Friday, August 24, 2018

Game 302: Wizardry: Crusaders of the Dark Savant (1992)

Ahem. The correct term is autistic African-American.
                 
Wizardry: Crusaders of the Dark Savant
United States
Sir-tech Software (developer and publisher)
Released in 1992 for DOS, 1994 for FM Towns and PC-98, 1995 for PlayStation; re-released in 1996 for Windows and Macintosh as Wizardry Gold
Date Started: 20 August 2018

Crusaders of the Dark Savant is the second 1992 game that feels like a new era. The first, of course, was Ultima Underworld. Underworld is the more groundbreaking of the two, but the state of hardware, software, and programming wasn't quite ready to capitalize on all its innovations, and thus in some ways it feels like a few steps backward accompany all its steps forward. Savant, on the other hand, is all forward, albeit towards what will ultimately be a dead end. Between this game and Might and Magic III (1991), it's hard to imagine what else can be achieved with the traditional multi-character party moving as a unit over a tiled terrain.

I was surprised to see that it's nearly five years since I completed Bane of the Cosmic Forge, entry VI in the Wizardry series. Savant, of course, is entry VII, although the game avoids putting the number in the title. It is the third and last Wizardry contribution from David W. Bradley. I spent a lot of my Forge coverage (which begins here) making fun of Bradley for somewhat intrusive authorial presence in the game materials, including a cluebook interview that defines "cringe." I'll forgo any such ridiculing here because he really has put together an impressive game, and his dedication is not to his mother this time, but to "those who would stand against the weight of a universe to rise but one step further over its horizon." Yeah, don't waste a lot of time trying to parse that.

Forge had a pretty convoluted plot, but we have to get it in our heads because Savant picks up directly from its ending--or endings, as we'll see. The party in Forge, unconnected to any previous Wizardry, decides to explore a ruined castle and gets tangled up in the mystery of the Cosmic Forge, a pen with the power to write things in and out of existence. It was stolen by a king and his wizard as part of their interplanar plundering. They used it to make themselves immortal, but each suffered a "bane": the wizard was split into two beings, and the king became a vampire.

Meanwhile, the king's vicar fathered a half-demon child named Rebecca, who became the king's ward and ultimately his lover. The ghost of the queen lies to the party about Rebecca's origins and gives them a silver cross with which to kill the king and Rebecca. If the party decides that they don't believe the queen, they must show it by discarding the cross, which creates a different set of encounters than if they keep it.

Playing Forge blind, I was oblivious to all of this, and I still think it's a little opaque. First of all, few games of the era had stories at all, let alone those that require the player to judge the validity of an NPC's claims, so I wasn't really prepared for this kind of choice. Second, I thought it was somewhat counter-intuitive to demonstrate such a choice by throwing away an inventory item instead of through dialogue or other more traditional choices.

Forge ultimately has three potential endings (not counting the "Dumb Boffo Ending"). Those who disbelieve the queen and toss the cross get the so-called "best" ending, where the king voluntarily ends his own life, Rebecca leaves peacefully, and the party takes to the stars with Rebecca's brother, a dragon named Bela.

Instead, my party killed the vampire king and Rebecca left sadly. I experienced both of the other two endings: In the first, the party tried to take the Cosmic Forge, but a glowing dude appeared and said, "I'll take that!" and the game was over. In the second, we moved past the Cosmic Forge, defeated the angry dragon Bela, and took off in his spaceship on our own.
            
See, I thought those first two items were the same thing.
           
Action in Savant moves to a planet called Guardia, where centuries ago a "scientific genius" named Phoonzang discovered a secret so powerful it could make or destroy universes. (Its relation to the Cosmic Forge, which can do the same, isn't entirely clear.) He hid his secret on Guardia in a "stellar globe" called the Astral Dominae. Some group called the Lords of the Cosmic Circle caused Guardia to be hidden, but it has been re-discovered, and several factions are attempting to find the Astral Dominae. These include the mysterious Dark Savant ("one of the most powerful enemies alive"); a militaristic, lawful race called the Umpani; a greedy spider-like race called the T'Rang (who seem to be allied with the Dark Savant); a robot agent of the Lords of the Cosmic Circle named Aletheides (he's who I guess is the one that snatches the Cosmic Forge in the second ending); and a mysterious female descendant of Phoonzang named Vi Domina, who is either the Dark Savant's ally or his prisoner.
               
It sounds like we're going to become Crusaders against the Dark Savant.
           
Well, she has the Infinity Gauntlet. Game over.
          
Depending on how you ended Forge (if you did at all), you get one of four opening narrations--three for each of the three Bane endings, and one for a new party (or a party that didn't finish Bane). I'm not sure how the three "beginnings" affect the nature of the story and quest, nor whether they result in the party landing in different physical locations. I'll explore that more next time.
                       
The party touches down with their robot friend.
          
Although I won the game two different ways, and presumably saved after the last one, the game treated my imported party as if it was a brand new one, and the introduction ended with Aletheides dropping me off in the forest. I'm not sure what went wrong. Again, I'll try to troubleshoot for the next entry.
            
The party begins in a dark forest.
           
