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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.
  • 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.
  • Bedlam House: The Asylum run by Sartorius.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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    • 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. This one 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, while Nemesis also pulls a Heel–Face Turn at the same time by revealing himself as Lucien. 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.
  • Featureless Protagonist: The player character is never given any sort of physical description within the game itself. The hint painting lady refers to the player as "Wanderer," and supplementary texts paint the Wanderer as a female pilgrim, but what little narration the game has is done with Second-Person Narration.
  • Feelies: True to Zork tradition, the game came with a handful of physical supplements, including a map showing where the Forbidden Lands were physically located and Bivotar's journal which basically explained the entire game's backstory.
  • 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 they fail, nothing happens.
  • 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.
  • 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 and start a ritual to give themselves eternal life and kill you.
  • 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, they have 90 seconds to put it in the tank. If they don't... boom.
  • 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: 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 them to get frustrated and give up trying to talk you into it.
  • 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.
  • Wham Line: "Oh shut up, Lucien." This line signifies the Face/Heel Double-Turn that occurs during this scene.
  • 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.