Friday, December 7, 2018

Crusaders of the Dark Savant: Summary and Rating

Kind-of a weird image choice for the box. Is that supposed to be one of the "maps"?
         
Wizardry: Crusaders of the Dark Savant
(Generally known as Wizardry VII but never called that in the game or documentation)
United States
Sir-Tech Software (developer and publisher)
Released in 1992 for DOS, 1994 for FM Towns and PC-98, 1995 for Playstation, 1996 for SEGA Saturn; re-released in 1996 for Windows and Macintosh as Wizardry Gold
Date Started: 20 August 2018
Date Ended: 2 December 2018
Total Hours: 108
Difficulty: Moderate (3/5)
Final Rating: 60
Ranking at Time of Posting: 303/310 (98%)

In my many entries on Crusaders of the Dark Savant, I've painted it as a game that tells a mediocre story, does so ineptly, and usually doesn't take its own story seriously--at least not until the end, when it becomes almost comically full of pathos. It also has a way of feeding the player over-wrought prose, often one line at a time, multiple times, with no way to escape. I hold to these criticisms as we enter this final summary, but as in the case of many other games we've seen on the blog--the Ultima series primary among them--my criticisms have to be understood in the context of the fact that few other games of the era offered enough of a story to make such criticisms possible. A game that offers no backstory offers nothing to make fun of. One that puts itself out there with a detailed backstory and complex plot offers dozens of things to react to.

I don't apologize for a blog whose purpose is to chronicle these reactions, from the perspective of a modern player, but I do apologize if I don't put sufficient context around my criticisms, or if I don't balance them by highlighting the positive content and mechanics of the game. Looking over my previous entries on Crusaders, I don't think I conveyed often enough that even though I had some issues with some of the storytelling and other content, those reactions were in the context of a title that kept me up all night playing. Even in the "game world and story" category, Crusaders is going to perform well.
           
One of the more broadly-drawn and poorly-explained factions in the game.
         
Part of my reaction to the plot is personal preference. I will always prefer the low-key, locally-relevant story to the world-threatening catastrophe. Give me the party trying to clear out the slums of New Phlan instead of the one trying to save the universe. You think that higher stakes might make a more epic game, but I find that the opposite is true--that there's more opportunity for deeper and more realistic characterizations of people and places when the scope of the game is smaller. The Fallout games all do a good job in this regard. None of them invite you to save the world from a nuclear war. You just get to make your little corner of the world a little better.

In this case, though, the nature of the threat isn't even really clear, partly because the characterizations of key NPCs are so thin. Who is the Dark Savant? Where does he come from? What are his motivations? Again, what the game gives us is, unquestionably, better than the standard "evil wizard" with no background who appears in 90% of the games before this one. But in some ways that just makes this experience all the more unsatisfying.
             
Is it a time for a new purpose, or a new perception of purpose?
          
Nothing in the game is more frustrating than the character of Vi Domina. She shows up in the backstory, scantily-clad, sporting a mechanical arm and visor, like someone's cyberpunk cosplay fantasy. When she finally appears late in the game, she's more of a naif than someone whose name all but demands that you add a "trix" to the end. You're told repeatedly that she's a "warrior," but she never seems to fight anything. For the final chapter, she's everywhere, and the game trips over itself telling how awesome she is and how much you love her. Literally some of the last lines tell how you "are pleased to be in the company of such a pleasant traveling companion and new partner." I don't like it when games tell me what my characters think, especially when they haven't earned that right by giving me any insight into the character's backstory or motivations.
             
This is laying it on a little thick.
            
The story is attributed to David Bradley, although I don't know how much of it is wholly his creation. It's no secret that I had a near-immediate negative reaction to Bradley when I first started playing Wizardry VI, what with the ridiculous photograph and cringe-worthy interview that appeared in the game's cluebook, plus his insistence on dropping his name on literally every page and calling the game a "fantasy role-playing simulation." Too much authorial presence breaks the fundamental illusion of a game, book, or even a blog. I've run afoul of this myself. Audiences want to be able to take what they read seriously, authoritatively, and they can't if they feel that someone ridiculous is feeding them the story. (I often wonder how many readers Terry Goodkind lost by putting this picture on his books.) I realized writing this that I have no idea what specific individuals to credit for most of my favorite RPGs, like Baldur's Gate and Morrowind, and perhaps that's a good thing.

But it's worth remembering that I had issues with Bradley even before I knew who he was, with the absurd NPCs in Wizardry V (e.g., the Duck of Sparks, Lord Hienmiety, the god La-La and his priest G'Bli Gedook). Bradley is fond of broad humor--the type that that favors ridiculous names with long o sounds ("Phoonzang," "Bambiphoots") or puns ("Ratsputin," "Blienmeis") that most of us grow out of by age 10. I'm sure he had a clear idea in his own mind about the Dark Savant and his Mary Sue Domina, but I don't think he conveyed their story competently.
            
And it begins.
         
Having said all of that, it's important to keep in mind that in my complaints, I'm evaluating Crusaders against a modern game, or an "ideal" game, rather than other 1992 games. Compared to its own contemporaries, there's no question that Crusaders deserves a high score in the "game world" category. More important, it deserves high scores in the equipment, combat, and character development categories. The mechanics of the game are excellent. The worst thing Bradley could have done when taking over the series was to jettison the approach to combat introduced in the first Wizardry, but he did a good job keeping its fundamental tactics alive. He, or someone, deserves credit for perfectly balancing the "rest" system. If it had restored everything, as it does in Might and Magic, the game would have been far too easy and all the challenge would have come down to individual battles. If they'd made you return to a central location to restore spells and health, as in the first five games, extended expeditions would have been a nightmare. As they programmed it, resting restores just enough hit points and spell points to keep you going, but it takes just long enough, and offers just enough chance for random encounters, that you're discouraged from abusing it.

Character classes are well-differentiated, and the system of switching between them is well-balanced enough to offer rewards for switching but equal rewards for staying. (Perhaps putting a maximum on the number of times you can switch, or the lowest level at which you can switch, would have been a good idea.) Character development is constant and rewarding throughout the long game. The equipment system is equally solid.

I'm on the fence about certain aspects of the game world and quest. In general, I favor open game worlds with nonlinear narratives, and even games where the main quest itself is something of a mystery. Crusaders checks all those boxes. It also deserves credit for making its game world somewhat dynamic, with roaming NPCs who engage in (off-screen) conflicts with each other and sometimes (often, in my case) find key treasures before the party does.
           
The "Locate Person" spell helps keep tabs on constantly-shifting NPCs.
        
On the other hand, I wouldn't have minded if the game had offered a little more guidance on the main quest, particularly in respect to the 11 "maps" that become the focus of the exploration and quests. (I put that in quotes because they're not really maps at all, but texts.) I was deep into the game before it became clear that assembling the set of maps was the primary goal of exploration. Just a few lines in the manual or in-game backstory would have cleared up a lot of confusion.

