The new Legends of Zork web-based game actually launched a few weeks ago but it seemed only fair to give them a chance to iron out the bugs and deal with issues like Action Points being used up for basic site navigation. Having spent some time playing the game in a stable state, I think it was more exciting with the bugs. The game as it stands is a disappointment.
The concept is simple: Legends of Zork is a persistent adventure game based on the original Zork text-based game. It’s a browser-based “casual RPG” developed by Jolt and meant to offer short spurts of gameplay offering MMO-type features. If you’ve ever played Kingdom of Loathing or the Tiny Adventures on Facebook, you’ll recognize the gameplay immediately.
Every day you receive 30 action points to spend on turns. You can use those point to explore a zone or to fight other players in the PvP arena or to return to base to heal up and sell up. You can get more action points (and thus more turns to play) with coconuts. Coconuts are purchased with cash or you can earn them by signing up for
spam referral sites through Offerpal.
I was surprised to see that I only received 30 turns on the first day (I would have expected more to get me sucked into the game before they start limiting me) but to be honest, that’s more than enough to take see the extent of the gameplay.
Like Tiny Adventures, the fighting and looting is done automatically. You take a turn, the stats are laid out, the dice are rolled and you are given the result.
Unlike Tiny Adventures, you do not get weapon and armor upgrades as loot from the fight. Part of the excitement of winning a battle is finding out what you got. In Legends of Zork, you do get loot as a result of winning battles but it’s all cash loot – when you go back to your base, it is sold automatically on your behalf. This makes the process very boring – I don’t know how much individual items are worth and as a result I don’t care what I receive.
After clicking “Continue Adventuring” repeatedly, your character bcomes encumbered from the cash loot and hitpoints are almost certainly getting low. Time to return to base. Here you are automatically healed and your items sold. Back to the adventure where you continue adventuring until you level up and have a skill point to sell. Up until this point, the game very much feels like a grind.
Once you level up, there is some interaction. There are three sets of skills with a number of different entry level abilities that you can purchase to increase your probability for winning. I think the wording puts me off. A skill called Tactician sounds interesting but the effect of “+1% Win Probability vs Attitude: Smart Moves” is too clinical for me. Also although the stats and upgrades are not too detailed, they are a bit much for a “casual game” to be played a few minutes a day. I found myself saving up skill points waiting for the time and motivation to go through all the different options so that I wouldn’t “waste” them (you can reset your skills but again it costs coconuts, which can be purchased but are not available as a part of the game).
Going through the skill points caused me added disappointment when I saw a skill called Puzzle Solver with an effect of +25% probability of solving Mechanical Puzzles. I’d hoped that the mindless adventures would be broken up by puzzles and quests but it seems that they, too, are automated.
As you progress through the locations, you will find new trainers to buy skills from but they do not seem to differ much from the skills available from points and it didn’t feel like there was a real benefit for increasing my stats. Most games of this nature give you some sort of goal to focus on – a quest of some type to give you a reason to go to a place and fight the monsters. Legends of Zork seems to simply assume you’ll go to your current fighting grounds for the sake of it. I felt a mild ping of excitement when I was told I had new hunting grounds but the pleasure of a new backdrop image faded quickly. I never felt I had a reason to go someplace new and although the artwork is very pretty, it’s not exciting enough to make me want to work to see more of it.
The only “real” items in the game that directly result from adventures are Fanucci cards. These are rare drops which are added to your stack of cards. When you are at base, you have the option to look at your cards and place them to enhance your mind, body or spirit. Matching suits seems to give a bonus, I’m not sure what else you can do to increase the effect. The developers have released a basic Fanucci Card Guide on their blog but it wasn’t particularly clear to me whether I should be focusing on a certain sequence or even if there was anything I could do to effect my chances of getting cards of a certain suit (or even for getting them at all).
The PvP aspect seems to be very much the same as adventuring. You click on the arena, choose an opponent and get told what the result of the battle was. I know I’ve been participating in PvP because I have 27 mails telling me the results of battles where players have chosen me. I honestly could not be bothered to click through those mails to find out how I did. And that’s my real issue with this game: it simply does not make me care about the results.
I wanted to like this game, I really did. I am a sucker for simple, fast games that give me a feeling of progression. However, something is missing from Legends of Zork. I never felt that I was advancing. I’ve done my share of mindless clicking but I need to feel like there is a real goal. The mobs have no depth and I can’t even tell you what I’ve fought, let alone which mobs were difficult. To increase my abilities to fight more nameless mobs for more cash loot – it just doesn’t ring my bell.
I’ll pop in a few more times to see how it is progressing but at the moment, it is simply a good looking interface without any actual gameplay or immersion.