beating him..

The game is free, and aims to finance itself via a microtransaction model — you can buy items to give you more turns… I really have no plans of spending a dime on this one.

Thing is, I signed up early April.. We’re now in May, and I’m _still_ playing. I really can’t explain why. For one, it doesn’t take long.. 10-15 minutes a day, that’s it. It can fill a break or keep you busy while you’re on hold on the phone.. It also has really neat graphics for this type of game – kudos to their artists.. They’re also pretty active in making changes, improving things, fleshing out the help screens… Maybe it should have staying in beta a bit longer?

So it is cute, it has a great name to live up to, they seem to be getting better step by step… I’m not loosing anything in the meantime and its mildly entertaining, so for now I keep going back out of pure curiosity…