Hardcore Gaming 101 has an excellent paragraph that describes some of the negative aspects of the open game world:
          
The game is entirely non-linear, and upon landing the player doesn’t even get a clue what to do first. Even though most areas are effectively locked off due to being inhabited by far too strong monsters, the game is always dominated by a crushing feeling of being lost. The world is full of items that absolutely have to be kept, remembered, and recognized for puzzles somewhere at the other end of the world, dozens of gameplay hours later. Many puzzles aren’t necessarily all that hard on their own, it’s just that the ingredients are spread out too far, and the hints are often obscure, if there are any hints at all.
           
But it's again important to remember that Crusaders was pioneering new territory here. Only a few games prior to it were as physically large, long, and complicated, and the developers didn't have a lot of good examples to draw upon for balancing such a large world and complex plot. In the end, I'm grateful that Crusaders advanced the importance of detailed stories, NPC interaction, side-quests, sub-quests, and player choices. As such, I would be surprised if the GIMLET didn't put the game in the top 5. Let's see:

1. Game world and story. Crusaders offers a detailed backstory that plays a significant role in the game itself. There are multiple factions with their own characteristics and motivations, history, and lore. The characters' actions visibly affect the world, and the game is one of a rare few in which some events happen dynamically, without the player's input. There are aspects of each of these elements to criticize, but I've mostly done that enough. Score: 7.

2. Character creation and development. Mechanically, the game's approach is about as good as any game on the market. It has a full set of race choices, class choices, attributes, and skills, several magic systems, and meaningful inventory restrictions by race and class. (I think some of the races are stupid, but that's a minor concern.) Different selections create different experiences for different players. The ability to switch classes, while perhaps unbalancing the game a bit, adds additional dimensions to character development. Development is regular and rewarding throughout the game.

On the negative side, the classes and races really don't play any meaningful role in the game, at least not in a way that was clear to me. Certain skills are useless or mostly useless, and I don't think the game gained anything by dividing skills into multiple categories. Score: 7.
           
Defeating the Dark Savant kicked everyone up a level.
          
3. NPC interaction. I actually think the series took a step backward here. In the system introduced in Wizardry V and included in VI, characters can have full-sentence dialogues with NPCs, but the previous games seemed to offer a more sophisticated interpreter in which full sentences were actually necessary. Phrasing things as statements or questions, even with the same keywords, might produce different results. Here, the game just seems to scan for keywords regardless of their positions in the sentence or the surrounding text, and I offered a few joking screenshots along those lines.

Having said that, I don't really mind this "dumbing down" of dialogue, since it was always frustrating to figure out exactly how to phrase a question to get an intended result. What I do mind is that the NPCs respond to a lot fewer keywords than their Cosmic Forge counterparts while simultaneously tripling their dialogue quantity. They are also a lot goofier and thus less realistic.

Back on the positive side, I like the way NPCs roam around and engage in conflict with each other, and I wish the game had done more with this, offering more reasons to seek out, track down, and ally with (or oppose) various NPCs. Instead, since encountering NPCs is non-optional and results in pages of unskippable and unvarying dialogue, the game effectively encourages the player to simply kill everyone.

The end result of the goofy names and characterizations and long-winded introductory dialogue, there wasn't a single NPC in the game that I actually liked. That's particularly too bad given that, mechanically, the game supports fairly deep interactions with its NPCs. Score: 6.
          
One of the game's goofy NPCs responds solely to the word "archives."
           
4. Encounters and foes. The foes are mostly originally-named, which in this case is a negative because most of the names are silly. I didn't like that so many enemies used the same graphics and were thus difficult to distinguish, even though their strengths and weaknesses might vary considerably. On the other hand, the bestiary is satisfyingly large, with enough strengths and weaknesses among them to create different tactical challenges.

Non-combat encounters were plentiful and engaging, and while they didn't offer a lot of opportunities for role-playing, many of them provided challenges of satisfying difficulty. Score: 6.

5. Magic and combat. The magic and combat system continue to be the primary strengths of the series, and as I said above, Bradley deserves a lot of credit for adapting rather than replacing the system introduced over a decade prior. The various spells and enemy characteristics come together to create a near-infinite number of tactical choices, but everything is exquisitely balanced.

I see that in my GIMLET for Bane of the Cosmic Forge, more than five years ago, while giving the combat system a high score, I said I was "past the whole 'line up your attacks and execute them all at once' system." I understand what I meant, favoring more tactical combat screens like those used in the Gold Box games, and anticipating more real-time (but no less tactical) combat as in Might and Magic III. Still, it was a short-sighted statement. Crusaders proves there was still life in the old system. Score: 7.
           
I'm not sure I used "parry" once in the entire game.
         
6. Equipment. My primary quibble here is that the game only gives you one "accessory" slot, and you find so many rings, necklaces, capes, belts, and similar items that it's constantly torturous to choose among them. I also continue to dislike the identification system of the series. I don't mind so much the process of casting "Identify" to view an items characteristics, but I rather wish that having done so, I could simply view the item in the future to remind myself of those characteristics, not have to cast the spell again. It makes evaluating multiple items a time-consuming, spell-point consuming chore.

But overall, the game does a good job here. There is a such a variety of weapons of different types and ranges, armor (helms, upper body, lower body, gloves, boots), and usable items that almost every treasure chest offers something useful. What I particularly like is that the selection of items in chests (and, to a lesser extent, on dead enemies) is mostly randomized. I hate when the same artifacts appear in the same locations for every player. Score: 6.

7. Economy. I didn't talk about it much during my entries, but it's not very good. The primary problem is that "stores" are mixed up with NPCs, and there simply aren't enough of them selling enough useful stuff. You mostly end up selling rather than buying, amassing a huge amount of gold before the end, and spending most of it on plot-specific purchases (like ascending in the Dane Tower or buying your way into the Umpani legions) rather than equipment. I would have appreciated more places to spend gold and a less-cumbersome purchasing system. Score: 3.
           
I ended the game with far too much money and not nearly enough things to spend it on.
           
8. Quests. With a main quest with not only multiple endings but multiple beginnings, faction options, and numerous side-quests and sub-quests (although it's not always clear which is which), it's hard to ask for more in this category except for better writing and greater complexity, both of which later games would offer thanks to titles like Crusaders setting the standard. Score: 8.

9. Graphics, Sound, and Interface. Perhaps the weakest category in my opinion. The graphics are certainly improved from previous titles in the series, but they're still just textures. While many of the monster animations are fine, I wasn't in love with anything else. Sound effects were at best adequate, at worst annoying (e.g., the continual background droning), and since they slowed down the game so much, I turned them off halfway through.

It's tough to write a good interface in a game of this complexity, and while I eventually got used to it, there were aspects that bothered me until the end, including poor use of the keyboard, inability to switch between characters while in sub-menus, limited scope of the automap, lack of any way to determine coordinates, inability to skip text you'd already seen a million times, and a lot of unintuitive commands. Score: 3.

10. Gameplay. We get to end the GIMLET on a positive. Crusaders is the first truly non-linear Wizardry, and it's about as nonlinear as you can get (even the starting and ending locations can vary) except that the so-called "outdoor" world is still pretty confining and there's a bit of frustration involved in simply getting from one place to another. The faction options, ending options, and different experiences afforded to different character classes make it highly replayable. Its difficulty is pitched perfectly, and even adjustable.

Although it avoided the worst flaws of long games, such as artificial level caps and a general feeling that characters stopped developing, 100+ hours is still far too long. I don't mind games with optional content that push past the 100-hour mark, but otherwise I feel that a game is becoming indecent if it exceeds a couple of work weeks. Score: 7.

