Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Revisiting: The Return of Werdna: The Fourth Wizardry Scenario (1987)

 
       
The Return of Werdna: The Fourth Wizardry Scenario
United States
Sir-Tech (developer and publisher)
Released 1987 for Apple II; 1988 for PC-88, PC-98, and DOS; 1989 for FM-7 and Sharp X1
Date Started: 23 May 2022
      
In sharp contrast to a lot of things I do in life, I rarely look back on my CRPG coverage with regret. My style has evolved over time, of course, and there are probably no games from the early period that I would cover in exactly the same way, but there are also not very many that I look back on and think, "Wow, you screwed that up." But there are three games that do make me say that. The first is The Bard's Tale II, which was destined for a bad review anyway, but not for the reasons that I gave. I should have given it a chance to disappoint me with its actual failures rather than yell at it over something that I just didn't understand. The second is Dungeon Master; I simply didn't understand its sub-genre well enough when I played it. That's true of any landmark game I play for the first time, but it stings more with Dungeon Master since I grew so much fonder of it later on. The last is, of course, The Return of Werdna.
     
Any deliberately challenging game requires patience. When I played Werdna in 2010, I hadn't yet settled on my now-common approach of alternating two games at a time. If a game threw up a wall, I either had to surmount it or quit. These days, I just need to let things cool off for a few days before re-engaging. I'm not going to quit without winning it this time.
    
Despite the ad, I'm not aware that a Tandy 1000 version of the game existed.
      
Twelve years ago, upon abandoning the game, I saw some spoilers about upcoming levels and puzzles. I don't have the faintest memory of them today. I barely remember the parts I actually played. Thus, this experience will be almost new. I toyed with making it completely new by playing the Apple II version, but the AppleWin emulator makes save states too easy and tempting. By playing the DOS version, I keep myself honest.
   
Werdna is the last Wizardry game to hold to the idea that what we've been playing since 1981 have not been sequels to the first Wizardry, but rather the 1980s version of DLCs. The second and third scenarios even required the original Wizardry to run. Development started shortly after Legacy of Llylgamyn (1983). Wizardry co-creator Andrew Greenberg had checked out by this time, and his partner Robert Woodhead had decamped for Japan. Development responsibilities were thus given to Roe R. Adams III, who had built a solid reputation as a reviewer, playtester, and manual writer for both Sir-Tech and Origin. Adams was already famous as the first person to have won Sierra's nigh-impossible Time Zone (1982), and in Jimmy Maher's words, "he wanted to write a Wizardry for people just as hardcore as he was." Development took a famously long time; Sir-Tech originally announced it for the 1984 holiday season, and yet it wasn't actually in stores until 1987.
      
Werdna is still nursing a grudge.
     
Gamers' reactions at the time were identical to my reaction in 2010: they couldn't believe that after so many years, they were getting the same wireframe graphics. Unlike perhaps many other gamers, however, I've come to regret that initial reaction. As I've said before and will undoubtedly say again, graphics don't excite me until they get good enough to truly immerse me, and that is well past the age of the simple textures that we got in The Bard's Tale or Might and Magic. Until then, at least the black corridors and white lines of Wizardry don't try to fool you into thinking they're anything but abstractions. They even establish a certain foreboding atmosphere. Here, although I doubt that was the intention, they also serve the purpose of highlighting the mechanical changes that make Werdna so different from the rest of the series.
     
My map of Level 10.
     
The plot of the game is encapsulated in Sir-Tech's ads: "You're Werdna. You're alive. You want revenge." Adams's well-written backstory portrays Werdna as a sorcerer absolutely obsessed with an ancient amulet that was left behind when a demented mage opened a portal to another dimension, allowing a group of gods to cross through and visit destruction on the world. Something then drove the gods back through the portal. The amulet was found the next day, hanging around the neck of a statue. No one knew if the gods had left it behind deliberately or accidentally, or if it had somehow been involved in sending the gods home. Werdna spent years researching how to acquire the artifact safely, then finally mounted his expedition--only to find that King Trebor had snatched the artifact only hours earlier. Werdna ambushed Trebor in his throne room with a paralysis spell, stole the amulet, and retreated to his 10-level dungeon beneath Trebor's castle. The events of the first Wizardry followed, and this is how Werdna describes the final encounter:
      
I was entertaining a vampire lord and several of his liegemen when the door to my study was kicked open and in burst a wide-eyed team of adventurers bent on my destruction. I was too far away from the amulet to reach it in time, and my pentagram for summoning monster allies was on the other side of the room. I quickly gathered up my energy and began to cast the awesome TILTOWAIT spell, while my guests rushed forward to my defense. Just as I unleashed the hellish fireball, I saw the vampire lord dissolved by a ZILWAN spell! So they had a high mage also. What! They still stood! That's one very tough team. Another TILTOWAIT should finish them, though. Before I could cast it, the leader of the team stepped in under my outstretched arms and delivered a critical hit to me. As my consciousness faded, I heard one of his men say, "Hawkwind, I have the amulet. Trebor will be pleased" . . . Then darkness claimed me and I slept as unto death.
        
