Friday, December 23, 2011

Wizardry V: It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Torture

The new party. Level 3 kicked up the monster difficulty a bit, with many more creatures that can paralyze, poison, and kill instantly.

Somewhere between Wizardry IV and Wizardry V, the folks at Sir-Tech seem to have decided that what was really lacking from their games was some adventure-game-style inventory puzzles. You practically can't turn a corner in V without encountering some encounter that you need some object to solve. To me, this does not enhance the game. Dungeon-crawling in the Wizardry series is tough enough without constantly having to backtrack to find some key. Plus, in a game that seems to remember your actions on levels--key enemies, for instance, don't reappear after you've slain them--why oh why can't the game remember that I've already unlocked this door like 18 times?

The spiritual ancestor of Skyrim's alchemy table.

On Level 2, my party had to find a hacksaw (which I wouldn't have found if I hadn't made it a habit to search for "hidden items" in every room) to cut the chains off a door, which led me to an area where I could craft a "spirit-be-gone" potion (the recipe for which I learned elsewhere from a talking duck), which I then used in a square where a spirit kept stealing away a chest, finally allowing me to open the chest and get a jeweled scepter. On Level 3, outside the locked "Temple of Kama Kazi," I found a priest named--wait for it--"Lord Hienmitey"--who offered to trade me a staff needed to enter the temple for the scepter. I gave it to him and he laughed and said actually the scepter was needed to enter the temple, and he then attacked me. I defeated him, but there was no scepter on his body, which meant I had to go back to Level 2 and go through the whole rigmarole again.

Oh, what a clever name.

(Oddly, Hienmitey later appeared in the temple in the castle. I thought maybe he became an NPC at that point, so I paid to have him healed, which he repaid by taking off and showing up at his old dungeon square again. Why? Oh, and even then, he still didn't have the scepter.)

I was dumb enough to pay to resurrect the guy who stole from me and then tried to kill me.

Wizardry V combines the goofiness that I disliked in Might & Magic II (the temple of "Kama Kazi" reminds me, unfavorably, of the NPC "Hari Kari" in MM2; although given my party members' names, I guess I have nothing to complain about) with the nonsensical inventory-hunting tedium of a 1980s adventure game. The items are so random and unmemorable--I have to find a bag of tokens to activate a teleporter to get to the Hurkle Beast, who's guading a bottle of rum that I must give to a knight to pass through a door--that I wish the game had just said, "To get here, you need Item A." I mean, honestly, a "spirit-be-gone potion"?

I have no idea what this is about, so clearly I'm going to have to slog my way back here later.

Adding to this, the levels are enormous. Here's my map of Level 2:

The 0,0 coordinate on all levels seems to be arbitrary.

Level 3 is looking to be just as large, with a complicated, twisty maze in the middle of it. Because passage depends on finding obscure items, I have to be very concerned about missing secret doors, and thus I have to search all of the perimeter walls and all the walls around squares that I eventually color in. Tedious.

Apparently, I need to find some Gold Bond powder somewhere.

As you've noticed, we've had a change in cast. I made a rookie mistake on Level 2 when, with my previous party, I encountered a group of six slimes. I assumed they were the same easy slimes from Level 1, so I just held down the ENTER key (the game's equivalent of Might & Magic's CTRL-A) to blow through the combat. Before I realized that all of the "Killed!" messages I saw flashing by were referring to my own party, four of my six party members were dead. It turned out I was facing "mustard slimes"--quite a bit more deadly. I tried to limp back to the castle, but my remaining two party members were finished off by the next encounter.

The good news is that most of the length of a Wizardry session is mapping. Thus, just as I did with the first Wizardry, I spent a bunch of time grinding a new group of party members. The golem on Level 1 helped. Eventually, my new party exceeded the previous party and I no longer felt any need to rescue them.

Commenter Delmoko's notice that the "Q" key allows you to save an expedition in the dungeon was a bit of a revelation. I completely missed that in the instructions, and I'm pretty sure it's new to this edition of Wizardry (you could go find dead party members in the dungeon in the previous games, but you couldn't deliberately stop and save there). It would have allowed me to take care of the alignment issue if my full-party death hadn't solved that issue on its own. I haven't tried it, but I think this means you could have multiple parties active in the same dungeon at the same time.

I just hadn't bothered to try the key before.