Savant keeps the same races and classes as Forge and the same attributes as all previous Wizardry games. Namely:
               
  • Races: Human, elf, dwarf, gnome, hobbit, faerie, lizardman, dracon (human/dragon hybrids), rawulf (canine humanoids), felpurr (feline humanoids), and mooks (Wookies)
  • Classes: Fighter, mage, priest, thief, ranger, alchemist, bard, psionic, valkyrie, bishop, lord, and ninja
  • Attributes: Strength, intelligence, piety, vitality, dexterity, speed, and personality
            
Each character also has a selection of skills (a system introduced in Forge), including ten different types of weapons, eight physical skills (e.g., music, scouting, disarming/lockpicking), ten academic skills (e.g., mythology, alchemy, theology), and six special skills (e.g., firearms, mind control). Two of the physical skills (swimming and climbing), five of the academic skills (theology, theosophy, kirijutsu, mapping, and diplomacy), and all six special skills are appearing in Savant for the first time.

I ended Forge with the following all-female party:
        
  • Nysra, a female dwarf ninja
  • Nofri, an elf priest
  • Harquin, a faerie mage
  • Lashi, a Mook ranger
  • Paisley, a Dracon Valkyrie
  • Selky, a Felpurr Samurai
         
The characters were all Level 11, having achieved that level for the second time (the game lets you switch professions as often as you want). Upon importing them to Savant, they were all reduced to Level 5. This still makes them far more powerful than the Level 1 characters you create here. Most of their equipment was stripped, although a few powerful items (including my valkyrie's Avenger Sword) remain. Still, since I didn't get any of the beginnings from having won Forge, I'm toying with creating a new party.
           
My converted faerie, busted down 6 levels.
         
My game began in a forest. I'm not sure where Aletheides went, but he's not with me. After equipping my items, I started exploring systematically, contending with creatures like giant ravens and plant-based enemies called "bambiphoots." I noticed immediately that the game frequently pauses to give you atmospheric messages, enhancing the much-improved graphics. Some examples:
               


Text interludes like this enhance the feeling of playing a tabletop RPG.
            
Forge used the same textures for everything, but Savant has some of the best images we've seen in a tiled first-person game, including some great encounter animations that transcend the silliness of their Forge counterparts. One limitation, though, is the inability to see enemies in the environment, like you could in Might and Magic III. Combats just suddenly come upon you.
            
The animation makes the birds seem scarier.
          
As we explored, a blonde woman came flying down in an air car, welcomed us, proclaimed it "the time of the coming of the Crusaders!," and flew off. Based on the manual's descriptions, she would appear to be a Helazoid, an enigmatic native population on Guardia.
           
I suppose the game had to have some goofy elements.
         
Continuing my explorations, I soon ran into a dungeon. Normally, I'd be more interested in finding a town and getting a bead on the main quest, but I figured it would help me get used to the controls. The dungeon turned out to be two levels, both small enough that I didn't have to map, with a variety of combats and special encounters. It was a good introduction to the game and its conventions.

The interface is okay. It's primarily mouse-driven, but with keyboard backups for the most common commands. (You can disable the mouse and arrow around the buttons, but that's a lot slower.) I'm sure I'll get used to it. Switching between characters is a little annoying, and you can't do it at all when you're in a sub-menu, such as skills or spells.

Sound effects are also quite good (yes, I'm using SoundBlaster for the effects and Roland MT-32 for the music), with satisfying clangs and crunches during combat. There are a sparse number of background sounds, like drips in dungeons and howls of wind in the forest. There hasn't been any background music so far, just a well-composed main title theme and brief melodies punctuating the beginnings and ends of combat. At first, I thought the music was unnecessarily delaying the transitions in and out of combat, but they didn't happen any faster when I turned it off.
            
This is accompanied by an appropriate "crunch."
         
Combat is otherwise similar to all of the previous Wizardry games. You specify an action for each character (fight, cast, use an item, parry, and so forth) and then watch them execute, along with the enemies', in order of initiative. Spells offer a lot of tactics. A lack of permadeath and an ability to rest between combats means that the difficulty is in individual battles rather than accumulated ones.
             
Menaced by giant insects.
              
The dungeon had easy battles with insect creatures, cruds, and birds. I barely even had to touch my spells. There was a healing fountain, a couple of buttons and levers, a door for which I had to find a key, and a skeleton clutching an advertisement for "Paluke's Armory" in New City.
          
A crummy commercial?
          
A couple of chests defied my ability to disarm their traps--that's a whole process I'll have to describe later--so I had to suck up their damage.
           
I have to read the manual more carefully to make heads or tails of this minigame.
            
The dungeon culminated in a chamber where a skeleton or ghoul named Ra-Sep-Re-Tep (the developers must have known someone named Peter Pesar) came to life and attacked me with some black ravens. They succumbed easily to "Sleep" and he was destroyed by "Dispel Undead." A chest in his chambers had some potions and other magic items. My character with the best "Artifact" skill isn't very good, so I'm hoping there's a way to pay for identification once I reach a city. I didn't gain any levels in the dungeon, but I imagine a new party would have gotten a couple.
            
The priest does what we have a priest for.
             
Continuing on, I fought off an ambush by some "rattkin" thieves and eventually ended up on a road that brought me to New City. It looks like it's been taken over by the Dark Savant. A sentinel asked my business in the city, and on a whim I tried "Paluke's," and it worked. I'm not sure if this means that I had to explore that dungeon, or if there's another way to get into the city. Either way, soon after entering I got into an impossible battle with "Savant guards" and decided to call it quits for the night while I figure out whether to continue with this party or create a new one.
            