It's almost flattering to be this feared.
        
As the game begins, I awaken on a stone slab on the 10th level of the dungeon, determined to climb my way to the surface. I'm pretty weak. Werdna starts at Level 0 with 1 hit point, no equipment, and no spells. All his attributes are 8. There's a "keys" statistic that indicates how many keypresses you have to finish the game before you lose by default. The number--one million--seems to be generous, but you have to keep in mind that every keypress counts, even invalid ones or uses of the SPACE bar to speed up messages in combat. When you cast a spell and type the spell name, every letter in the name of the spell counts against you.
            
Fortunately, Werdna won't be handling most of the combats himself. Every level has a pentagram that serves several purposes. First, it's the only way to level up--there's no experience and traditional leveling in this game. The moment I step into the pentagram in the first room, all of Werdna's statistics go up by 1, his hit points go up by 9, he rises to Level 1, and he gets 9 Level 1 mage spell slots.
               
The second thing the Pentagram does is to allow Werdna to summon groups of allies. The Level 1 pentagram lets me summon three groups from among the following: bubbly slimes, creeping coins, dinks, fuzzballs, Garian raiders, gas clouds, kobolds, Level 1 mages, Level 1 priests, orcs, skeletons, and zombies. Each set of allies has various strengths and weaknesses, and I start taking note of them right away. For my first group, I summon mages, priests, and Garian raiders.
          
I still want to know what "Garian" means.
     
Visiting the pentagram saves the game, but it also restocks all of the monsters on the level, so you want to do it sparingly. You can actually save anywhere (for the first time in Wizardry history), but with the same penalty. 
 
The first major challenge of this difficult game is finding the way out of the 2 x 2 room that you start in. There's a secret door, but you need to reveal secret doors with the Level 1 priest spell MILWA or you can't use them. Werdna doesn't have Level 1 priest spells to start, so the only way out is to summon Level 1 priests as one of your ally groups. However, summoned allies don't cast spells except in combat, so you then have to wander around until you find a combat and then hope one of the priests chooses to cast MILWA during the combat (you can't control what they cast).
    
Is this just really bad spelling?
   
My first combat is with a fighter named Blue Sonja. This is an obvious play on "Red Sonja," but it might not be Sir-Tech's play. Apparently, Sir-Tech asked players of the original Wizardry to send their character disks to the company so they could use the characters to stock the halls of Werdna; thus, many of the adventurers I will encounter actually defeated Werdna back on their home systems.
   
In combat, you thus only get to specify Werdna's actions. I just attack for this combat--one enemy isn't enough to worry me. Sure enough, my summoned allies make short work of him and one of the clerics does cast MILWA. 

At the end of the combat, I have a chance to loot Blue Sonja's corpse, but here's another way that the game sticks it to you. Werdna is a mage and thus bound by a mage's equipment restrictions. He can't swing a sword or wear armor, so almost all the equipment you find during the game is wasted. Enemies do occasionally have items a mage can use, including potions.
     
This is just one big middle finger to a mage.
       
The rest of Level 10 isn't that hard to navigate. The level is organized as a series of concentric boxes, each with one or two secret doors that take me to the next ring. Stepping through three of these doors gives me a warning followed by a combat with a "guardian" apparently tasked with keeping Werdna in the dungeon.
      
A warning before meeting a guardian.
       
The harder combats are when we encounter an entire party of enemies, as I do in the third room. This is the time for mass damage spells, and all I have is KATINO ("Sleep"), which hardly ever works.
     
Between fixed and random combats, I encounter enemies every five or six steps--sometimes individual, sometimes entire parties. Names go by: Growler, a good fighter; Brightblade, a good samurai; Borehimhere, a neutral fighter; Alannon, a good bishop; Ironbar, a good fighter; Capsin, a good bishop; Darkforce, an evil bishop; Pig-I-Iggy, a good priest. It annoys me a bit that I don't get experience from any of these many battles.
     
