Monday, November 21, 2011

Wizard Wars: Walking Through

The game is easy enough that the death screen is rare.

As a long time connoisseur of CRPG walkthroughs (see my September 2010 posting), I've always been interested in creating one. (Before I started this blog, I used to use them liberally during gameplay, and I still like to read them after I've finished.) But every time I thought to create one for a game I particularly liked, I would find out that someone like Andrew Schultz had already beaten me to it. Now, at last, I've reached a game--Wizard Wars--that has nothing online. No walkthroughs, no let's plays, not even a significant user review. The best we have is an old 1989 article from QuestBusters that Xyzzy Magic linked me to. And while it seems to have a lot of spoilers (I stopped reading), it's still not a proper walkthrough.

So I fired up Notepad and began my text file as I played Wizard Wars. Here's what I've discovered: writing a walkthrough is hard, even for an absurdly simple game like this.

A good walkthrough is exhaustive, which means that I have to do everything there is to do in the game. I've got to visit each of the 30 territories in the first dimension multiple times, making sure I don't miss anything. (It's hard, but not impossible, to miss something when your only options are "Search for Item" and "Search for Inhabitants.") Then I have to catalog each monster, noting both the statistics that are on the surface (hit points and armor points) as well as those on which I have to perform measures of central tendency and dispersion (average damage, average hit rate). After the monsters, I have to try to figure out what all these items do. I've got a bunch of stuff--brass cup, broken sword, platinum bracelet, rocksalt--that seems to serve no purpose. At least not yet.

My mysterious inventory.

Just when I start to feel like I'm developing a solid list of territories and encounters, something hits me: What if the game randomizes some of its encounters on every new game? Now I've got to play it at least one more time to makes sure I encounter the same things in the same places on the second go. Bloody hell.

"Chet," I can hear you all sighing. "Why are you wasting time on this game? Wizardry V is next, and we know you're sneaking off to spend time with Skyrim." And you would be correct. But Wizard Wars is too easy to give up on. When I say "too easy," I mean first that the encounters (at least so far) have been very one-sided, with my wizard blasting his way through every sort of foe, but I also mean that it's too easy in terms of knowing precisely what to do next. Twenty feet to the left of where I'm typing this is a nice long couch upon which currently rests a dormant Xbox controller that, if I press the power button, will launch Skyrim. Yet if I were to abandon Wizard Wars for Skyrim, I'd have to bring up my enormous quest list and figure out which of 49 active quests to embark on next. In modern CRPGs, you're almost paralyzed with indecision. Thus, there's something refreshingly rote about Wizard Wars, at least in the first dimension. You visit each territory one-by-one, search for...you know what? This is easier as a flow chart.


Click to expand.


This isn't to say there were no special encounters in the first dimension. I found a few, but they took multiple visits and only revealed themselves after defeating several random enemies, so it's going to be a long process of searching five or six times before I'm confident I picked up everything. For instance, in territory #30, Raknor, I found some cat people who needed help opening a chest:




The full encounter reads:

Aimex has been the ruler of a cat-like people who have existed since Mazeus created the dimensions. In their keeping is a large iron-bound chest containing a sacred book. In this book lies all the knowledge of this race and its entire history. Long ago, a magical enchantment was cast upon the chest's lock to safeguard the book. Since then, no one has been able to unlock the chest. Worse, no one knows what happened to the mage who enchanted the lock. There is only one way in which the chest may be unlocked and that is with the help of Agien's Magical Lockpick. Aimex says that in return for opening the chest, he will give you an item that has been in his possession for quite some time.


At the time, I didn't have such a lockpick, but I later discovered it while searching for items on another map:




When I took it back to the cat people, they were suitably grateful and gave me a scroll with the "Fear" spell--the second spell I've obtained. (There's an option to "create spells" on the main screen, but I haven't been able to figure out how to get it to work.)

Some of the other territories featured encounters with unique enemies, or bits of advice from sages. Here are a few related screen shots:




Ultimately, I'm not sure what it all adds up to. The main purpose of the first dimension seems to be to develop your character sufficiently so he can survive the second dimension. When Temeres hit 200 wisdom points (he starts with 100), the game gave the second dimension to me as an option. It turns out to be wholly unlike the first, featuring a 3-D maze full of random encounters.




Unless they've done something extraordinarily creative here, I can't imagine an old mapping pro like me having a lot of trouble here.

Unless Wizard Wars offers anything groundbreaking between now and its end, I won't waste your time with more drivel on this game; I'll just give you the "won!" posting at the end. In the meantime, I might take one more diversion into Skyrim since several of my readers said they wouldn't mind another take on it.


