Monday, October 11, 2010

Wizardy IV: An Exercise in Masochism

This really wasn't nice.

Level 8 of Wizardry IV was literally the most hateful dungeon I have ever encountered in any CRPG. At least 3/4 of the squares in the mostly wide-open dungeon are bombs that cost you 10 hits per step. There's a path that weaves through them but no way to discern the path without simply getting yourself bombed, mapping, and returning frequently to the summoning pentagram or using DIOS potions (which, fortunately, many of the denizens of the level drop). Absurdly, you can't tell your companion priests to heal you outside of combat, so if you don't have DIOS potions, you have to keep fighting to heal.

Do you suppose in Europe, it says, "Kablam! Flowers!"? (Reference.)

Some of the monsters you encounter are thieves, which kept stealing my magical stones. Paranoid that I would need these later, I got used to reloading after every such theft. Since this got old fast, I started saving after every few encounters, which in turn meant that I kept fighting the same groups of monsters over and over.

Ooh, Arcturus's avengers. Again.

At one point, I found my way to the exit. I nearly took off at this point, but I decided to painstakingly keep mapping the level, which is a good thing because I found two more precious stones in the middle of a bunch of mines. The one good thing is a "black box" that I got from an assassin; it allows me to store various items in it. I got complacent in the idea that this meant the items could no longer be stolen, which may be true, but it turns out that the entire black box can be stolen. I found this out after I had saved over the game, meaning that, yes, I had to start the game over from the beginning. (It went faster without the need for mapping.)

The black box, which makes it easier for thieves to steal all your stuff at once.

It would be nice to think that this was the hardest level in the game, but, really, what are the odds of that?

Things improved a bit on Level 7. The map is in an interesting shape.

The game plays with the fiction that you actually ascend in this "ziggurat" instead of going north. The yellow areas are ones that I couldn't explore because if I try to leave the immediate area of the ziggurat, I "fall off a ledge" and die.

I'd like to know why they didn't call them gods right from the get-go.

At the top of the ziggurat was an altar that allowed me to donate my magic stones. Only, the first time I donated the wrong one and got the message at the top of this entry, forcing me to start over at the beginning. The second time, I donated the other stones but the altar simply destroyed them. The third time, I "invoked" the stones first and the altar was happy. It gave me the choice of three swords of different colors. I had no idea--still have no idea--what the difference was, so I chose my favorite of the three and ended up with something called the West Wind Sword. I assume it will suck less than the dagger I was wielding up until then.

Also at the top was what I think might be an homage to Zork III, although perhaps I'm just reading too much into it:

It's dubious to me how "scenic" this could be in the depths of a dark dungeon.

Through all of this exploring, I keep running in to a traveling "oracle," who takes 2,500 gold from me for various clues. I don't mind spending the money, as I have tens of thousands of gold pieces and nothing else to buy. But the clues are singularly unhelpful. Here are the ones I've collected so far:

  • "The egress will set you free!" (Yep, that's why they call it an "egress.")
  • "Your future is black; you feel boxed in!" (Maybe 'cause I'm in a dungeon.)
  • "Read The Iliad lately?" (The Iliad exists in the world of Wizardry?)
  • "Chomp,, what's east, Doc?" (And apparently Bugs Bunny, too.)
  • "Secrets abound all around you! Psst! Have you met Glum yet?" (Glum was an assassin on Level 8 who had the black box I mentioned.)
  • "Live the Qabalah!" (If there's one thing lacking in most CRPGs, it's references to obscure pagan mysticism.)
  • "The answer is carved in stone. It is right before your nose!"
  • "The temple holds an ancient secret."

If there are actual clues to be teased out of these rantings, I'm not sure what they are. I am sure that I'm not going to read The Iliad again just for this game.

I won't lie: I fired up 2400 A.D. for a few minutes just to see how I'd feel. But masochistic or not, I bailed on the last two Wizardry titles, so I feel honor-bound to keep with this one until it really starts to infuriate me.

That might be soon. Level 6 is full of spinners. I hate spinners.


  1. Aw, hell, Muckenhoupt. I saw that message somewhere...the end of Level 8?...and I had no idea what it meant. You're not telling me I HAVE forgotten something are you?! AARRGH! $&@* this game!

  2. Hey, love this blog and need to catch up reading all the back entries you got here but I got one question: What tool do you use to draw those dungeon maps?

  3. Hey, Sascha. Glad you like it. For the maps, I just use Microsoft Excel. I shrink the columns and rows to a small grid and use the border-drawing tools to make the walls and stuff. I still can't find a good border style to represent a door, but other than that it works pretty well. I keep a minimized Excel window right next to my DOSBox window and switch happily between the two.

  4. A couple more games like this and you're going to end up like Spoony. :) Check out his video game rants... I especially enjoy the Final Fantasy rants. Ironic, since that's the source of his nickname.

  5. Maybe "Your future is black; you feel boxed in!" is actually a reference to the black box? (since you get another clue about Glum from the Oracle)

    I admire your patience, I would already have moved on to the next game if I were you. And I had such great memories of Wizardry...

  6. Hmm Excel! Interesting approach! Thanks for the tip!

  7. I was just wondering the same thing about your maps... I probably would have tried scanning in graph paper, or gotten too sidetracked trying out mapping methods/programs to actually keep playing games (amazing how autism can look like ADD).

  8. If anyone has a better solution, I'm all ears, but it seemed like the easiest way using the tools I had.

  9. This would have been more useful two years ago, but: you can "equip" the Black Box. This makes it so that thieves can no longer yoink it.

    1. Thanks! Useful to anyone who comes along now, anyway.


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