Taking on a party of do-gooders.
      
I have to return frequently to the summoning pentagram. Slowly, I learn the monsters' strengths and weaknesses. Creeping coins seem like a good choice. They have a breath attack that reliably damages enemies for at least one point, and they can summon more of themselves. Gas clouds cast some useful mage spells, as do (of course) mages. Dinks and fuzzballs are useless. Orcs, kobolds, and skeletons seem roughly interchangeable, but zombies seem better than all of them, as they have a paralysis attack.
 
Unfortunately, the game has something worse than regular enemies. The ghost of Lord Trebor wanders the levels looking for Werdna. You get several warning messages before it happens, but if he gets into your space, you die instantly. There's no defense; the only way to avoid it is to keep moving. Even worse, Trebor advances in real time, not in turns based on your own movement. Trebor doesn't manage to get me on this level--it's too open--but I'm sure he'll be a problem later on. 
      
My name is spelt with stars between the letters, not ellipses!
        
I finally break through the fourth door and into the corridor that rings the entire level. "I am the guardian of the pyramid of entrapment," the final guardian intones, so I guess from the shape of this level, we're supposed to get the idea of a pyramid slowly tapering off towards the top. The guardian is the toughest of the lot, and he finishes off my priests with a MOLITO (mass damage) spell, but we still manage to kill him. He drops a black candle and a jeweled amulet, the latter of which casts DUMAPIC when I use it. This tells me that I've mapped the entire level upside down. Fortunately, it's not a complicated level to redraw.
      
Knowing your precise position is vital in this game.
     
One step beyond the guardian is the ladder to Level 9, but the corridor continues all the way around the pyramid. I figure I have to explore it. Fortunately, I don't encounter any enemies all the way to the end and back. At the end, I find a "Bloodstone." I vaguely remember finding stones in this game and having to protect them from thieves.
    
I return and head up the stairs to Level 9. "The Catacombs--where the dead live again!" a message announces at the beginning.
       
That's the opposite of what "catacombs" are supposed to be.
      
Since the level has just spawned, I don't see any harm in taking a save. The corridor I'm in is a long north-south hallway with two-square rooms branching off of both sides every 10 feet. It's not until the seventh room on the left that I find the summoning pentagram; fortunately, I only fight one combat along the way.
       
Monsters available on Level 9.
     
The pentagram offers an entirely new selection of monsters; I decide to try witches, poltergeists, and Level 3 priests. Werdna is promoted to Level 2. His hit points go up to 20, his attributes to 10, and he gets 9 second-level mage spell slots. I used about 3,500 of my million moves on the first level, which I suppose isn't so bad. 
    
The character as I begin Level 9.
       
This is a slow-going game, which means it's going to be a slow-going series of entries. I probably won't try to cover more than a single level per session. As you comment, please remember that I want to play this one completely blind. Err on the side of using ROT-13 for spoilers and try not to say anything at all about levels I haven't already explored.
    
Time so far: 3 hours

108 comments:

  1. A few years ago I played a pretty decent retro dungeon-crawling RPG titled Paper Sorcerer. I just realised it got its concept from this game. In PS you similarly have to build up a team of dungeon creatures to fight for you in combat, and there's a guardian at the end of every dungeon level. Even the story is similar, something like you're a sorcerer stuck in a magic book that is a dungeon, and you have to get out.

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    1. I exactly thought the same while reading the entry

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  2. I have played and finished this great game. But I used every available maps and walkthroughs on the internet. And the game was still a challenge!

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  3. "There's no defense; the only way to avoid it is to keep moving"

    Don't forget that the location of Trebor's ghost is also reset when saving and reloading.

    Also, why not set DOS to use CGA (or was it EGA?) to get the correct red colour instead of pink?

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    1. I'm not sure it really matters as it comes to this one, but possibly doesn't help that Chet is colour blind...

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    2. I can see the difference. Until now, I didn't know they were supposed to look different. I made the change. No watch me complain about the horrid graphics in the next game.

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    3. Maybe this is a good use case for a frontend of some sort, allowing a more specific per-game configuration.

      Granted, that takes away from the purity of the experience because you never have to work with DOS.

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  4. Summary: being the bad guy isn't always fun either.

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  5. I'm convinced that "Garian" is a reference to Gary Gygax who was (in)famous for hosting D&D campaigns with fiendish difficulty.

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    1. Garians are leaner than Bulgarians.

