Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wizardry II: Won!*



Wizardry: Scenario #2 - The Knight of Diamonds
Sir-Tech Software (developer and publisher)
Released 1982 for Apple II and DOS; 1986 for FM-7 and PC-88; 1987 for PC-88 and Sharp X1; 1988 for Commodore 64; 1990 for Macintosh; 1991 for NES; 2001 for Game Boy Color; 1993 for TurboGrafx CD; 1997 for PlayStation, SEGA Saturn, and Windows
Date Started: 9 April 2010
Date Ended: 24 March 2014
Total Hours: 26
Difficulty: Hard (4/5)
Final Rating: 32
Ranking at Time of Posting: 84/142 (59%)

It was almost four years ago that I first played Wizardry: Scenario #2 - The Knight of Diamonds. The first Wizardry (Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord) was audacious in its demands on the player: extreme difficulty, little character progression, mapping puzzles, and--above all--permadeath. Wizardry II upped the ante by not only featuring all of the same elements but also requiring the player to import characters from the first game. If played "straight," a party slain in Wizardry II was permanently dead and the player--I'm completely serious--would have to win the first Wizardry again (or at least build up the characters to high enough levels in that game) before trying again in II. This is the only game I know whose permadeath requires starting over in an earlier game.

Well, back in 2010, I did play it straight and I died almost right away. Since I wasn't willing to go back and win Proving Grounds again, I gave up on the game after only a few hours and moved on, never expecting to return.
 
But last October, amidst my writings on Wizardry VI and Oubliette--the PLATO game that inspired many of Wizardry's elements--I began to seriously jones for the original Wizardry again. In the last four years, and especially since I've played through the non-DOS games from 1979-1982 that I originally skipped, I've really learned to appreciate how unbelievably good it was for its time. In my opinion, in the entire first half of the 1980s, the only other game that can challenge it is Ultima III. Because I went almost directly from Wizardry to Ultima III in 2010, skipping a horde of non-DOS games in between, I didn't realize the implications of that.
 
In preparation for this post, I had to win Wizardry again with a new party.

Because of these realizations, and because I was a clueless, novice blogger when I first wrote about Wizardry, I wanted to offer a retrospective on Wizardry to coincide with my fourth anniversary. I fired up the game, developed a new party, and began re-experiencing it, this time taking more detailed notes for more in-depth postings than I offered in 2010. When I finally finished the game around Christmas, I had notes enough for about seven entries but no longer had any motivation to write them, and to be honest, I don't know if I ever will. But I also had a successful party ready to try again in Wizardry II. When I saw that completing II would allow me to finish 1982 having won every (reasonably) winnable game up to that point, I decided to give it a try.

This time, I backed up the party; hence, my asterisk in the title. Much like I did with Wizardry V, I also allowed myself to back up the save disk after every playing session and restore party members if they were eradicated. The funny thing was, I didn't need it much. I only restored from the save disk four or five times. The Knight of Diamonds is not easy, but in the ways that it's hard, it's predictably hard. The monsters don't scale in difficulty as dramatically as in Proving Grounds, and I never found myself in a combat in which I was in danger of having everyone eradicated. No single combat in II was anywhere near as difficult as the final battle with Werdna and his allies in I.

Wizardry II is the only direct sequel in this series--in which you play the same characters and they retain their levels--until Wizardry VII. In basic mechanics, it is the same game as the first Wizardry, to the extent that in The Ultimate Wizardry Archives, a description of the game occupies only a single page: the reader is instructed to look at the instructions for the first game for everything but the brief back story. All the spells are the same; even the shop names are the same, although II takes place in a different city (of course, this would also be the case in V).
 
Gilgamesh and Boltac really have a corner on their franchises.
 
The story and quest for Knight of Diamonds are probably the weakest of the series. Basically, the City of Llylgamyn used to be protected by the Staff of Llylgamyn (bestowed by the goddess Gnilda), which prevented evil people from entering the city. Through a dumb loophole, it didn't work on Llylgamyn natives, so a resident named Davalpus staged a coup and slaughtered the royal family. The only survivors, Princess Margda and Prince Alavik, tried to retake the city by retrieving the fabled magic armor of a hero known as the Knight of Diamonds. Wearing the armor, Alavik engaged in combat with Davalpus and killed him, but Davalpus's final curse brought the castle down in ruins, and the Staff, the armor, and Alavik were lost to the depths of the dungeons. Someone needs to get the staff back, which first means retrieving the various pieces of the Knight of Diamonds.

An encounter square on the first level spells out the nature of the quest.
 
Like its predecessor, the game features a series of 20 x 20 dungeon levels, but there are only 6 of them rather than 10. Each level culminates in a battle against an animated piece of the Knight of Diamonds' outfit (a suit of armor, a helm, a pair of gauntlets, a shield, and a sword). Only the battle on Level 1 is very hard. To get to it, you first have to be capable of casting the MALOR (teleport) spell, which requires a mage of at least Level 13. The suit of armor itself is immune to magic and almost impossible to hit, but it doesn't do much damage, so fighting it is a long process of seeing who bleeds out first. The other items are both susceptible to magic and easier to hit.

Fighting the battle to get the first piece of armor.

Characters transfer from the first game with all of their levels, attributes, spells, and gold, but no equipment. This was easy to replenish with the riches I brought, and my gold also helped with occasional resurrections. I had taken two fighters, a thief, a priest, a mage, and a bishop through Wizardry, and I had hoped to change some of the characters to prestige classes (samurai, lord, ninja), but owing to the weird first-game bug by which you often lose attributes when leveling up, no one had the requisite statistics.

Leveling up offers the same blend of gained and lost attributes.

It turned out to be unlikely that any of my level-ups in II would promote me to lord, samurai, or ninja territory. Not only did the dynamic of losing attributes continue, but I only achieved one or two more levels throughout the entire game. By the time you hit Level 13 or 14, you need more than half a million experience points to advance, and combats only tend to deliver a few thousand each. In this way, the game is a little less fun than its predecessor. On the other hand, it features a lot more items that, when equipped and "invoked," will increase attributes and make other character improvements.

Those of you who read my Wizardry postings may remember how much I complained about my thief. In the first three games of the series, thieves and ninjas are the only characters capable of successfully disarming traps, so you really need one if you ever want to open a chest (and you need to open chests if you ever want to find good magic equipment). My thief's blundering, on the other hand, turned out to save me a lot of trouble when I fumbled a teleporter trap early on the final level and got teleported right to Werdna's chambers (recounted in this post).

Kurosawa tries to disarm a trap. It's even odds whether he's even identified the right trap.

Although I had a new thief this time (Kurosawa; I think I wanted to make him a samurai originally), he bungled his job with equal regularity, so I made it a joke to test out unknown items on him in punishment. One of these items, found on Level 4, was called a "Ring of Metamorph." I had Kurosawa equip and invoke it, and I didn't notice any immediate change, so I shrugged and kept adventuring. Only when he started screwing up every trap did I take a closer look and realize that the ring had changed his class to a lord! (Apparently, a neutral-alignment lord is possible if you convert this way.) The good news was that I had a much stronger fighter in the front three ranks; the bad was that I had absolutely no way to reliably disarm traps.

