Friday, September 21, 2018

Crusaders of the Dark Savant: The Next Square

My map of New City.
          
I didn't mention this in the last entry, but I initially explored New City without mapping it. As I made my second pass through the city, to ensure I'd found everything and properly annotated locations for later exploration, I found myself enjoying the game a lot more. Again, I am reminded that the simple act of mapping makes a huge difference in my enjoyment of a game. A good map serves not only as a literal map but a comprehensive set of notes and clear delineation of where you can and cannot go next. Uncovering each new square then becomes a goal in itself, imparting a sense of progress even when the game's plot doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

The maps for Crusaders have been intriguing so far. The outdoor map twist and turn through forests, leaving huge unexplored areas--the game has no interest in the predictable n x n grids of its predecessors. It uses the "razor wall" approach for indoor areas but the "worm tunnel" approach for outdoors (in that every "wall" of trees occupies a block rather than just a wall). As you transition from the outdoors to New City, there's a clear demarcation at the "Entering New City" sign, but the same isn't true when you later reach Munkharama, and this opens the intriguing possibility that the world exists on a single scale. I haven't found anything that would give me coordinates and help me confirm this. I don't yet think we've had a large first-person game in which the entire territory could be represented on a single map page, cities and outdoor areas together, without transition between areas messing up the scale and coordinates. Perhaps Wizardry VI was like that and I just don't remember.

When I last wrote, I was back in New City, trying to figure out to cure my fighter's disease without reloading an earlier save and losing a lot of progress. The solution turned out to be simple, if expensive. When speaking to the priest at the Thesminster Abbey, he asks if you're willing to sacrifice a little or all. If you say just a little, you get access to a healing fountain that restores your health and stamina. If you say "all," you get access to a fountain that also removes all conditions. I figured I could make back the gold easier than redo so much of the city, so I gave it all up and cured my disease.

With my stamina at maximum, I was able to swim to the statue in the middle of the temple's courtyard. It was dedicated to Phoonzang (from the back story, creator of the Astral Dominae), and searching it revealed a "moonstone." I'm not sure what's for, but I have no doubt it will turn out to be an important quest object later, perhaps the Sacred Stone from the story below.
             
I wonder if this will teleport me from place to place if I plant it.
               
Meanwhile, I took greater notice of an area whose importance I had missed earlier. In one of the southern buildings, there's a plaque with a bunch of letters missing, but it's clearly supposed to be "Old City," and there's a keyhole in the same room. In the city's library, I met a ratkin NPC named Professor Wunderland, who had a long speech telling me more about the Old City. Apparently, all races on the planet used to live there in peace, worshipping a Sacred Stone, but they eventually broke into sects with their own interpretations of what the Stone wanted. Old City was abandoned as the sects settled in other areas and began to war with each other. Eventually, some strangers called the Higardi appeared from the mountains, and they worked to re-unite the various sects by creating New City. But then the Higardi disappeared and no one knows why. Unfortunately, nothing I could think to say or do would get Professor Wunderland to give me or even talk about the key to Old City, so perhaps I have to get that somewhere else.
         
"Something called the Sacred Stone"? Was it perhaps a sacred stone?
          
I should note, in keeping with the theme of my last entry, that the story I summarized above is very long--about 25 screens of text--and several potential questions elicit the entire story from the beginning, with no way to break it. It's possible that if I'd kept at it, I would have found the keyword that would have led me to the key, but after four times cycling through the entire narrative, I was done with Professor Wunderland.

I don't know if New City's current state of depopulation is a result of the Dark Savant taking over (about a third of the buildings have a red emblem indicating his guardians are inside) or some other factor. Either way, I killed a lot of his guardians, which probably means I won't be a part of his faction.
           
The troopers have stun-lances, which are hard to counter.
            
I left New City with about half a dozen areas unexplored or tasks unfinished:
         
  • In the northwest, a locked door proclaims that it is "T'Rshieche's House" and "Property of the T'Rang Empire." The door lock is too powerful for my thief to pick.
  • I the southeast, a building marked "Umpani detache" also has a lock too hard to pick.
  • I still can't defeat the assemblage of Dark Savant troopers and guardians who guard the jail.
  • In a building across from a jail, there's a door with some kind of control panel that needs an object I don't have.
  • In a southern building is a locked door too difficult to pick.
  • The Curio Museum has two puzzles I haven't been able to solve. One involves a set of "twisted heads" and the other involves a glowing wand surrounded by balls of light. Either way, there seem to be too many possibilities to figure out the answers by trial and error, and I don't have any other clues that I know of.
          
None of these sound like good options.
          