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  6. I’ve always loved the idea of this game, and it really does something inventive with the wizardry engine. Just a pity that it’s so difficult and reliant on luck with your summons doing what you need them to.

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  7. Allanon is a major character from the Shannara book series by Terri Brooks. They probably named the enemy "Alannon" to avoid any copyright issues, like with the "Blue Sonja". Brightblade is, most likely, named after Sturm Brightblade from the Dragonlance series.

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    1. ...And Mandorallen is a knight from the Belgariad series by David Eddings (and is spelled correctly).

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    2. Given how unashamed some people were with those kind of minor infringement in cRPGs at the same time, there's also a chance that the person who submitted that particular character just misspelled the character.

      If you were to do this today you'd definitely get lots of rouges.

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    3. "Darkforce" could be a reference to a character from Phantasy Star, but the timing is very tight if so. It's more likely a Star Wars reference.

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    4. Definately can't be a Phantasy Star reference, that came out after this.

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    5. > If you were to do this today you'd definitely get lots of rouges.

      No doubt Chet would be seeing red

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    6. Darkforce could perfectly well be just "hey this sounds cool", or a reference to spooky energies used by various Marvel Comics characters, of course :)

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  8. If there's no experience and your level and abilities are increased only at fixed points, does this game even satisfy your RPG criteria?

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    1. It's wizardry : )

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    2. Good question. No, it doesn't, but exceptions are to be made when a game is almost an RPG and its predecessors and sequels are undoubtedly RPGs.

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    3. I was thinking the same thing, but I'm still glad you're replaying it. It did feel like you gave it short shrift back in the day. I would love to read about it, would never ever want to play it :)

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    4. Of course, that was also true of the Questron series of games as well. Wiz 4 does have character improvement, usable inventory and stats-based combat.

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  9. The original Wizardry wouldn't run on the Tandy 1000... as I was very disappointed to find out when I bought it and took it home... but... it led me to Ultima III and I've enjoyed Ultima more so than the Wizardries over the years!

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  10. The pentagram mechanic reminds me of the bonfires/lanterns/graces from the From Software * Souls series. I wonder if it was an influence?

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    1. I mean, there are a lot of other similar mechanics—it's basically just another form of a Save Point, which has existed in many different forms and names throughout the years. (The most obvious example in my experience would be the Final Fantasy series.)

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    2. Well, the pentagrams reset all the enemy positions, and are the only place where levelling can occur. Those two aspects set them apart from most save points I've encountered, and feel more like the bonfires in Dark Souls.

      In some tabletop rpgs, you can only level up when you return to a home base. Some editions of D&D have that stipulation. Those could also be an influence.

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    3. I think Kelvin might be on to something.

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    4. I think he is, too. Wizardry really took off in Japan, and Wizardry IV even got a substantially re-balanced remake/arrangement as late as 1999. I loaded it up and messed around with it for a few minutes to check it out.

      The creator of Demon's Souls has mentioned Wizardry in interviews before.

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    5. Wizardry's difficulty definitely fits with the theme of the souls games too

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  11. I would never want to spoil a game for you or anyone else, but I will offer this bit of advice that you are probably doing already as you are a seasoned adventurer... Keep detailed notes on where you acquire all items. Since I don't recall that it is mentioned in the manual I will ROT13 the rest.

    If you want to know WHY that may be helpful, only in general terms, read on: (ROT13)
    Fbzr xrl dhrfg vgrzf pna or hfrq zber guna whfg sbe gurve "xrl" checbfr. Gurfr vgrzf pna oernx/qvfnccrne sebz hfntr. Ohg sebz jung V erpnyy, gurl pna nyy or npdhverq ntnva sebz gur bevtvany ybpngvba.

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    1. To expand on that a little (also in ROT13, just in case, though my point is largely that this is easily derivable from available information):
      Vg sbyybjf anghenyyl sebz bar bs gur shaqnzragny qrfvta cbvagf bs gur Jvmneqel frevrf: Nyy cebterffvba vf onfrq ba rvgure culfvpny cbfvgvba va gur qhatrba, be vgrzf va lbhe vairagbel. Gurer ner ab "dhrfg syntf" yvxr va zbfg ECTf jvgu fbzr xvaq bs fgbel cebterffvba. Guvf zrnaf gung, sbe vafgnapr, va Jvmneqel V lbh pna nyjnlf tb onpx gb gur sebt fgnghr naq trg nabgure Fgnghrggr bs Sebt, nf ybat nf lbh qba'g pheeragyl unir bar va lbhe cnegl'f vairagbel. Juvyr Jvmneqel VI vf qvssrerag rabhtu gung vg jbhyqa'g arprffnevyl unir arrqrq gb qb vg guvf jnl, vg frrzf yvxryl gb or n snveyl shaqnzragny cneg bs gur ratvar.