Even a hobbit can, with a little luck, become a lord.

Changing him back to a thief would have re-started him on Level 1. Since I was pretty far into the game, I just lived with it, using CALFO to identify traps and shrugging off their effects if it was something that wouldn't kill me. "Alarms" were always good; they just bring another combat, after which you get the stuff that was in the chest. I didn't mind "Teleporter" traps so much; I'd just re-orient myself and make my way back to where I had been, although I discovered that something about the trap prevents the square from clearing, so I'd have to fight fixed combats a second time.

The six levels of the scenario were filled with navigational obstacles. About one third of Levels 1 and 2 are dark squares that you have to map by feeling your way around in the dark.
 
Imagine how much of a pain it was to map that maze in the dark.
My map of Level 4 shows numerous areas of solid wall.
 
Level 2 featured a sage who demanded 100,000 gold from me. That was no problem. In response, he gave me a spiel that suggested changes to some of the spells in the game, but I didn't really notice any difference. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who knows what that was about.
 
 
About half of Level 4 (presented as a series of caverns) were solid wall. In I, you could teleport into squares even if you couldn't enter them normally (i.e., through doors), but I learned the hard way that you don't want to try to do that here. You get teleported into rock and the entire party dies. This was responsible for one of my reloads.
 
 
One thing that annoyed me was the presence of traps. I had forgotten that Wizardry features no spell to "levitate" or otherwise avoid pit traps. You can't even detect them. You just blunder into them and suck up the damage. Traps were the cause of a lot of resurrections.

There were a couple of riddles. Level 2 had a long one before the armor battle whose answer, predictably, came out SHIELD. Level 6 had an even longer one whose answer, even more predictably, was THE KNIGHT OF DIAMONDS--and boy, was that definite article necessary. Just KNIGHT OF DIAMONDS caused me to get a "wrong!" and to lose all of the pieces of armor I'd collected. I don't mind admitting I reloaded.
 
Part of a multi-part riddle on the final level.
 
There were only five pieces of the knight's kit, but I had to descend from Level 5 to 6 via a chute and come back up via a set of stairs to get the fifth piece. This battle, with a pair of gauntlets, was essentially the "final battle" of the game, notable because it was extremely easy. There's no one epic final battle against a "big boss" here.
 
The last major fixed battle of the game.

Once I had the four pieces of armor and the sword, I returned to the sorceress Gnilda's altar on the first level. At first, nothing happened, but I figured I needed to combine the items into a single character. Still nothing. Then, I figured out that a message I got on Level 6--"ONE ALONE"--meant that a single character needed to return to Gnilda with the armor. This worked. Gnilda gave me the Staff and made me her champion.
 
Rare bit of trivia: Greenberg and Woodhead named the goddess after their Korean friend, Adli Ng.
 
After that, I returned to the surface and got the winning screen above. At that point, the game let me identify which of the other characters on disk had been in my party and designed them with a "K" symbol for "knight." Gideon, who brought the items to Gnilda, gets a "G" instead. I don't know if these have any effect on the next game or whether they're just status marks.
 
My party leader at game's end. The > symbol means he beat the first game.
 
When I got to the end of my first attempt to play the game, in 2010, I somewhat stupidly remarked that, "Since Wizardry II is the same game as Wizardry, I see no reason not to give it the same overall score." This was a bit lazy of me (and, of course, I was speaking from ignorance since I didn't experience more than a bit of Level 1). They may have the same engine, but they're not the same game. I'd rate I higher in character development and the quality of the main quest but II does much better with equipment, offering a wider variety of magic weapons and armor and special items. Among them, the item I most prized was a "Wand of Mages" that, when invoked, reset my available spells so that my mage had 9 in each level, including priest spells. It only worked a few times, but wow, did it make a difference when spelunking those lower levels.
 
 
I'm going to complete a quick GIMLET without looking at what I gave Wizardry back in 2010:
  • 2 points for the game world. The story isn't nearly as interesting as the first game, and nothing of the civil war or the figures involved in it makes their way into the gameplay itself.
  • 4 points for character creation and development. For creation, it's still one of the best of the era, offering a full set of attributes, interesting classes of mixed abilities, and an alignment system that prevents mixing good and evil characters. As I said, leveling was very slow in this game, so I never felt I was really getting anywhere with the combats.
  • 0 points for NPC interaction. Unfortunately, there still aren't really any. (I'm not going to give a point for the single sage on Level 2.) They wouldn't come until Wizardry V, and then they were stupid.
  • 5 points for encounters and foes. There are no scripted encounters aside from the riddles, but there are a few fixed combats. More important, the variety of enemies that you face, and their specific strengths and weaknesses in combat, won't be rivaled until perhaps the "Gold Box" games. You can never just blow through combat--not if you want to avoid being poisoned, petrified, or level-drained. You have to plot a particular strategy against each enemy.

The fire dragon was immune to fire damage but fell quickly against my Sword of Dragon Slaying.

  • 6 points for magic and combat. For such a basic system, the Wizardry series does combat exceptionally well. Its major strength is the spell system, where you have just enough spells per level to plot a reasonably successful expedition, but not so many that you can get cocky. I love that first-level spells, like KATINO (sleep) and MANIFO (paralyze), don't stop being useful even against high-level enemies. I love that the priest's "dispell" has a chance, however small, of working against almost any foe. This game delivered more objects that were useful in combat so the rear three characters weren't so useless during times they couldn't cast spells. Overall, the combination of combat options and overall difficulty makes combat wonderfully tense and tactical.
  • 6 points for equipment. Except for the Knight of Diamonds' pieces, which you can equip, all the good items appear randomly after combat. As I said, this game increased the variety of items available and their potential uses, which you have to test carefully on some guinea pigs. In the first game, I thought the equipment rewards were a bit paltry; most of my characters ended the game with +1 weapons at best. This one did a much better job.

Some of my bishop's items mid-game. A bishop is still the only character who can identify items.

  • 1 point for economy. You get so much money from selling equipment that you never want for gold--not even when you sleep in the most luxurious room at the inn or have to resurrect a character every hour or so. I wish it had done a better job here.
  • 2 points for quests. There's a basic main quest with no alternate outcomes, and it really isn't all that interesting.
  • 3 points for graphics, sound and interface, and really all of it goes to the interface. The keyboard commands were intuitive enough that I didn't have to think about it for more than a few minutes at the beginning of the game.
  • 3 points for gameplay. I dock it a little for being too hard. It was only winnable for me because I allowed backups; no way would I have suffered through multiple creations of characters in the first game whenever my II party suffered a full-party death. The pacing is good, though; it only took me about half the time as its predecessor.

This gives a final score of 32, reasonably lower than the 37 I gave Wizardry. This basically works, and I'm happy to see that most of the categories are consistent. (Though I gave the first game a 1 for NPCs; I have no idea what I was thinking about here.)

To stave off the inevitable questions: no, this doesn't mean that I will make another attempt at Wizardry III; no, it doesn't mean I'm going to eventually win Faery Tale Adventure or whatever other sorry excuse for a game you were hoping I'd revisit. This replay was a product of a specific desire to experience Wizardry again, and it served its purpose. 

