Seriously, Sir-Tech? Five years have passed since Wizardry III. People have been telling me over and over how awesome your fourth "scenario" is. "The most challenging CRPG ever created," they say. I've spent months anticipating it, along the way making fun of games like Swords of Glass for their primitive programming. And this is what I've been waiting for?
The same wire frame dungeons? The same monochromatic graphics? The same spells? The same commands?
Sigh...well, what it lacks in originality in gameplay, it makes up in originality in story. Wizardry IV is called "The Return of Werdna." I had this idea that Werdna (the villain from Wizardry I) had returned, and I would have to mount an expedition to defeat him again. Not so. Rather, in this game, you play as Werdna.
In the game manual, Werdna recounts how he craved the magical amulet from the first game, which had been left behind in an episode when gods were screwing around on the mortal plane but were chased away by some more powerful force. Trebor managed to snag the amulet first, but Werdna invaded his castle and stole it from him. He was learning to channel its power when the adventurers from the first game burst into his chambers and killed him...or so they thought. You have now woken up and need to escape a 10-level dungeon.
Should have gotten a higher deductible on that insurance! Bwu-ha-ha-ha-ha...wait, that doesn't really make sense.
Although the basic look and feel, combat, and commands are the same, there are significant differences from the previous Wizardry games. Some are good, some bad.
- There's no character creation. You immediately awaken as Werdna, at Level 1, a mage, with all of your attributes set to 9.
- You control only one character. On each level, there is at least one (maybe only one per level) "summoning pentagram" at which you can summon a variety of monsters to fight with you, but you can't control them or their inventories.
- There's a "real time" aspect to the game. If you just stand still, you can still be subjected to a wandering encounter.
- You don't get any experience from combat! The only way Werdna "levels up" is to visit the next level and go to a summoning square. This is also, as far as I can tell, the only way to get healed and recharge your spells.
- Unlike previous titles, you can now save the game--in up to eight slots!--but saving resets the dungeon and its fixed encounters.
- The "monsters" you encounter are actually named heroes (Werdna keeps calling them "do-gooders") seeking to slay you.
- The game frequently comments in Werdna's voice or from Werdna's perspective.
Despite the fact that I have a printed manual, there's lots about the game I don't understand so far. First, the room that you start in has no door, and you essentially have to wander around until one of your summonsed priests thinks to cast the MILWA spell to see the secret door. Werdna doesn't have this spell. Is this intentional?
Second, when you kill monsters, they drop weapons and armor, but as a mage you generally can't use them. Since you also can't control the inventories of your summoned creatures, I'm not sure what purpose they serve.
Tonight, I mapped Level 1 and went up to Level 2. I immediately saved it upon arrival, which turned out to be a big mistake. The encounters are suddenly much harder, only a couple of my monsters from Level 1 survived, and I don't know where the summoning pentagram is. I'm stuck between trying to find it (and getting slaughtered repeatedly) or going back to Level 1, battling back to the starting point, and using the pentagram again.
When you die, you get returned to your crypt for another chance, although I don't consider it cheating to load the saved game at this point, since the game gives you the save option.
So far, this game feels more like a goofy fan mod than something it took Sir-Tech five years to develop. I am pretty determined to win "the most challenging CRPG of all time," though, so settle in for the long haul on this one.