Call me a wuss, but I've had enough of Wizardry IV. The problem with this game is that it's not a game so much as a gimmick. I do like games with riddles and challenges; I do not like games in which literally every level tries to screw with your head.
Level 6 turned out to be not so bad, except for the spinners. Fortunately, a lot of foes dropped necklaces that cast the DUMAPIC (map) spell, so it was solvable if frustrating. There was even a bit of light "riddle" in which the answer to the question "What do you most desire?" (or something like that) was clearly AMULET. I got a robe for my troubles.
When I reached Level 5, I started to think, "Hell, CRPG Addict, you're halfway done. Might as well see this one through. Impress those jerk-offs over at RPGWatch who razzed you for bailing on Wizardry III so fast." Then I died about 30 times in a row and said...well, let's just say I had a different sort of reaction. The CRPG Addict is, after all, a family blog.
Fairly certain in my decision to pack it in, I risked a peek at a walkthrough--just a peek--and immediately felt even better about my decision. Take a look at this map for Level 4. I'm too old for this.
Map courtesy of John Hubbard (http://www.tk421.net/wizardry)
Reading through John Hubbard's walkthrough--most of which frankly terrifies me--I find I am sorry that I didn't get to see the finale. Apparently, there are several possible endings: one "good," three "evil," and one "grandmaster." The "good" ending occurs after you wander into a pool that changes your alignment; you can then pass a challenge from the various dukes of the kingdom to become their (benevolent) overlord. The three "evil" endings have you challenging the god Kadorto for the Amulet and becoming a god yourself (each of a different type depending on--of all things--the sword you choose in the altar room I described in the last post; I would have become a "greedy and opulent God").
The "grandmaster" ending, as best I can tell, involves having the right artifacts when you challenge Kadorto and ultimately revealing him to be a fraud and the Amulet to be a thing of pure chaos crafted as a cosmic joke. You determine to send it back to its makers and then wander off down a path, footloose and fancy-free. Isn't that nice.
If I hadn't quit now, you would have had a ranting, raving, psychotic posting from me in about a week, after I finally escaped the dungeon and tried to enter the castle above. Of this, the aforementioned walkthrough says:
The password is 'TREBOR SUX'. (There is a clue to this in the Oracle's pronouncements, but even with that you need to be intimately familiar with the original Wizardry to get this one on your own.)
Uh-huh. Apparently, this is some graffiti "carved in stone" (the Oracle's hint) in the original Wizardry. Well, it's not like I kept screenshots of everything in Wizardry I, so I would have had to go back and win Wizardry I again in order to progress in this game. And I would have had to start from the beginning, since it deleted my characters upon exporting them to Wizardry II. One thing you can say about the Wizardry franchise: it doesn't pull any punches.
The difficulty of the game is one thing, but what really killed my enthusiasm for Wizardry IV is that it doesn't include any of the elements that I like about CRPGs. Oh, it has an interesting back story, I grant you, and a very original approach. But there's virtually no character creation or development: you start off as the same Werdna every time, and you only "develop" by visiting successive pentagrams; there are no experience rewards for your eons of combat. There are no meaningful NPC encounters, no economy, only one pathological main quest, extremely linear gameplay, and an overall experience that's exasperating instead of challenging. It features some of the tactical combat intensity that I liked about the original Wizardry, but limited in that you can only control one character. The graphics and sound are an insult at this stage of CRPG development.
I'm giving it a 30 on my GIMLET scale and moving on to 2400 A.D., but I do so with some remorse. Actually finishing this game, without cheats or walkthroughs, would have felt like a real accomplishment. Unfortunately, I just don't have that kind of patience.