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    2. I'm not going to unscramble this just yet, but after you read my next entry, if it still appears to you that I'm not getting something, I'd appreciate an alert.

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  12. PSA (helpful reminder): make periodic backups of your save game files/disk. Just in case...

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  13. I'm just watching season 4 of the retro-horror show Stranger Things and the kids there are fighting a dark wizard named Vecna. It's base on a D&D campaign which is part of the show. Coincidence?

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    1. I've been watching that, too. Great show. But my understanding is Vecna is a legit D&D character that predates Werdna.

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    2. Yes, Vecna dates from around 1976, although the name is an anagram of Vance. Jack Vance was one of the main influences over early D&D.

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    3. Then maybe Werdna is based on Vecna. From other comments, a lot of names seem inspired by preexisting fantasy characters.

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    4. ROT13 spoiler for Werdna in case you want to puzzle it out: Vg vf Naqerj fcryg onpxjneqf, naq gur tbbq xvat jnf Eboreg. Gubfr jrer gur anzrf bs gur bevtvany qrirybcref bs Jvmneqel.

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    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    6. I'm going to spoil the fun and say that 'Stranger Things' has stopped being a great show around the middle of season two.

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    7. I think the Venn diagram of people who enjoy this blog and people who would enjoy Stranger Things is a circle. That said, I agree with BESTIE. Season 1 was fantastic but the show has been getting a bit worse with each season.

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    8. I don't see any parallels between Vecna and Werdna except that they're both powerful evil wizards. Fiction has a lot of those.

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    9. Werdna <-> Andrew ... (C. Greenberg)
      Trebor <-> Robert ... (J. Woodhead)

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    10. V and W are phonetically interchangeable in some languages. So both names start with "Ve/We" and end with "na".

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    11. The resemblance is coincidental. Vecna is an anagram for Vance, while Werdna is Andrew backwards. Sometimes it was not aliens.

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    12. Timbo: Eh, I can't do horror and I sure like this blog

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    13. The first season was great fun, second season felt like an unnecessary encore.

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  14. Good luck with this one, playing Wizardry IV blind is gonna be hellish.

    Some of the puzzles are just straight up unfair.

    (Most of them are just absurdly hard).

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  15. One of my favorite games from back in the day being that Wizardry was my favorite series. Beat it on the Apple IIe without spoilers. But that was back when getting hints and tips wasn't easy so you couldn't really do much but think about it and keep trying. Definitely missed a bunch of stuff though which sent me back to replay it multiple times.

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  16. Scorpia famously wrote : "Wizardry
    IV is eminently fair and is perhaps,
    one of the most finely-balanced games
    I’ve ever played...
    While luck plays a small part, it is your
    knowledge of Wizardry, your ability to
    learn new ways of thinking, and your
    attention to detail that will get you
    through.

    In essence, the game is a challenge to
    the expert: "you think you’re good,
    here’s where you prove it".

    This time, you will have to do it all on your
    own (just about), because this is where
    we separate the Wizardry players from
    the Wizardry Masters and
    Grandmasters. It is up to you to prove
    just how good you are. Good luck, and
    I hope you don’t forget anything! "

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    1. So It's the Dark Souls of wizardry?

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    2. You can read about here (second game). WARNING: Contains SPOILERS !!!
      -> http://diehardgamefan.com/2008/05/23/the-7-games-you-play-in-hell/

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  17. nigh-impossible Time Zone

    I'm not sure if you read my playthrough; I kept time -- which I normally don't do -- just to see if Roe Adams's feat was possible (it is). What I found most interesting about it was the difficulty was wrapped up more in the raw size and red herrings than absurd actions. Probably the hardest bit for me involved just breaking a window, not exactly an unusual act! ... but it required re-framing what was expected of me in a particular time zone and re-thinking altogether how I was playing the game.

    I found Wizardry 4 to be harder (never finished) but I don't think I ever quite wrapped my head sufficiently around the concept.

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    1. Plus Wizardry IV's difficulty is more based around its non-standard way of playing, it doesn't even quite work like other entries in its series. Its rare for adventure games to do something like that.

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  18. The Wizardry games are among the few for which I kept detailed dungeon maps. I still have my RoW maps today. I apparently finished the game - in one of several possible endings - yet I've totally forgotten about a major section of the game that I've read about in walkthroughs.