We-are-going-to-Paluke's.
      
Other notes:
          
  • I guess you want to build up that "Swimming" skill as soon as possible. My entire party drowned when I accidentally stepped into a small patch of water. It was my only reload this session.
           
I guess what my grandmother used to say about a teaspoon of water is true.
      
  • Loot distribution takes a little longer than necessary. I wish there was a default button. Also, you can't leave the loot screen until you've taken all the items. You can drop them later, but you can't leave them sitting there in the chest. "Leave" doesn't work until it's empty.
               
My party divides a bunch of unknown items.
          
I gather from previous comments that this is a long one, and I'm going to be (as usual) playing it completely blind. I can see that there's a mapping skill (and one of my characters started with a map book), but I don't have any points in it yet. Ultimately, is the automap good enough to rely on, or should I start my Excel sheets as usual? I'm also happy to take opinions on the party situation. Next time, I'll let you know what I found in New City.

Time so far: 4 hours

105 comments:

  1. The DOS automap is ok in terms of information, but cumbersome to use. The Windows version has an automap that doesn't require a special item and is floating open constantly in a separate window.

    There is an automap mod for W7 which runs well with DOSBox and might be a convenient way to spare you countless hours of mapping this behemoth.

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  2. The map book doesn't cover a wide enough area or give enough information to completely replace your Excel sheet maps.

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  3. Couldn't resist one more dig at Damon Bradley, huh? I agree that dedication is pretty senseless, though.

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  4. I haven't played this one before, but it's between the only two Wizardry games that I HAVE played, so I've been pretty excited to see you play this. I thought it wouldn't be until Might and Magic 4 that I would be commenting again, but I guess I forgot that this was coming up...

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  5. Minor spoiler, ROT13 to be safe: Gur orfg raqvat sebz Onar qebcf lbh bss arne gur Hzcnav onfr, jurer gur yiy 5 cnegl snprf zhpu gbhture rarzvrf.

    The starting dungeon, ratkin ambush, etc. are designed for a new party. Back then the ratkin ambush game my level 1 party a lot of trouble (I might do better nowadays). I'd say it would be best though not essential to create a new party.

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    1. I accidentally ran your spoiler through google translate instead of rot13. It identified the language as Hindi as translated it as "The only way to find out if you want to spend a lot of time is to visit the Old 5 Kagal Survey."

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    2. Screenshot: https://imgur.com/JuMV5BH

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    3. octavius Brofists this.

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    4. Regarding the spoiler above, it's a nice thing to have at start: Vs lbh znxr vg vagb gur Hzcnav onfr jvgubhg trggvat xvyyrq bhgfvqr, lbh pna yrnea gur svernezf fxvyy naq trg n srj svernezf orsber urnqvat onpx bhg.

      Then this probably requires some saving and reloading, but imo it's worth it: Gura sebz gur Hzcnav onfr, gel gb urnq onpx gb gur "arj cnegl" nern jurer guvatf ner rnfvre

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    5. Damned MoCAGH doesn't have the Old 5 Kagal Survey. It's a good resource, but it often fails when you most need it.

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    6. No, this is too good for a throw-away joke. The "Old 5 Kagal Survey" is no my official term for an obscure game document that you need but doesn't seem to exist anymore.

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  6. Boy, I have been waiting years (literally) for you to get to this one. Wiz 7 was one of my favorite games in my teen years, and has been on my list of Best Games Ever for a long time. I still replay it every few years, though with the perspective of time I am a lot more conscious of its flaws now.

    Excited to see how the experience is for you coming to it fresh, and I've still got my hardcopy of the cluebook handy if you need it!

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    1. Haha, I have the hardcopy cluebook too. Buuuuut it has an error in the dragon cave map and hints, and I remember being stuck there younger, even when trying to follow the cluebook, and eventually giving up.

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  7. Probably the only CRPG I had that contended with the Goldbox games. The tile movement and atmospheric touches reminded me of Alternate Reality. Not knowing about "Fate", this was the substitute for that failed promise.

    This is a big game, and I confess the amount of combat got the better of my patience. Still I give this game credit in that your party makes decisions which affect both its performance and the fate of the world.

    If only D. Bradley did not add so much goofiness. I don't think anyone at Sire Tech could take this stuff seriously. In many ways Wizardry and Ultima are polar opposites and it shows here too.

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  8. A minor hint as I didn't see a mention in your post. In the new party starting wilderness area there is an important item you should find if you want automapping (albeit, you may not as it is clunky in the game).

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    1. That automap is vital; the better the character’s mapping skill the more detail you will see in it

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  9. Hey you're probably going to get a ton of unsolicited advice for this one, so I will just say good luck and have fun!

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  10. I remember playing this when I was a lot younger. I never did beat it; I'm going to be watching this one with great interest.

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  11. This really brings back memories... I tackled this too early, at too young an age to really understand the depth and scope of RPG mechanics, but I loved it anyway. The graphics blew me away, and the free exploration was stunning. I never beat it, but I have nothing but fond memories of it. I look forward to observing you carve your way through this with all your experience.