Say what you want about Wizardry's descendants--Might & Magic and Dungeon Master are better in many ways--but I've rarely played another game that manages to maintain a sense of tension from beginning to end. If you play without cheating (or even just mildly cheating by allowing periodic backups), it's scary to wander the corridors of the dungeon, never knowing what kind of enemies you'll encounter in the next square, never knowing when a trap is going to halve your hit points, watching your health dwindle as you battle a powerful stack of enemies and trying to decide whether to spend your last seventh-level mage spell on a TILTOWAIT (the most powerful mass-damage spell in the game) or whether to try to save it so you can MALOR your butt to the surface as soon as the battle is over. You sweat playing this game. Wizardry II had me hunched over my keyboard, staring intently at its wireframe graphics in a way that no VGA game of the 1990s can compel.

All right. Diversion over; back to Crusaders of Khazan!

92 comments:

  1. I've been told I was wrong previously, but the Sage makes me think I was remembering correctly. In the original Apple IIe version, Latumapic in Wizardry I only worked during battle. In Knight, you could cast it like Lomilwa or Maporfic and keep it going for the entire expedition.

    This may have been changed in the PC versions and Archive versions of Wizardry I which is why you wouldn't have noticed a difference.

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    1. Also, I think Mahaman was completely random and then they later gave you choices? I forget since I really stayed away from it due to the loss of level.

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    2. What you say is probably right. I never used LATUMAPIC in W1, and in W2 it always lasted the entire expedition, so I didn't notice the difference. As for MAHAMAN, the consequences (you lose a level, you forget the spell) always seemed too severe compared to the benefits (some random nonsense), so I never cast it in either game.

      The sage also seems to suggest changes to MONTINO (silence) and KATINO (sleep), but I didn't notice anything. Maybe they were more powerful and it was just in a subtle way.

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    3. I believe Mahaman allowed you to do some interesting stuff if cast in camp. You should boot it up one last time and try it out!

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    4. Maybe that's what changed, but I think Mahaman was a combat only spell in Wiz1. In the NES version of Wiz1 Latumapic persisted.

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    5. Yeah. I'm fairly certain Latumapic was retconned in later versions of Wiz I. And I think you're right about Mahaman being combat only for the first one. I also can't quite remember if it was completely random initially or always offered choices, like filling your spell points or healing the entire party.

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    6. I can only speak to the NES version as that's from recent memory. In that they offered a choice of three random options. Some were very powerful. In the Mahaman spell I remember a full heal, instant teleport to town, and a wipe out the enemy party (worked on Werdna) as some of the best. Haman had similar, but less powerful options.

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    7. The sage is pointing out spells that changed (he isn't causing them to change when you pay him). KATINO's success rate got massively buffed between games (I think you might have even mentioned in your first post on Wiz2 that you lost a party, or at least a couple characters, to a KATINO).

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  2. Is the tension during a Wizardry game more or less than a game of Nethack?

    It's a good thing for your sanity that you are not going to go back and play Wizardry III. That game can be fun, but it requires you to have both good and evil parties to win the game, which is really annoying since you have to import characters from a previous Wizardry, killing the character AND setting it back to level 1 (but keeping its stats) for Wizardry III. The Sir-Tech people really enjoyed being cruel to their players, didn't they?

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    1. They were defining the challenge in an era where there were no agreed standards as to an acceptable level of challenge. A player in 1982/1983 might be expected to dick around with one of the first three Wizardry games for years, with no other solid competitors on the market. Winning one was an honest-to-god achievement. I can understand why they did what they did, even if it makes it a little daunting to play today.

      As for NetHack, that's a good question. Despite the permadeath (and the number of hours I spent on it), I never felt quite the same amount of tension in NetHack--although I still felt a lot of tension in NH relative to other CRPGs. I think this is for a few reasons:

      1. Death in NH, no matter how tragic, "completes" the character. Except for that one-in-a-hundred character who ascends, it feels like every character's destiny is to die. In a perverse way, it was almost a relief every time I lost one. I no longer had to worry HOW he would die.

      2. NH gives you far more options to deal with tough situations than Wizardry. Usually, when I died, I felt it was my own fault for being unimaginative, not the game's fault for being too hard.

      3. If you lose your entire party in Wizardry, you have to go through the exact same steps again. If you lose a character in NH, you start over with a brand new dungeon, full of possibilities.

      Heck, even typing this makes me want to play NetHack again. Maybe I should start on the next version now, so I'll maybe have ascended by 1993.

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    2. Wizardry was just "computer D&D". The modern aesthetic of "40 hour game, winnable by 90% of customers, and you deserve to win because you paid good money for this game" didn't exist. Winning Wizardry was rather a letdown, because now your game was over.

      The importing characters thing was a feature of the age as well. The idea of D&D was that you had "your" character. You could come and go and sit in on different games and *bring your character with you*. Today, players think nothing of whipping a character up for a single session, or using pregenerated characters for specific purposes. With Wizardry, you had *your* characters and you brought them with you from game to game.

      It's a bit of magic that's been lost ever since computer games became a business with rules and tropes that none dare violate for fear of the negative review. I doubt the creators of Wizardry even *thought* of catering to the opinions of reviewers. A far cry from today!

      PS Yes on Nethack! It's not a game, it's a lifestyle! ;P

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    3. Odd, I seem to remember winning Wizardry III, and I don't remember the "must have both good and evil parties" part. I took an important lesson from it when designing Hero's Quest (Quest for Glory 1). In Wizardry, they barely managed a 2nd game, then had to reset everyone to level 1 to maintain game balance.

      In Hero's Quest, I scaled the player's abilities to leave plenty of room for growth in the sequels. The first game had stats on a 0-100 scale, 2nd game 0-200, and so on. You could feel really buffed and heroic at the end of the first game, but still have plenty of room for improvement.

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    4. That's the way ALL exportable game series should be made! However, most prefer to regress the heroes' growth (Wizardry, Ultima, The Magic Candle) instead of doing what you did.

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    5. In Wizardry III, there are certain dungeon levels which are only accessible by Evil characters. You can get around this by making most of your characters neutral, but Priests and Bishops have to be good or evil, so you have to have at least a few duplicate party members if you want any healing, unless you cheat.

      I remember playing the original Wizardry as a kid and having two parties: my cheat party (using the ID item #9, S and J trick) which I used to map the dungeon and my real party, which I played without cheating but with reloading. It took me over a year to win with the "honest" party. I couldn't imagine trying to do that again if I somehow lost them in Wizardry II!

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    6. > Heck, even typing this makes me want to play NetHack again.

      For me, reading this review made me play Dwarf Fortress again. Ah, the hard work creating a fortress that is going to succumb to monsters (or dwarves killing each other because of too much stress) in the end anyway! Relates to all NH characters dying.

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    7. Ok, I looked through my files and - pack rat that I am - found all of my maps and notes from Wizardry 1-4. And yes, I do have notations on Wiz3 reading "Good Only" and "Evil Only", so I obviously had two parties. All in pencil on graph paper. I also have a walk-through for Wiz3 from the Mines of Moria BBS (that would have been dial-up in those pre-Internet days), so I didn't get through the game on my own.