That gives us a final score of 60, tying it for the sixth-highest rating on my blog so far, seven points higher than Wizardry VI. As much fun as I've made of David Bradley, the inescapable result of his involvement with the series is that it kept improving--in sharp contrast to a lot of series of the era that, while advancing in superficial elements like graphics and sound, struggled to out-perform their first installments in core RPG mechanics.
            
"True point & click mouse interface." Ugh. Eventually games will come full circle and say things like, "Makes effective use of the full keyboard."
              
Contemporary reviews were universally positive, although some reviewers complained about over-length, interface issues, and too much backtracking. In the February 1993 Computer Gaming World, Scorpia called it "the first Wizardry that has a real-world feel to it," praising its various factions and roaming NPCs, but sharply criticizing the backtracking that the game requires, including my complaints about having to leave the Isle of Crypts multiple times. The magazine was a bit more positive when it gave the game "RPG of the Year" (for 1993). It is of course extremely well-respected today, with numerous fan sites, analyses, and retrospectives.
              
"One day" being nine years from now.
            
Wizardry 8 didn't come out for nine years, and I can't possibly close this entry without talking a little bit about what happened in between. (Whatever I think of David W. Bradley as a storyteller, he comes across as the least reprehensible party in the mess that followed.) As with many things involving multiple perspectives, it's hard to glean the raw truth about some of the issues, but I've done my best to summarize as best I understand it. Primary sources include a 2014 Matt Barton interview with Robert Sirotek, a 1997 New York Supreme Court decision, and a 1998 Usenet thread now archived by Google Groups.

While Crusaders of the Dark Savant was still under development, Wizardry series co-creator Andrew Greenberg--who had become an intellectual property attorney in the meantime--sued Sir-Tech Software for breach of contract. His cause seems to me to be legitimate. In 1991, Sir-Tech closed its development shop in New York and transferred its assets to Sir-Tech Canada. Its position was apparently that because Sir-Tech Canada was a different company than the New York Sir-Tech, its contract with Greenberg was now void, and they stopped sending checks, despite the fact that they continued to market and sell Wizardry titles in the United States and the same principals owned both companies.

However, in filing suit, Greenberg for some reason named Bradley, who had no ownership stake in Sir-Tech, as one of the co-defendants. Both Bradley and Sir-Tech balked at the inclusion of Bradley, and Sir-Tech later argued, in a counter-suit, that Greenberg's suit had ruined Bradley's productivity and caused a one-year delay in Crusaders of the Dark Savant (it had original been planned for a holiday 1991 release). A 1997 New York court decision on the issue would later find that:
          
[C]ontemporaneous memoranda do not indicate that Bradley was ever unable to work and, in fact, make absolutely no reference to the Federal court action. In sharp contrast to the position taken in Sir-Tech's complaint, these writings provide persuasive evidence that the sheer magnitude of the Crusaders project, programming and operating system problems and, quite possibly, Sir-Tech's own impatience and interference, were the major causes for the delay, which extended for a full year beyond the September 1, 1991 deadline and, in fact, approximately six months beyond the dismissal of the Federal court action.
            
The documents I reviewed suggest that Sir-Tech did their best to keep Bradley out of the legal mess and to cover any of his legal expenses, but you can see how it would be hard to maintain good working relationships in such an environment, and after the publication of Crusaders, Bradley left the company in a "falling out" that I haven't seen otherwise specified.
       
The lawsuits, counter-suits, and appeals wouldn't be settled until 2005, two years after even Sir-Tech Canada closed its doors for good. But these legal straits may explain why Sir-Tech decided to keep further development of the Wizardry franchise as far away from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts as possible. They asked their Australian distributor, Directsoft, to put together a team. Directsoft responded by assembling a group so comically inept that it's almost as if they wanted the project to fail. The project head was a sound editor-cum-film director who had never (as far as I can tell) managed the development of a computer game before. No one on the initial staff knew much of anything about programming. After months of producing nothing but maps and lewd monster graphics, the team finally hired a couple of programmers. These included Cleveland Mark Blakemore, who by his own account tried his best to turn the documents into an actual program but ultimately got frustrated by the ineptitude of his colleagues and repeatedly tried to quit.
   
In 1994, sensing the project had become a money pit, Sir-Tech canceled further work on what would have been Wizardry: Stones of Arnhem. This might have been a wise move for thematic reasons, too: nothing about the game, as far as I can tell from the documentation, suggests it would have been a sequel to Crusaders. In the Barton interview, Sirotek even suggests it may not have gotten the Wizardry label.
              
A map from the development of Stones of Arnhem. Oddly, most of the major locations named on the map are real place names in Australia.
            
Blakemore is himself a controversial figure whose accounts of working on Stones of Arnhem were doubted for years until a stash of Sir-Tech documents emerged in an abandoned storage locker in the town where Sir-Tech had its headquarters, not only confirming his employment but also largely his account of why the project failed. (The documents went up for sale on eBay briefly, but Sirotek somehow got the auction shut down. Somehow the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History ended up with a bunch of scans, and you can find more on various online threads.) Unfortunately, Blakemore chose to pepper his accounts with homophobic and white supremacist rantings and self-aggrandizing nonsense. In 2017, after almost 20 years of development, Blakemore released Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar, characteristically calling it "the greatest roleplaying game of them all." It got mixed reviews.

The Wizardry series was adrift again. In 1996, Sir-Tech re-released Crusaders of the Dark Savant under the odd title Wizardry Gold, an update for Windows 95 and the Mac on CD-ROM. The game is an artifact of the mid-1990s obsession with CD-ROMs, animated graphics, and voiced dialogue before the technology was really there to make any of it good. The result is that the game feels more outdated today than the 1992 version. Here is a link to a video of the game. I would have tolerated that voiced narration for about 30 seconds.
   
In 1998, Sir-Tech repackaged the first seven games, plus Wizardry Gold, as The Ultimate Wizardry Archives. I bought the compilation nine years ago to play Wizardry II and have been dipping into it ever since. It's odd to finally retire the package.

Wizardry 8 would eventually be completed, by most accounts under the direction of long-time Sir-Tech employee Brenda Braithwaite (née Brenda Garno, now Brenda Romero), although in the Barton interview linked above Sirotek stresses that it was a collaborative and that Braithwaite doesn't deserve total credit. Whatever the case, it was released to excellent reviews--but that's a story for a (much) later entry. In between, we have Nemesis: The Wizardry Adventure (1996), an almost universally-panned single-character game with simplified RPG mechanics. 

We will also meet David Bradley again, as soon as 1995, with CyberMage: Darklight Awakening. After a brief stint with Origin (where he developed CyberMage), he founded his own company, Heuristic Park, which remains in business 23 years later. The company developed Wizards & Warriors (2000), Dungeon Lords (2005), and Dungeon Lords MMXII (2012). I'd say I'm looking forward to playing them, but of course it took me five years just to get from Wizardry VI to VII. I hear that Wizards & Warriors in particular shows a Wizardry influence.

