I recently played through Beyond Zork, the seventh game in the popular Infocom Zork series, apparently for the first time -- I have no memory of playing this one before, so it's possible I never got around to it in my younger adventure-game playing heyday. Which is a shame! Despite the many valid criticisms of the game, from The Digital Antiquarian, I think this is one of my favorites of the series. There's a lot of fun to be had in there!
While playing through for the first time, I found there were a few bits of reference information which I'd hoped to find online about various aspects of the game: what a few of the scrolls actually did, what weapons were better than others, how many uses there were for various of the items. It's not that difficult to figure out those kinds of things just via experimentation, but for weapons especially I'd found myself periodically googling some more to see if something would come up. Most resources online tended to just be copies of the Invisiclues booklet, or walkthroughs, which wasn't really what I was after.
So, in the end, after playing it through a few times, I decided to put up a page containing some of the information I'd hoped to find. I intend this page to be generally spoiler-free, apart from the general usage information that I'm explicitly spoiling, though the page does at least make reference to some things which happen later on in the game.
When you find wands in Beyond Zork, they'll have a variety of different text labels: rod, cane, staff, etc. I'm just going to refer to them as "wands" in here. I go into a bunch of usage detail (which is more spoilerful) over in my Limited-Use Item Notes Page, but for quick reference, all the wands in the game can be used a maximum of three times.
- Anesthesia: Temporarily stuns creatures - doesn't work on all of them, and has a limited time of effect. Can also be used to solve a puzzle in the game.
- Annihilation: Instantly defeats just about any creature in the game.
- Dispel: This is the only wand with a fixed location in the game, being found in the Guild Hall. Dispels a magical field. To my knowledge, this is actually only ever used for a single puzzle in the game.
- Eversion: Temporarily turns something inside-out. Can be used to solve a couple puzzles in the game (and is required for one).
- Levitation: Fairly obvious, used to levitate items. Doesn't do anything useful to yourself. Can be used as a solution to a few puzzles in the game.
- Sayonara: Teleports yourself or a creature to a new location. Can be used to give yourself some breathing room in a fight, or to get yourself out of a tight spot.
As usual in Zork games, most scrolls can only be used once. There's a couple of exceptions in Beyond Zork, which I'll enumerate below.
- Fireworks: Just brings up the game credits. Clever!
- Gating (Palimpsest): This is one of two scrolls with a fixed in-game location, found in the Sea Chest. Its use is to teleport you to the Ethereal Plane of Atrii. Unlike the other scrolls, it can straight-up be used multiple times, but it's not infinite use: it'll stop working after five calls.
- Honing: Improves your currently-wielded weapon.
- Mischief: Nothing but some amusing flavor text.
- Protection: Improves a single piece of armor you're currently wearing.
- Recall: When used, it will create a permanent "anchor" in the room in which it's used. From that point on, saying the magic word again, just about anywhere in the game world, will teleport you back to that room. If there is a limited number of uses for that, or if it fades out over time, I haven't discovered that limit. Super useful scroll! I actually went through my whole first playthrough without using it, assuming it was single-use like all the rest (which it sort of is, I suppose, but the ongoing ability is great).
- Refreshment: This is the other scroll with a fixed in-game location, and is found in the Rusty Lantern cellar. "Refreshes" items currently in your inventory. I haven't found more items other than the two Rusty items that this affects, though I suspect it may also affect truffles.
Potions are quite straightforward, but since I'm listing Wands and Scrolls I may as well do these too. As you'd expect, these are all single-use items. In order for the potion to actually have an affect, you need to shake it first!
- Death: Kills you
- Enlightenment: Increases your Intelligence
- Forgetfulness: Causes you to forget the game map.