At least some of these tasks can be solved with a stronger party, so I headed out of New City's east exit intending to return and try again after a few more levels.
           
The outdoor area between New City and Munkharama.
         
The forest east of New City served plenty of battles with giant bugs, Gorns, giant ravens, giant moths, and a whole class of plant-like creatures called "phoots," including "gumbiphoots" and "alliphoots." I'm trying not to let all the David Bradley nonsense ruin the game for me, but it's tough when practically every monster or NPC seems like it was named by a four-year-old.
           
Exhibit Z.
          
My fighter reached a skill of 100 in his primary weapon (sword) and got an extra attack per round. Eventually, so did my thief. The thief got good enough with "artifacts" that he was finally able to identify most of the stuff I've been lugging around, but disappointingly it turned out to be regular equipment. Equipment upgrades, at least from combat, have been very slow to arrive. Since the beginning, I've replaced maybe two weapons and a couple pairs of pants with slightly better versions.

Like the forest west of New City, the eastern one had a clear, marked road that broke into two branches. Forested areas that deviated from the road inevitably just led to small dead-ends with nothing important to find. The first major branch brought me to a Gorn NPC named Lord Galiere who warned me that I'd be attacked if I went any further into Gorn lands. The game didn't give me a chance to talk with him before he galloped off. Sensitive to angering a potential faction, I declined to keep exploring in that direction for now.
            
This guy really turns me on. Apparently.
        
Incidentally, upon meeting Lord Galiere, this was the description I got:
         
Soon, a part appears in the crowd of leathered men, and striding up the open channel a tall regal figure walks with the poise and stature of seasoned nobility. Although he appears like the others, deep ochre skin, round barreled body, and short tusks ascending out of his mouth a from a wild boar, there is something more concentrated about him, and despite your misgivings about the situation, you feel an unmistakable attraction.
           
As I mentioned last time, I don't really like being told what my characters are feeling, and that goes doubly true when they're being unwillingly enlisted in David Bradley's homo-bestial erotic fiction. Let's hope this doesn't continue to go anywhere.

On the other branch, I ran into a river crossing guarded by Brother Tshober. The priest at Thesminster Abbey had told me to repeat some words (SLAY NOT HE THAT CANNOT HEAR) to Tshober, but when I did, Tshober just said he didn't understand what I was getting at. After I explored the rest of the forest, I tried again, and this time he reacted. Maybe I accidentally said "WHO CANNOT HEAR" the first time. Either way, my commenters had warned me that he was long-winded, and my were they right. The gist of it was that we needed to visit the hidden temple of Munkharama, beneath the Holy City. The temple guards the Holy Work, which I assume is the Astral Dominae. He said that once I find it (which is apparently going to involve dealing with some flooding), I should take it to Master Xheng, "Lord of the 5 flowers." He finished his speech by giving us a "cable trolley" that allows crossing the river. Mercifully, he disappeared after that, so we don't have to deal with him every time we approach the river.
            
The game's text has me seeing double-entendres everywhere.
       
The path beyond the crossing led to Munkharama, where I ended this session. So far, the game has been pretty linear. I don't know if it opens up later or if it continues like this throughout, but the paths have basically funneled me from place to place, with the only alternatives blocked by a lack of swimming skill or an inability to deal with the poppies on the first map.
             
We arrive in the next map.
       
Miscellaneous notes:
       
  • The door animation gets old fast. It slows down quick travel from place to place.
  • This is probably an emulator issue, but the game frequently registers double-presses of movement keys and thus faces me in the wrong direction, often screwing up mapping if I don't notice it right away.
  • The inn in New City sells rooms for 50 gold pieces. I'm not sure what the advantage is, since you can rest anywhere.
  • A new NPC named D'Rang T'Rang keeps appearing but never wants to talk with me. I have to keep walking away from him.
          
Yes? Can I help you?
         
  • The sound effects include a consistent background drone that repeats every few seconds. I have no idea what it's attempting to depict.
  • There is perhaps nothing in this universe more annoying than having your character successfully score a hit in combat but then achieving "no penetration."
             
I've been at a conference all week, so my experience is a bit limited by the small fractions of time that I have to play. I should be back to a more regular schedule in October.

Time so far: 15 hours


55 comments:

  1. I like how you first complain about "homo-bestial erotic fiction" and later complain about achieving "no penetration."

    Personally I must say Wiz is among my least favourite Wizardry games, bacause it's too long, encounter frequency is too high, and there's hardly ever any fat loot to find.

    BTW, quite a number of Japanese Wizardries have been translated to English in recent years.
    Are you planning on playing them?
    I just played Wizardry Gaiden 4 myself, and it was quite and with no offensive anime, so I think I can safely recomment the whole Wizardry Gaiden series.

