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About the Story
An old, oddly youthful man turns toward you slowly. His long, silver hair dances about him as a fresh breeze blows. "You have reached the final test, my friend! You are proved clever and powerful, but this is not yet enough! Seek me when you feel yourself worthy!"
Language: English (en)
Current Version: Release 17 / Serial number 840727
Development System: ZIL
Forgiveness Rating: Cruel
Sequel to Zork II, by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank
Adapted from Zork, by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling
Spoofed by Rance the Dungeonkeeper, by Jan Åberg
Adventure Classic Gaming
In some ways, Zork III: The Dungeon Master is the original Myst clone. There is a sliding blocks puzzle and some mechanical puzzles, all in the context of little plot and lots of ambience. There are also some standard inventory based problems, and a few very strange people to deal with. As such, there is not much of a story to propel you through the dungeon, just your love of exploration.
-- David Tanguay
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Gloom and emptyness
It is hard to put a label on the mood of Zork III -- "brooding," perhaps, but that would make it more ominous than it is. If anything, it seems like a T.S. Eliot scene, with its barren landscapes and wisps of mist and enigmatic encounters with unidentified characters. (...) The adjective "gray" never appears, as far as I can tell, in any of the room descriptions in Zork III, and yet there is a grayness about the game environment that makes the feel of the game far more real, more coherent, than the other two, even if the scenes themselves are less picturesque than those of Zork II.
-- Duncan Stevens
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A smaller game than Zork I and II and this time you are not collecting treasures. The parsing is good and the descriptions of locations excellent as usual, with plenty of atmosphere.
-- Joan Dunn
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>INVENTORY - Paul O'Brian writes about interactive fiction
Where parts 1 and 2 were light, playful, and adventurous, Zork III feels austere, somber, ominous. If not for the appearance of the brass lantern and the Elvish sword, it would hardly seem like it belonged in the same set as those other games...
What’s going on here? Primarily, I think it comes down to the fact that the Infocom Implementors had run low on pieces of the mainframe Zork to adapt for microcomputers. Zork I and Zork II covered the vast majority of that original mainframe game, leaving just a few set pieces for Zork III — pretty much just the mirror box, the royal puzzle, and parts of the endgame. As a result, they could create a game with its own sense of thematic unity, freed (mostly) from the hodgepodge aesthetic of mainframe Zork.
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Number of Reviews: 4
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I'm trying to work my way through the Infocom catalog, posting my thoughts on a gaming forum all the while.
Zork III is an ambitious and subversive game, and I feel Marc Blank was courageous in turning Zork, Infocom's cash cow, on its head. It assumes a tone of glum enervation; the whole world seems faded and spent. Our former treasure hunter is all grown-up: wisecracks and platinum bars no longer hold their attention. The Adventurer doesn't want to PLAY a cave game; rather, they want to RUN the game.
The game world is Zork's most geographically and tonally consistent to-date. The only parts that stand out, rather jarringly, are those ported from the mainframe version of Zork. Whether people enjoy it or not, the Royal Puzzle has nothing to do with anything Zork III is about. I wonder if Blank felt obligated to port these areas over untouched, just as I wonder if Lebling had done with Zork II's Bank of Zork puzzle.
Zork III's new scoring system is a clear indicator that this isn't the Zork you're used to. There are only seven possible points in the game, and you get a point when you're on the right track, story-wise. It's appropriate: after all, in Zork III's opening crawl, you are told to seek The Dungeon Master when you are "worthy." It's a harder thing to quantify than "get the twenty treasures of Zork and put them in your trophy case."
There are some fine puzzles to be found: the scenic vista and GOLMAC puzzles are especially enjoyable. One affords a sneak preview of "Zork IV" and the other is one of the game's only sources of Zorkian humor.
It is a shame that the second part of mainframe Zork embedded in the game is the final puzzle. It doesn't really feel relevant, and there's no sense of climax. It's just a silly little logic doodle and easily brute forced. At least the zany trivia quiz from mainframe Zork--absent here--engendered a sense of culmination.
Reviewing text dumps from both mainframe Zork and Zork III, one sees that the final scenes of both are almost identical, though Blank did append a brief concluding paragraph. This paragraph is, not surprisingly, about power, and it is one of the only times (in any Zork game) that we are given insight into the Adventurer's motivations. I've seen the idea floating around that this conclusion can be read as a metaphor for the birth of IF as a medium. Whether such arguments are right or wrong, I must agree Zork III is an invitation to us, the players; it calls us to think about the potential powers of IF.