Crusaders of the Dark Savant is the third-longest game on my blog, in raw hours. I've had it going on and off since August. In some ways, I'm sorry it's over because it means I have to focus on a series of RPGs that are a lot less approachable. Let's see if I can get anywhere with any of them.


85 comments:

  1. I'm surprised by the high ratings.

    Personally I think Wiz 7's main weaknesses are the too high random encounter frequency combined with rather dull encounter design and too much HP bloat, compared to the Might&Magic games, boring loot system and outdoors exploration.

    I also diagree with the rating for Graphics, Sound, and Interface. Visually it's very pleasing, and a giant leap from the previous Wizardry games. And I don't recall any problems with the UI.

    The best thing about the game was the dynamic NPCs, but when I played most of them were dead about halfway through the game.

    As for the controversies surrounding Stones of Arnhem, Robert Sirotek strikes me as the least trustworthy person of those involved.
    Blakemore actually turned out to be telling the truth.

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    1. Just to be sure that we're talking about the same thing, I don't think the game has a lot of "random" encounters. It does have a lot of encounters at fixed positions whose compositions are randomized.

      Either way, it sounds like something that would normally bother me, but for whatever reason, it didn't bother me for this game.

      As for graphics, I don't care about what most people care about. "Visually pleasing" doesn't really do much for me. I care about graphics to the extent that (a) they tell me things about the environment, such as the presence of enemies and objects; or (b) are good enough to establish a kind of ambiance. No wall textures, no matter how advanced, will ever do much in either category.

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    2. @PetrusOctavianus: you don't recall any UI problems? Let me remind you then...
      For example, there is no "repeat" button in combat. That is, very often, when fighting with some trash monsters, I just wanted to repeat the actions of previous turn (e.g., attack monsters with melee weapons). Of course, the only way to do it is to select all actions again individually. That's at least six clicks, except most weapons also have different kinds of attack ("swing" etc.), so that's even more.
      Or how about casting spells? Click a button, choose spell school, click on a spell, choose spell power... want to cast again? Do it all over again then.
      Using automap? Click "use", select the character that carries the map, scroll the tiny inventory window (which displays five entries), click on the map... I distinctly remember that making the automap borderline unusable.
      Or how about the game having two distinct control modes - keyboard and mouse. You get to choose one or the other and most keyboard commands don't work in "mouse" mode. Why? Who knows, probably shoddy programming.
      Unskippable walls of text were also super annoying.
      Basically, W7's interface is extremely click-intensive, unoptimized, clunky and just sucks. I approve of Addict's low rating.

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    3. Damn. You make me want to go back and rate it even lower.

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    4. Been some years since I played it, but what I remember pissing me off was fighting the same enemies over and over and over again.

      Not saying the UI was _good_, but I don't recall it being a problem.

      And I never used the auto-map.

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    5. I played it relying solely on automap and had remember no problems with it, but I remember that I somehow got it occupy first slot in one of character's equipment.

      Also controls were not a real problem - of course mashing space or enter or whatever selects default option. Spells were similar except for selecting one that I want to cast. But I have relatively memory, both muscle and ... well, the "normal" one, so I remembered whether most frequently used spell was three down or four up.

      Of course I can see how people could be bothered by it.

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    6. "one of character's inventory", "mashing space ... was mildly annoying", "relatively good memory". Sorry for all these mistakes and omissions, it is pretty late where I live.

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    7. Rereading some of the Addicts older posts, that reminded me of something... Isles of Terra was released in 1991 and got 7 for its "Graphics, Sound, and Interface", so let's compare.
      Graphics - from what I recall, MM3 and W7 are more or less on par. Perhaps slight edge to MM3, since it depicts more stuff (like monsters and pyramids and stuff). Let's be a bit generous and say, they're are equal graphically.
      Sound. Indeed, Terra has a huge advantage here because sound in it doesn't slow the game down! W7 for all practical purposes has no sound, and no music too (which you'll most likely also disable for being way too repetitive (in b4 "I played it all the way with music!")).
      Interface is just infinitely better (faster, less laborous) in Terra. If you want to dispatch some trash mobs quickly, just hold down "q". If you want to look at automap, just cast a spell once and then look at it a thousand times! (so that's like, what, 0.004 clicks per one use of the automap?). Terra's minimap is also bigger than in W7, but it has an even bigger automap, which you can summon by clicking on a button ONCE, or by pressing a single key on the keyboard. Speaking of input methods, in MM3 both keyboard and mouse work at the same time! How did NWC accomplish that, I wonder? Must be Magic...
      Casting spells is clearly the worst part of MM3's interface, and even that is easier that in W7, since you don't get to choose spell power.
      There were also no problem with walls of text - a single click and they go away, since MM3, instead of s l o w l y displaying them one sentence at a time, just dumps all text at once.
      So, if MM3 got 7 in this category, then Crusaders' 3 is pretty generous, all in all. It's cool that W7's shitty interface failed to annoy you, but that's not entirely unexpected - W7 does require a lot of patience in general. Still, shitty UI is shitty, and even the most hardcore fan of W7 must admit it.

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    8. If you in any way refer to my comment then I wasn't really clear - I don't think it is good, just that it isn't *T H A T* bad :)

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  2. Wiz7 is arguably the pinnacle of the series, at least in the regard of sheer ambition. Both the official Wiz8 and Bradley's Wizards&Warriors (for all intents and purposes, an unofficial Wiz8) are scaled down somewhat - smaller gameworld, smaller dungeons (although dungeons in W&W are absolutely brilliant), simpler character systems. I'd say Wiz7 remains up there among the three most ambitious non-roguelike RPGs, along with Fate and Daggerfall. To my knowledge, it's still the only proper RPG in history that has competing NPC parties.

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    1. Btw, regarding the monsters that use the same graphics but have different weaknesses - that's what mythology skill is for. I get that the reason for that is technological/cost limitation, but you have to give the game credit for making a gameplay mechanic out of it.

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    2. Rival parties of NPCs - my favorite "thing" in RPGs. Too bad they never took off in CRPGs like you said. They can be enemies, rivals, friends, annoyances, deus ex machinas, sources for new party members when one dies, you name it. Le sigh.

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    3. I don't know. I think the concept would be tough to balance. In this game, it seems unrealistic that the so-called "rival party" could get those map pieces while not killing any of the monsters or solving any of the puzzles. On the other hand, I don't know how long my patience would last against a game in which "rival parties" were capable of clearing entire dungeons.

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    4. I think Wiz7 is still abstract enough so that you could imagine they got there some other way than you. I mean, it not the most unrealistic part of the game, by a long shot. Wouldn't quite work in a modern 3D game of course - although they still leave enough space for suspension of disbelief (like, for example, in the case of tiny Skyrim "cities").
      I think there's a lot of potential in the concept of rivals that was only touched upon in Wiz7. For example, you could give them the ability to clear out dungeons, but then still have the player go through the dungeon in question to look for clues about the identity of the rival etc. It's just that the game has to be designed primarily around this mechanic rather than it being "let's try this cool idea on top of our normal formula" thing, like it obviously was here.

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    5. I still remember finding one of dungeons in Oblivion with all monsters dead and one of NPCs (Mazoga, the Orc girl knight from Leyawiin fighting with few enemies in the last cave.