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    1. Having only heard about these translations from your comment, I have made no plans so far.

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    2. While Wizardry Gaiden IV: Throb of the Demon's heart is a very good Wiz 1-5 style blobber, it has only been released on the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo, so it doesn't fall into the Addict's game plan. It's a good game that I'd love to see him play, but it's purely a console game - and it only received its English translation in recent years, made by fans, therefore was never *officially* released in a language that isn't Japanese.

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    3. Ah, forgot about the console part.
      And since Mr. Addict is not a great fan of Wizardry I guess they can and will be skipped.

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    4. Funny I always had the impression he is a Wizardry fan just the first one was best.

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    5. RPG Codex has to stop pretending "blobber" is a thing.

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    6. But blobber IS a thing. It's a fitting term for a specific subgenre of RPG where the player controls a party that moves as one unit, and the perspective is first person. There are two main sub-subgenres, the turn-based blobber (Might and Magic, Wizardry, Bard's Tale, Wizards & Warriors, etc) and the real-time blobber (Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder, Legend of Grimrock, etc).

      First person perspective and party moves as a blob are the two main distinctive features of the blobber subgenre, and I doubt you could claim that this isn't a legitimate subgenre, considering how many RPGs like this exist and how these two main features set them apart from other RPGs on the basic gameplay level. The difference between a blobber and, for example, Ultima, Elder Scrolls or Baldur's Gate is instantly recognizeable.

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    7. Are Wizardry 8 and Betrayal at Krondor blobbers then? But not Ultima Underworld or The Elder Scrolls: Arena because you don't have a party?

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    8. A true blobber has grid based movement and abstract combat. That's the easiest way to narrow it down to a very specific sub genre.

      So Wiz 8 is more like an honourary blobber.

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    9. I AM a fan of the Wizardry series. I've always praised the first few for their combat tactics, difficulty, and tension during exploration. W4 jettisoned too many RPG elements, and W5 was an uncomfortable transition, but these last two games have been fun enough if I can ignore all the Bradley nonsense.

      "Blobber" is a fun term that describes its subject well, so I find it useful. I'm not sure why its necessary to limit the term to grid-based movement, though. I think it works fine for games like Might and Magic VI, where despite continuous movement, the party still moves, fights, and otherwise acts as an amorphous blob instead of anything that feels like individual characters.

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    10. So as a fan, will you play some of the translated Japanese Wizardries, even if made for consoles?

      As for MM6, to me it's a very different beast, since it plays very differently from pure blobbers like Wiz 1-7, MM 1-5 and the Bard's Tale game. With real time it feels closer to Doom at times.

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    11. I'd still count free-movement blobbers as "true" blobbers, so M&M 6-9, Wizardry 8, Wizards and Warriors, and the more recent Frayed Knights are in. Betrayal at Krondor would be out though, as would any games where the combat screen shifts to a different perspective.

      I think the correct definition of a blobber would be "first person RPG with a party that moves as a continuous blob, and the game never shifts out of the first person perspective".

      So a game like Pool of Radiance, where town and dungeon exploration is in first person but combat switches to an isometric grid, is not a blobber.

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    12. "So as a fan, will you play some of the translated Japanese Wizardries, even if made for consoles?" They won't appear on my list, but once I get the "old" list finished, I wouldn't rule out anything for a special entry or two.

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    13. Most of the Japanese Wizardry titles that have been translated in recent memory were done by a guy named MrRichard999. Most of them have been released on consoles, although at least two of them (Labyrinth of Lost Souls and the unbearably anime Class of Heroes 2G) are technically available via PSNow.

      He HAS put together a handful of translations for PC Wizardry games, as well as the fantastically named Lunatic Dawn trilogy, if the addict is feeling particularly adventuresome. In particular, I really want someone else to tell me what the Lunatic Dawn games are actually like. His hacks can be found below: http://www.romhacking.net/community/131/

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    14. Discussion here: http://www.rpgcodex.net/forums/index.php?threads/lunatic-dawn-book-of-futures-english-translation-project-completed-current-version-0-98b.107208/

      Personally I decided to skip it.

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    15. I don't doubt that it is very bad, but I have a broken brain when it comes to Japanese attempts at Western style RPGs. Hydlide is also genuinely one of my favorite game series, if you need further proof that I am not to he trusted.

      Unfortunately, wide open games and I clash pretty hard at the moment. I have about 3-5 hours a week to play games in 45 minute chunks, and if I don't have a concrete sense of accomplishment at the end of a session, it becomes a pretty big bummer. That's why I follow blogs like this, to live vicariously through those braver than myself.