Despite Zork III's missteps there remains a sense that something remarkable has happened. It would seem that Marc Blank has attempted to declare (prematurely, I'll admit) The End of The Cave Game. Zork III is in its way a critique of the genre's idealization of material gain and acknowledges, at long last, that there there is something lost when a civilization falls. Zork III is, if nothing else, the moment in which Zork escapes ADVENT's shadow.
I suppose it is long-established now that Interactive Fiction is art, but it wasn't always so. I would argue, whether it is art or not, that Zork III is IF's first overtly artistic gesture.
Zork III is a foundational work and rating it with this or that many stars would lose sight of this truth.
I am playing Starcross next and will, as promised, give it a rating.
Postscript: I have seen comments, here and elsewhere, about unwinnable games, and I have to say I find them rather overstated and ungenerous. It requires roughly five minutes and 110 turns to revisit every possible puzzle, including the optional sailor scene, before the earthquake. This is without a map or notes.
This game picks up where Zork 2 left off (minus your inventory- I really could have used that magic wand!). You're stumbling down an endless stair to a cavern where you find your old friend, the brass lantern.
This game departs a bit from the first 2 games, in that the object is not to find all the treasures and drop them in a case. You're still looking for all the treasures, but they aren't apparant as such, and the game is looking for certain behaviors from you.
One complaint on this game is that one of the puzzles (the most important one, you might argue) is timed, so in order to gain the permanent light source, and one of the treasures, you need to do the puzzle RIGHT AWAY, otherwise you render the game unwinnable. And in Zork 3, it is easy to make the game unwinnable and not realize it.
It was possible in Zork 1 and 2 also, though it was much more apprarant- if you died at the volcano and you left some treasures in the balloon- they were unreachable. In Zork 3, you need to decide at one point whether to go for a staff or treasure, how to respond to a mysterious viking ship, choose between to solutions to a shifting wall puzzle, decide what items to try to steal during a time travel puzzle, decide whether to kill someone attacking you or not (and the choice is not obvious),decide WHEN to do a puzzle involving teleportation- and the wrong selection on any of them makes the game unwinnable, and you never realize it as such unless you go back and do things the RIGHT way.
Now, I don't know that this is UNFAIR, because I like difficulty, I would only wish I knew what I was supposed to do before I screwed myself up. If you do what many people might and explore the entire world right away, you've already lost too much time.
That being said, some of the puzzles are freaking BRILLIANT! A puzzle where you need to slide a mirror is difficult to visualize, but very smart. The shifting room puzzle gave me that real "AHA" moment as well. The time travel puzzle makes sense when you think about it, it's just not exactly clear how time travel relates to the time machine itself. If you're a fan of Zork I and II then you shouldn't be really surprised by the solution of the mysterious ship puzzle, and you should relish the chance of being able to walk past some grues in the dark. (A feat you will repeat in Spellbreaker, and possibly in Sorcerer).
The game does tie up the trilogy nicely, provides a good ending point, and gives you the challenge you deserve, without bogging you down in inventory management (very much) or much of a light puzzle (if you run out of light you either missed the first puzzle or did something stupid, like entering a lake with a torch).
If you like Zork I and II you will like this as well, just be ready for a bit more serious a tone and more difficult puzzles.
The finale in the Zork series is a big change from the first two games. The game is smaller as to puzzles and map, but much bigger on ambiance. This game feels like a refining purgatory, with a chance to demonstrate your courage, mercy, trust, and bravery. The setting is dreamlike and thoughtful. The puzzles are very difficult. For all of them, it is easy to try to solve them, get part way through, and have no idea if you succeeded or failed. Almost all of them are time-based, requiring you to wait, do several actions in succession, or to return frequently to a given place. Some places (like the land of shadow or the viewing table) will stay in my mind for a long time.
The Royal Puzzle breaks up the gameplay a bit, but I loved it. I first solved it in MIT Zork; as a mathematician that is terrible at most IF puzzles, it was fun to have a puzzle that I could finally solve on my own. I literally used a walkthrough on every other puzzle in this game.
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