Friday, November 18, 2011

Game 66: Wizard Wars (1988)



It's important not to mix up Wizard Wars, a 1988 game from Paragon, with Wizard Warz, that horrible 1987 quasi-RPG that I played in January. It's also important not to confuse it with the browser-based Wizard Wars (2002). As far as I can tell, the Wizard Wars we're dealing with here has virtually no love online: no walkthroughs, no MobyGames reviews, no fan sites--and, unfortunately, no manual. So, if I can figure things out, my blog can be the authoritative online presence for Wizard Wars.

The game was produced by the same company that made the completely bizarre Alien Fires: 2199 A.D. (1987), which I played just over a year ago, only to scram as soon as my six-hour minimum was up. They later went on to make MegaTraveller, so not all of their games were doomed to obscurity.

As I said, I can't find a manual for Wizard Wars, so I don't know whether the opening sections are representative of the entire game, or if a more interesting world opens up later. It's rather hard to believe that a commercial publisher released a putative CRPG with such limited gameplay as I've been experiencing.

First off, there's no character creation. You play as Temeres the Wizard, on a quest to defeat the evil wizard Aldorin and do something regarding a white unicorn and a black unicorn. You begin with 100 points each of wisdom, health, and "s.c.e.," which I'm guessing is "spell casting energy" or something. Its maximum goes up as I defeat enemies but depletes as I cast spells in combat.


The limited character screen.
  
It appears that the realm of Wizard Wars consists of three "dimensions," only one of which is explorable at the outset. Each dimension consists of a number of geographic "territories" (the first has 30). You tell the game which territory you want to visit, and it gives you a bit of a description of what you might expect to find there.


Deciding where to take my next trip.
   

URBANIA: The ruins of a once-proud ancient civilization dominate Urbania, located in the center of the first dimension. The crumbling remnants of a once-sprawling ancient metropolis litter the Urbanian landscape. A tribe of nomadic elves inhabit the ruins. Impervious to magic, the elves can be extremely loyal allies or deadly enemies, so be wise in your dealing with them.


Sounds good so far, and I rather expected that upon arriving in a place like Urbania, the game would open up and I could explore it. Alas, this is not the case. Upon arrival in each territory, you have five options: Search for an item (which always takes you to a cave), search for inhabitants (which always takes you to a castle), use an item, return an item, and return to the map. It appears that both searches occasionally produce random results.




Sometimes I will find nothing; other times I will find treasure or inhabitants, even when revisiting the same territory. Treasures have included potions (the only other way to heal is a slow one hit point per combat round) and a gemstone that absorbs damage.


At last, the sidewalks of my kingdom will be safe to traverse in winter.


When you encounter another creature, you sometimes have the option to "reason" with it, which hasn't worked for me yet...




...but presumably leads to dialogue in some encounters. Otherwise, you attack. The attack screen offers the options to flee, cast a spell, use an item, or drink a potion.




Temeres starts off with no items or potions, and only one spell--lightning bolt--so options at the outset are fairly limited. The process of attacking and watching the enemy attack (there's no animation, just screen messages) is slow and boring. So far, the combat hasn't been very difficult; sometimes the enemies just stop attacking. This is going to be a short posting, so to compensate, here are a whole slew of enemies attacking me and missing:




As you can see, the graphics aren't awful, although the game does use the same monster graphics for multiple monsters.

The vivid descriptions of each territory prior to the visit are intriguing, which makes it all the more disappointing when you arrive and find the same two screens, with no encounters that have anything to do with the story. And there aren't many CRPGs that don't allow you to move. I can think of a couple others--Beyond Zork, Braminar--but both of those were fundamentally text games with CRPG elements.

There's not much else to tell about it. My plan is to work methodically through the territories, searching for items and inhabitants, until I win the game, reach my six hours, or encounter something more interesting. If anyone has any insight into this game--like why it was made--I'd love to hear it. I don't expect any particular appreciation or anything, but I could be playing Skyrim instead of this.


38 comments:

  1. I've never heard of it before, but a few web searches does turn up a 1-page detailed review (it doesn't appear to veer into spoiler territory) in QuestBusters that you might find useful: Feb. '89 - Vol. VI #2

    The reviewer noting their dislike for mazes and then saying WW managed to defy it has me curious... Unfortunately, from the description, I suspect you won't play long enough to find out.