    Wizardry and Dungeon Master are the two games (or series) that most inspired me to become a game designer.

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    1. It's funny to hear you say that because your own games are so unlike either Wizardry or Dungeon Master. They don't just go in their own direction; they seem to be coming at the concept of an RPG from a completely different direction. I suppose there's a good lesson there that influences can be hard to detect and we have to be careful with assumptions.

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    2. That seems like the best way to have influences, when you can genuinely appreciate the games which have already been made and then set out to make something which is not mere refinement of existing concepts. Like in the tabletop world where you had a million forgettable D&D clones, and then Call of Cthulhu - which surely would not exist without D&D, but is nothing like it.

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  19. I've definitely bumped into your blog a couple of times over the years, but I really sat down to read the last few weeks and have been devouring articles at quite the pace. Good to finally comment!

    I first encountered Werdna (possibly masochistically), looking back for harder older games to play and it did not disappoint there. (I'd only played Wiz 6-8 at that point) That said, it wasn't as quite as bad as I was expecting. Your posts about the permadeath and sending in a new party after a defeated one in W1 sounded to me another level of challenge above this.

    Great to see you return to the title, and I wish the best with it! Definitely echo what others have said above. Note where items were found. And yes you recall right, thieves are troublesome.

    Finally, thank you for the entertaining and interesting content! Definitely picked up some gems I hadn't heard about before and tried them out thanks to you. Currently trying Magic Candle - that combination of assembling clues from a wide open world is not done enough sadly..

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    1. "That combination of assembling clues from a wide open world is not done enough sadly." Amen, brother. It's essentially extinct today.

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    2. The game La Mulana is a recent example I can think of. However, it's not an rpg.

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    3. Assembling clues from a world of any width is more the provenance of "Adventure Games" on the computer. Tabletop RPGs traditionally have adventure game elements — depending heavily on your DM — but the Parser is a human, so you really can try anything. CRPGs that have adventure game elements are called "hybrids," but I think they are actually more true to the tabletop form. It's just a harder game to make.

      In computer games, I think CRPGs got the more "simulational" aspects of role playing, whereas adventure games get the puzzle-solving and storytelling. The games I like best have all three in strong measure.

      Which is why Star Control 2 is one of my most favoritest games, regardless of who thinks it's an RPG or not. :P

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    4. Not an RPG but Outer Wilds (NOT Outer Worlds) is exactly that. It’s immensely satisfying and may even teach you to accept your own mortality!

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    5. When I read the comment, Outer Wilds came immediately to mind.

      Easily one of my favorite games of the last 20 years.

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  20. "I'm not going to quit without winning it this time."

    I suppose you aren't going to quit your replay of Pool of Radiance without winning it either, but that doesn't mean you are making progress with it. I wouldn't be surprised if you lose interest in W4 for the same reasons you've apparently lost interest in PoR.

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    1. That's not at all fair, since he beat PoR — multiple times at this point — and just wanted to cover this amazing classic gamer in severe depth. But severe depth is maybe too much depth for most people.

      This is more like "the one that got away," and while Chet maybe quit a little too easily in the early days, he's more than made up for it with the likes of Fate and such.

      But... I suppose this is why you posted Anonymously, so you can take potshots with no perceived personal consequences.

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  21. I've been looking forward to this one for a while. I played through Wizardry IV last summer (albeit with a bunch of hints because I kept getting impatient), and I'm glad I did. I don't think I would ever want to play another game quite like it, but it was unique enough to be a memorable journey.

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  22. Something that unreasonably bothers me about this series is the obtuse spell naming. If a spell creates a ball of fire, why not call it fireball instead of gibberish?

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    1. It goes back to Oubliette, but I think it persists as a kind of copy protection.

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    2. IIRC the RPG Tunnels&Trolls called it "Take That, You Fiend!".

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    3. Tbh the spell naming helps to create the sense of a world. Particularly that there’s a kind of logic to some of the names. So it makes you think more is possible, something I find lacking in modern games

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    4. The Spell Names are based upon a logical system, which if I remember correctly were based upon either Arabic or Hebrew syllables.

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    5. Regardless of why, or how, it is the worst.

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    6. At least it's (mostly) consistent from game to game. One thing that always made the otherwise-immersive Ultima games feel less 'real' to me was having to learn a new spell system for each game.

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    7. How so? The Ultima spell system seems pretty consistent from the fifth game through Serpent Isle, including both Underworld titles, the MMORPG, and the novelization.

