Lost Chronicles of Zerzura
First posted on 23 January 2013. Last updated on 30 August 2013.
Lost Chronicles of Zerzura is among the best exemplars of modern point-and-click adventure games. While the game does not achieve masterpiece heights or break new grounds for the genre, it delivers an overall satisfying experience with its grounded story, stunning graphics, and brilliant gameplay. The game takes its name from the real life legend of a mythical oasis named Zerzura—likely located somewhere between Libya and Egypt, according to references first discovered in Arabic scribes dating back to the 13th century.
Lost Chronicles of Zerzura puts you in the shoes of a young, rational, and pragmatic inventor from Barcelona named Feodor Morales. The year is 1514. Feodor runs a workshop together with his more spiritual, fair-skinned, and white-haired brother Ramon. Feodor, a true Renaissance man, is obsessed with building the first flying machine and believes that his invention will bring progress to humanity. Ramon, who is not keen on becoming a test subject for his brother's invention, is sucked into his own quest to discover the lost treasure city of Zerzura and passes his time studying old artifacts from that region. When the Spanish Inquisition arrives in Barcelona and pays a visit to the brothers, initially under the guise of recruiting them for their visionary and scientific ideas, Ramon is promptly taken away, seemingly without just cause, on the order of the Grand Inquisitor. Now, Feodor must search for his captive brother, all while unveiling a mystery about Ramon's past and the legend of the mythical city of Zerzura.
The graphics in Lost Chronicles of Zerzura are superb. They are vivid, detailed, and immersive. All the sceneries are skillfully recreated, from cities to sea to desert. The imagined city of Zerzura appears just as the legend describes—a white city with a dove as the city's emblem. The numerous characters that appear in the game are well modeled and well animated. Unlike many lesser adventure games with lower production values, there is no visible difference in the graphical details between the main protagonist and secondary characters in this game. There are lots of places to explore, each with its unique ambiance and atmosphere. This immersion is aided by the superb sound and quality voice acting in the game. The background music, ranging from cheerful tunes to dramatic interludes, carries a distinctive Mediterranean flavor that is appropriate to the game's setting. The voice acting, though not all stellar, is performed with heartfelt sincerity and very enjoyable to hear.
Fortunately, the gameplay in Lost Chronicles of Zerzura parallels the quality of its production, which is solid. The game is a classic third-person point-and-click adventure. You move Feodor by just clicking on the screen to where you want him to go. Interacting with the environment is equally simple. The cursor changes when hovering over a hotspot to tell you if an object can be picked up or if a character can talk to you. Indeed, the simplicity of the interface makes this game ideal for novice adventure gamers. The game also provides a robust and pervasive hint system. By pressing the spacebar, you can immediately visualize all of the hotspots that are currently active on the screen.
While the puzzles in Lost Chronicles of Zerzura are not difficult, the few mini-games require more thinking and are more challenging to solve. However, the game provides a shortcut to skip them for the impatient players. Most of the puzzles are inventory based. Sometimes, you need to create new items by combing several items in the inventory. The cursor turns red whenever an item can be combined with another item; beware though—even if the items can be combined, it does not mean that the newly created item will be useful in a puzzle. For example, you can sharpen a stick with a knife, but the sharpen stick may be of no use to solve a puzzle. The game simply allows you to do this because it is logical to do so. Fortunately, if you combine some items in the wrong way, you can always restore them to try again. Likewise, if you run of some consumable items, it is easy to fill them up again. This encourages the player to experiment with different solutions while avoiding any risk of putting the player into a dead-end because the player has run out of an important item to use. It has been awhile since I have played a game with such coherent, logical, and well integrated puzzles. The puzzles are grounded, in that the solutions do not require obscure leaps in logic. Further, a few of the puzzles are solved by creating ingenious contraptions that fit the personality of Feodor as an inquisitive inventor. In all, the puzzles in this game will engage both seasoned adventurers and beginners alike.
Near the end of the game, there are a few situations where you can die if you do not act fast enough. However, you will immediately respawn to just before the fatal moment. I do not find these sequences irritating to play. Rather, it adds a bit of tension to some crucial points in the story.
Sadly, the story in Lost Chronicles of Zerzura is a bit of a disappointment. The whole premise (find the lost city) is clichéd, and the story holds few (if any at all) surprises. The story tries to infuse elements of a heroic quest, but it never becomes epic or adventurous. Feodor's motive is also given away too soon, so there is no opportunity to build up a crescendo. The game really slows down toward the middle when Feodor arrives at Tripoli and again when he arrives at the desert. Fortunately, it regains its momentum near the end. Even though the game does not deliver a grand finale, the predictable ending gives a satisfying closure to the story. Despite the overused plot devices, all of the characters are well developed and add depth to the story's mythos. Feodor interacts with a lot of peculiar characters during his quest. They are a valuable source of information, and most of them are eager to help Feodor. A few characters even volunteer to accompany Feodor in his quest. You will need to interact with each of them to solve puzzles and make progress in the game. Thanks to the well written dialog, your travel with these companions will be a pleasant journey.
In conclusion, The Lost Chronicles of Zerzura, despite lacking some elements of a masterpiece, is surely a game that any adventure game fan will want to play. It is to the credit of the developer, Cranberry Production, to be able to craft a game that can be thoroughly enjoyed by both beginner and veteran gamers. The game takes the best elements of old-school point-and-click adventure and modernizes them to deliver an engaging gaming experience. It is a game that will help to reinvigorate the adventure genre to its high standards. Sadly, with the closure of Cranberry Production in 2012 due to financial troubles of its parent publisher dtp entertainment, The Lost Chronicles of Zerzura itself has now become a lost epitaph of a great adventure game developer.