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Video Game / Zork Nemesis

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It began on the day of the great eclipse.
The day of my murder.

The Darker and Edgier oddball in the Zork series, Zork Nemesis: The Forbidden Lands is a Myst-style Point-and-Click adventure game released by Activision.

It's the year 949 GUE, and a significant portion of the Eastlands have fallen under the influence of an evil force known as the Nemesis and have thus been declared the Forbidden Lands. The Nemesis's appearance coincided with the disappearance of four prominent citizens of the Great Underground Empire, but as the only agent to venture into the Forbidden Lands in search of information has also vanished, little is known about any possible connection. The agent's recovered journal indicates that the four were likely secret alchemists working together, and that when they were last seen, they were all heading for the same place four years ago: the Temple of Agrippa.

As the game starts, you find yourself at the entrance to the Temple of Agrippa. It is now up to you to solve the mystery of the alchemists and break the Nemesis's curse...

This game provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Area: Though the areas are generally abandoned, a few characters do appear there, although it is not clear how real those are. For instance, a soldier blocks your way into a war zone, and a theater employee won't let you go into a theater unless you've got a ticket.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Thaddeus Kaine, one of the four Alchemists and father of the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, Lucien.
  • Back from the Dead: Lucien Kaine and Alexandria Wolfe near the end. The ritual by the alchemists to make themselves immortal fails thanks to the Wanderer's interference, and Lucien and Alexandria are brought back instead with The Power of Love made physical by one last alchemical ritual.
  • Badass in Distress: Each of the four alchemists is a powerful spellcaster. But by the time you've found them, their bodies are locked inside chambers that prevent them from leaving, constantly deprived of their elements, and are all on death's door. Instead, they need the Wanderer's help to get their strength back, then to be set free.
  • Bedlam House: The Asylum run by Sartorius. Not only is the palce full of things like cages and padded cells, but the Wanderer has to get electrocuted in an electroshock therapy chair to solve a puzzle.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: The Alchemists all act polite and friendly to you after you revive their spirits, but they reveal their true colors once they think they no longer need you during a Face/Heel Double-Turn. As soon as the other show drops, they promptly act snotty and rude to you now that You Have Outlived Your Usefulness.
  • Call-Forward:
    • A guide to a limited form of time travel comes in the form of a set of paintings. The one depicting the 'Futurelithic Epozz' shows a familiarly dreary valley.
    • In the Monastery, you can also find a notice on the bulletin board that announces a plot of land known as the Valley of Sparrows has also been purchased, another reference to the same game.
  • Canon Immigrant: Bivotar is from the children's Zork Gamebooks. His journal mentions Juranda and Syovar, also from those books. Which makes his death rather jarring.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: General Thaddeus Kaine was happy to use this, if the torture room in his castle is any indication.
  • Darker and Edgier: The other Zork games all have a humorous take to them, sort of as a parody of text-based adventure games. Even the previous game, Return to Zork, was a bit darker than previous works, but still maintained a largely humorous air to it. Meanwhile, Zork Nemesis is full of gothic imagery and a dark storyline, without any brevity or humor to be found.
  • Determinator: Apparently, General Kaine's castle is under attack. It's being defended by one soldier.
  • Element No. 5: Love. The alchemists were trying to create it via a complicated series of rituals, including planned pregnancies and literal baptisms by fire.
  • Evil All Along: The Alchemists. Nemesis/Lucien, by the same token, was Good All Along. You only find this out during a Face/Heel Double-Turn where you learn what's really going on with Lucien, Alexandria, and the eclipse.
  • Face/Heel Double-Turn: The four alchemists pull a Face–Heel Turn by trying to kill you after they decide You Have Outlived Your Usefulness by giving you a poisoned chalice, while Nemesis also pulls a Heel–Face Turn at the same time by revealing himself as Lucien and getting you away from them. The Alchemists were the villains and Nemesis was the good guy trying to stop them the entire time, but this is the moment when the other shoe drops. The rest of the game revolves around trying to stop the ritual that you almost helped the alchemists complete.
  • Featureless Protagonist: The player character is never given any sort of physical description, either by appearance or character interaction. The Hint System's painted lady refers to the player as "Wanderer," and supplementary texts reveal that the Wanderer is a female pilgrim on some sort of religious journey. But what little narration the game has refers to the goings-on of the plot as if they're happening to you, not the Wanderer.
  • Feet of Clay: As you venture through the game, you find out that the alchemists aren't the pillars of morality they are believed to be. Though they do tell you point blank that they're not exactly saints, you get to see how much they were acting like jerkasses to Lucien and Alexandria when you revive them. And once you do that, it's revealed that they're the real villains, which you only find out during a Face/Heel Double-Turn.
  • Follow in My Footsteps: Sartorius's deceased father urged him to continue his work in discovering how to create the quintessence.
  • Harmless Electrocution: The Wanderer has to get shocked in order to solve a puzzle. If she fails, nothing happens.