      From Wizardry 4: The Return of Werdna, I have full maps (in my own writing) and some notes indicating "Path of Fulfillment", a phone number, Wizardry Grandmaster Adventurer, and three code numbers. Evidently I completed at least one path through that game. (I thought perhaps I hadn't finished it, since people have said things about the game that I don't remember.

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    8. Haha, Mr Cole, you are as legit a gamer as you are a game creator.

      Hero-U clearly needs some sort of sage with secret knowledge that turns out to be a stack of maps from Wizardry titles ;)

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  3. Minor correction:
    First three Wizardry games were also rereleased on Playstation [1998.02.26] ((http://www.gamefaqs.com/ps/573761-wizardry-llylgamyn-saga/data)), Saturn [1998.11.26] (http://www.gamefaqs.com/saturn/570781-wizardry-llylgamyn-saga/data) and SNES [1999.06.01] (http://snesmusic.org/v2/profile.php?profile=set&selected=16008)

    SNES version is almost completely in English, and has a fan translation that takes care of the rest of text (http://www.romhacking.net/translations/496/). Might be worth a look, just to see if there are any improvements (not counting art/music, obviously).

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    1. I'm sorry--I'm already stretching things by mentioning the NES and SNES, but I simply don't recognize the Playstation as a valid gaming platform.

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    2. Yes, I'm as bitter as you that the Playstation port of Baldur's Gate was canceled, but there still are at least a few good games on the system (like Dark Souls predecessor, King's Field). ;)

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    3. ---- I simply don't recognize the Playstation as a valid gaming platform.

      Can you explain why? If it was already explained in your blog, please direct me to the relevant posting. I'm not pushing my opinion on anyone, but, as for me, Playstation One had the majority of RPGs that I enjoyed most of all in my 20 years of gaming experience - and I played a lot of RPGs. Most of them were platform exclusives.

      ---- Crystal Silence

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    4. Although I can't say the same as Crystal Silence that I enjoyed MOST of the RPGs on PS1, I agree wholeheartedly that it did contribute to the bulk of RPGs (AND revolutionized the console-RPG target audiences to include many more female gamers with the Final Fantasy franchise) available on the whole electronic gaming market in its lifetime.

      So, I'd really love to know why you'd prefer to overlook it instead of scrutinizing what PS1 had to offer that caused a large shift in RPG designs that is more inclusive of female gamers.

      Sega might have introduced the first ever female protagonist for an electronic-RPG in the form of Alis Landale in 1988, but it was PS1 that picked up the baton and made the winning run with Final Fantasy 6, Valkyrie Profile, Parasite Eve and a host of other female leads.

      Immensely enjoyable by either sexes which eased more female players into a playground which was previously dominated by us male nerds and geeks.

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    5. I love Sony's Playstation consoles and their RPGs, but I can understand why someone might slam them with maximum deadpan sarcasm.

      For one thing, the PS3 port of Skyrim was an abomination. The game literally became buggy and unplayable some 40-60(?) hours in. I don't know if they ever truly patched that problem.

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    6. Yes, they must have patched it. I played 80-100 hours of Skyrim and never saw an unplayable bug.

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    7. Haven't we read enough of Chet to notice when he's being facetious. Come on people! Thank you, Victar, at least someone else can tell.

      @Kenny: Final Fantasy 6 was on SNES first.

      In any case @Knurek, I can see why those aren't included as they're compilations instead of the standalone game. Also... there was supposed to be Baldur's Gate port on PS1?

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    8. >> Although I can't say the same as Crystal Silence that I enjoyed MOST of the RPGs on PS1

      I must have expressed my point of view in a slightly incorrect way. What I meant is that, among my favorite RPG games of all times, the majority of the games were initially released on PS1. Say, if I had to compile a personal list of my favorite RPGs, about 50% of the games in the list would be PS1 games, and the rest would be equally divided between SNES, DOS and Windows games.

      I also want to note that I completely respect Chet and his opinion, and I have completely no objections to him disliking, e.g., Japanese animation (although I'm a big anime and manga fan, I totally understand why some people hate it), or the Japanese approach to role-playing. Tastes differ, it's OK. But to say that PS wasn't a valid platform, well... It's something different. Its main flaws were in that the gamepad controls were abhorrently horrible when it came to real time strategies or first person shooters. But all the other genres were represented quite successfully on that platform, and (it's my personal perception now) I really consider the late 90s the true golden age of role-playing games - not because there were such great PC titles such as M&M6, Fallout, my favorite Planescape:Torment, Baldur's Gate, but mainly because the Japanese released such great games as Xenogears, Chrono Cross, Valkyrie Profile, Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story. Yes, not ALL PS1 RPGs are great, but some of them are flawless. And it was on the PS1 that Squaresoft had Final Fantasy 7 released - a game that, albeit not my favorite even among Final Fantasy series, is surely a milestone in the development of RPGs as a whole genre, as it set a very high standard in being plot-driven by a really great story - a characteristic that I value most of all in any game.
      So, although it seems likely that Chet will skip Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 6, if he's going to make it to 1997, he'll have to play the PC port of Final Fantasy 7, and I'm really looking forward to it. If this game can't change Chet's opinion about JRPGs... well... maybe nothing else can. I can totally live with that, but still I hope that JRPGs will have a chance to redeem themselves in front of The CRPG Addict.

      ---- Crystal Silence

      PS I've never played a single game and I've never owned PS2 and PS3.

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    9. @Zenic - Yeah, I know FF6 was SNES. But chicks only start digging the FF franchise during FF7/FF8 (but both do not have female leads) era which played on PS1. And yeah, the console ports of English RPGs are just... dismal at their best. Console exclusives like Shadowrun, on the other hand, are pretty good.

      @Cystal Silence- That's actually what I had in mind. Truth be told, Tactical RPGs, Action RPGs and linear RPGs that plays out more like a visual novel, owes their current status to PS1.

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    10. Honestly, I don't think FF7 would really impress Chet. I like FF7 a lot, but I just don't think it'd fit his tastes. Some of the earlier FFs might have a -bit- better chance. FF1 still feels pretty close to its Ultima and Wizardry roots, even if it's simplified and streamlined in just about every way possible. FF3's job system is fun to play around with.

      Personally, I'd be curious to see his take on FF Tactics.

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    11. Here is some youtube video of PSX version of original Baldurs Gate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QGS34Lj7qA

      And also, here is scan of The Elder Scrolls: Arena PSX version from CD Consoles 10 - September 1995.

      http://i41.tinypic.com/nwdkd0.jpg

      Here is translation: "This title from Softbank is based on a PC game from 1993. It's a real-time RPG where you'll have to gather 4 pieces of a magic staff named Chaos to free the king, who's trapped in another dimension. You can choose one of 10 characters: 5 men and 5 women. Of course, the way the game will play will be different according to your capacities".

      It was also planned for the Saturn.