- Headling: Increases your Strength and Endurance
- Might: Increases your Strength
I was especially interested in this after noticing in someone's walkthrough that they recommended not bothering with the longsword, and instead just sticking with a Honed Dagger throughout the game (for weight/inventory space reasons). In the end, that approach does have merits. Most of the combat in the game can actually be avoided with a bit of luck (or some save/restore action) until you're pretty well geared up with protective gear. If you can get yourself a Protected plate mail + cloak combination, it sort of doesn't matter what weapon you've got because you'll barely take damage. I've played through the game with nothing but the dagger and did well by it.
Regardless, I found I still wanted to know how the various weapons stood against each other, so I did a bit of cheating so I could afford to buy all the gear I wanted right off the bat, hopped over to the Ruins to grab the spade, and set myself up with one of each weapon (Rusty Dagger, Shillelagh, Spade, Battleaxe, Longsword) at the top of the lighthouse, ready to take on the Dornbeast. I figured the Dornbeast would be a good metric because it's got a lot of health, which should help smooth out RNG outliers, because it can be reliably summoned on-demand, and because it can be stymied into not attacking, so I wouldn't have to deal with possible side-effects from having hits land on me.
All of these numbers are based on a Level 3 character with the following: 36 Endurance, 13 Strength, 20 Dexterity, 49 Intelligence, 24 Compassion, 19 Luck, and 97 Armor Class. I'd purposefully kept STR down, for purposes of evening out potential RNG outliers. Characters with higher STR will, of course, be able to take out the Dornbeast with fewer hits than this one. Here's the savegame I started from, if you're interested in running your own tests: lamproom.sav. (I wouldn't recommend it; it's pretty tedious, actually. The Honing magic word is "Yquem", and the Renewal magic word is "Watkin".)
These are averages across five full combats for each weapon. The raw data, if you care, is here: weaponstats.txt. "H" is a hit, "M" is a miss. The stupid little Python script I'd used to generate the numbers is here: bz-weapon-process.py.
Sorted in order of Average Hits, from worst to best, this is what I'd come up with.
Weapon Average Hits Hit Rate Rusty Dagger 36.8 57% Dagger 36.8 58% Shillelagh 27.4 58% Dagger (Honed) 26.4 60% Rusty Dagger (Honed) 24.8 59% Spade 23.6 57% Shillelagh (Honed) 19.8 55% Battleaxe 16.8 63% Spade (Honed) 16.0 67% Longsword 13.8 58% Battleaxe (Honed) 10.8 67% Longsword (Honed) 9.4 56%
I suspect that the Hit Rate there isn't super meaningful, though the Battleaxe seems to be, in general, more accurate than the rest? That was true on an earlier round of testing of mine as well. Something I'm not sure of is if certain weapons are better against certain enemies. Perhaps the elvish longsword is better versus one of those powerful endgame enemies? Though I did just fine using nothing but a Honed Dagger, so your weapon choice really isn't that important anyway. Still, it's nice to have some numbers behind it!
In one final observation here, I'm pretty amused that the Honed Rusty Dagger seems to be slightly better than the Honed Dagger. I'd been assuming that Refreshing would make it more effective, but it seems that the extra tetanus must help out.
Footnote 1: Though that'd be difficult for a first-time player unfamiliar with the puzzles; trying to heal a pterodactyl or get the jewel would be unpleasant while being harried by enemies which outclass you. Doable if you already know what to do, but probably annoying otherwise.
Footnote 2: Via scanmem/gameconqueror, a sort of CheatEngine-lite for Linux. Very lite, but it generally does the trick. Interestingly, and the reason I felt like mentioning it, it seems as though Z-Code interpreters use big-endian data in their internal data storage, even on today's more common little-endian systems. Or at least the one I was using to play Beyond Zork, grotz, does. Gameconqueror doesn't seem to support big-endian data on little-endian systems, so you'll have to do some conversions of your own to tweak your money value, which is stored in a big-endian uint16 in memory.
Footnote 3: Yes, I'm aware that the difference is almost certainly within the margin of error, and not at all important statistically. I suspect that's probably also true of the Battleaxe hit rate, honestly.
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