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  12. This game (along Darklands) is my favorite RPG of all time so be ready to enjoy it. It has a LOT of combat encounters so I would recommend keeping your party from the previous game, not only for the skills (a pain in the ass to raise in W7) and premium character levels but more importantly for the items such as the Holy Basher or Muramasa Blade... they will make things a whole lot easier.
    Make New City your base of operations and be careful of what you toss, especially in dungeons, and keep notes on everything NPCs talk about for clues and puzzles

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  13. Full disclosure: the only Wizardry I ever played was number 8. Quite an oddball for its time, but I enjoyed it. Hard as balls though. I should really check out 7 though, after all the praise I heard.

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  14. Woooow a great game here we come, so many memories. I never managed to finish it when I was a teen when it came out, but eventually did a few years ago. Spoiler free opinions to your questions:

    - The game is hard, so the imported party might make it a bit easier, but a new one makes more leveling fun and I personally always love the first levels when development is more rapid and you really see the progress with a few experience points, before reaching the point where you need thousands and gain a level once in a blue moon. New party creation is a loooooong rolling and rerolling and rerolling process to get those required stats, though.

    - Excel map all the way. There are VERY complicated dungeons where you'll need to anotate in detail what button does what and what teleporter leads where, etc. I mapped it all in excel, but one word of caution, the main world map (forests, roads, mountains, sea...) does NOT line up correctly when you glue it together. I spent hours going all around and counting squares, and it just doesn't fit, so get over the OCD and roll with it ;)

    - One minor word of caution: time matters here unlike most other games. In what is a weird mechanic I haven't seen elsewhere, the other factions also have adventurers seeking the same quest items as you, moving dynamically around the map doing stuff, so you might well arrive at a "final" chest in a dungeon only to find it already empty (but with all traps and mosnters around it intact, as if that made sense). Don't overstress it, as it's not fatal, but try to be diligent.

    And good luck!

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    1. That time mechanic is ultimately what demoralized me from finishing this game. I am a "slow" player who has to look in every nook and cranny and too many times I arrived late.

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    2. So what's if you're too late?
      There are in game clues as to who the current holders of the maps are. Loot their corpses after you run across them.
      This is the one thing that makes Wiz 7 outstanding IMO - the unpredictability.

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    3. Also, some NPCs start fixed in specific locations and will not move until you encounter them and actually release them via an action or dialogue. Not talking to some NPCs will give you extra time.

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  15. I cannot believe it is 5 years since Wiz6.

    I have played innumerous times this Wiz7 game, but nevertheless it is very interesting to read your blog about it :)

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  16. I recommend keeping the original party. In fact, an imported party, with the right item from the best W6 ending, can do at least one thing that a new party cannot. (That one thing is not mandatory to win the game.) And if you get good equipment from the import, it's a big help.

    Also, one of the import endings (again, I believe the best W6 ending) puts you in the same area as a new party, so I think you hit that one. I personally believe it's also the optimal area to start, but others may disagree.

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    1. Nope, the best W6 ending puts you... elsewhere.

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    2. You're right. I misremembered because I deliberately moved my W6-best ending import from that area to the starter dungeon area.

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    3. I didn't get the so-called "best" W6 ending, so I'm sure that's not where I started.

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    4. Yes, the start from Aletheides ending is identical to the brand new start, except for stats and equipment (and a couple lines of text in the intro). Only Bela ending and kill-Bela ending give unique W7 starts (near Umpani and T-rang strongholds respectively)

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  17. Just keep the imported party, it looks fine. The unlimited class change option makes the starting class composition irrelevant anyway, and only a few items are limited to races, of which you have a good mix.

    Class changing is not required, but really powerful, as characters keep all skills and spells, so you can do things like hide in shadows with mages, critical hit with fighters, etc. Their stats do get reset though, making them fairly weak for a while, so probably best to do one or two at a time.

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    1. The best thing about class changing IMO is to get skill points for the magic skills. Not being able to cast higher level spells like for instance Cure Poison and Cure Disease really hurts.

      The class changing abuse is balanced somewhat by the fact (assuming it's like in Wiz 6) that every combat calculation is based on character level.
      So for example a lvl 13 character that never changed class will resist spells better than a lvl 10 character much much better skills.

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    2. Hence vanilla characters that never change classes are still a good idea. I found it best to have half stay the course while the others experiment. In the end, I think I preferred single class. It is easier to keep track of.

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    3. I started over. I didn't like what the import process did to my skills. Also, I wanted to try some other options. I'll dual at least a couple of characters because I couldn't get enough bonus points for a lord or ninja at the outset.

      Isn't the bard supposed to start with a lute? Mine doesn't have one for some reason.

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    4. I think Faerie Bards do not get the lute. Otherwise I do not know.

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    5. Pity. The item that is only available as an import from W6 is also usable in W8 for an extra dialog + XP. I can't think of any other series that allowed imports to be "recognized" as such so far down the road.

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    6. The Tbyqra Cnagnybbaf in Onyqhef Tngr probably qualify. You have to take them from Onyqhef Tngr all the way through Funqbjf bs Nza and Guebar bs Ounny before they do anything at all.

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    7. Cool! I didn't play the last game in that series but you're right, that item was the epitome of uselessness. Glad to know they became finally useful.

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    8. Faeries don't get the Poet's Lute, so make a new bard! That lute is a lifesaver and makes the earlier levels, when a bad roll on the encounter table can TPK you, that much less annoying. Even in the later game, it has its uses.

      Dualling is one of my favourite parts of this game's design! It is really useful to get some useful skills up that are otherwise hard to raise (magic skills, mapping, artifacts, mythology).

