Zork is a legendary game that will hit home as a nostalgic piece for many. It is one of the OG’s in PC gaming. There are many sequels that came afterward as well, making it one of the most iconic series of the late ’70s, early ’80s.
How do you play and beat Zork? Well, to play it, a google search should bring you to playable versions that are available to download. To answer the question of how to beat it is quite long and is something that will be covered here in a bit, as the full walkthrough is lengthy.
Today, we’ll be taking a look at how you play and beat the first Zork, step-by-step. We’ll also be exploring the game’s lush history and the success it had in the gaming community. It is truly a pioneer in the gaming community and should be loved and respected by all, as it paved the way for many games to come.
As I mentioned previously, Zork is one of the first real computer games to gain traction in popularity. For a game to have come out in 1980 and still be as talked about as it is today is ultra-impressive.
Type of Game
Zork was made in the game genre known as “interactive fiction”. This meant that the game itself was based on the environment and how the player would interact with it. This meant that the gameplay would be controlled by commands and would feature no graphics.
Obviously, this type of game is practically dead at this point, but the interactive element has certainly lived on. For example, look at how successful Telltale Games were with their “Walking Dead” series, a game that played out like a movie, but you controlled the choices.
These types of games are a huge step-up in the technology department, but considering just how old Zork is, it was a pretty great experience for gamers at the time.
Origins of Zork
The game itself was written and thought of in 1977. The geniuses behind the game were Tim Anderson, Dave Lebling, Bruce Daniels, and Marc Blank. At the time, all of them were students studying at MIT.
Zork itself wasn’t a totally original idea at the time and it takes quite a bit of inspiration from the game that started the text-only genre, “Colossal Cave Adventure”, otherwise known as ADVENT. That game was created in 1976 by one man.
This solo game-making hero was Will Crowther, who was in college at Stanford at the time. The game was meant to simulate Mammoth Cave.
Although it wasn’t as impressive as Zork would come to be, I think Crowther deserves more credit than he deserves. He had the idea for the game and followed through with it, which is much easier said than done.
How Was Zork Played?
It is safe to say that the time period that Zork came out in was not exactly gamer-friendly. In fact, gaming had a massive uphill battle for itself and a game like Zork was right in the firing line. Zork was re-written a few times to keep up with evolving computer technology at the time but was first made for PDP-10.
The PDP-10 was a mainframe that would be started all the way back in 1966 but would cease production in 1983.
However, Zork was written in a not-so-popular programming language, known as MDL. This meant that Zork would not reach quite the large audience they may have hoped for and could only be played through these steps:
• Log into MT PDP-10
• Must run through ARPAnet
• Ran remotely
It was a lot more complex than heading over to steam, typing in the game you want and within a few clicks, owning the game. In fact, the developers never made an official announcement about the game, either.
This may come as a surprise to some but at the time, events like E3 weren’t even dreamt of, and gaming was just a small niche community.
How Did it Become Popular?
Even though the gaming community at the time as tiny compared to what it has become, Zork still had a decent amount of backing behind it. Zork offered quite a bit to the table, like the creativity that went into the game.
The puzzles and storyline were also created great as well, and I think they even hold up in today’s gaming world. There is just something unique about getting to the next portion of a Zork title that is just unmatched in today’s world.
Also, the marketing was done amazing as well by Infocom. These titles, unlike its competitors, could be purchased at bookstores, while most other games had to be picked up at a specific store or through catalogs.
Also, the Zork titles were released with cool gear, like coins that really helped bring the world to life. It is amazing how the built a world up as such as Zork, even though the game had no graphics.
Zork was broken up into three separate titles, mainly due to issues with memory space. However, it has become iconic now, and I think the trilogy suits the game perfectly.
Zork I: The Great Underground Empire
The game in which we are discussing today, the OG, Zork I. This game’s setting is in the year 948 GUE, which is based on the Zork Calendar. The player is now an adventurer about to embark on a great journey, which begins by a house with a mailbox.
Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz
Zork II picks back up in the Barrow. Now, there is a wizard who provides guidance throughout the second title, taking the player on yet another incredible journey.
Zork III: The Dungeon Master
Finally, the game is wrapped up in the final installment, The Dungeon Master. You start at the endless stair. Now, the adventurer is out to prove himself as one of the best treasure hunters to ever live.
What Makes Zork so Good?
A game from over 40 years ago would surely just be forgotten, right? I mean, we don’t see Zork toys everywhere, and the last installation of the game was in the mid-’80s. Somehow though, Zork has lived on and at this point, is most likely immortal in the gaming community.
Why, though? It certainly wasn’t the graphics, or the artwork, because it had none. What it did offer though was a complexing story with intricate puzzles and even its own combat system. It is perfect for what it offered, and I think because it succeeded so well in these areas, this is why it still lives on today.
Do Interactive Fiction Games Still Exist?
I mentioned earlier that Zork really sparked many of the games to come, like most RPG’s and even a title like Telltale’s “The Walking Dead”. However, there are still developers that create interactive fiction games that run just like Zork did in the ’80s. Except now, it is much easier to play and access these titles.