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  2. Having no inclination to play another Wizardry game after the first two, it always makes me wonder why this series was as long lasting as Might and Magic. Maybe I'll feel differently after playing Wizardry V. Good to see you keeping at it, Chet.

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    1. Different games for different tastes I guess. I always found M&M games way too simplistic in everything from chracter development to level design.
      That said, Wizardry 7-8 (and Wizards&Warriors as an unofficial spin-off) are very different beasts from Wiz1-5. I wouldn't play those either.

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    2. The Llylgamyn Series (Wizardry I-V) and the Dark Savant Trilogy (VI-VIII) are in a pretty stark contrast to each other, both could actually be 2 different games.

      The Japanese loved the Llylgaming series, hence all the Wizardry games that came out since Sir-Tech went under are based on those very oldschool games, plus many spiritual successors like the Etrian Odyssey series.

      Wizardry VIII will change things up a bit again, and apart from the combat length, which can be over 30 minutes long in turn-based combat (there's an option for some real-time with pause equivalent, but I didn't like it), I would say it's a vast improvement for the series, pity Sir-Tech didn't live to see it completely done

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    3. Addendum: I said 2 different games, but I meant 2 separate, unrelated game series

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    4. Interestingly enough, a lot of the Japanese games took a lot of the classes and races from the Bradley-era games and out them in the traditionalist framework of the first 5.

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  3. Indeed, the world is seamless and the cities take up space in the world like Ultima VI. However, there is a one square mistake somewhere so that when you get back through the poppy fields, it doesn't line up properly.

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    1. Thanks. I can't make it through the poppy fields anyway, so perhaps I'll never notice.

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    2. You'll definitely come across this eventually. I didn't know about it, and spent a long time wandering and counting squares to figure out "my" mistake.

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  4. Yikes! One of the best posts so far. "homo-bestial erotic fiction - no penetration (good one Petrus) - Wizardry Gaiden IV: Throb of the Demon's Heart"! Much lol.

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  5. Try using PC Speaker sounds instead of Sound Blaster / Adlib to fix the droning. It's probably supposed to sound like wind, but DOSBox doesn't emulate the crazy way that Wiz 6 & 7 attempt to abuse the OPL2 chip to play digitized sounds (which it was never intended to do). You can only change sound devices from the main menu, before saving/starting a game.

    The game is somewhat nonlinear in that you can visit some of the major areas in different orders.

    Wil 6 & 7 are both definitely contiguous, single scale worlds. The major difference is that Wiz 7 has sprawling, primarily flat outdoor areas between major locations, while Wiz 6 was more compact.

    I think D'Rang T'Rang is another faction/diplomacy NPC. These NPCs wander around the world somewhat like you do, so you'll likely encounter them repeatedly as you both explore the same area.

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    1. I already had it set to PC speaker, so that's not the issue.

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  6. Being attracted, hitting on someone but then achieving no penetration... what a disappointment! Thanks for the laughs!

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  7. The type of attacks you use matter. Thrusts are -2 to hit but +2 to penetrate, with +1 damage. Bash is 0/-1. Melee is -4/-4/X2. Throw is -1/+1. Punch is +1/-1. Kick is -2/0. Lash is +2/-2. And shoot is 0/+2. Got the manual in front of me :)

    I've found that thrusting is better early on. It's harder to get through the enemy's armor than to hit. Though not all weapons have the same attack modes.

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    1. This is probably especially true when fighting the Savant Guards.

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    2. Is this comment section CRPG Addict or somewhere more adult? Homo bestiality, penetration, thrusting, throbbing, jeez!

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  8. Is the double press key issue related to num lock? I tried this a little bit with the Gog version and had no control issues.

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    1. Or maybe too high of a cycle count in DOSBox?

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    2. No, toggling numlock kills the use of the keypad entirely. Anyway, I've been using the arrows and it's still a problem. Perhaps lowering the cycle count would solve it...but at the expense of also making the interminable animations even slower.

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  9. I didn't think it was homo-bestial erotic fiction. I think it's the author telling you the Gorns are going to be your buddies later in the story. You know, like how Captain Kirk made friends with them. By killing them and gaining their respect. Otherwise why name them Gorn?

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    1. For me as well, this sounds "attracted" in a friendly way. But maybe I'm naive? Was the author known for sexual innuendos?

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    2. I took it to mean that your party found him to have a certain charisma despite being orc-like in appearance. Platonic attraction, in other words.

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    3. I suppose it could have been a clumsy way of saying that he was charismatic. We'll see if anything else comes along. Given David Bradley's history, I'm not sure I'd give him the benefit of the doubt on this issue.