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    8. It's completely different in each of the first four games, which is to some extent understandable, given the growing level of programming sophistication that goes into each game. I actually quite liked IV's magic system - not all of the spells were all that useful, but you could figure out which ones were through trial and error and the alphabetized naming system made it easy to remember what did what. And then after they more or less stabilized it in V-VII, it's completely different again in VIII and IX (for my money, the worst games in the series). While Wizardry, in its early versions at least, doesn't have as detailed or immersive a world, things like retaining the spell system from game to game do at least make it consistent. Ultima's unquestionably a great series, but I think it was sometimes undone by its own ambitions.

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    9. stepped pyramidsJune 12, 2022 at 1:35 AM

      || was set on Earth, so it's not too surprising its magic system is different from I or III. You can generally assume that the major changes to Sosaria/Britannia between I, III, and IV were related to the changes in magic. But I'll admit that's just an excuse.

      VIII having a different magic system is not only justified by the plot but is a key element of the plot. IX has some inconsistencies with earlier games but it's hardly that game's biggest deviation from established lore.

      Wizardry also didn't maintain its spell system for the entire series, completely redoing it in VI.

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    10. I don't think that world consistency was much of a goal for the *early* games of either series, considering the abject silliness of both Ultima 2 and Wizardry 5.

      Rather, Ultima has aimed to use a new engine and mechanics for each installment; whereas Wizardry reuses the same engine for its first five games. So that's why early Ultima games each have different spells and early Wizardry games don't.

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  23. "Despite the ad, I'm not aware that a Tandy 1000 version of the game existed."

    My guess is that they've simply made sure that this MS-DOS version is compatible with it, but it (AFAIK) doesn't use any Tandy extra features such as 16 colors or 3-channel sound.

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  24. Now go finish Bards Tale 3!

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  25. I must admit, I've been waiting for YEARS for you to get back to this game and to do it proper justice...the Chet of 2022 might well be older, greyer, and probably has a bad back (much like me) than the one back in 2010 or whenever you originally covered it, but you've come along in leaps and bounds in your...chronicleshipness? Your digital archeology skills? Anyway, as you yourself rightly suppose, only now can you do games like this justice. Next top Bard's Tale II and Dungeon Master then? :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you need hair to get greyer...

      Burn!

      ...


      I'm losing my hair, so I can make this joke.

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    2. That's alright, I don't have any either these days. Bald and a goatee, to quote the popular satirical video.

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  26. I recently finished Dungeon Master for the first time and I went to reread your original coverage of it afterwards.

    I don't think you tretated it unfairly; you did a full playthrough and judged it accordingly to your enjoyment of it, as all other games.

    It is definitely a landmark game and its importance should not be underestimated; but IMHO a small retrospective of the genre after you go through EOTB3 and DM2 would be more interesting than a second replay of DM.

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    1. I would agree with that and I played DM right when it was released on Amiga. Chet has his own criteria and frankly I don't care what score he gives a game - I just enjoy reading about his experience. Especially if I played it, but also if I did not.

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  27. "The first major challenge of this difficult game is finding the way out of the 2 x 2 room that you start in. There's a secret door, but you need to reveal secret doors with the Level 1 priest spell MILWA or you can't use them. Werdna doesn't have Level 1 priest spells to start, so the only way out is to summon Level 1 priests as one of your ally groups. However, summoned allies don't cast spells except in combat, so you then have to wander around until you find a combat and then hope one of the priests chooses to cast MILWA during the combat (you can't control what they cast)."

    Geez, is this any better than moon logic puzzles in adventure games? There is a certain logic to it, but when the game requires the player to abuse its systems to this degree, the game might almost just as well expect you to rename your character in order to impersonate an NPC.

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    1. This game was definitely meant for Wizardry fans and a Wizardry fan would have had no problem with this puzzle. Must be a secret door? Need Milwa. Get a priest. On the other hand, somebody buying this off the shelf with no Wizardry background? I'd say this was impossible.

      It's possible there was a hint to this puzzle in the manual? If not, I mean, what the hell would a person who doesn't know Wizardry even think was happening?! "I just wasted fifty bucks!", probably.

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    2. From Wikipedia:

      Acknowledging the difficulty of this very first puzzle in the game, Sir-Tech included a sealed envelope in the game package containing its solution, to be opened if the player couldn't figure it out on their own.

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    3. The retail box was clearly labeled "FOR EXPERTS ONLY" and the back of the box contained further warnings. This wasn't a game for the public like Gabriel Knight III.

