Dungeons of Zhil Demo

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Wildcard Stream Vol. 67 - Nivek RPGs

An ambitious demo for a sequel that includes first person dungeon exploration and RPG combat, and a simpler yet still fun game about going on the run and preventing a merchant coup

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Jan 26, 2024
Part of Series: Wildcard Streams
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♦ Livestream of 3 ZZT worlds. ♦

♦ Stream Contents ♦
• (0:00) "Target Practice" by Unknown (1996) [https://museumofzzt.com/file/view/targets/]
• (5:38) "Dungeons of Zhil Demo" by Nivek (1997) [https://museumofzzt.com/file/view/zhildemo/]
• (37:52) "Outlaw" by Nivek (1997) [https://museumofzzt.com/file/view/outlaw/]

Nivek's games are always favorites of mine. Depending on the era you get some combination of impressive artwork, fun stories, and impressive engines. They're always a delight to play and usually pretty approachable, making them ideal for newcomers to ZZT games to dive right into. So when the latest ZZT collection donation had two of his games, I knew right away I'd have to stream them.

Of course there are three games here. Target Practice has been sitting on the queue for awhile since it's three boards in total. It's not explicitly credited to Nivek, but is is credited to "Nivek Games" and DarkMage Software which applies to pretty much every Nivek game. It could be DarkMage though! It's a shooting gallery that is clearly some early work that offers little to discuss.

Dungeons of Zhil though, is something really fascinating. "Defend of Castle Sin" was a well received Nivek game back in the day, and one I loved playing through for a Closer Look article in 2017 (https://museumofzzt.com/article/view/280/closer-look-defender-of-castle-sin/). As it turns out, the game was going to have a sequel! One in which the former defender, now freed of his accursed duty, needed to adapt to life in the outside world. A cool idea though the demo is a bit sparse on getting the new game's story underway. The demo reuses the RPG engine from the previous game with spells like FairySword and SteelFyre and large portraits of enemies drawn on screen. In addition there's now a first-person dungeon crawling engine that differs from most in ZZT thanks to the game's use of a custom font which allows tiny graphics of rats and bats and things to show up for a simplified combat system while exploring.

Lastly, Outlaw, which is on the earlier side of things, but is at least a finished game. A fellow town guard coerces you into allowing weapons to be smuggled into the city. However,they are caught shortly afterwards and it isn't long before you yourself are made an outlaw. Before you can begin life on the run, you learn that corrupt merchants are planning to take over the town, and that those weapons were to arm the people in rebellion, and join their cause.

Gameplay is mostly running around dodging bullets being fired from friend and foe alike, but the story isn't half bad for a mid-90s ZZT world. There are a few "action puzzles" where players need to make decisions about aiming for targets or spraying and praying when the rebel hideout is attacked which determines whether or not you can make it out alive. It has its share of goofy moments, such as half the rebels being wiped out when retreating due to running into a cave full of bears, and a few coding errors that prevent it from being completed with zapping some objects or tweaking flags.

Still, it was a lot of fun to run through, and even has a split path where you and the remaining forces can return to town or hide out in the woods and prepare a coordinated assault. Both these paths eventually wind up on the same board, returning to a single ending, but it's a neat idea.

Overall, two very enjoyable titles this week. Always count on Nivek.

♦ Play these worlds directly in your browser ♦

♦ Originally streamed on January 21st, 2024 ♦

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