      Also, make sure one of your characters gets skullduggery up to 100 asap, makes the game much less aggravating in several spots. The easiest way to do that is starting a character as a thief: they get bonus points to skullduggery at levelup, level quickly, and get lots of physical skillpoints. Thieves suck in the long run, so dualling around level 8-10 is very useful.

      One thing that has helped me out immensely is dualling (trialling, quadralling, quintalling...) everybody so they get at least some points in Ninjutsu. The option to hide in combat is extremely (!) useful, and the skill auto-increases with use.

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    9. You can make a science out of changing professions in Wizardry 6 & 7. When I finally played Bane two years ago I made an Excel sheet planning ahead race and class combinations and changes of profession. E.g. with a fairy, you're mostly limited to professions with a minimum strength requirement, as it will be hard to get the strength up from the fairy minimum. Sometimes you can help yourself with intermediate professions.

      Wizardry's character development is really quite complex for its time. But with the random nature of leveling, changing professions this way often requires some reloading (and grinding so that you're not faced with a level-up after a boss fight). I think the most enjoyable way to play Wizardry is to limit profession changes to one per character, usually to switch to a prestige class. Switching is not really necessary, especially if you rolled a good character at character creation.

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    10. Wis 6 and 7 are an accountant's dream games.

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    11. Switching isn't necessary, though useful to reach certain classes without spending a day making characters. But the fact that it IS abusable caused the makers of 8 to overhaul the system, making it nearly worthless :(

      My first few times I beat 6, I barely changed classes at all. I even managed to do so at around level 12, with lots of save scumming. Using it as intended does not break the game.

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    12. I try to keep balance. Some characters remain fixed; others switch, just once usually. It makes more narrative sense and it is easy to track.

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  18. There are keyboard commands for EVERYTHING.
    Way back in the day, once I started playing with keyboard only (mouse disabled), I never looked back. It's a lot faster once you get used to it.
    You can select characters in the sub menu by pressing up/down and cycling through, switch between inventory slots 1-10 and 11-20 with B, pick up items by typing in their number (1-0), put them down by typing the slot you'd like to put it in, C shows you stats, S for skills, P(rofession) for class changing, etc.
    Quick looting: SPACE, ENTER, number of the character who gets the item (1-6), repeat. Repeatedly pressing SPACE moves the selection to the next item, up/down scrolls the list (this is a general feature, works the same with spells and skills). If there are items on the floor, G opens the looting window.
    Spellcasting works similarly, M for the magic menu, first letter of the spell school, then type the number for the spell level, SPACE and up/down to select the spell.
    Not always intuitive, but once you get used to it, it's way faster than with a mouse. And the game is so long, you'll definitely get used to it should you decide to try it.

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    1. So here's what I mean about the sub-menus. Say I'm trying to take a quick glance through my characters and find who has the highest "Artifact" skill. I click on the first character then click on his skills. At this point, I can't move to the second character and see his skills. I have to back out of the skills sub-menu, go to the second character, then click on his skills. Is there a way I'm not seeing to do that? I feel like I've tried everything that makes sense.

      In an opposite issue, I can't figure out a MOUSE method for getting out of the character screen. ESC does it, but what am I supposed to click on to go back to the adventuring window?

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    2. No, you're right. You have to first exit the skills menu, unfortunately. I can't help you with the mouse :)

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    3. It's been a long time since I last played Wiz7, so I'm not sure it'll work, but have you tried clicking the archway to the right of the suit of armor? It might be hard to see due to your colorblindness, but there's "exit" written over it in red letters.

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    4. Heh, you learn something new every day. It's the first time I even noticed that dark EXIT sign, and I'm not even colorblind. Looks like a last minute hack job.

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  19. I understand you're playing blind, but I believe there is one thing you might still want to be aware of regarding how time passes in the game:

    Erfgvat gnxrf na njshy ybg bs gvzr. Vg vf nyjnlf snfgre (va-tnzr gvzrjvfr) gb trg gb n arneol sbhagnva naq hfr vg ercrngrqyl gb ercyravfu urnygu/fgnzvan/znan.
    Gurer ner pregnva vgrzf va gur tnzr gung tvir lbh pyhrf bs jung gb qb arkg, ohg lbhe cnegl vfa'g gur bayl bar gelvat gb trg gurz. Naq jub trgf gurer svefg vf qrpvqrq ol ubj zhpu va-tnzr gvzr unf cnffrq.

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  20. I spent hours and hours on this game. After winning with my party of six from Wizardry VI, I switched to a solo run, which was frustrating for the first couple of levels but paid off later on. The more powerful endgame monsters (often optional encounters) can fry characters who don't successfully hide during combat, and the bigger the party, the higher the chance that someone's going to flub a stealth check.

    (You can't take a solo character through VI, by the by ー the earlier game forces a two-character minimum, I think because of inventory requirements.)

    As you'll have seen in VI, you can cycle characters through all of the classes and build their skills up to ridiculous degrees. Abuse of the game mechanics, I guess, though I was never sure how much class-swapping the developers expected me to try. In any event, it was fun.

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  21. Wiz 8 and M&M X are hard...Wiz 7 isn't. No need to reroll, import, class change, sweat the clock. Start at level 1 and enjoy.

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    1. M&M X is hard? That game's so small that I beat it in less than 20 hours at a casual pace without any grinding at all.

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    2. There is notoriously no grinding in M&M X...as anyone who played it would know. And I seriously doubt that it can be finished in less than 40 hours.