A few other notes from the levels:

  • I keep encountering pools that invite me to dive in and explore different levels. Mostly, bad things happen to me when I try to do this--poison, disease, and drowning. I note that each of my characters has a "swim" score that probably affects success, but I'm not sure how to improve this.
  • Level 2 offered up encounters with a bunch of dwarf fighters who wanted me to pay them 100 gold pieces "for a drink," which I kept refusing and getting into combats. I'm not sure if there was something more I was supposed to learn here.
  • I encountered my first dragon on Level 3. He was a pushover. I stand by the first paragraph in my Skyrim posting last month.

How much sense does it make to encounter a dragon in a dungeon anyway?

  • I was wrong in an earlier posting that you can't lose attributes when you level up. It's happened a few times. It just doesn't happen on every leveling as it did (at least to me) in the first game.
  • I might be wrong, but monster difficulty seems to be tied not only to the level but the zone within the level. I've found areas where I consistently encounter more difficult battles than any other places on the same level.
  • My thief has started to get a lot worse at identifying and disarming traps. The results are often devastating and require a quick trip back to the surface and temple.

This gets old fast.

My feeling is that if Wizardry was going to stick to the same old rules and graphics, they should have stuck to the same old gameplay. I'd rather be re-playing Wizardry than playing Wizardry with dungeons six times as large and eight times as many special items needed to get through them. It's as torturous as it would be if they had made Skyrim with the Akalabeth engine. And I'm only halfway through Level 3! I'm not sure how I'm going to sustain this blog for seven more levels of this, but by next time I post, I'll have some kind of solution.


  1. Your determination to endure this torture is both admirable and mesmerizing. It's a fun read, but I doubt I would have the fortitude to actually play the game. So, as I've said in comments before:

    "Thank you for playing these terrible games so that we don't have to."

    I mean, I'd rather live through your exploits than expose myself to the insanity that is Wizardry V.

  2. To be fair, it could be fun if it was my only game.

  3. You mean your only Wizardry game, or the only game you'd played?

  4. What's so special about the name "Lord Hienmitey"? I feel that I'm missing something here.

  5. Addict, I just checked and the "Q" command does seem to work in the first Wizardry.

  6. and that actually makes sense, because of the "R)estart" command that you also can use!

    I guess we need to give the makers of the series credit for knowing that people would want to save quickly without having to laboriously trek back to the exit point.

    1. Uh... when Wizardry V came out, the only way to escape a dungeon wipe was to flip the floppy out - fast!

      The game was designed to be mean and nasty to you, and sticks well to t.

  7. "High and mighty, Petrus. :) "
    Duh! :facepalm

  8. Canageek, I mean the only game I had to play. It's a decent dungeon crawl,and there's real satisfaction to leveling up. I just feel that nothing's going to happen between now and Level 10 except it's going to get progressively harder. Contrast this with Wasteland or Ultima V in which I have plot developments to cover along the way. I can't even really do a solid "combat tactics" posting because I already covered those way back in Wizardry.

    Thanks, Duskfire. I feel like a bit of an idiot. I played four of these games and never knew you could do that. I thought the "restart" option was there in case you lost power in the middle of a session or something.

  9. I remember playing Wizardry V when I was a kid. I never got far because it's just ridiculously hard, but I enjoyed making parties and leveling them up and sending them in a level or two and then they die and I have to start over. Maybe that explains why I roll so many alts in MMOs.

    Anyway. I think you can get better at swimming by just repeatedly doing it. It's mostly fatal when you try though; I seem to recall finding some sort of wading pool that helped you through the early stages of 'I dive one level and drown'. But maybe that was Wizardry VI.

  10. There's an item to wear to avoid drowning in pools.

    I have to applaud your tenaciousness in starting new parties. That's what eventually killed my interest in the game. I was playing Wiz V in 1987 on my Apple ][ and made it to level 5. This level was a complete mess. Wall and doors everywhere and the whole map I walked in was that 'fog' that you can't see. I had no idea what to do and the encounters were just brutal and bizarre. Eventually I died too many times and couldn't recover my original party in the maze.

    I was fed up and took the game back to the store and said one of the disks was corrupt. They either gave me a new disk or a new game (can't remember). I made a quick trip down to level 5 and it was a proper maze. I had been playing in a corrupted data disk all that time. I just didn't have the heart to start over.

  11. That's a riot. I probably would have gotten to that level and just assumed it was the creators of Wizardry messing with me as usual.

  12. Oh man, I sat down to read your post and just about spit egg nog all over my screen when I saw your samurai "Jingre Bers".

    Also, being of Japanese descent, I am highly offended. ;)

    Merry Christmas!

  13. Apologies for that. There are no named Asian characters in the film, and I wanted to go with something Asian for my samurai. I wish I'd gone with "Farararara" instead.

  14. I am unaware of an item that you need to help you swim. There probably is one tho. I can think of one item, but I gave it to the Duck of Sparks a long while back.