      And according to some rumor: few years ago there was ebay auction of The Elders Scrolls: Arena PlayStation prototype.

      mpx

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    12. I don't see Chet taking to FF:Tactics. It's good for what it is, but it's in the squad-based tactics sub-genre of RPGs, which is almost the antithesis of the sandbox RPG which our addict prefers.

      I think he'll like FF7. It's a bit linear at points but it's immersive and there's a lot to explore. On top of that it has arguably the most enjoyable equipment/magic system of any RPG ever.

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    13. Chet probably SHOULD play FF7, even if he doesn't wind up liking it, because of its' influence on the genre. When it first showed up, it knocked the entire gaming community on its' head. For several years thereafter, developers were trying to either duplicate the FF7's appeal or incorporate what it did right into their own games. This, in turn, eventually led to the decline of old-school dungeon crawlers like Wizardry and Might and Magic and the rise of more story-oriented games like Fallout and Baldur's Gate.

      So, yeah, it's kind of a big deal.

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    14. @Luplun: While I agree that FF7 is very important, I don't really think it influenced Computer RPGs that much. Fallout and Baldur's Gate are definitely rooted more in their CRPG forebears than in console RPGs. Fallout and FF7 actually came out the same month, at least in the U.S.

      @Tristan: I wasn't trying to say that FF Tactics would be an exception. I just want to see his take on it. I really don't think he'll like most JRPGs, due to their linearity. But, dammit, I want to see his take on Matsuno.

      Heck.. Matsuno also made Vagrant Story. Maybe Chet would be down with that?

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    15. Oh, I forgot to say, that I thought the progression system in FFT would at least interest him. It's definitely one of my favorite class systems in any game. So, yeah, I wanted to see his take on Matsuno and on the FFT Jobs system. But, due to its linearity, I doubt it'd rate highly on his GIMLET system.

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    16. Well, Chet will definitely play FF7 as it's on PC and on his list. I'm sure we could come up with a lot of RPGs Chet may or may not like, historically or personally significant, but I don't see Chet deviating for these tangential larks. In fact there was an attempt to include some for context, but that list seems to have vanished and the top voted games aren't on his master list. Maybe he's waiting to surprise us... in which case I'm sorry I spoiled the possibility.

      Lastly...
      Ogre Battle

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    17. It amuses me how much of a discussion I managed to provoke with a quick post meant to (jokingly) hand-wave the fact that I hadn't fully done the research on the different versions.

      Now that I've had the time, I looked up some of the other variants of the game (Llylgamyn Saga, Wizardry Trilogy, etc.) and modified the list. Thanks for prompting that, Knurek.

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    18. Wizardry: New Age of Llylgamyn for the ps1 is kind of a pain to get into both English and enhanced graphic mode. But what little I played of it did make me want to go back and give it another shot at some point for the Wizardry IV component. Blasphemous as it is, I actually do prefer the console versions of 1,2,3 and 5. I'm expecting the same would hold true for 4 as well. I'm just a bit nervous about running into untranslated text.

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    19. Glad to be of help. :)

      To be honest, I doubt you'd enjoy most of console RPGs, they are certainly nothing like the games you so far described and liked here (Quest for Glory comes closest, if you'd switch focus from solving puzzles to pointless and all too easy fights).

      That being said, I'm really looking forward to you tackling 'baby's first dungeons & dragons module' (also known as Final Fantasy 1) whenever you feel like giving consoles RPGs a look.

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    20. Of the major branches of CRPGS, all but one are almost purely console games, except in the earliest years. In other words, by deciding (Primarily based on pure elitism, as far as I can tell) to ignore console games, the Addict has deliberately decided that most of the innovations of the genre are beneath him.

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    21. "Of the major branches of CRPGS, all but one are almost purely console games, except in the earliest years."

      What? I think most of the people here, even people like myself who are big fans of console RPGs, would see computer RPGs as distinct from console RPGs, especially up until you get to Mass Effect and Oblivion.

      And Chet has been pretty clear that his favorite elements of RPGs are the elements associated with computer/Western RPGs: non-linearity, more exploration, more complicated, more difficulty. He seems to prefer making his own story over a heavily scripted, linear storyline. It's computer RPGs that he adores, not console RPGs.

      As this is a blog about the CRPG Addict playing the kinds of games that he is addicted to... he plays computer RPGs. Not console RPGs.

      I mean, wouldn't your exact same logic hold for, "Why not play other genres?"

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    22. Noman, I want to understand more about what your comment even means. What do you consider the "major branches" of CRPGs?

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    23. Note: Reply split into parts due to character limit

      There's been several branches in RPG design. The most obvious is "Western RPG" versus "Japanese RPG", although the name is misleading, as both styles are used by developers on both sides of the Pacific. This branching is best defined by the role envisioned by the player in the context of the game.

      "Western" styles are exemplified by the Ultima, Wizardry titles in this time frame, while later examples would be the Baldur's Gate, Fallout, and Elder Scrolls series. In this style, the main character (and usually the other PCs, are completely blank slates intended for self-insertion, even when they are the crux of the storyline. In this style, the player is "actually there", and the intention is to make them feel like things are happening to him.

      In the "Japanese" style (starting with the Famicom Final Fantasy II), each party member has their own personality, characterization, and reactions independent of the player. The best examples of this would be the Final Fantasy series (with the exceptions of I and the original Famicom release of III (as a side note, the numbering of this series is confusing because II, III, and V were not originally released over here, and IV and VI became II and III), the Suikoden series, or the Breath of Fire games.

      Of this branch, 99.9999% of all PC-original RPGs fall into the former category.

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    24. The second major branching is the role of the storyline. In story-lite games, the main plot is largely in the background, and it is very easy to miss large plot elements because you didn't read a specific book or went to places out of order. This does not mean that there isn't a story, or that the story's just an Excuse Plot, the difference is in the way it is presented to the player. Examples of these include all Elder Scrolls titles, the Baldur's Gate series, and the Might and Magic series.

      Story heavy games tend to have the plot right in your face the entire time. Again, this does not mean the plot is good or very well developed, only that the game keeps you very focused on it. Examples of this would be Mass Effect or the "plotty" Final Fantasy games.

      The next branch is Sandbox vs. Railroad. The Sandbox type of game pretty much lets you go wherever you want (assuming that you can survive the experience, of course), and what you're able to do depends purely on quest chains. The Elder Scrolls and Might and Magic series are again the exemplars.

      Railroad games, by contrast, have your options strictly constrained by the plot. There's a lot of places that you have to obtain the correct Macguffin to enter or need the next level of transportation, NPCs aren't available for sidequests until you've advanced to the next stage of the plot, etc. The Final Fantasy series is again the best known example of this type of game.

      The last major branch is the battle system, which go between "row" types and "tactical" types. In row types, position is either nonexistent or largely irrelevant, with the only important distinction being "close range" or "long range". Examples of these are the Wizardry, Might and Magic, and most Final Fantasy games.

      In the tactical branch, position is critically important. The main examples of these are the Gold Box series, Final Fantasy Tactics, or the Disgaea series.

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    25. Naturally, these branches combine. Most PC RPGs follow the Western-Story Lite-Sandboxy-Row branch, and exceptions to this grow very very rare as you advance through time. The only real exception to this is the battle system, where a number of games kept the Tactical version alive for awhile, although these were in the minority.

