Thursday, November 24, 2011

Game 67: Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom (1988)

This isn't an anthropomorphic heart with legs, as I first thought. Those are two women kneeling on either side of it.


You have to hand it to Andrew Greenberg and Sir-Tech: When they've got something that works for them, they sure stick with it. Here, by comparison, are the main castle screen shots of Wizardry (the first one, in 1981) and Wizardry V (1988):




In the intervening 7 years, they sure worked their butts off on that font, didn't they? I mean, as much work as they clearly put into that typeface, I can see where they wouldn't have had time to upgrade the interface or, you know, change the name of the tavern and trading post, even though the game takes place hundreds of years later in a different city. Clearly, Gilgamesh and Boltac were such legends at Trebor's Castle that shop- and tavern-owners around the world honor their name ever since.

Lest you think I'm too hard on the game from its opening screen shot, here's a dungeon-crawling shot:




And here's a combat screen:




You really have to admire the confidence of the developers. It's like if Peter Jackson, in remaking King Kong, had said, "Screw the special effects. Just put a guy in an ape suit. People come for the story anyway."

But you know what? Despite my sarcasm, I'm looking forward to playing Wizardry V. Sometimes you're just in the mood for a good old-fashioned dungeon crawl. It's not like the first Wizardry was boring. And for all the similarity in appearance, this latest edition does promise to offer a little more in the way of encounters, plus some new features in spells and such that I'll cover next time.

The good news is that unlike Wizardry II and Wizardry III, this game doesn't require you to create characters in the first game and then import them. You can create them right in V, which means that when my party inevitably gets wiped out, I won't have to go through the whole rigmarole of creating a new one in I and importing them into V--a process that killed my enthusiasm for II and III. I imported a III party for a little initial exploration (and the screen shots above), but I'm going to create some brand new folks tomorrow.


See if you can identify the four new things on the character screen.


Short posting today. I have to take a quick detour back to Wizard Wars to finish it up. Also, it's apparently some sort of "holiday," and Irene is dragging me off to the house of some people I barely know instead of letting me stay home to play Wizardry and Skyrim. My advice is that you re-acquaint yourself with my postings for Wizardry, Wizardry II, and Wizardry III (and go easy on me; I was new to blogging). I've taken a lot of criticism for bailing on II and III as quickly as I did, so we're in this one for the long haul.



35 comments:

  1. you need to look at them as expansions packs for wizardry 1, not as extra games, then it makes sense.

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  2. "You really have to admire the confidence of the developers. It's like if Peter Jackson, in remaking King Kong, had said, "Screw the special effects. Just put a guy in an ape suit. People come for the story anyway.""

    But it King Kong's case it would probably improve the movie. What an utterly boring and soulless movie that was...

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  3. I'm really interested in your impressions of this game. I've played some of the first 3 Wizardrys and the SNES version of this one. This one is the first Wizardry where they actually made it more than just a boring dungeon slog and populated the dungeon with encounters, NPCs, puzzles, etc. Even though they did use the same engine and the same basic premise of one dungeon and one town. But I still think the early Wizardry games don't hold a candle to the Might and Magic series. Those are just so damn fun.

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  4. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Mr. CRPG-A! :)

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  5. I've played this years ago and I remember it being much, much bigger than 1-3. It has the same flaw that you get stuck on levels running around to to get a fight to level up as there is nothing else to do before you're strong enough to proceed. As much as I enjoyed playing them, 4&5 are the only Wizardry I never finished.

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  6. Wow, I've had the Wizardry collection for many years now and I've never noticed that the heart's "legs" were really women propping it up. Granted, that only makes slightly more sense than it having legs.

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  7. That's not an anthropomorphic "hero-heart" with legs and a sword slung across his back like a badass?

    Huh.

    Anyway, happy Thanksgiving.

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  8. Wow, that's weird... Wizardry V's font looks EXACTLY like the 5x8 font used on the TI-99/4a home computer system. Seriously, I swear it's like it's running on one... wish it was, we could have used more CRPG's on the platform.

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  9. The very old PCs were very slow when drawing pictures on screen. That is the reason why the game doesn't have good graphics. It would have been too slow.

    It could sometimes take 5 minutes to draw a picture that filled the whole screen. You would get pretty bored waiting for that.

    That is the reason why they "put the guy in a ape suit".

    - Andreas

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  10. I hope you don't bail on this game. It's a classic.

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  11. It is also like in those days 50.000 people would buy the game. Todays games sell in the millions. I think the budget were more tight in those days and the games were therefore smaller. You have to wait forever now for Guild Wars 2. They can decide themselves when they will be releasing the game.

    - Andreas

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  12. Stu, Sir-Tech is a bit cagey about this. The second and third installations they called "scenarios," and you needed the first game to be able to play them. But the fourth and fifth are definitely called Wizardry IV and Wizardry V, and they don't require the first game to play.

    Petrus, I didn't even see it. I probably should have used a different example.

    Amy, thanks. I hope all of you in the U.S. had a good day.

    'Nym, I plan to see this one through. Except the first one, I've not treated the Wizardry series very well.

    Andreas, I'd like to accept that excuse, but we're in the era in which Dungeon Master, Might & Magic II, and a host of other games that use much more advanced graphics and interfaces have come and gone. I could see this being the reason in 1981--heck, CRPGs were brand new back then, and only a few geeks had any real computing power--but not in 1988.