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    6. "For example, you could give them the ability to clear out dungeons, but then still have the player go through the dungeon in question to look for clues about the identity of the rival etc."

      I think that would be awesome, but my readers constantly tell me that it's too hard to program more than a couple of plot dependencies (cf. the comments on Downfall), so I know better than to publicly advocate for such a thing.

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    7. It wouldn't be difficult to program, perse. It would require a lot of time spent thinking things through, documenting it and implementing the different scenarios.

      I think people are conflating complexity with difficulty, but the most difficult part would be conceptualizing what you wanted to do and putting it on paper; programming it would only take time.

      And of course, a modern AAA game would insist on expensive graphics and voice acting for every possibility...

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    8. "And of course, a modern AAA game would insist on expensive graphics and voice acting for every possibility." THAT's the problem. If we were ever going to get extremely complex dependencies and alternate outcomes, it was probably in the era before all-voiced dialogue became mandatory. It pisses me off how much this limits the number of things that can happen in a game.

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    9. Amen. You'd think people are not able to read text.

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    10. Just to nitpick (and I suspect the Addict and GamerAim are simply using shorthand, but I've seen the misconception elsewhere): It's not really voice acting that's the trouble. Sure, voiced dialogue has its costs, but they're relatively small within the context of a AAA project (even when you factor in a multiplier for recording in different languages).

      Building complex dependencies and alternate outcomes is simply expensive on every level. Building a good AAA RPG is very, very hard. Building one with a modern-day successor of Crusaders's multi-party system would take a tremendous amount of design time, time for engineering to build the systems, time for tools engineers to build the tools for designers to work with, time for artists to build new art, writers to write, voice actors to record, animators to animate those voiced conversations, and--ever-so-important!--QA to test every single combination of every possibility...

      ...and then time to decide that "actually, we thought this would be fun but it turns out it's not," and then do the whole system over again in a better way.

      You could absolutely do it! But you'd need to make it a key feature of the game early on and you'd probably need to sacrifice other features to make it work (unless it was a new feature you were bolting onto an otherwise pretty similar sequel).

      We've seen the rise of the big Kickstarter RPGs in recent years--non-voiced games from InXile, Obsidian, and the like. So many of these games, too, get planned branches chopped from the design due to complexity, even when art will be reused and voice acting nonexistent.

      I'd love to see someone else try the multiple-competing-parties thing, but I don't blame any studio, AAA or indie, for shying away from the challenge. (Especially since, as interesting as it was in Crusaders, it wasn't really that satisfying.)

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    11. Do the competing parties in wizardry 7 really add anything to the game besides frustration? It's the kind of thing that sounds cool in concept, but I didn't get a sense from this series of articles that they really worked very well in terms of the players ability to understand and manipulate the system. I'm generally skeptical of game designs which seem driven by mimetic concerns at the cost of gameplay.

      I haven't played this Wizardry, only VIII, so correct me if I'm wrong about the way this system plays out in game.

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    12. Enix's The 7th Saga has rival NPC parties.

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    13. It was inferred when I said that it wasn't difficult to implement, just time-consuming, that time is money. So you're entirely right. And like you say, it's a risk-reward sorta thing, where you have to ask if the game is REALLY improved.

      I haven't actually played Wizardry VII, so I can't say exactly how it works, but I guess it's just that NPCs arrive in a dungeon first and take the quest item, then you have to find them? AFAIK, this could be done in even Oblivion, if you put in the time. The NPC tracking across the world is already there, and NPCs can already attack enemies. All you'd have to do is allow the engine to track the NPCs killing and looting in a dungeon (which AFAIK, Oblivion wouldn't do, though some fancy scripting might circumvent that).

      Sir-Tech could do this back in 1992, so a studio nowadays could easily do it. With game engines and game assets more easily available than in 1992, making games is ostensibly easier to do now. It's just, as you said, actually MAKING the game that's the problem, not just chatting about it in blog comments :P

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    14. This would probably work best in a simulation type game that has emergent gameplay instead of a fixed main plot (Hmm... SimRPG). But to make a game out of this that is actually fun to play would still be pretty hard.

      In Wizardry 7, the NPCs actually help you - let them collect the maps, and you can skip dungeons by just paying for them. Dungeons like the Rattkin Ruins, Giant Cavern, Witch Cave, most of Orkogre become optional that way.

      I've tried to map what you actually need to do to finish the game during my last playthrough. Though I'm not 100% sure if skipping the Wikum boat and swimming all the way is a viable option.

      https://drive.google.com/file/d/1w7dzpknu5S-FmD9csS978qhiDCKDztTs/

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    15. I believe this sort of all-or-nothing fallacy is why we haven't seen this approach anywhere else - people start imagining these rivals as fully simulated agents, and then of course the whole gameworld needs to be simulated. In practice, you don't really need much more simulation than in Wiz7, just slightly better integration of the rivals into plot and gameplay.

      Delete
    16. Thanks for that diagram, Buck. I was wondering what a speedrun of the game would look like. At first, I was thinking that you could do it quite quickly with pre-knowledge of the clues, but there are a lot of individual items you need from far-flung locations. Your diagram makes it clear that it would take longer than I thought.

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  3. I like to think that you always try to save the world, only sometimes it is your own, very little world.

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  4. "my criticisms have to be understood in the context of the fact that few other games of the era offered enough of a story to make such criticisms possible."

    Where'd anyone get the idea that games of the era thought this was a worthwhile goal? Or the only goal?

    Hell, I played these games back then. What I liked was fighting battles, getting equipment, gaining levels and winning tactically interesting situations that were just difficult enough to really challenge me. The story was an afterthought. Yeah, someone kidnapped, go slay bad buy, got it, sure. Just tell me where the first dungeon is, okay King whateveryournameis? Don't want to hear about your personal problems or some made-up stuff about your kingdom's history zzzzzz.

    In fact, the games that tried to do an elaborate story were often the worst. The designers would start with grand ideas. You'd get a lot of story at the beginning. Then, just as you got curious about how things were going to turn out, the designers realize how much work it was going to be and slashed it. Plot lines unresolved, factions introduced and then forgotten, special abilities for situations that never occur, cryptic clues that when you read the FAQ ten years later you found out referred to nothing.

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    1. This is one of those moments where I just have to say my blog, my perspective. I want good stories, memorable NPCs, and associated role-playing choices in my RPGs even as I do enjoy the mechanics of battle and inventory.

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    2. There were plenty of good story-driven RPGs of the era(Ultima VII-VIII, Dark Sun, and later, Fallout). It's more of the execution of said story that fails in games like Wizardry 7.

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    3. If a game doesn't have an elaborate story I always tended to make one up in my head or extend the story more than what is there. I think many games wanted to have amazing stories but just didn't have the right people or resources to execute the ideas.

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    4. Your comment reminds me of Vasquez in Aliens. "Look man, I only need to know one thing -- where they are." :)

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  5. Lori and I really liked Wizardry VI, Bane of the Cosmic Forge, but we couldn't get into VII. I'm not sure if it was too open, or the encounters that seemed too deadly early in the game, or other factors. In any case, we played for a few hours, then set it aside.

    I talked with Brenda Garno around 1994 about Lori and I creating the next Wizardry game. She expressed great excitement about working with us, and about the potential of a new Wizardry game with a Quest for Glory design aesthetic.