No, these games aren’t sweeping the world by storm, but they have a niche fan base and will always have a warm place in the old gamer’s hearts from around that era. As I mentioned before as well, Zork’s quality is put into the interactions that really paved the way for many titles to come ahead.
Look at most dungeon crawlers, or even a title as large as Skyrim. The interactions that take place in those titles are all influenced by Zork, which is the game that popularized it. Many game developers recognize just how important it was, with even large developers like Activision paying tribute to Zork in “Call of Duty: Black Ops”.
I think we’ll still see many games come out that will have a tie-in with the legendary title, whether they know it or not.
How to Play Zork
As I mentioned beforehand, Zork is a really unique game in the fact that it featured no graphics and was only based on text. This made the game a bit confusing on how to play it.
To download and play Zork, look for legit download links. There are a ton of websites currently offering the download link for the original game, as well as various other ways to play, like apps and even in call of duty!
Yes, Zork was featured in Black Ops 1, as mentioned previously, showing just how influential this game actually was.
Read Through Instructions
Locate the “readme” file in the unzipped folder. This will be instructions on how to play the game and the way it operates. This is one of the most crucial steps, as you’ll want to thoroughly understand how the game works before launching it up.
It may have been a while since you’ve read instructions on anything game-related but this is one title you’ll want to make sure you have before play.
To launch the game, simply double click the file and you should be on your way to the title screen. If you need help launching the game, there are a ton of sources that you can find online to help you with this.
Some of these sources will be tutorials in articles, watching YouTube videos, etc…Overall though, with all of the resources available for Zork, it should be effortless to be able to get into the game itself.
The commands are how the game operates. This is what controls the character and what you do. For example, here are some of the common commands that will be used throughout the game:
• “Go Up”
• “Go Down”
• “Open Chest”
• “Put ITEM in case”
• “Enter House”
It will certainly be different than what modern gamers are used to but is a unique way to play nonetheless. We don’t see this too much anymore in the exact format, but games like Fallout give the player choices on what to pick with interaction that causes an effect. It is similar, except you are not manually typing your choice in.
No, you won’t find any autosave here. To save in Zork though, it isn’t that complicated and actually, it is pretty simple. Simply type “save” and type in the file name desired for the save.
Now, to actually reload the progress you’ve made, simply type in reload and type the file name in which you saved under. Everything is controlled by text in this game, even the saving/reloading mechanics.
Know that we know just how to play Zork, let’s go step by step into how one completes the game. Follow this walkthrough step-by-step and you’ll successfully beat it and have a great score to brag about at the end.
You’ll want to open the mailbox first. Next, read the leaflet that is inside. The next step is to head south. After heading south, head east until you run into the house. Here, you’ll open the window and enter through there.
Next, go west (from the kitchen) to enter the living room. Make sure to grab the lantern that is in there. Next, you’ll want to move the rug, which will then, in turn, reveal to you a trap door. Open this door, and go down the stairs, but make sure to turn on your lantern first.
Once in the cellar area, travel south. From there, head east until you reach the gallery, which you’ll take the picture from. Once the picture is taken, travel north and read the paper. At this point, clear anything not needed out of your inventory, which will be the leaflet and paper.
After doing so, travel up the chimney where you’ll want to head back into the kitchen from. Then, travel up the stairs and retrieve the knife and rope. Once retrieved, you’ll head back down into the living room, which is to the west.
Here, you’ll retrieve the painting located in the case and drop your knife. Grab the sword, open the trap door again and head back down the stairs. From here, travel north where you’ll run into the troll. Attack the troll with the sword until you have successfully defeated them.
After defeating the troll, you may drop the sword. Once that is wrapped up, head:
After doing so, you should find yourself in the “Dome room”. The first step in the new room is to tie the rope (which will go on the railing) and then head downwards toward the “Torch room”.
Once you’ve reached this room, head south and east. Here, you’ll want to grab the coffin and head west, then travel south.
After traveling south, you’ll run into the Alter, where you’ll need to pray in order to advance.
Welcome to the forest! The first thing you’ll want to do is shut off the lantern. From here go:
Once you’ve traveled in those directions, you’ll have reached the Canyon View. Climb down from here, following the upstream where you’ll come across a rainbow. Once you’ve climbed down, head north where you’ll want to drop the coffin.
Once dropped, open the coffin and take the scepter from it. Next, wave the scepter, which will make the rainbow become solid, revealing a pot of gold at the end. Take the gold from the pot and take the coffin as well.
Head southwest and go up twice, then head northwest. From here, go west, where you’ll be behind a house. Enter the house and in the kitchen, there is a bag. Open the bag, which reveals lunch and garlic.
Take the garlic then head west towards the living room. Put the coffin, the gold, and the sceptre in the case. Then afterward, open the trap door and turn on the lantern. Head down the stairs and go:
Once in the Dam Lobby, take the matches and head north until you’re in the maintenance room. Take the wrench and the screwdriver from this area. Next, you’ll want to press the yellow button and head south, back into the Dam Lobby.
