ZorkQuest II: The Crystal of Doom
for PC (CGA)

Mr Creosote:
Company: Tom Snyder Productions / Infocom
Year: 1988
Genre: Adventure
Theme: Cartoon & Comic / Sword & Sorcery
Language: English
Licence: Commercial
Views: 2420
Review by Mr Creosote (2021-05-29)

If you haven't already, please read the general overview about the Infocomics first.

ZorkQuest remained the only Infocomic to ever receive a sequel. This alone would make it historically interesting. Though on top of that, it is also clearly the most extensive one, pushing the technical and conceptual limits as far as they could go.

Proper colouring may have made this look good

Although picking off from the first part, with the remaining caravan arriving in the city, The Crystal of Doom works quite well standalone as well. A duo of evil magic users try to harness the powers of a stolen spellbook to gain untold powers. The support of the magician trapped at the end of part one may be needed, so one story branch is about the attempt to free the guy. Though then, a lot of other branches organically appear.

Whereas previous games used branches to temporarily fan out different plot threads to tie them all together again at the end, this one lets them diverge wherever they go. Occasionally letting them cross paths, in clever ways at times, but not feeling obliged to give a big resolve to any.

What does frame most of them is the underlying theme of approaching evil. The bad guys can be considered the true protagonists in this story and appropriately, it ends with them fulfilling their ambition, while the good guys are all occupied, each dealing with their very own problems. Considering ZorkQuest overall as a trilogy (as confirmed by author Elizabeth Langosy), it is an appropriate move to have the second act end on the lowest point, though we will never know how it would have turned out further:

Take this branch and you're almost off to another story

“ZorkQuest was meant to be a trilogy and someone wrote to me out of the blue a dozen or so years ago to ask what the third story was meant to be. I couldn't remember by then and, in fact, don't remember much at all about the Infocomics themselves.”

Considering what is there indeed develops Elizabeth's stated character driven storytelling approach further. Instead of each having their own perspective on the same scenes as in the predecessor, they all now receive their own little arc. The wizard is re-united with his long-lost love in the face of doom. The young woman finds her selfish ambitions of greed punished in a fateful way, but with a remaining chance at redemption. The evil henchman actually befriends one of the good guys. We meet the ranger's brother (interesting, unexpected character!). Dark, mysterious, hooded figures of unclear moral alignment make an appearance.

Could be more evocative if the illustration were at an appropriate level

This makes for quite a good read overall, ending in a number of unresolved, but intriguing cliffhangers, particularly since the story is full of very imaginative details. The tiny fungal creatures swearing vengeance just being the tip of the iceberg. The merchant's arc looks like it was probably even intended to kick-start a spin-off series (in true comic book fashion), with him off to the land of the elves at the end.

The downside of this expansive approach being that graphical quality has suffered again in comparison with the predecessor. The almost constant night setting makes the scenes visually unpleasant, as it is used as an excuse to simply have all black backgrounds and even the foreground being devoid of any details. Shapes are often not even filled. There are many different pictures, re-use of assets being virtually non-existent (surprising), but many seem rushed and carelessly produced.

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