18 comments:

  1. The name "Nhagardia" above suggests some connection to the later game http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Challenge_of_the_Five_Realms

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  2. Wow. Great catch, Welcome. I never would have noticed that or picked up on its significance. It's a bit of a mystery. Wizard Wars was released by Paragon and Challenge of the Five Realms by Microprose. I can't find any evidence that they shared staff. If you Google "Nhgardia" without "Challenge of the Five Realms," you get nothing, so it doesn't come from mythology or another source. I have no idea how the name transmitted from one to the other.

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  3. I have to get to bed soon, but I wanted to say that after reading some other posters' impassioned pro-rules-consistency posts I am a bit ashamed of my weakness. Ultimately it is your judgement about how to keep your blog in an enjoyable progression.

    Oh, also wanted to say that I have been playing the DnD Anthology since 11/21/2011 at 7:30pm (yeah early deliveries!) and just stopped a few minutes ago.

    I started out with Baldur's Gate 1, and I have to say that graphics look fine (though my Gnome Fighter/Cleric Giauz Larcen looks much more goofy than his badass picture and puting on armor makes it worse), but the UI, while totally playable, is a bit grating especially when opening your character menus automatically unpauses the game and enemies start putting the smackdown on you. I also think I will need to put more time into the manual and grasping what the heck it is my spells and such actually do. I only made it out of the starting area before saving and quiting for now.

    And the only other game I have started so far is BUMBUMBUM Planescape: Torment. I am frigging loving the writing and commedy. PST also beats BG1 in graphics and UI in my book. Despite all the things I have heard about the bad UI and combat in PST, so far I actually love it compared to what I have experienced (Ultima 4/5, POR, Wasteland, Betrayal at Krondor, Morrowind) so far in CRPG UIs (even withought direct control of party movement my characters move so fast and fluidly, everything has a little description that really makes searching around fun, and items have vastly easier to understand descriptions than Baldur's Gate). If it weren't for crushing tiredness and other people in my home complaining, I could go a few more hours on PST.

    I'll put some more time into BG1 tonight and maybe start a game on The Temple of Elemental Evil (this might go better for me without having to worry about dying in real time when I accidentally cancel my pause, give me time to digest what my stuff does while actually playing the game even if my playing does slow to glacial anti-warpspeed).

    But make no mistake I hunt tonight for TORMENT!!!

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  4. Hey Addict, glad you will do another Skyrim post. I'm playing it as well, and would love to here your thoughts. As long as the blog generally sticks to it goal, posts about modern games are fine with me. It's an interesting contrast with the older titles.

    Giazu, one thing you might want to consider with the Baldur's Gate games is the screen resolution mod. I dunno what size screen you are playing on, but playing on the native resolution for that screen will make the game look much better. I replayed Baldur's Gate earlier this year, and it made a huge difference. Playing through BG2 right now, bout 3/4 through, and again the resolution mod makes a huge difference. There is a similar mod for Torment, though I have no experience with it. I will probably replay that next year sometime. Also, I have read that when using the mod for Torment, it can make the fonts pretty small. Though there is a separate mod to correct the fonts, again I have not tried it. Anyway, good luck.

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  5. Just out of curiosity, how does the levelling system work? Does the game even have xp and levels?

    Also, not every walkthrough has a Dan Simpson level of attention to details. Some just tell you the basics. In fact, I wrote a walkthrough once that was just two paragraphs long, I think. Anyway, it's your call, I guess, but I don't think you need to cover every detail in the game.

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  6. I dont want to spoil anything but for what I read in that pdf review, the "create spell" option is meant as a copy protection:
    The manual give recipe for spell creation, and those are used to win the game.
    With so much ingredient (as in your inventory screen) I guess you cant do the trial and error approach to guess the spell recipe.

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  7. Hi, first post on this site though I've been reading it for several months now. Just got completely caught up through the archives and all the games. I want to say right off the bat that I love the entire concept of this site. As a 30 year-old who cut his gaming teeth on comprehensive adventures like "Below the Root" and crpgs like "Ultima VI" it's been a lot of fun to look back, not just on the evolution of the rpg genre as a form of entertainment, but also on how the people who created these games all connected with each other.

    For instance, Nhagardia does have a link between this game and Challange of the Five Realms. Off the Paragon Software wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paragon_Software

    "MicroProse acquired Paragon outright in July, 1992. As part of MicroProse, the Paragon team developed Challenge of the Five Realms and BloodNet. Soon after, many of the former Paragon principals moved on to co-found or work for Take-Two Interactive, and what was once Paragon ceased to exist."

    So some of the people who worked on Wizard Wars worked on Challange of the Five Realms too. And while the latter is the more popular reference to Nhagardia, the game you're playing is probably the first use of the word. These little things, the history and even the anthropology, are what keep me coming back. That, and the detailed retrospectives on good games I missed out on because I was too young at the time. I've since gone back and played the Ultima I-V, but I'd never even heard of Starflight until I started reading this site. I'm having a blast playing it at the moment.