    Anywho, swimming goes as follows:

    If your guy is Swim Level 1, that basically means he can swim to level 2 (or b, as pool depths have letters a-j). You will have to dive down to that level several times before your SWIM stat goes up to 2. Then dive in level 3 (c) a bunch of times until it raises again.

    I would say you need to dive 5-10 times on each level to raise up your "swim." This is best done when you find a pool where the levels don't harm you. Many levels in the pool won't affect you or they will affect you positively (healed).

    I believe there are two of these on level 3 that are safe to get at least one of your guys SWIM 7 or 8. Most of the times when you encounter a deep pool there will more than likely be a "boss" fight on the bottom level where you will get an item you need.

    Another nice thing about pools is that some levels will give (or take away) stats. I.e. GAIN AGILITY. My thief is level 13 or so and has almost all 18's for stats. (not sure if I want to change him over to Ninja, as he uses a MEDIUM length weapon and fights from the 4th slot). He rarely bumbles a chest...

    My Priest in the 5th slot has a MORNINGSTAR which allows him to fight too. That is helpful. Also, I just found a Long Sword +2 that hits 7-17, which is even better than the Katana (7-13).

    The levels are large, but there is usually 2-3 different areas on each level. You can only get to different parts of each level thru different methods (elevator, ladders, ropes). It's like Wizardry +3. (get it? hehe)

    The levels in this one are crazy large, hard as hell and it's still all line, bare bones graphics. My biggest problem right now is lugging around so much junk and not having very many open slots to find things. Once my Priest or Mage gets all their spells (hopefully 1 more level) I'll change one or both of them into a Bishop so they can Identify stuff in the maze on the fly.

    Aye yi yi. You gotta be hardcore to love Wizardry! :)

  15. Random squares typically do not contain items, so you don't need to inspect them. Squares with flavour text, however, *are* worth inspecting and that is where solving the puzzles lies.

    Also, the Rubber Duck item will allow any character to swim freely. It's very helpful. The Mad Stomper has it, but I think there is another way to get it.

  16. Interesting... I gave the one I bought to the Duck of Sparks, but I'm pretty sure he has more to sell for 6,000 gold pieces. Even tho most of my guys swim an 8 or 9 by this point.

    Thanks for the info!

  17. Dear CRPG addict,

    Thank you for your fortitude and good humor with this relic. Inventory killing puzzles are standard for the bradley era Wizardry, but at least in VI and VII the program lets you know what to keep and what you can sell or toss.

    Despite the obvious flaws I think that Wizardry does have one very redeming virtue: the ability to replay over and over. I know of some players who go from 6 characters to 2 or even 1 and try to go through the game changing classes constantly.

    Wizardry is either an absorbing/satisfying mental challenge, or its a plate of raw liver. There is no way to play this as a lark and enjoy it.

    Sorry the Jazz band is gone. I remember playing Pool of Radiance and having two fighters as Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing. Next time I play Wizardry I will have Syd Barrett and Richard Wright in the lineup.

    You were in New Orleans and you did not let me know - how sad.

    At any rate


  18. The rubber duck bit was something of a spoiler, but I appreciate it anyway, as I wouldn't have found it otherwise.

    JJ, I honestly forgot you were there! It would have been a bad trip to meet up anyway. A friend of mine just got divorced and was looking for a harmless fling, so I had to act as his wingman for three days.

  19. Dear CRPG Addict,

    No problem. You are a busy man and your friend was in need.

    Have a happy new year!

  20. Why are you playing RPGs if you don't like such important elements of the genre as exploration and puzzles?
    Would you prefer everything be as simple and dumb as Skyrim or Mass Effect?
    Or maybe like diablo:kill->xp->more kills->more xp?

    The game should provide challenge. It is player, who should be good enough for a game, not the game should be bad enough for player.

  21. You know,for me, as my job is about solving problems I just love games where I can get around the usual tedious things. And awkward puzzles are one thing which I don't prefer for these reasons. Exploration is one another thing. It can be good when the game makes me wanting for more of it, but seeing the same dungeon textures for hours is surely not the way to achieve it

  22. 'Nym, I do like exploration and puzzles. But I hours of wandering featureless hallways isn't exactly "exploration," and getting a rubber ducky from some creature called "The Mad Stomper" to give to some other creature called "The Duck of Sparks" isn't my idea of a good puzzle. Not when Dungeon Master and Pool of Radiance have already been on the scene. Honestly, have you read any of the other entries on my blog?

