Zork III: The Dungeon Master

1982 Infocom
Designed by Dave Lebling, Marc Blank
Reviewed 1995 November 20

Rating +1 Linearity open
Reasonability reasonable Connectivity moderate
Difficulty difficult Relevance moderate
Interface text parser Real-time none

You are the Adventurer With No Name, hoping to loot the underground lands and get out alive. Along the way you'll encounter a shadowy swordsman, an old sailor, a few poor wanderers, and ultimately the Dungeon Master, a powerful wizard.

As with the prequels, the prose is clean and concise. There are a few complicated location with detailed descriptions. The input parser is flexible.

This is the third chapter of the original Zork trilogy. There's more background apparent in this chapter, and the dungeon seems to have a slightly more logical design. At last, the Great Underground Empire seems like it's a real place with a history, rather than a simple excuse to hold the treasures and challenges. However there's still very little developing story. There's even less characterisation.

The challenges have little story to relate to, but they tend to fit in well with the setting. A few are logic-puzzles, which seem contrived but they do fit the theme of the Dungeon Master. These puzzles stress the limits of the text interface as they attempt to describe a detailed picture with words: these would be fairly simple challenges if presented linearly. One puzzle became fairly simple once I drew it out on graph paper and plopped down a few coins. The rest of the challenges are well designed and varied, mostly staying away from the "use X with Y" standard.

There are several long dead-ends, and one rather silly challenge. There are a few locations where someone will appear randomly: if they don't the first few times you visit, you might mistakenly consider those areas scenery and not return. This is not an easy game: there are several difficult challenges, and you are unlikely to complete it without dying a few times. You should be able to recognise the dangerous situations in advance.

This chapter adds a bit of mystery to the Zork saga. Although it is difficult, it is not frustrating because the difficulty is in overcoming the challenges, not in finding or recognising them. The G.U.E. becomes a living place.

Beware! Here are some spoiler-ridden notes on the game. They're only recommended for people who have played the game and want to see some of my rationale for my evaluations.

Solution by me.

Related reviews:

  • The Zork Series
    David Tanguay's Game Reviews
    Here's a description of all the gobbledygook in these reviews. It's also a bit of an essay on the nature of adventure games.