      In other words, setting out to "play every RPG" and only focusing on computers is much like declaring "I will eat every animal" and then declaring all non-cow animals to be not-really-animals.

      (I would like to point out here that console RPGs didn't really explode on the market until the Playstation generation due to being prohibitively expensive. Counting all consoles, and ignoring ports from a PC, you'd only add (at a rough estimate) four or five titles per year until the mid 90s, less if you avoid fan translations.)


      Just as importantly, a lot of the innovations in game design debuted on consoles. As just one example, the leveling system of the Elder Scrolls games (in which your skills and attributes increase by usage instead of accumulating points to spend or simply going up a level) debuted (in a primitive, somewhat shoddy form) in Final Fantasy II.

      As an aside, I realize that my original post likely came off as much more hostile than it was intended. Discussions elsewhere left me with a very short temper toward percieved elitism, and your "Dumbed-down" comment further down the page triggered that.

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    26. Noman, I appreciate the effort you put into the reply. You clearly have a decent grasp of the history of RPGs of both types, although what you call "branches" seem to me just different ways of categorizing games. I don't see in your reply any evidence to support your statement "of the major branches of CRPGS, all but one are almost purely console games."

      I'm not sure if I've made this clear to everyone, but my "master game list" (link in the upper left) contains both console and computer RPGs, although the console ones are filtered out by default. On it, I count 125 console-only RPGs through 1990, although I admit I have no way of filtering out only the ones that had a western release. Still, we're talking about a significant increase to my workload. I'm not sure I see anything wrong with saying that my blog is about computer games and only playing computer games.

      I suppose it's a decent counter-argument that by experiencing NO console games, I'm not seeing innovations (if they truly exist) that might have influenced computer RPGs. Your example about Final Fantasy II kicking off a game element that influenced The Elder Scrolls would be a good example if it was true--but we saw this dynamic in computer RPGs as far back as SwordThrust (1981) but more notably in Dungeon Master (1987). Are there other examples that ARE true?

      Call it elitism or just ignorance, but I agree--as I said in my posting on Dragon Stomper--that I do have certain biases about console RPGs, primarily that they're aimed at younger players, and that the nature of console controllers naturally creates more limited gameplay. If adding a few console RPGs to the list will help me either dispel or confirm these biases, I supposed it might be a worthwhile effort. I'll think about it some more.

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    27. With regards to the levelling system you mention, I'm sure the CRPG Addict has played games that predate Final Fantasy II which use the same method of improving skills the more you use them - for instance, 1987s Dungeon Master. To quote his entry for it: "every time you throw something or swing a weapon, you slightly increase the associated skill. The same goes for spells, whether successful or not."

      1989's Hero's Quest: So You Want to Be a Hero and Keef the Thief apparently use similar systems, coming out the year after Final Fantasy II. It would interesting to see if any of these inspired each other, or were all developed independently. Maybe Corey up there could give us his recollections!

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    28. And that'll teach me not to leave pages open for hours before finally hitting reply... Being beaten to the reply by 15 hours. Ouch.

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    29. Fair points, although I would like to point out that my FF2 example was chosen primarily as a quick example (although I am pretty sure that it is far more in-depth than the earlier examples.) As stated, I came into the discussion irritated over an argument elsewhere and found it easy to be set off.

      As for your game list, a quick scan shows a lot of the console games to be not-RPGs, a few that don't seem to be availiable in english even in fan-translation, and several that are unneccessarily duplicative (just as an example, the only difference between Pokemon games in the same generation is a few of the catchable monsters, and even between generations, the changes are fairly minor, so there's no reason to play more than one unless you really like the series), and several "ported" games from other consoles. If you like, I can go through and list out which is which.

      (As an aside, I think you're heavily biased by the insanely complicated control schemes used in early computer RPGs. Nearly every command in the early Ultima games could be mapped to a single "use object" button, although I'm not sure if this was due to technical limitations or simply because nobody really had much experience making the things in those days. As for being aimed purely at "younger players", the earlier Final Fantasy games are often described as exercises in masochism due to their difficulty (unless you know how to game the system), and by 1988 there's games involving devil summoning and massacred children, although those two weren't officially released over here.)

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    30. I'm playing through Ultima: Quest of the Avatar on NES, and I have to say, a single talk button seems dumbed down. In the SMS version you could still ask about everyone's name, job, and health. I'm still having fun, but I do wonder how much of the game was cut. I'm going to try it on the PC and SMS for comparison eventually. I'm guessing the extra dialogue doesn't make an impact on the story, but we'll see. So far the only thing of note are the missing mantras; instead you have a choice to meditate for a number of cycles (whatever that means).

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    31. Starting with 4, the Ultima games actually had a valid use for a full keyboard, and the conversation trees took up a lot of space (which was excessively expensive on a cartrdige, and the only actual inferiority hardware-wise in the NES era. At that time, PCs tended to be significantly weaker). For that matter, the NES port of Ultima 3 used an excessively cumbersome menu system to mimic the original interface as much as possible.

      What I was referring to as "excessively complicated" were all the Use (X) direction, which could have been done with one command that activated whatever you were standing on (the exception being stairs that go both up AND down).

      A quick example of what I'm trying to say:

      Ultima 3 had 27 keyboard commands (every letter plus the spacebar). At least 5 could have been assigned to one button, while 13 of the rest could have been relegated to a fairly simple party and equipment menu. This would have left you with Fight, Fire Cannon, Cast Spell, Use, Menu and Unlock/Steal as the commands, and you could trim that down more by putting Fight and Cast Spell onto one button (Opening a menu to chose between the two) that acted as Use outside of combat, while merging Unlock/Steal with Fire Cannon, as you won't be unlocking things while on a ship.

      This leaves you with 3 buttons plus directional controls (which just happens to be one less than the number of buttons on an NES controller), without changing the game design at all, simply by adding a couple simple menus and consolidating functionality.

      Now, I'm not criticising the programmers of the older games for not doing things this way. Both interface design and programming techniques were being invented at the same time as the games were being made, and there was probably some programming reason why it would have been harder to do (or harder to port it) if you did it that way, even if they thought of it. Not to mention, of course, that there's a solid argument that not needing to go into a menu to reorganize your party or light a torch is more convenient, so you might as well just use the keys that are there. Nor am I criticizing the U3 porting team for not putting in the extra effort to redesign the interface that radically.

      My point, however, is that there is no need to assume that "I only have 4 buttons to work with" necessarily translates to "The game-play for this game must be much simpler than a game on a full keyboard."

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    32. ALL the Ultima games on NES/SNES were dumbed down. It plays more like an arcade beat-'em-up than an RPG, seriously.

      Anyway, back on the topic about "Western RPG" Vs. "Eastern RPG" (I've played enough CRPGs from ROC & PRC to know that they share most common grounds with Japan's).

      The choice paths of a Western RPG typically looks like a funnel; meaning, many decisions to be made and actions to be taken that the player is overwhelmed with the entirety of the game. As the player explores and solve quests, he/she is led ultimately to a singular/very narrow amount of choice(s) for the endgame.