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    4. Just that one puzzle? I like their moxy.

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    5. I hit this series somewhat backwards. I got 8 originally, but eventually hit 6-8 before fully tackling 8 standalone.

      Then 4.... that did make understanding some problems like the above pretty hard. There is no MILWA in 6-8. It's not the only time the game does this though... Thankfully not a problem for our author.

      Delete
  28. Are "Garian raiders" supposed to be "Gorean raiders"?

    Houseplants of Gor is still worth a read today.

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    Replies
    1. Ffffffff. 1) You are probably right about that reference

      2) Gor is one of the few fantasy or science fiction novels I put back on the shelf as a teenager, despite the promise of sex, due to how freaking stilted the writing was

      3) I'm not remembering Houseplants of Gor and the words coming to my head aren't ones our illustrious leader would like me using in his comments section. One of those parodies that sticks with you, no matter how much you wish it wouldn't.

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    2. The guy who wrote the Gor books is also a hard-core misogynist. The sex scenes that teenage you was looking forward to make Terry Goodkind look like a paragon of sensitivity.

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    3. This is a case where the accusation definitely sticks. The author's real name was John F. Lange, and he taught philosophy at one of the CUNY schools (can't recall which one off the top of my head). He was pretty open about the Gor novels reflecting his ideal notion of gender relations.

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    4. Yep, learned that later in life. Also when I was wandering around roleplay communities on second life I got really creepy vibes off the Gorean RP communities that I didn't get from any of the other kink communities or fantasy roleplay communities. They just seemed...odd. Sure were a lot of them as well.

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    5. Any particular reason my comment (question) was deleted?

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    6. Somewhere between the two 100Floors comments, Anonymous asked: "Was he? Or were his characters misogynists in a misogynist society?" I have no idea how that got deleted.

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  29. A bit late on this one, but I remember being super happy when you decided to give another go to TERA after abandoning in your early blogging era - especially since I had finished that game. I guess all the W4 fans must be happy :).

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  30. As an aside, how is Angband going? I feel like playing a long, tedious game alongside one known for being challenging might end up being a very frustrating experience...

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    1. I've bee doing a couple of levels every week or so. I decided I'd post about it again when I got to Level 50 or enough new stuff happened that I had enough material for an entry.

      Delete
  31. For those who'd like to dive into them (again), but are deterred by the need to map, there is an automapping retrofit for Wizardry 1-5, Might and Magic 1-5 and Bard's Tale 1-3:
    https://www.eskimo.com/~edv/lockscroll/WhereAreWe/.
    Background here: https://www.pcgamesn.com/where-are-we.

    (I think it has come up somewhere in the comments on this blog before, but since that was probably many years ago and readership might have changed quite a bit, this felt like a good place to mention it again.)

    It's for Windows only, though - couldn't get it to run on a Mac through WINE. If anyone has hints on how to do that (or Linux), it might be helpful.

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    Replies
    1. Great find. Thank you very much. Now I don't have to paste every weapon statistic into notepad, when I get a new one. Comfortable Might and Magic III replay incoming - yeah!

      Delete
  32. Fearless Fred might be a reference to the Dwarf who gets shanked by hobgoblins in the Moldvay edition D&D. I heard his player had an habit of playing dwarves, all called Fred, and as they got killed pretty quickly he numbered them up to 4 thousand or so.

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  33. Kind of like how Ash in Alien admires the purity of the monster, I admire the purity of this game. They made what is probably the most difficult RPG to ever get a major commercial release. Though it's probably more correct to classify this as a puzzle game than as an RPG. I wonder if the whole "expert level scenario" is also similar to what Infocom was doing with their games. They would release their games with different difficulty levels.

    Despite the purity of the game, according to Robert Sirotek, this was the worst selling Wizardry game and had horrible word of mouth because people would get frustrated and give up on it. I guess even in the 80s, artists had to compromise on their ideals for the sake of commercialism. It would've been interesting to see what Roe R Adams would've done if he continued as a game developer since he was a key figure in the gaming world in the 80s (Ultima, Bard's Tale, Wizardry).

    ReplyDelete
  34. Did Wiz IV not have an EGA option? Hate that disgusting CGA fuchsia and seafoam green.

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    1. It's a tad easier on the eyes with composite artifact coloring, though I'm not sure Chet ever enabled that. I doesn't seem to be handled well in mainline DOSBox anyway, at least according to this:

      https://forum.vcfed.org/index.php?threads/cga-composite-emulators-accuracy.80237/

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