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  22. If I remember correctly, Bane of the Cosmic Forge used different file extensions for completed games (.BCF) and regular saves (.DBS). It may be that you used accidentally a "normal" save instead of completed game.

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    1. W7 looks for a "BCF" file by default, but I downloaded three games from players who had completed W6 in different ways, and they all had .DBS extensions (just like my save) and yet W7 recognized them all as having been won.

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    2. I never had a bcf file in my completed Wizardry 6, the dbs file worked just fine. Sounds like either a bug or maybe you accidentially overwrote your save game? Anyway, for playing this the first time I think a new party is the best option.

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  23. One correction: VII is Bradley's third game in the series since his first was V.

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    Replies
    1. Of course. I don't know why I forgot about his involvement in V.

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  24. I've been looking forward to this one. This was the first Wizardry I played as a kid, and I remember being totally confused as to what was going on storywise.

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  25. Which version are you playing, out of curiosity? Are you playing Gold or DOS release? (I am not sure if there is a difference, although Gold makes it sound like there may be.)

    It would be interesting at some point to get your insight on the different classes, races, spells (especially new ones if any), etc. This could wait until toward the end of the game, or could be now with your going in thoughts--but either way it could be interesting. Characters in Wizardry are so unique compared to many other CRPGs...

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    1. Screenshots seem to suggest the original DOS version. While Gold has some strong points (extensive inbuilt guides, arguably better music, some improvements in graphics, more user-friendly auto-map window), it also suffers from serious bugs, which can reportedly even render the game impossible to complete. One of the best known bugs in Gold is broken Diplomacy skill, which apparently doesn't work at all.

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    2. 8 years ago, because I was having trouble with W2 and W3, I purchased the "Ultimate Wizardry Archives." I installed it and have been copying the folders from computer to computer since then. According to MobyGames, the CD contained BOTH versions of W7, but at some point along the way I must have lost the "Gold" version. The version I'm playing is in a folder called "DSAVANT." It doesn't have digitized sound nor any files that look like they're specific to Windows 95, so I'm sure it's the original DOS version.

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    3. Yes, it is definitely the original version just from the screenshots, as the Gold version features redrawn SVGA portraits and background art. It was also quite buggy, and always crashed for me just before the ending, so I wasn't able to transfer my party to W8.

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  26. I've been waiting for this for a while! For automap, I use the Cosmic Forge tool, which under the Save Files Viewer window's Open button has an Attach to running game option. No need to install fancy mods, just run your Wizardry 7 game from DosBOX as usual.

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  27. I feel like I owned this game but could never get it to work. Based on the comments about the bugs with Gold, that's probably true. After one or two of the original DOS Wizardry games, the only one I really played was 8 where after feeling like I knew what I was doing by the mid game, I got so trounced in the end areas that I just gave up even with hints. Anyway, will be fun to vicariously experience this one.

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  28. A few things to note.

    There are some areas where there's nothing to find. But you have to actively look for them to find them. Entire zones with nothing but monsters. No idea if there was supposed to be something and it was cut, or they were just there for ambiance.

    Although the game isn't linear, some parts of a few areas can't be completed without something from an entirely different area. Not a lot of them though.

    There's one game-killing bug, if you didn't use the Mad God editor to fix it: If you don't use all your skillpoints from leveling up, you can't exit the skill screen. Including if you have no more room for leftover points.

    Most puzzles are rather obvious. The ones that aren't, the game gives you hints, in the actual game.

    Ten points of swimming allows you to swim, but swimming uses a LOT of stamina. The higher your swimming the less it uses.

    I believe that the difficulty level affects how hard the combats are. The manual actually says to lower the difficulty if it gets too hard.

    Another thing mentioned in the manual: not all cursed items are bad.

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    Replies
    1. If I remember correctly, Expert difficulty also makes you fight two copies of bosses at the same time, which is quite silly.

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    2. Grrrr. Lost my name posting the above, sorry.

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    3. That's what happened to it :P

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    4. Yup, expert makes every group have an extra monster (and has an increased chance for fighting more groups of monsters), and that also makes you fight the twin sibling of every boss, too.
      Easy subtracts one monster from each group, and for every boss fight, there is a chance the boss will be alone (which never happens on normal or expert).

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    5. "If you don't use all your skillpoints from leveling up, you can't exit the skill screen. Including if you have no more room for leftover points." Is that a real concern in a normal game, or just if you really grind?

      "Ten points of swimming allows you to swim, but swimming uses a LOT of stamina. The higher your swimming the less it uses." Do skills increase only from putting points into them while leveling, or do they also increase through use? I wasn't sure from reading the manual.

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    6. The skill point bug isn't often a problem, but some personal skills can be gained outside of leveling up. Firearms and the mental protection one (can't remember the name) are the biggest problems here. So getting firearms up high then leveling up will lock the game.

      Most skills, though not all (mainly magic class skills), will gain through use. With swimming you need to use level-up points up to ten, though there's one place in the game that lets you swim without drowning if you want to get those ten points otherwise. You pretty much have to grind up swimming to get it to a useful level.

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    7. On Mad God's editor, it's used quite a bit by players. It can be used as an editor, but it also adds tweaks and bugfixes to the game. It's commonly used to make character creation easier by making high bonus stat points more common. BUT, you can choose what to modify. If all you want are some of the bugfixes you can just choose those. The tweaks don't have to be chosen, and the editor is a different part.