    I'll stop before I ramble too much. If you ever find yourself in Philadelphia for any reason, let me know ahead of time. The self-indulgence I've gotten here has well been worth the price of a vodka gimlet or two. Looking forward to future posts.

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  8. Giauz, I think P:ST is the best crpg ever. Not ui-wise, certainly not, but story-wise? It cannot get much better than that. The fallouts come close, but still are behind.

    All in my not so humble opinion, of course.

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  9. Well, SER, I might try that out. Right now I don't care so much to fiddle with the software. I'm just trying to get into the game as the story, equipment system, and magic system look promising (just as soon as I get a bearing on just how usefull items of these systems are).

    The biggest thing holding me back on BG1 is as I said the UI. You have menu options to your right, character infor to your right, and action options on the bottom, all of them so spread out. Even with pause, which as I mentioned you cancel when deciding to look at a character screen strangely, this makes playing a bit more tedious.

    In contrast, PST centers everything at the bottom leaving a good contrast between playing window and menu options. You also have a smoother scrolling playing window and holding down SHIFT while clicking makes your party run quite fast (I have not tested to see if the shift key also does this in BG1). Finally, right-clicking to open your little quick menu is also super useful as opposed to that in BG1 not doing much of anything.

    Also, to Canageek: Looks like the Addict's and my decision to get that Atari DnD Anthology wasn't so bad after all. It is completely DRM free! I will see if I can make some backup copies of the 2 install DVDs just incase something happens with my computer, test them out, and then have the original set as it was delivered to me to the Addict in no time.

    AH! MORE DISTRACTIONS FOR YOU, CHET! MUHAHAHA!!111!

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  10. I'd agree with Nikolaj that you don't have to create an exhaustive walkthru immediately - in fact, on GameFAQS it's common to see additions and corrections added to walkthroughs as the writer goes back and completes things left undone.

    I've never written up a walkthrough myself, but I've done a couple of reviews of games. I could probably do more, I just haven't taken the time. And like yourself, I'd prefer to do games that have few or no walkthroughs or reviews.

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  11. Doh! I meant to say menu options on your left for BG1.

    Claus: While I agree that some aspects of PST's UI could be tighter, I actually feel it is superb compared to BG1 and the other games I listed.

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  12. Giauz: Temple of Elemental Evil is a brilliant game, just be sure you google it for the fan-patches before you play.

    I havn't tried out the anthology edition, but the boxed addition was crippled with bugs long after Troika was gone.

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  13. Regarding Wizard Wars, I'm currently only curious about what the 2nd and especially 3rd dimensions are like. It sounds like there's a 3-games-in-one gimmick underpinning the whole thing.

    I tried some of the widescreen/resolution mods for BG1 but I found that it exacerbated the annoyance of the occasional pixel-hunting that you have to do to find items. My only real gripe with BG1's interface is that you have to open the inventory screen to switch between a 1H+shield combo and a 2H weapon, and I think they may have fixed that in some or all later Infinity Engine games?

    Temple of Elemental Evil has always interested me, but I've always avoided it because everyone says it was crippled by bugs. It's good to know there are fan patches like there are for VtM: Bloodlines. I wonder if that means there are fan patches for Arcanum too?

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  14. I've played through Cot5R and it's a very interesting game - perhaps also being 'good' eludes it - with an otherwordly atmosphere at times. Very confusing UI, though.

    It's pretty common for crpgs to inherit the lore of the d&d campaigns of their designers. This seems to be the case with WW/Cot5R. The shared ancestry is intriguing, as is the art of the game (at least for a pixel art nerd like me). The Death Knight is wearing a kickass brocas helm, Helm adds.

    Thank you for carrying on with this game, the contribution to history is appreciated by many, I'm certain.

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  15. Although I'm personally not terrifically fond of BG1 in general, it benefits dramatically from importing the entire game into the BG2 engine using either the Baldur's Gate Tutu or Baldur's Gate Trilogy mods. The latter attempts to stitch the first and second games into a single experience with an added transition sequence between the end of BG1 proper and the start of BG2, to mixed success.

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  16. Giauz, I'm glad you feel that way, because I did a big Skyrim posting just now. Also, what SER said about the resoultion mods. I found they made the games much more tolerable.

    Nikolaj, the leveling system consists of progressive increases to spell-casting experience based on use of spells in combats, and progressive increases to wisdom (the uses of which I don't know, except that a certain minimum is needed to get to the next world) based on encounters. No levels, no overt "experience points." I haven't found any way to increase maximum health.

    'Nym: Christ. That changes things, doesn't it? Maybe that's why there are no walkthroughs online. Bollocks.

    Erik, thanks for the research. I was looking at it last night, but somehow I missed the fact that Microprose bought Paragon, which of course explains it.

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  17. A list of magic ingredients can be found for Wizard Wars here:
    https://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/wizard-wars/hints/hintId,11004/

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