    I had an intriguing phone conversation with David Bradley. He was careful not to say anything directly bad about Sir-Tech, but he had obviously had serious disagreements with them. I got an uncomfortable "vibe" from the call and worried about whether we would be able to work with Sir-Tech despite Brenda's enthusiasm about the project.

    I think this was about the time we talked with Bob Bates about making a game for Legend. We decided to do that (Shannara) instead of a new Wizardry. I guess it's at that point that Brenda took on the lead design role on Wizardry VIII.

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    1. Now THAT's an interesting thought experiment: Wizardry 8 as designed by Corey and Lori Cole. The traditional Wizardry UI is so different from your games that it makes me wonder what elements you would have kept and which ones you would have changed. If nothing else, I think you (or perhaps Lori) could have done a better job with the narrative.

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    2. Ha. I just realized that last sentence sounds like I was insulting your narrative abilities. My meaning was that your games have much better narratives, but I don't know whether you or Lori deserves the primary credit for them.

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  6. Hey, thanks for the great final review, and I don't mean the score per se, but mainly your ability to convey your personal feelings while giving a fair review at the same time. As a fan it was a pleasure reading this.

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  7. I had Wizardry VII when it came out; I was only 12, and had insufficient foundation for such a difficult CRPG. I think at that point I had played (not completed) the first Wizardry, the first Bard's Tale, and a smattering of freeware and shareware titles. Wizardry VII represented a massive investment in the genre for me, and a huge leap forward from what I had known.

    At the time, my mother had cancer and I was naturally going through a huge escapist period. My father sensed this and enabled an era of computer games, comic books, and endless amounts of music. I'll always be grateful.

    But this game absolutely destroyed me - I remember spending ages creating characters, getting dumped into the woods, and being slaughtered fairly rapidly. My characters were poorly thought out from any perspective, I didn't understand class changing, I had a poor grasp on balancing magic and melee... I was just totally overwhelmed. I tried my best, and after a few months of playing it during the odd moments I wasn't playing a point-and-click adventure, I made it to Munkharama and hit a hard wall. Underleveled, poorly spec'd, not taking notes, not mapping, I was doomed. I put it aside, and moved on to other games. I still have my original box, which serves as a reminder that some games require preparation and investment, almost akin to reading Finnegans Wake,

    It was a real pleasure to read through your journey! You made different choices across the board, yet I felt that ancient twinge of satisfaction at seeing the game gradually defeated, piece by piece, until the Dark Savant (who looked a lot like the Marvel villains of the time) was "beaten."

    I did later buy Wizardry 8 - which I remember was extremely difficult to find in stores - and was much older and wiser by then. I still love Wiz8, and have played and beaten it several times. Will look forward to that eventual playthrough as well.

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    1. This is a beautiful testament to the power of CRPG, that I also experienced.

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    2. Thanks, Joseph. I'm glad my blog served its intended purpose for you.

      Delete
  8. Man, I wish I had had a picture to scare me off of Terry Goodkind's books. Maybe him wearing about 200 pages worth of out-of-place BDSM clothes, since that's what he ended up subjecting us to anyway...

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  9. Blakemore might be a controversial and hard-to-take-seriously character, but his Grimoire: Heralds of the Winged Exemplar is a genuinely great RPG in the vein of Wizardry 7. If you reach it one day, I can guarantee you you'll enjoy it!

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    1. Yes, don’t judge the game because it’s creator might be a bit crazy... it is the true spiritual heir to the Wizardry series and a damn fantastic game on it’s own right

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    2. If you can make it past the one-shot burping flowers

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  10. Congratulations for completing Crusaders of the Dark Savant. Like other readers of your blog I also thought that the game had become a tiresome experience for you, at least in its last stretch, and that this would greatly affect the final score. But now I see that you enjoyed it a lot however.
    I would like to take this opportunity to share with you and other potential visitors some related sources of information regarding Wizardry VI & VII and Sir-Tech company around that time:

    The first handful of interviews are those made to Brenda Romero and contained in the old Snafaru's Home Page website. I think you've already known them and you've already referenced them in previous entries of your gameplays to the Wizardry saga, but I think it's worth remembering them:

    http://www.zimlab.com/wizardry/recovered//bg/bg.htm

    /page/n7

    So, to complement the previous interviews I would like to add the following source of the January 1991 issue of the English magazine Your Commodore, which deals with the initial career of Brenda Romero at Sir-Tech:

    https://archive.org/details/YourCommodoreIssue075199101Alphavite/page/n51

    The following source corresponds to the american Commodore Magazine in its july 1989 issue. It is a news about a contest to collect information from the fans to improve the contents of the future Wizardry VI:
    https://archive.org/details/31-commodore-magazine

    Another reminder, the D.W.Bradley interview that's inside Wizardry VI hintbook (page 16):

    https://www.mocagh.org/sir-tech/wiz6-hintbook.pdf


    Finally, the last sources of information have to do with Sir-Tech and include interviews with Robert and Norman Sirotek. The negative part is that they come from German magazines and are in German language therefore. I leave them here trusting that one day a kind soul will translate them to be useful to the max number of people possible:

    (Power Play, january 1992)
    http://subefotos.com/ver/?2098896fdb02925b4cdccc7cce0eb472o.jpg
    http://subefotos.com/ver/?d20cff6e7b5d8d45c8093ce7a7cf63ddo.jpg

    (PC Games magazine, april 1993)
    https://archive.org/details/pcgamesmagazine-1993-04/page/n71

    (PC Games Sonderheft No. 1, July 1993)
    http://subefotos.com/ver/?ee1fe632452d131ed5639bea602c9182o.jpg
    http://subefotos.com/ver/?aa45517d2dfcba98c6220fdb18a8544ao.jpg
    http://subefotos.com/ver/?3b20af094885132f67a338a8c1f1e105o.jpg
    http://subefotos.com/ver/?d3e147db1d7352696748b5c4cd7ef99eo.jpg
    http://subefotos.com/ver/?432551ced9ea1111eaf6522aff24f1fbo.jpg


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    1. I translated the article from POWER PLAY and uploaded the Word document here:
      http://s000.tinyupload.com/index.php?file_id=28190446954425078692

      It's a rough translation, but hopefully it's good enough. I might try translating the other two at some point as well.

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  11. "I often wonder how many readers Terry Goodkind lost by putting this picture on his books."


    Probably not many. Most people that would be turned off by that picture would have quickly found his thinly-veiled Objectivist propaganda and "anyone who disagrees with me deserves to be massacred" message intolerable.

    Folks that agree with (or can at least tolerate) his garbage tend to look a lot like that picture.

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    1. Hooray for off topic Terry Goodkind hate! If he ever goes broke, he could start going to conventions. I’d pay $20 for a chance to poke him in the eye.

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    2. Ugh, Goodkind. I actually am an Objectivist, and some of his books make me want to not be.