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    8. As Drawde said, with six characters, unless you grind up firearms, there should be no problem. For personal skills, if you're insanely "lucky" (get 2 points/personal skill for every level-up) you'd have to be 50 levels higher to crash the game. Even if you grind other grindable skills heavily, chances are you'll be fine. (I first managed to lock the game up this way when I was soloing, i.e. getting 6X the xp, juvpu yngr va gur tnzr zrnaf fvk gvzrf gur yriryf, rirel yriry sbe rirel pynff nsgre yriry fvkgrra pbfgf fvk uhaqerq gubhfnaq.)

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  29. I first started following your blog when I went searching about Bane of the Cosmic Forge, this game seems really interesting but I really want to finish Bane one of these days first. Wiz 8 though I love and I really hate that this type of game did seem to hit a dead end.

    Question: Why the hate for not seeing the enemies coming? I prefer it this way, makes the world seem bigger.

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    Replies
    1. That's a long-running debate in both major RPG branches. A lot of people find it immersion-breaking to get attacked out of nowhere, and dislike the way you never know for sure when a battle is going to start.

      Proponents of "out of nowhere" encounters generally like the inability to know when a fight will break out, since it makes resource management trickier and has more tension.

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    2. I called it a "limitation," speaking primarily about graphics. I don't agree it rises to the level of "hate."

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    3. Yeah sorry I didn't mean for the hyperbole, was rereading some of your old posts where you also mentioned it and I was wondering, I tend to exaggerate.

      Gnoman thanks, I see both sides of this now makes more sense to me. I do like some games where you see enemies like Baulders Gate and Elder Scrolls but I still prefer the battles to just pop up in a grid based game.

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    4. I've assumed this entire time that it was a graphical limitation rather than a deliberate design choice. In any event, I care about the issues most in the Gold Box games, where pre-combat buffing is both allowed and vital to success. The idea that you would have no warning about an imminent combat with 24 dragons is just absurd.

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    5. It is kind of both. The concept originated in (what else?) Dungeons And Dragons, where tables were provided for a GM to roll on whenever he decided the players needed to get a move on. Being a TTRPG instead of a CRPG, this didn't always mean a fight, but often did.

      Early CRPG developers filched the idea, but technical limitations meant that the range of options boiled down to "Fight" and "Try to avoid fight", and enough people found this tedious that the choice eroded away.

      The mechanic remained in because it was extremely easy to implement, and was an effective means of adding resource attrition and grinding opportunities for the player.

      In a sense, the popularity of it emerged from graphical limitations, as adding more monsters running around strained the computer running it. As systems (both computer and console) became more powerful, there was a strong trend of replacing random encounters with existing encounters (where the monsters are just roaming around on the map).

      However, a fairly sizable portion of the playerbase disliked the change, because it made grinding a lot more tedious (if you're hunting a certain rare drop, or trying to get a lot of experience from a specific monster) running around in circles is a lot less of a pain than "come in, find and kill the handful of the specific monster I want, walk all the way to the exit, repeat". It also highlights the absurdity of just how many monsters are running around - MM3 is a pretty good example of this at times.

      Instead, a lot of developers started just giving you tools to manipulate the rates at which encounters show up, manipulate the sort of monsters you encounter, and some games even give you a "summon battle" item.

      A popular compromise (especially in real-time games where dropping into battle just doesn't work) is to have enemies randomly spawn just out of sight of the player. This has some drawbacks, but works.

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  30. I'm just glad that pies aren't named after scientific geniuses.

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  31. Hello! I've been following the blog from the chronological list at http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/p/index-of-games-played-by-year.html?m=1

    Any chances of an update to the list?

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    Replies
    1. I dont know what you mean. I've kept that list updated with every game I've finished since I started it.

      Delete
    2. Oh, I see I need to edit the opening text.

      Delete
  32. Quite interested in that Blog Entry since I tried to beat the game twice and now and well ... it never turned out too good, maybe I did something fundamentally wrong but I´m not someone who is total foreign to hard RPGs so yah ... looking forward to your Entries :D

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    1. About the Party Situation: (I talk about Item stats a bit so no story spoiler but I rot is to be safe than sorry!)

      N arjyl perngrq svtugre trgf rvgure n ybatfjbeq (gjb gb rvtug Qnz) be n Onfgneq Fjbeq (guerr gb avar (- bar) Qnz .. V thrff gur - bar vf gb uvg?), pna´g erzrzore nalzber.
      Juvyr lbh zragvbarq gur Niratre Fjbeq (frira gb gjragl rvtug + guerr Qnzntr) va lbhe cbfrffvba juvpu vf n uhhhhhhhtr cbjre qvssrerapr univat bar bs gur orggre jrncbaf sebz gur ortvaavat b.-

      Gung´f gur znva ernfba V fgehttyrq jvgu n arjyl perngrq cnegl orpnhfr gur ynpx bs tbbq jrncbaf ... be V punatrq pynffrf gbb bsgra? Ab vqrn kQ

      Delete
  33. One note about chests: The "leave" option isn't to leave the chest, it's to leave the current selected item sitting on the ground. Any items you drop or never pick up are still in their space, and appear in the lower corner of the game interface when you step there.