Head south again, where you’ll run into the dam. From here, turn the bolt-on with the wrench. This will activate the water to pour through. Next, drop the wrench and head south.
You’ll enter the deep canyon, where you’ll want to travel down, then southeast, hitting the engravings cave. From here, go east and down where you’ll be in the torch room. Take the torch and turn off your lantern.
Head south and take the bell from the temple. Afterward, go south where you’ll be back in the altar. Take the candles and the book and head down twice. Ring the bell and then take the candles.
Light one of the matches to then light the candle with. Read the book with your new light source, then drop it. Afterward, head south towards the land of the dead and take the crystal skull.
Head north and go up, then north again, entering the mirror room. Rub the mirror and go
Now in the shaft room, put the torch inside the basket, as well as the screwdriver. Next, you’ll want to turn on the lamp and head north and down towards the gas room. From here, go:
• Down X2
Now at the dead end, steal the coal and head in the following directions:
• Up X2
Now, put the coal inside the basket and lower it to the bottom of the shaft. From here, go:
• Down X2
You are now in the timber room, there where you’ll want to drop it all. This includes the crystal skull, the lantern, the matchbook, the pair of candles, and the garlic clove.
From here, head west towards the drafty room. Take the coal, the screwdriver, and the torch and head south. Now in the machine room, open the lid to one of the machines and put the coal inside. Lose the lid.
Next, you’ll turn on the switch with the screwdriver and then drop it. Open the lid to take the diamond and head north. Back in the drafty room, put the torch in the basket, as well as the diamond.
From here, head east and take the skull, lamp, and the garlic. From here, you’ll go
• Up X2
Now in the gas room, take the bracelet and go up and south. Raise the basket to the top of the shaft. Take the loot including a huge diamond and a torch. Turn off your lantern once more.
Head west and take the jade figurine. From there, you’ll want to follow these directions:
Now in the living room, put the jade in the case, as well as the diamond and turn the lantern back on. Head in the following directions:
Now, you are in the reservoir. Take the trunk that is half-buried in the mud and head up north. Take the two pumps and head north, entering the Atlantis room. Here, you’ll take the trident, drop the torch, and pick up the trident.
From here, go:
• South X3
• East X2
Now back at the damn base, inflate the plastic with the pump taken earlier. Drop the pump and enter the magic boat. Launch it and you’ll want to “>wait” three times to pass the time on the trip.
Frigid River- The Magic Boat
Take the buoy and head east. You’ll run into the sandy beach, where you’ll want to leave the boat. Once this is done, take the shovel, drop the garlic, take the shovel, drop buoy, and take the shovel once more.
Afterward, head northeast and dig the sand with the shovel. Do this three times and take the scarab, drop the shovel, and travel southwest. Now back at the sandy beach, open the buoy and take the emerald and garlic. Head south twice and cross the rainbow.
Turn off your lantern once more and travel in the following directions:
• Up X2
• Enter House
Now back in the living room, put the emerald, scarab, trident, and the jewels in the case and head east. From the kitchen, go north twice and climb the tree to grab the egg. Go back down and head south then east. Enter the house and go west.
Turn your lantern back on and go in the following directions:
Now in the maze, take the coins and the key and head in the following directions:
Now, you’ve entered the cyclops room. Do “>Ulysses”, making the cyclops hear the name of his nemesis. Now in the treasure room, you’ll give the egg to the thief. Go back down towards the cyclops room, go east twice, and you are now back in the living room.
Put the coins in the case and take the knife out. Go west twice and head up. Now in the treasure room once more, kill the thief with the knife, doing the command 3 times. Now, take all, which includes:
• Jewel-encrusted egg
• Crystal Skull
• Sapphire-encrusted bracelet
Drop the stiletto and the torch and pick up the chalice. Afterward, head in the following directions:
Now, unlock the grate with the skeleton key and open it. Go up and south to then climb the tree. Wind up canary and go down back towards the forest path.
Drop your knife and take the bauble. Head south and east back towards the house. Here, you’ll enter and go west, putting the bauble and the chalice in the case.
Then, take the canary from the egg, put it in the case, put the egg back in the case, and put the bracelet and skull also in the case.
From here, go in the following directions:
• East X3
Now in the loud room, perform “>echo” and take the bar. Finally, head west three times and south until you are back in the cellar. Go back up into the living room and you should have the following in your treasure collection:
• A chalice
• A Bauble
• A leather bag of coins
• A crystal skull
• A sapphire-encrusted bracelet
• A jewel-encrusted egg
• A canary
• A trunk of jewels
• A scarab
• A trident
• A huge diamond
• A large emerald
• A jade figurine
• A pot of gold
• A scepter
• A painting
• A gold coffin
To complete the game, simply place the bar in the case. Next, read the map as it returns you to the mailbox. To get there, head in the following directions:
• East X2
Next, head southwest to the stone barrow and just like that, you’ve been Zork I! congratulations. Make sure you follow up with the other two entries in the Zork universe to get the full experience it offers.