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  12. Since this is your blog after all personal preferences are to be expected of course, such as disliking the Bradley ramblings or the save the world storyline... but I truly didn’t understand the score you gave to the graphics, sound and UI
    If you say you take things on a historical perspective rather a modern take then the graphics for Wizardry 7 were about the best for the era, almost on par with the Might and Magic 3 graphics (which tried to go for a more cartoony look as opposed to Wizardry 7 realistic attempt) and stand up particularly well today in regard to other games of the time.
    The sound and music was one of the first game capable of doing digitalized sound through the PC speaker too; of course it sounds better with Soundblaster or Roland emulation but it was quite groundbreaking for the time
    Finally the UI, yes we look at modern takes on the blobber like Grimoire and we see a ton of improvements that could have made life easier (like repeat commands, better item sorting and clearer navigation) but overall it is pretty much the same as Wizardry 6.
    And lastly, the game length.... there are 90 minute movies that feel eternal and 3 hour movies that I don’t want them to end; if the gameplay is entertaining, fun and engaging enough then game length is irrelevant as long as you are having fun and want to actually make it to the end of the game
    The fact that you were playing this game for almost a month alongside Red Dead Redemption 2 and still came back to play it shows it is a pretty fucking special game, definetly one of my top 5 games of all time
    Is it THE best game evah? It depends on what you like but it is definitely the best party based dungeon crawler ever for me. I like Dungeon Master, World of Xeen and Grimoire but this is as far as blobbers got in the genre for me, the other games were refinements but Wizardry 7 is still the standard for me
    I really enjoyed reading your blog on this one and even though Octavius has his points about repetitive combat and whatsnot I cannot help to love Wizardry 7
    Looking forward to your take on Darklands and System Shock

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    1. You can't possibly equate the graphics in this game with MM3. In MM3, when there were monsters, NPCs, fountains, buildings, whirlpools, etc., they were actually graphically depicted. The only thing useful that W7 graphics show you are doors, and the occasional button or lever. Mountains and trees in MM are environmental features that you can wade into, not wall textures. MM graphically depicted different types of spell damage, poison, disease, and other conditions.

      W7's graphics are just textures. Sure, they're nice-looking textures, but there's no utility to them. In that sense, they're barely a step up from the blank wireframes of the first Wizardry.

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    2. Granted, Might and Magic 3 looks better because it’s cartoony style has aged better too... but giving it the same score as a wireframe game like Wizardry 5? The use of a mouse by itself raised the interface to be much more intuitive and the graphics are decent and better animated than the ones from Might and Magic 3

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    3. The trees, mountains, fountains and even individual buildings in the wilderness are just scaled sprites placed in the blobber tile cells. They are technically absolutely no different from the statues of Phoonzang in Wiz 7. And the buildings/cities in MM3 are grossly off scale because of that, like Fountain Head is one wilderness tile sprite and an entire sprawling complex on a different map when you enter. And on the wilderness tile, when you look at it, your characters eye level is at the rooftop level, just so the buildings can fit inside that one tile, so the entire city looks like a miniature.

      Wizardry 7 doesn't use as many of those kinds of tile elements as MM3 but technically they are exactly the same. And honestly, to me the MM3 approach looks incredibly fake and artificial. Because every tree and every bit of mountain is exactly alike, you can't even visually tell you're moving when you're walking in a forest, or along a mountain.

      True, the forest doesn't have much variation in Wiz 7 either, but at least there's two variants of the tiles that alternate, so you get a sense of movement when you step from one cell to the next.

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    4. Keep in mind that graphics and sound are both essentially scored 0-3. The difference between a game that doesn't have distractingly bad graphics, and Fallout 4, is 2 out of 100.

      Any time a game's sound gets turned off, it seems to be headed for a zero almost by definition.

      Addict indicated that the UI had some miserable qualities, so it's not surprising that the aggregate for the category would be in the 3-4 range.

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  13. Yeah, Wiz 7 is, in my opinion, definitely the best and most complex party-based dungeon crawler ever. Fullstop. I am happy you enjoyed it as well. But the score 3 for graphics, sound and UI is just too low. What do you expect from a game that came out in 1992? The graphics are nice and create a unique atmosphere. UI is fine and comfortable for the time. Sound and music are both weak and can become annoying. That is true. Secondly, I do not quite understand why you didn´t like the texts describing various scenes in the game. I personally liked them very much and they helped to stir my imagination. That is something I miss a lot in modern games. This game was like a book and I remember writing everything down in my notebook in case I needed it to solve various puzzles.

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    1. You must be new to my blog. My ratings are not scaled "for the time." Old games are rated on the same scale as brand new ones. It's virtually impossible for a game of this era to get more than a 5 or 6 in this category. People are arguing over a minute difference in the final score.

      I agree with you about missing having to take notes. I wish modern games demanded a little more from the player. But since I DO write most things down, you can see why I would object to bloated prose that you have to read a couple of times to glean its meaning.

      Delete
    2. Chet, it may be some of the wording you use in the introduction to this summary that confused this respondent. As you know, I've been commenting here for a couple of years now, so I get how your ratings work... yet, here I was, scratching my head over this one. I genuinely wondered if you had changed your policy, or if perhaps I had misunderstood all along, that in fact you had always assessed games "for the time," and I hadn't noticed.

      It's not the ratings themselves that made me confused, but rather the way you prefaced everything by stressing how your complaints about the game must be contextualised by how far it actually stood out at the time.

      Of course, I do also wonder, if a game where you have this many issues with the world and story, still manages to earn a 7, will you end up with an excessive number of 10s in later titles? In this scale, obviously Morrowind would get a 10, and that's reasonable... but won't a lot of other modern games too?

      Whatever the case may be, I look forward to seeing how you resolve this conundrum. The issue is a fascinating one, particularly given how, by the time you get to Morrowind (the 90s are a long decade for RPGs, so we're both likely to have either grey hair, or no hair, by then), it may well be that there will be RPGs so amazing, that people look at Morrowind's high rating and wrongly assume you're rating it "for the time".

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    3. I think the idea is that on a formal/technical level, the story is excellent, with an ambitious epic scope and multiple moving parts, but the actual content isn't very good. It could maybe go the other way and still get a 7, a really great idea that ultimately doesn't come together or work well as a video game story. A game with 8-10 will probably be both formally impressive and engaging. The more games start to focus on plot through the 90's and 00's, there will probably be a lot more 7s, but still very rarely 8-10s.

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  14. Why is the final rating always to come??? Why???

    WHY??!?!?

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    1. So readers reading the GIMLET for the first time enjoy an element of suspense. I go back and add it to the beginning a few weeks later.

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    2. Pretty cool thing to do, I always hate having to skip a line. Really appreciated! Sometimes it's the small things :-)

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  15. Chet, here are some more interviews about Wizardry 8's development. Maybe you will find them useful in the future:

    http://www.zimlab.com/wizardry/recovered/sir-tech/wizardry8/rpgvault.ign.com/features/den/wiz8log04.shtml

    https://www.unorthodoxentertainment.com/wizardry-8-qa/
    (An additinal comment by Haneman is on one of the facebook posts: https://www.facebook.com/NightdiveStudios/posts/311499215658839?__tn__=-R)

    https://web.archive.org/web/20000817180013/http://www.ga-rpg.com/interviews/wizardry8/

    But I'm afraid that no one mentions Brenda Romero.

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  16. I never really thought about it before but while D W Bradley may have had quite the different idea for the stories in Wizardry but the series seems to have advanced more under him than it did before he joined up with them. The first three wizardry's were pretty much the same game. Of course four was different but it is hardly even wizardry.