      An Eastern RPG, on the other hand, is a rosary-like diagram. Each small section of the game is blocked by a certain boss/obstacle that requires the party to kill/remove before moving on to the next area (rosary bead). Sometimes, they even come in chapters. And when you complete the game, some games even offer New Game+ for you to continue playing the game, thus the rosary shape.

      Anyway, we are slowly seeing an amalgamation of the two schools, some borrowing a certain aspect or even have a core gaming mechanism based on their counterparts' influence.

      For instance, Dragon Age and Mass Effect pretty much describes how an Eastern RPG plays like. Depending on how many Japanese RPGs you played in your youth will dictate how much you can accept these 2 games.

      Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest series are, I personally believe, would be great games to climatize any Western RPG player to Eastern RPGs. The artwork and system are undeniably Japanese but the concept and openness of the game, however, makes them feel like Western RPGs.

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    33. In the small subset of games I've played from the past to completiion, I'd say Dragon Warrior II is about as open a world as Quest of the Avatar. although smaller in some ways. Not sure how that's kept up in the sequels, but I could see it growing in that direction.

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    34. Chet: It is funny, these days a lot of JRPGs are significantly harder and more complex then western ones. Permanent character death, insane levels of gear tweaking needed, character fusions, branching dialog paths that give in game relationship bonuses, complex battlefield placement....

      Examples:
      Persona series
      Ogre Battle 64
      Shin Megami Tensei series (Basically, Pokemon for adults, crazy ones who like weird Japanese plots and unforgiving gameplay)
      Fire Emblem series (Gah, try beating it without ever letting a character die. I should go back to Path of Radiance)
      Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.
      Heck, apparently even pokemon is now all about breeding the right ones to do stat optimization, then levelling them in a certain way, then breeding THOSE to get such and such special move....

      Anyway, most of those won't come out for a very long time, real world, but expect me to try to talk you into playing some of them in a decade or two, OK?

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    35. Oh and Ogre Battle 64 has a hidden stat that determines what ending you get and which allies join you. That is damn hard to actually raise. Also you basically need maps to find all the hidden items on the maps, which are, of course, all the best ones in the game. Also there are dozens of hidden character classes. And monsters you could recruite, each of which had its own class.

      Delete
  4. When I read this blog entry I regret skipping Wizardry 1-5 from my own chronological play list...

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    1. I would consider W1 a "must play" game. The others, while varying the nuances, are similar enough that I don't think you missed anything by not playing the entire series.

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    2. I don't. :)

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    3. Oops. That "I don't" comment was typed before I saw CRPG Addict's post. I might play W1 at some point, but really the Wizardry games always seemed to be major grinds. If I'm going to grind in such a game, I'd rather play a rogue-like like NetHack or Zangband for its greater depth.

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    4. Wizardry 4 is a must-play game just so that you can say you played it.

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  5. No Faery Tale Adventure replay?! You're gonna regret it when you start playing the epic Faery Tale Adventure 2!

    Nah, just joking. I have the same sentiments about that crap myself. Good thing the sequel addressed many problems with the 1st one and improved every possible thing it could.

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    1. It's a shame that game sucked so bad, because it was one of the most beautiful worlds I'd ever seen. Just lovely, and it became better once I learned to use a bird totem (magic mapping) to find out where I was, then reload.

      But the empty world, the sparse NPCs with exactly one line each, and the stupidity of combat once you got over 70-80 Bravery (invincible to the most fearsome of foes) made the game a train wreck. I still finished it, though.

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    2. Damn, spoilers! I was hoping to lull Chet into thinking that this game was great, since it opened up so beautifully only to have it suck so bad in the end.

      You've ruined it all, Harland. I hate you.

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    3. Kenny, you realize I already played it and hated it, right?

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    4. Wait, what? You already played Faery Tale Adventure 2 and didn't blog about it?

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    5. No. I thought you were talking about FTA1. That's what, I believe, Harland was referring to.

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    6. Oh shit. Well, forget what I said about FTA2. It's a great game. You'd enjoy it all the way from the start to the end. Especially the end.

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  6. Nice job buddy, you just completed the year of my birth :)

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  7. Hey, thanks for going back and beating this game. It's always interesting to read your detailed impressions.

    Actually I've been going back recently and reading those older reviews. I've been on a first person dungeon crawl kick lately, starting with Might & Magic X, leading to playing M&M4 and 5, and now Wizardry 6. There's something just great and pure about the old Wizardries.

    I'd love to read a more detailed writeup of Wizardry 1 with the notes you say you've got, but I understand if you don't have the motivation for it.

    Just wanted to say in general, I appreciate what you're doing. Thanks for continuing this project!

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  8. I was ready to declare you crazy when I saw the headline... but you allowed yourself to reload.

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    1. I'd love to hear from anyone who won W2 WITHOUT this indulgence. You'd have to a) never experience full party death; b) avoid getting more than a couple of LOST (eradicated) characters; or c) spend a lot of time creating and leveling-up new parties in W1. It's hard to imagine anyone going through this effort. Played straight, this is a much harder game than NetHack, and look how long THAT took me.

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    2. I'm fairly sure that when I played Wizardry 1, we sent in a rescue expedition when the party died. But by the time of Wiz 2, I probably saved after every evening's play. I don't really recall, but I do have a notation in my notes about Disk Doctor.

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    3. I recently completed Wiz 1 and Wiz 2. I played them mostly Iron Man, I rolled until getting 15-19 Bonus Points, but I did not play them "blind". That is, I checked items lists since I hate not having any in game way of knowing what they do except trial and error, and possible eradication.

      I had two party deaths in Wiz 1. One was a room with both a Pit and an encounter. Had I known the Pit would re-activate after the battle I think I could have avoided that party death. So I rolled up a new characters to rescue the old ones, but in the end only one of the the old guard was better than the new guys.
      I didn't do any save scumming, accepting character deaths and decreasing stats. The one exception was before the final battle, since there's no way to send a rescue party there. First battle went badly; my fighters hardly scratched Werdna who nuked them with a massive TILTOWAIT. But on second try I got lucky and surprised him and his blood sucking friends.

      Wiz 2 I found much easier, partly due to the overpowered Kod pieces. No party deaths, and only a handful of character deaths. Only had to replace one character.

      Seeing how much trouble you had with Wiz 1 and 2, I guess you played them blindly and didn't re-roll until getting 15-19 Bonus Points?

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    4. Also, partway through Wiz 1 I found a site with details about what the stats do, that helped me when creating my second party. Vitality and Luck are probably the most vital stats for the front line, Vitality and Agility for the spell casters, and Agility, Luck and Vitality for the Thief. My Thief with 18 Agility and 18 Luck very rarely fumbled.
      Vitality dictates chances of successful Resurrection and amount of HP, and is crucial for surviving spells, breath attacks and those nasty Pits. It's typical that the only party death, except for the one against Werdna himself, was from a Pit.
      Luck affects chances of saving against monsters' special attacks, like Decapitation and Level Draining. Level Draining is the second most annoying thing to happen, aside from not surviving Resurrection, so the 15% extra bonus from 18 Luck can be a life saver.
      Agility is important for spell casters to get their spell in ASAP.