    That doesn't mean it's going to be a bad game. You know me: I'll happily play a text adventure if the story and game elements are good. I just find it amusing that in the face of so many games using more advanced engines, Sir-Tech kept happily releasing the same thing.

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  13. Obviously, I hope EVERYONE had a good day yesterday. I hope those in the U.S. had a good THANKSGIVING Day.

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  14. @Andreas: I think the many, many previous games will show you that your reasoning isn't explanation enough. I guess they could have had a tiny budget, but I think the many other older games on this blog, shows that this game could have been much, much prettier :)

    I don't think I've posted since I read the posting about what CRPG's could teach you, but I'm still following your blogging, Addict, and enjoying it greatly :)

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  15. You'll be happy to know that Wizardry 6 uses a new, much prettier EGA engine. I cut my teeth on it and like it better than everything else in the sub-genre that came before (and much of what came after).

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  16. Andrew, The CRPG Addict played Wizardry IV in October of 2010. :)

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  17. @CRPGAddict; Grrr, you preempted my snark.

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  18. The hilarious thing is that you had some of the exact same first impressions of Wizardry IV. This is what you posted last year:

    "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?"

    Actually, I think you're being a little nicer this time around. :^D

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  19. Eh, that's still the way it is though. Imagine in 20 years when the FPSAddict is playing through the Call of Duty series. Each one, especially the Modern Warfare flavors, is basically the same game with a different scenario.

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  20. I liked Peter Jackson's King Kong. : )

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  21. Ryan, you were probably around 13 when at the time, and thus on the target audience. ;-)

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  22. @Raifield:the thing is, since wolf3d fps games did not advanced as much as rpg games did in the 80s. So I don't think you are right about that. CoD is good old action b-movie, after 20years you will be still able to jump in for a quick ride.

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  23. Seven years after the inaugural game in the franchise, and the Wizardry series continues on the afterburner fumes of the success of the original. However, by '88, Wizardry V must have looked anachronistic in comparison to the more modern CRPGs. But I like wireframe graphics for some weird reason.

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  24. I was under the impression that they designed the game for an Apple II still, out of some loyalty to their original player base. Then ported it to other systems without worrying about updating graphics or sound.

    Still, I did stick this one out until about two-thirds through, and I think the Addict will be able to hold out till the end since there's a more interesting story here, plus lots of characters in the dungeons and some fun level design. It's far more accessible than IV and succeeds as a classic dungeon hack.

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  25. This, in my opinion, is where the Wizardry series started to actually get interesting.

    Alas, this is also where the Japanese Wizardry line broke off from the main line. It's a shame, because now the only Wizardry we're getting are retranslated Japanese-made ones, and so they don't have the plethora of classes and races found in the post-V games.

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  26. @Bunyip That may be true about Sir-Tech designing the Wizardry games for Apple II first and then porting to other systems. But even so, by 1988 the secrets of double hi-res for the Apple II had been unlocked and mastered, so Might and Magic II (1988) for the Apple II looked like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEX1UhMPpdw

    (I never saw double hi-res when I had an Apple II back then - if I had, my little mind would have been blown).

    So even if they were still developing for the Apple II first, Sir-Tech was pretty lazy. :)

    But as the Addict says, the game may still be great even with the lazy graphics.

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  27. Wizardry really takes off at part six, at least that was the first one I could stand to finish. It's pretty classic, but rough around the edges up to that point. You have a lot of games between this and that, but I think you'll find it to be a lot better. Then again, I was only in middle school when Crusaders of the Dark Savant came out, so my glasses aren't so rose tinted.

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  28. >>because now the only Wizardry we're getting are retranslated Japanese-made ones<< I dloaded some of the latest Wizardry games for the PS3 lately. Except for the classy grapichs, they could still be the same wireframe dungeons, step-by-step gameplay. Rather amazing, really. Kind of cool, actually. Statement, comma, modifer.

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  29. Modifier even. Modifer looks like it's referring to a type of tree.

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  30. Wizardry V is pretty noteworthy for being D. W. Bradley's entry into the series. But Wizardry V-VII were his best efforts (there were things in Wizards & Warriors and Dungeon Lords that were interesting mechanically, but the games were fairly flawed. To say the least). V is something of a departure from I-III in that it's more involved, and it shows off some of the things you'll see in Bane of the Cosmic Forge and Crusaders of the Dark Savant.

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  31. Ahh yes the world of D.W. Bradley. Graphics is never the strong suit of Wizardry. Pity that since the tactical system is very strong, but we cannot have everything. Good work CRPG addict. You continue to impress.

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  32. GammaLeak, that's hilarious. I had completely forgotten that I wrote that. I should have taken the advice I gave to all of you and reviewed my previous Wizardry postings.

    Obviously, graphics aren't everything with me, and my initial forays into W5 show gameplay elements that are substantially advanced from its predecessors. I do think I'm going to like this one.

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  33. Hey Addict,

    Sorry for your misfortune and hope things get better for you this holiday season! We love your blog!

    - John

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  34. I guess I'm retro commenting here. Wizardry didn't offer much in the way of graphical improvements between III, IV and V (and the changes between II and III are of dubious advantage). It might be debatable how much they could have done given how much of their fanbase was still on the Apple II - which didn't have a graphical upgrade after the IIe rev B. They could have put some energy into making the engine FASTER. On a 1MHz machine paging through Boltac's Trading post was horrifically slow.

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