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  17. . . . aaand we're back to moderating all comments for a while. Trolls and haters, if it gives you joy to waste the 30 second of my time it takes to read your comment and delete it, by all means keep commenting. But your words will not be published on my blog.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. And here I was wondering why my comment needed approval I was like "Noooooo what have I done to raise the Ire of the Addict!!!!"

      Delete
  18. Very interesting game!

    Especially the part with concurrency parties. But I often asked me, how complex this was really implemented?

    Anyone knowing of internal implementation details regarding the other party NPC's?

    Did they really move around the map like the player? Or did they improve only on certain player events? How did they engage in combat? What determined their death, etc?

    In short, is there a good summary of what the NPC parties actually did the whole game?

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    1. I'm wondering the same thing... I really hope that someone comes along with some answers, BastyCDGS

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  19. In a way having read you blogs about wizardry and MM series I'm kind of glad I never played those as a kid since I think I would had hated the sometimes overly complicated gameplay experience these games give out.

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    1. Reading these entries really gave me the same impression. Chaotic world, juvenile humor and haphazard mixing of genres would have seemed lazy to me and made these games disagreeable to me.

      For whatever reason the Wizardry games were never a big deal in Finland. I wonder why?

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    2. Well, I'd say the M&M games are way more polished. To the point of having a buzz in my brain about reading people complaining about how streamlined they were.

      Delete
  20. Congratulations for finishing the game !

    It was hard restraining from giving you hints about combat mechanics but it was clear that you would be able to defeat the game your way, additional knowledge might have harmed the exquisite balance you felt, repeated class switching already made your party far more powerful than standard. Some knowledge which would have made combat even easier for you, maybe even too easy:

    - Monks and ninjas are great at fighting unarmed, doing about as much damage per hit as with a vorpal blade but attacking twice as often.
    - Other characters can dualwield too for double attacks, instead of mace and shield your lord could combine sword and mace and your alchemist would have double attacks with the wand in the other hand
    - After excessive class switching hybrid as final class is far more powerful than caster, hybrids they get the same raise in casting power at level ups but also many additional benefits like more attacks and better weapons choices, they'd still keep the bonuses from starting as casters but fight as well as your front line characters.

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  21. Congrats on finishing this one, the final stretch is a bear. I'm not sure which music option you went with, but in my most recent play-through (well, play until the game stalled out), I found using a Roland MT-32 emulator to be a vast improvement. Given the time frame you are moving into, looking into a Munt or actually picking up an MT-32 to improve the music might be worth the effort.

    I still look back at this title fondly, there were so many sword and sorcery RPG titles being released in those days that I was happy to jump at anything that broke the mold. Combine that with one of the first open world games, though my favorite from the era is likely to show up shortly, and you have all the makings of a classic, at least for some of us.

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  22. Meanwhile in Japan, there have been 30 games published under the Wizardry name since Wiz 7 was released. A few of them were even localized and released in the US, although they weren't as successful as Japanese series that were inspired by Wizardry, like Etrian Odyssey. The blobber is alive and well and living in Japan.

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  23. Congrats on beating the game where I threw the Towel multiple times by now. I don´t mind grinding but I always felt the Powercurve was always against me o.-

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  24. Based on your Economy paragraph, you may have missed that the stores in New City update their merchandise a couple times during the game. I don't know offhand exactly when, but what they have for sale gets upgrades - but nothing in game ever tells you this, and thus it's easy to miss. I know in general I don't assume that merchants change what they sell in these older games so I'd stop checking after I felt my group had passed "beyond" the initial stuff. I only figured this out by fiddling around with the Cosmic Forge game editor and seeing that the New City merchants have multiple inventory lists that are event triggered.

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    1. From my observation the merchants' inventory changes every few days randomly from given lists. After fixed numbers of days have past new item lists get available. I guess even until the endgame the addict could have improved his gear by visiting shops but with no in-game way available to check item quality except buying and casting identify at them afterwards (often showing they're useless) ignoring those shops yields the less frustrating experience in a game where combat can be trivialized by grinding.
      The long overlooked magic shop in New City sells expensive spellbooks - the earlier they're bought and used, the bigger the permanent gain in spell points. In the ratkin ruins the merchants sell expensive items which offer permanent boosts.
      If equipment upgrades and items which offer permament boosts are bought as soon they're available there won't be an abundance of money before plundering the gorror chests near the end.

      Delete
    2. I saw that the items changed, but there still was never really anything that I wanted.

      Delete
  25. It's interesting how different gaming experiences can be. Usually players who don't abuse recharging have trouble with the lack of instead of the abundance of gold and the slow hitpoint and mana regeneration highly praised by you is widely regarded as annoying design flaw addressed by patches in the Cosmic Forge editor.

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  26. Chet,

    Appreciate your take on the game. Bradley was on the cutting edge at that point and at the same time trapped in his own mental world. You pitch it well. The game is a very good game, but by no means the greatest. My problem was in the end, it was too demanding in time. Soon I would get bored with it and there are other things to do. So came a load of restarts and new characters and a promise to finish. It never came off. I finished every Gold box I played, but not this beast.

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    Replies
    1. This is exactly why I can't agree with Raul Vito's statement above that, "game length is irrelevant as long as you are having fun and want to actually make it to the end of the game." I don't care how enjoyable the game is, inevitably life intrudes. The more times you have to take a break, the greater the chance you'll forget what you were doing, lose track of some important clue, and in general lose motivation to see the thing to the end.

      Delete
  27. Some reason you didn't give the full list of 'primary sources,' Addict?

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    Replies
    1. What are you on about? I listed the major sources I actually used to prepare my summary of the game. I'm sorry I didn't list every possible source, but I was writing a blog post, not a literature review. Who do you feel that I slighted by omission?

      Delete
    2. Because you didn't use the original info straight from the crackerjack's mouth.
      But that thread is now for some reason locked in one of the members only RPG Codex sub-forums.

      Delete
    3. Ah, that explains it why I couldn't find it when I went to look for it. Anon, I still don't get what your problem is. Are you the OP on the RPG Codex thread? Are you concerned I don't give the Codex its due? I link to its threads all the time. I just didn't need it for this summary and couldn't find the relevant thread anyway.

      Delete
  28. Congratulations on finishing Wizardry VII Chet!

    Keep your pictures from the game, you'll get lots of references to them in Wiz 8 (and even some to Wiz VI). You can even ask some characters about things in those 2 games and they will tell you about it.

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  29. At the time of this post, I'm only about 40 hours in on my first playthrough of this game. I love to use the Ratings posts as a check-in for myself on games I might not have my thoughts fully collected on, and this is no different. Your points on the combat on the micro scale as pinnacle of the series really hits home for me and reminds me why I keep being drawn back to this game despite the seemingly inane wandering I'm going through to complete some arbitrary quest. I don't have much else unique insight or joy for W7 to share. I simply love the blog and hopefully have this damn thing finished to join you for Wizardry 8 (in ten years...)

    As a relative youngster, your blog has been an amazing archive through games I've never encountered or ones for which I never had the patience. I'd have never given Pool of Radiance a go without this blog and for that alone you've got my thanks.

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