  • Hint System: A painting of a beautiful woman will give you hints if you're stuck on a puzzle. You can get up to three for any given puzzle — the first hint is a vague riddle as to what you need to do, the second hint is a more general description of what you need to do, and the third hint will outright tell you what you need to do. You can also call upon the painted lady at any time after meeting her physically at least once. However, the painted lady's hints have a cooldown, where you can't use them for a time after getting them on a puzzle.
  • Interface Screw: When zapped by the electricity in the asylum, the screen will rapidly pulse while the effect is on.
  • Jerkass: General Kaine, the earth alchemist. He insults you just after you meet him, even though you're his only hope of escape and flashbacks show how he treated his son Lucien.
  • Mad Doctor: Sartorius, especially over his obsession with finding the elixir of life.
  • The Many Deaths of You: Nowhere near as many as other titles in the series, but it is certainly possible to die in this game. A short list: burned in flames, electrocuted, getting blown up by a thaddium bomb, drowning in water, falling down a mine shaft, being eaten by a grue, a Press X to Die moment where the Alchemists try to give you a poisoned chalice, trying to confront the Alchemists directly, or failing to stop their immortality ritual in time.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • According to the Encyclopedia Frobozzica, Lucien Kaine was a young man who, after the death of his wife Alexandria, was driven to find a way for the alchemical elements to save her, a quest that made him penniless, and so he became the Thief of the very first Zork, until the Featureless Protagonist of that game killed him, and his tortured soul returned to the Temple of Agrippa, where he became the Nemesis.
    • This ends up becoming a bit of Timey-Wimey Ball if you finish the game: Since your actions cause Alexandria and Lucien to be resurrected and allowed to live their lives in happiness together, who ends up becoming the Thief of Zork I?
    • Two of the game's characters are named Syovar and Bivotar. Those were the names of recurring characters from a series of Zork Gamebooks from back in the 80's.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: You revive the four alchemists by finding their elements, and then their metals. And then they pull a group Face–Heel Turn by trying to get you to drink from a poisoned chalice. When that doesn't work, you're jaunted away by Lucien, who is revealed to be Nemesis at the same time, all while the alchemists start a ritual to give themselves eternal life. The rest of the game sees you trying to undo the ritual by stopping it at the last possible moment with an alchemical recipe fueled by Element No. 5: The Power of Love.
  • Not Too Dead to Save the Day: Even though Lucien died at the hands of the Second Dungeon Master in Zork I, and his spirit became the Nemesis, when he discovers that you were tricked into reviving the Alchemists, he pulls a Heel–Face Turn and saves you from getting killed, and in return helps you out to destroy them and resurrect both him and Alexandria.
  • Nuke 'em: The thaddium bomb. Once the player picks it up, she has ninety seconds to put it in the tank. If she doesn't make it in time, the bomb goes off in her hands, and that's all she wrote.
  • Pensieve Flashback: Triggered by seemingly-random objects, to give the player some idea of the mages and how things came to be with Nemesis.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The Quintessence. The alchemists had to go so far as to artificially impregnate Zoe to get Alexandria, who is needed for it.
  • Press X to Die:
    • Occurs just before the Wham Line of the game. After you revive the alchemists, they offer you a drink at their dinner table in celebration. It's poisoned; drink from the glass, and you die. You just have to wait for the alchemists to get frustrated and give up trying to talk you into it.
    • Right after the aforesaid Wham Line, there's another way to get yourself killed. Now that you accidentally handed the alchemists the key to eternal life, you have to stop their ritual. However, you have the option of trying to confront them directly by walking up to the ritual platform. And since it's four-on-one of a group of powerful mages against a single pilgrim, they just kill you and go right on with the ritual like nothing happened.
  • The Reveal: Nemesis is the spirit of Lucien, who wanted revenge for Alexandria's murder. The alchemists used you to get the Quintessence and come back to life, and now they can complete the ritual.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Read any of the journals by Nemesis. He'll randomly write things like "BLOODY REBIRTH" and "IN HELL" in them. Notes found in the asylum also count.
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The four alchemists became one when they all came together to create the quintessence.
  • Solve the Soup Cans: Most of the puzzles can be explained away as relating to the four elements. But when you're sliding giant tiles out of your way or opening helmets of harnesses to open a door, it's this trope.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Lucien and Alexandria were kept apart from each other by the four alchemists, never to meet again. Didn't stop them from falling in love with each other.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: Eclipse imagery is everywhere, and a solar eclipse marks the climax, as the alchemists' ritual has to take place during one.
  • Wham Line: "Oh shut up, Lucien." This line signifies the Face/Heel Double-Turn that occurs during this scene, revealing that Nemesis is Lucien, and that he's been trying to help you stop the Alchemists, not kill you.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Once the alchemists come back from the dead, they try to kill you with a poisoned elixir. Should you accept, you die. The only way to move forward is to do nothing until the alchemists give up trying to talk you into it.