      If I should play it again I think my front row would be three Evil Fighers with max Vitality and Luck. Samurais will be stuck with mediocre stats (under 15 don't do much good) and are thus a worse choice IMO.

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  9. Skimmed the article to avoid spoilers, but I'm glad to see you've conquered an old spectre. I still dread getting to Wizardry II in my own play list. I'm not sure how that's going to play out since you can't import characters. Guess we'll see when we get there.

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  10. At least there's Return of Werdna, right? ;)

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  11. Congrats on winning the game!

    I think a lot of the mechanics of the early games in the series were because they were trying to emulate features from pen and paper RPGs and that most major conventions of the RPG genre weren't really established.

    Wizardrys 2 and 3 I think were supposed to be like extra modules you could buy for D&D and bring your characters along. Permadeath seems rough now but I assume at the time that the whole idea of a CRPG was new and amazing that people didn't care that they were grinding the same levels over and over. Wizardry was one of the few games around and so I guess at the time it was fun to keep making guys and see how far they could go.

    As an old school gamer myself I do miss a little bit of the feeling of dread and fear that old school games would produce. Like someone said above, games today are made so that if you put in enough time then you will beat it no matter what. I remember back in the day that most of the games I bought I never beat.

    If anyone is into console games the Demons Souls/Dark Souls games evoke a similar old school feeling to games like Wizardry. They are hard, they are light on story, have no hand holding and focus on discovery and exploration. The only downside is that they are action RPGs so you do need reflexes.

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    1. "Permadeath seems rough now but I assume at the time that the whole idea of a CRPG was new and amazing that people didn't care that they were grinding the same levels over and over. Wizardry was one of the few games around and so I guess at the time it was fun to keep making guys and see how far they could go." I think this nails it, really. It's the same mindset that we saw in the old PLATO games, to which Wizardry of course owes its lineage.

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    2. And weren't all videogames at the time structured in a similar way? I mean when you play Pac-Man you start at level 1 and see how many points you can rack up before your inevitable death. Same with Space Invaders and most classic games at the time. I'm not sure if the Wizardry designers intentionally made the game hard like that but I'm sure the flow of the game with lots of dying and repetition grinding would not have seem out of place at all to gamers at the time.

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    3. Yes to all the above. Before technology and game design expanded the amount of information a game could contain, the usual mode of a game was repetition. Then you would make that repetitive task more and more difficult. The goal was to be able to boast how far you'd gotten.

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    4. Oh, and to phrase it in yet another way:

      It wasn't about reaching the goal; it was about the journey. :)

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  12. So in the computer versions of Wiz 2 you were required to import parties from Wiz 1, but what about the NES version? I own boxed copies of both for NES that I haven't got around to playing, but I'm too lazy to dig them out to find the answer that way :p

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    1. The NES version of Wizardry 2 has somewhat easier monsters on the first dungeon level than the original version did, since you can't import characters. You were probably expected to spend a moderate amount of time grinding experience levels, though.

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  13. I only ever played the SNES version (which lets you import a party, but puts them back to level 1 anyways, so I assume the NES version is the same). They actually rebalanced it so that the enemies' strength is on a more natural progression for a party that actually still has to level up. Naturally, you can now normally progress between the floors, no tier-7-spell needed on the first floor to progress. Other than that though, the layout of the floors are exactly the same than the pc releases.

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    1. So yet another example of a challenging PC game dumbed down for a console?

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    2. That was meant to be a joke, incidentally. If there's one game you could forgive someone for "dumbing down," it's Wizardry II.

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    3. Wizardry II on console should have come with a preinstalled high level party. Lose that party, buy a new cart!

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  14. Just played through myself. Well, the battles against the five armor parts were less tough then I expected, with the exception of the shield for some reason.

    What surprised me the most was the inclusion of doors that even LOMILWA doesn't reveal beginning with level 5. How in hell are you ever supposed to expect this? It completely breaks the established game rules, I only knew after looking up a walkthrough. At first I reached the gauntlets the exact same way as you did via a chute from level 5 to level 6, stumbling through darkness and somehow ending up at the stairs to level 5 back to where the gauntlets are. But the sphinx on level 6 tells something about searching the level for hints about the answer. Well, I did not know the right answer (so obvious, damn...), so I wondered where those clues are supposed to be..and ended up cheating by looking up a map online after loosing patience.

    There are actually 3 hidden paths besides the visible door to the sphinx which lead to those hints and some neat weapon found at an altar of gnilda called the staff of light, which does a lot more damage than any other weapon except Hrathnir perhaps, and that can be equipped by character class. Too bad items get lost when transfering the party to the next part of Wizardry.

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    1. by ANY character class...I really miss the edit button.

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  15. Well, finally reached the game in my console list. Most obvious change is characters aren't imported, and battles are rebalanced to a party that starts at level 1. The sage was on the fourth floor, and gave the same spiel. No noticeable changes to the spells from the first game though. There weren't any riddles to answer. Level layouts were modified heavily: 1, 2, and 3 changed about half the map... -- 4 become floor 5 with a slight change (to accommodate the gauntlets), and 4 was a completely new map. Floor 6 stayed the same. The new map layouts had a fatal flaw though, there's no chute from 5 to 6, so the only way to get the gauntlets is either teleport blindly down to floor 6, or two spaces through a door that normally kicks you out without the gauntlets. This makes floor 6 mostly superfluous. The gauntlets themselves have access to all spells, and have 100% magic resistance. It took a lot of grinding to get enough HP to handle two Tiltowaits a turn (in the end unnecessary, as they didn't both cast it). By the time I felt strong enough (400 HP on my fighters), my main fighter with Hrathnir was doing ~200 damage in a single hit. Very anti-climatic way to finish, but climax in Wizardry usually end in a complete party wipe. I'm glad to be done with this one.

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    1. Feel free to link to your posts! For everyone's benefit, Zenic's coverage starts here:

      http://allconsolerpgs.blogspot.com/2016/02/game-51-wizardry-knight-of-diamonds-nes.html

      I appreciate hearing about the differences. "Climax in Wizardry usually ends in a complete party wipe." Indeed. Oddly, I kind of miss these games.

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    2. Good Progress Zenic. We appreciate your reporting the progress!

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    3. Thanks, will do from now on. While I enjoyed this more than the first Wizardry, I'm not keen on grinding to win. So, I don't think I'll ever look back on this series as fondly. The majority of the port was well done except for a couple oversights. I definitely enjoyed this one more than the first. I guess these didn't do as well in the US (or possibly due to the aging console) because the third game never got a translation. I'll revisit this series in the fifth game on the SNES though, and stop by again with my thoughts on Pool of Radiance next.

      Also, I'll take this opportunity to say keep up the great work. I'm always impressed by the eloquence of your prose, and speed in forming your posts. I've only recently found a nice balance where I can get one post out a week. Looking forward to a number of games in 1991 for you, and I hope the slog through the more uninteresting games don't bring you down.

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    4. It occurs to me that this blog has probably helped my composition a lot in real life. When you crank out the equivalent of an 8-page article every few days, minor writing assignments don't seem so daunting.

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