    As far as I'm aware, this is supposed to be a fun hobby for you, not a job you dutifully force yourself to do... I'd say play through Skyrim or take a break, then get back to the retro-gaming/blogging when it's something you *want* to be doing. Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather see less frequent posts where you're having fun than scads of dutiful ones.

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  2. This doesn't sound like it's going to be rewarding. If you make it beyond the six hour mark, I will be impressed.

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  3. Funny, the gameplay really reminds of a text-based RPG we programmed with a friend on a TI80 calculator back in college somewhere in the 90s.

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  4. Would you look at the author of that column? Probably not the same person though.

    Hope you can get through this without the spellbook. Then you really can be the help source for anyone else attempting to play this game.

    - Giauz

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  5. Both your description and the one from Stephen King make it sound that this is a game unworthy of your attention. On to Wizardry, I say! :)

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  6. Please give the the honest try, I am as interested in the history of the hobby as I am in the 'good games', really. Even just the screenshots for such a game are a minor artifact worth posting.

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  7. How does the day/night cycle affect the game? Is it set for each location?

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  8. Thanks for the link, Xyzzy. It fleshed out the backstory a bit more, although it did start to get into spoiler territory. I read far enough to see that the second and third dimensions offer a different type of gameplay than the first, which intrigues me a little. Giauz, the writing is so bad that there's no way.

    Helm, not only am I going to give this an "honest try," I think I'm going to write my first walkthrough for this game.

    'Nym, I don't know. There's a day/night cycle, and then I keep geting notices that days have passed. But in neither case do I know if it affects the game world.

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  9. Pssttt, Guiauz: Why don't you make a google or other account and log in, so we can see your name at the top of the post?

    You know, for your sanity, I'd say 4--5 hours would be a much better test period. If you are still boring at 5 hours, will another make a difference?

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  10. From the description this sounds pretty awful.
    I honestly wonder how you manage to write at least that much about this game when Skyrim is waiting :D

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  11. Oh, and the very idea of a rpg-only magazine (qbusters) sounds fabulous. Shame that print media is dead.

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  12. Yeah, I didn't really think it was him either. +1 for a walkthrough, though.

    Canageek: A few months ago, Google Accounts was working for me just fine. Since it stopped (despite everything I can think of doing to fix it), I have been complaining about it every once in a while. It just will not sign me in for this blog no matter what computer I use or new accounts I create. So, this has to do.

    - Giauz

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  13. You could use another OpenID provider: Wordpress, Yahoo, Flikr or a zillion other places.

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  14. By the way, this game should also not be confused with "Wizard of Wor" (www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYJ5_bMLwpU). I used to play a Wizard of Wor cartridge a lot on my old C64 as a kid. But it's not an RPG.

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  15. Reading about obscure and potentially terrible rpg's is the reason this blog is so good. I'm sure there are some broader game design truisms waiting for you at the other end of slogging through a terrible game, and if nothing else it might help you appreciate the good games even more by virtue of contrast.

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  16. Testing Yahoo OpenID. Otherwise ignore.

    - Giauz

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  17. Still testing, but this time I want to ask how goes the CRPG Addict's personal chronicling of the spellbook? Any nuances to gameplay yet?

    Also, it would seem that Blogger is malfunctioning when trying to connect with this site and that is why nothing I can do with it seems to work.

    - Giauz

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  18. Ok, so I guess I'm back. Damn, you Canageek for all the frustration and (angrily) thanks for suggesting how to get my profile name back!

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  19. Somehow I had this confused with none of the above, but I -did- think you were about to start playing Dragon Wars, which is actually coming up next year.

    You'll probably enjoy that way more.

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  20. At last, the sidewalks of my kingdom will be safe to traverse in winter.

    Sorry, but I hated to see such a great line marred by a simple typo.

    And I'd hate to see you burn out on this blog by forcing yourself to play a lousy game, rather than the good one you've got waiting for you.

    As a compromise, I suggest that you just not post as frequently, so that you can spend more time playing Skyrim, or whatever you want to do. You'll still get through your six hours of Wizard Wars eventually, and your loyal fans won't be too upset, I'm sure.

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  21. I wouldn't mind if, say, every ten or twenty games, our Addict Overlord departed from his list and review a more modern game. Games like Skyrim would make an interesting contrast with the classics, and probably keep our Overlord from going too stir-crazy when he's got Skyrim sitting right there staring at him.

    As much as I would love this blog to go on for the twenty years it would take to get to Skyrim naturally, that seems too much to hope for.