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    4. I do not know David Bradley's history, that's why I was asking. When I was younger, I played the games, but didn't know anything about their creators. I'm learning a lot about this side of things with your blog.

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  10. Not sure if anyone has ever seen this bug on their end, but I've played through to around the 90% mark on this game a couple times only to have the game start grinding so hard I couldn't continue, just a word of warning.

    I always had a soft spot for this title, sure it was a sprawling mess, but it was one of the earliest RPGs I can remember that felt like it was an alive world.

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    1. Can you clarify "grinding so hard I couldn't continue"?

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    2. There was some general slowness, but what forced me to give up was resting, clicking the button to stop resting would take minutes to take effect. It was always while running on Dosbox and adjusting the CPU clock the game was using didn't seem to help. I haven't seen many folks play W7 into the end game, so I don't know how prevalent the problem actually is.

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    3. Grinding so hard don't sound appropriate coupled with homo-bestial erotic

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  11. The game may feel linear for now, and of course there is a progression from location to location, but it does open up more and more. Most areas simply have a soft lower cap on them in terms of how powerful you're supposed to be in order to tackle them successfully: be this tall to make your life reasonably easy. Also, exploring the wilderness rarely results in many great finds, but there are a few good treasures spread about still.

    Some notes on the game's progression, some of which might be considered a slight bit spoilery, so rot13 it is:

    Arj Pvgl vf boivbhfyl svefg. Gnxvat Zhaxunenzn frpbaq vf cbffvoyr, ohg znl ghea bhg gb or n yvggyr gbb uneq, juvyr nabgure ybpngvba gung lbh'ir nyernql orra pybfr gb zvtug znxr sbe n zber angheny frpbaq znwbe ybpngvba gb ivfvg. Bapr lbh'ir tbar guebhtu gung Fninag svtug zragvbarq nobir, lbh'yy xabj jung V'z gnyxvat nobhg. Nf fnvq gubhtu, gung zvtug or zber "angheny", naq znlor n ovg rnfvre, ohg abg znaqngbel. Qbvat Zhaxunenzn abj, be ng yrnfg cnegf bs vg, fubhyq or cbffvoyr. Gurer'f nyfb n guveq bcgvba sbe qbvat arkg, gur Byq Pvgl (bapr lbh svther bhg ubj gb trg va).

    Some maps also feature difficulty spikes that can make it necessary to return later and do something else in the meantime. Those also function as "must be this tall" checks, but more strictly. The rattkin ambush at New City's entrance and that Savant fight are the earliest two examples.

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  12. A game like this seems the real heyday of crpgs

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  13. If the Internet has taught me one thing it's that erotic fanfiction always ends up going somewhere. Knowing nothing of this game, I cannot offer hope nor forewarning in this regard!

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  14. I have the same relationship to mapping as you do, and I think one of the reasons I really liked Wiz7 is that it's fun to map. There are many fun places in that regard, like the Dane tower, and I think making a perfect map of the Hall of the Past (endgame stuff) remains one of my personal top 5 rpg mapping memories.

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  15. I never played this one for real since I am still at the pyramid in the previous game (I'm not a master CRPG player as the addict) but I have to say that Wizardry 6 is a very good game. You can really lose yourself in the world, and I expect this one to be even better, so it is Strange for you to be complaining about such small things.

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    1. My blogging process is to compliment or complain about whatever happens to strike me during my gaming experiences. The "Summary and Rating" is reserved for broad themes and overall conclusions.

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  16. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  17. I started recreating the Wizardry VI map in Minecraft a little while back, to see if it actually fit together and what it looked like. All the travel between locations takes place underground so it doesn't really feel like a cohesive world, but all the stuff that's supposed to be north of the castle is north of the castle, the stuff that's supposed to be to the east is to the east. It mostly fits together pretty well.

    Aside from one room you can fall into which overlaps a different room by one square (which seems likely to just be a mistake), the biggest problem is vertical consistancy and bottomless holes. The pyramid, for instance, has bottomless holes that in Minecraft end immediately in the ceiling of the floor below. There's also the issue of distance, where areas are probably closer together than they should be. One square in the swamp says 'YOU CAN BARELY DISCERN THE SILHOUETTED OUTLINE OF THE CASTLE BREAKING THROUGH THE MISTS' but in my Minecraft map it's two squares away.

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    1. How did you compensate for the fact that walls take up space in Minecraft, but not in Wizardry?

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    2. Each map tile is represented by a square 3 minecraft blocks wide. A one-block gap is left between each 3-block tile, and the walls go in that gap if needed.

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    3. So you still lose some space to the wall, but the blown up scale makes it much less intrusive. That's a pretty good solution.

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