  23. I'm guessing he or she hasn't played Skyrim either, as exploration is one of the largest parts of it-- I freqently find myself taking cross contry paths of questionable speed bonuses, since it means you find more cool stuff. I think exploration is something that has been greatly improved by better graphics, as now you can gaze down on magnificent vistas and such. I'll often take detours to see cool looking stuff in the distance.

    It also has a decent number of puzzles, though quite sadly all of the 'turn these pillars to whale, eagle or snake" type, though with some cool twists (Turn the pillars to the order they appear in the nearby book on Nord mythology, which means you had to be crazy enough to read that book, which is a common tome throughout the game).

    Therefore I'm concluding that you haven't played any new RPGs, and just picked out two modern ones to attack. The first Mass Effect game WAS annoyingly linear throughout most of the dungeons, and did have the modern version of pallette swapped enemy syndrom, but I would hardly call it stupid compared to wandering around identical corridors for 16 hours.

  24. Every time I start an Elder Scrolls game, I promise I'm going to avoid fast traveling. It usually works well for the first half of the game, but I always succumb towards the end.

    1. I liked that Fallout 4 Hardcore mode disabled fast travel. The early game was very blood pumping when you had to run to a safe space past a random encounter point.

    2. Agreed. After playing that game on "Survival," I couldn't imagine going back. It's so much more challenging and fun.

  25. Heya Addict, Always seem to catch up on your blog between girlfriends. Good t get caught up again, I too am sucked into Skyrim but it's starting to wear on me..
    Selling the Xbox eh? well as a PC gamer great, but didn't you try that years and years and years ago when you chucked all your 80's/90's crpg's? I say keep it... or better yet get a top notch PC. I don't mind you mixing it up bit as far as retro/modern crpg's go. (Honestly Skyrim is what a large percentage of us have been playing, of course we want the Addicts opinion :)

    Bards Tale 3 Redux :)
    I never finished 2 or 3. But I was toying with the Idea of Joining you for the BT3 redux. Seems like the c64 version is the best. (it actually has better animation then both the Amiga And PC versions PC and Amiga are apparently loaded with game crippling bugs (gems, enemys with no special attacks). even the c64 version has a bug that can jip a newbie party out of critical experience in the starter dungeon... no one version seems to get it all right.


    1. worth mentioning for anyone browsing late that someone reverse engineered and put out a BT3 fixed executable to correct many of those game crippling bugs. see forum here:

  26. The problem with the "top notch" PC route is that I really, really don't want to invest in a desktop computer. I'd only use it for games, and that feels irresponsible. Meanwhile, unless I mortgage my house for a laptop, it's hard to find even a new one that has the optimum hardware specs for a lot of modern games.

    Much better just to stick with my classic games.

  27. For someone living in Vienna, the name "Lord Hienmitey" is rather baffling. It looks a lot like one of the more bizarre dishes of Viennese cuisin, Hirn mit Ei (brain with eggs). Read aloud as German with an Austrian accent, it would sound exactly the same.

    1. That's great. I need to do a special post one of these days on CRPG names and dialogue that don't translate well.

    2. I'd still enjoy seeing this one. Have you done it? I'm rereading everything; maybe I missed it in earlier, more selective, passes.

  28. "Magnetics" as a chest trap? How do they work?

    1. Some kind of crazy miracle going on there.

    2. It works like this.

  29. I played this game on the SNES and the graphics were 100x better. I found the game pretty enjoyable, I've even gone back to replay it a couple times over the years. It's got a sort of classic charm.

  30. I just had to comment, when I saw that no-one else had done so, on the fact that Lord Hienmitey appears in the character list back in town, and yet is not recruitable. What in the world is going on with that? I would be tempted to call that a unique mechanic in all CRPGdom, considering it is noteworthy and seemingly useless, but that just makes me wonder if it is some strange bug instead.

    In any case, the fact that this game comes (accidentally?) close to letting you beat down and then recruit enemies clearly makes it the primary inspiration for Pokémon.

    1. If a crpg mechanic inspired Pokemon, I would have thought it'd have been the monster acquisition in Dragon Quest 5 (1992) which was the biggest RPG series in Japan.

      However, Satoshi Tajiri was simply an insect collector, and wanted to make a game about collecting critters.

    2. I think this is a mechanism for resurrecting NPCs that the party has accidentally killed before they fill their purpose. If you end up slaying the mad stomper before collecting the duck or exhausting his dialogue choices, you can at least resurrect him and find him in the dungeon again.

    3. "why oh why can't the game remember that I've already unlocked this door like 18 times?"

      I abandoned this game when I had to use the saw for 100th time. Cunning monsters were welding back the gate sure.


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