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  22. I guess I third the suggestion to do a Skyrim playthrough instead of this. I do really worry about you breaking your rules, though. Consistency keeps your blog special and "ADDICTIVE."

    On one hand I want you to meet the more resent goal of creating a sort of walkthrough for this obscure game and put in the full 6 or whatever hours for Future Magic and Star Command, while on the other 'tis the season of Skyrim and the game you are currently playing seems more like an extremely minimalist RPG browser-like game.

    It's up to you. Personally, I would give this the six hours unless it is really addictive/easy to finish, then play some Skyrim with a lot of comparison to older CRPGs, and finally get the time put in for those two SF CRPGs before moving on.

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  23. Agree with the above sentiment -- Skyrim is the game of the moment, I'd love to get more posts about it on this blog...

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  24. Posting about Skyrim would be against the whole point of the blog.
    CRPGAddict (true to his name) sees himself as addicted to CRPGs. He started this blog to play them all and get it out of his system. Kind of like being locked in a closet and forced to smoke a whole box of cigars... when you come out you are sick of cigars for life.

    Many, many of us disagree that "addiction" to CRPGs are a bad thing, but hey! Its not up to us to tell him what is good or bad for his life.

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  25. I have a general policy of not telling the addict what to do (Except play all N64 RPGs! Yes! All three of them! I'll loan you my N64 and copies of the games if you need!) but I agree that I can read about Skyrim all over the net-- I can only read about old games here.

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  26. "Posting about Skyrim would be against the whole point of the blog."

    I disagree -- the blog is about charting the growth and maturation of a genre, and the Addict can offer a unique perspective, examining modern games from a wider historical perspective that few professional reviewers could. The occasional post examining a current title makes for a refreshing break and elevates the blog overall. In my humble opinion, of course.

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  27. I don't like the idea of an 'anachronistic' take by the Addict on Skyrim. One thing I love about this blog is its strict annual progression - I think this historic perspective can be very educational with respect to the development of the genre as a whole and especially the rise and fall of some of its (more or less specific) features. Reviewing a modern game would stick out like a sore thumb and violate one of this blog's rules, thereby both undermining its salubrious effect on Chet and its undeniable attraction to OCD-ish persons like me.
    So as much as I like Skyrim, I would highly deprecate its preponement.

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  28. Honestly, if you want to play Skyrim, play Skyrim.
    If you want to blog about it, blog about it.

    This is your blog, you do not have an obligation to anyone.

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  29. WCG, thanks for the typo correction. I catch myself doing that more and more lately as I get older. It's distressing. It's not like I didn't KNOW the right word, but my brain somehow send the signal wrong to my fingers. This didn't happen when I was younger. I hate the thought of having to proofread everything I write twice, but it looks like it's getting to that point.

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  30. Good god. I can't even write a comment without it happening. "Sends." "SENDS the signal."

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  31. That happens to everyone, CRPG Addict. It happens all the time to me, anyway. It takes me forever to write a blog post, because I have to keep reading it over and over, trying to find and correct such things.

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  32. I remember beating that game more than 20 years ago.

    Also, I definitely recall some animations... of lightning streaking out of Temeres' fingertips into the crystal ball. But I must concur that the gameworld is redundantly huge.

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    1. You're right; some of the spells are slightly animated (a few frames). I shouldn't have said there was none.

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  33. God, I loved this game when I was young. If I remember correctly, it gets pretty challenging later on. Or maybe I was just young and wasn't all that great a puzzles yet.

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  34. They later went on to make MegaTraveller, so not all of their games were doomed to obscurity.

    I'm given to understand that Take-Two Interactive was established by Paragon veterans, which yields a curious formula: suckage + time = tomorrow's titans. How exactly they arranged this alchemical transformation is a mystery I look forward to unravelling. I suppose in the early years we couldn't have expected such longevity out of Bethseda or Blizzard either!

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  35. I played it a long time ago. At that time a very nice game.
    There was a spellbook included. I am looking for a scan of it ?
    The spell ingredients were somehow a copy protection.
    On mobygames "indra is here" has postet a list of it.

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    1. I was never able to find a copy of the manual or spellbook, but you are correct: MobyGames has the list of spells in the "Hints" section. Isn't that good enough?

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  36. Well, to play the game its good enough.
    But I remember it was a nice lil book with decent illustrations.
    Too bad I lost it.
    By the way, I found another list with the plain ingredients in your blog :
    Wizard Wars : Someone Else Won !
    In the original list its a lil riddle, the ingredients are a bit paraphrased.

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