    I always play this with an imported party, but the damage done to your skills is rough, especially at first. Everything is dropped to the 30-40 range, when a level 5 natural party would have higher in several skills by that point, and it means starting things like swimming once levels have already slowed a little. It's usually level 9-10 before my entire party can swim with an imported group.

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  34. "A lack of permadeath and an ability to rest between combats means that the difficulty is in individual battles rather than accumulated ones." This is the most insightful comment, but I wonder if permadeath would not make this an impossible game. This is the game that gave me the habit of over-saving, via the save and resume function. Some battles seem built to be replayed over and over. Or maybe I am not a good tactician.

    The abstract nature of the combat is hard for me. I prefer seeing the characters and moving them over the terrain. Ultima, Goldbox do this. Wizardry is very different.

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    Replies
    1. I mean, I wasn't really complaining about a lack of permadeath. After a certain point in RPG development, permadeath was basically untenable. If you include it in a 20-hour game, you've made a challenging game. If you include it in a 120-hour game, you're just a sadist. Still, while I don't yearn for permadeath, I do wish more modern games made it harder to save frequently. Not allowing saving in dungeons is an easy compromise.

      W1 went to one extreme: permadeath, but combats otherwise reasonably balanced (at least, once you get past Level 1), with lots of grinding opportunities. W7 might have gone to the opposite extreme: save anywhere but offer really hard combat that you have to try multiple times. Either is an acceptable method of development, but obviously it might be best for a developer to take a middle path in which saving and reloading is limited but most combats are winnable by a player who knows what he's doing.

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    2. I am actually sympathetic to your point of view. My point was that when I tried limiting saves in Wizardry 7, I experienced constant frustration. Part of this maybe that even fixed encounters can change if you go at them a number of times. 3 Bitterbugs turns into 4 ravens or 1 raven or and so on.

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    3. "Some battles seem built to be replayed over and over."

      I've got a single word for that: Gorrors. Especially the Beast. :P

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    4. Not even that. Nostalgia kicked in and I started W7 again two days ago. There are places where you can find either 1 raven or two groups of alliphoots, both four monsters strong. This usually ends in party wipe out as this can happen near the road tp New City. And road to NC has this scripted ambush, where I were greeted by 3 groups of rattkins, 4 or 5 rats in each. Reloaded that.

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    5. Wizardry 7 seems like both a major game and a series of mini-games: Rolling up characters? That is a game in itself! Same goes for opening treasure chests or fighting the same battle over and over, only with different opponents at times.

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  35. Not sure if my anonymous comment was eaten, so I am resposting:

    Chet, did you account for the mana regen "bug" with your party choice? Apparently the starting mana regen is what you are stuck with forever. Start as a fighter and switch to spellcaster and you will forever have awful mana regeneration. You can game this and start everyone as a caster of some sort and immediately move them to a chosen class and give yourself much greater options down the road as far as class flexibility. Got to say, I am feeling inspired to pick up Wiz 6 (which I never played) and Wiz 7 (which I played a lot but never beat) from reading this post.

    -j

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    Replies
    1. No, I didn't know about that. And I JUST got started with a new party, too. Damn.

      Delete
    2. Took a look at https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/pc/564807-wizardry-vi-bane-of-the-cosmic-forge/faqs/63361 in the "(4) Mana regeneration" section. The carrying capacity bug also matters along with the level 7 spells not working bug. Lots of bugs and I don't know if you're patching any of them. Well, you're informed now at least. Hope it helps!

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    3. As far as I know, those bugs are both Wizardry 6 bugs, not 7. The major bug I know of for 7 is "fighters take double damage from nearly everything." Weapons and monsters have a tag that lets them do double damage versus a "type of foe," and instead of that tag being blank for mundane weapons and enemies, it defaults to fighter.

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    4. I am pretty sure I read that the spell regen statistics get transferred over when you import a party from Bane. That's why I brought it up. I don't know if the whole thing gets a new set of fixed mechanics inside the actual game. I'll dig around on the web and see what I turn up. Definitely don't want to gimp myself if I wind up mustering the energy to tackle one or both of these.

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    5. I am wrong. Per that same FAQ:

      "Mana regeneration in Wizardry VII will actually adjust during the game upon
      class changes and adjust to statistics when you level up, so while your current
      class does affect mana regeneration upon transfer, it is not a major long-term
      consideration."

      Sorry for the confusion!

      Delete
  36. The name of Wizardry VII (Crusaders of the Dark Savant) triggers strong memories of this being a game I played - maybe a LOT - and that open-chest UI looks mighty familiar - and yet I have no memory of any aspect of the rest of this game and am unable to summon any memory of playing it or even on what platform it might have been played.

    I'm wondering if I owned it and never played it, or started playing it and quit out because of a bad initial experience, or if I had a collection that included this and a previous or subsequent game that I *did* play, or if I'm just confusing it with the Might and Magic franchise.

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  37. Very funny that once after I beat Wizardry 8, I went back and started Wizardry 7 and played exactly as far as you did, Chet. But the step back from the much newer 8 to 7 was just too hard to swallow for me at that time. This plus reading about all the bugs really discouraged me and I never touched it again.
    Hope that you get though this beast and really looking forward to every new entry!

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  38. FYI, DOSBox doesn't emulate the Sound Blaster faithfully enough to provide high quality sound in this game, because the game uses the OPL2 music chip for digital sounds instead of the DAC. I suggest trying PC Speaker for better quality sound.

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