Friday, June 24, 2022

The Return of Werdna: Maybe Just a Ziggurat More

Didn't this used to be Werdna's dungeon? He should know about a huge temple in the middle of it.
       
I remembered Level 7, called "Temple of the Dreampainter" by one of the messages, from my first attempt at the game. In fact, it was the last level that I fully played. The level is shaped like a ziggurat, with some associated weirdness that I'll cover in this entry. You basically have to work your way "up" (north, so nothing to do with the "what's east" clue) to the apex room.
       
What I didn't remember was the difficulty of foes along the way. The enemy parties are essentially unbeatable at the level you encounter them. It took me less time to map Level 7 than Level 8 (the mine level), but I made less actual progress--which, as covered before, really just means less gold.
   
The level opens at the stairway in the southwest, which is surrounded by a ring of "dark" squares that you have to feel your way through. The summoning pentagram is only two rooms to the east, but the game has a way of putting enemy parties as fixed encounters on the other sides of doors. I had to reload several times in the last session to make it to the pentagram. It was fortunate then that I was exploring in a "rightmost" path because going the other way, it would have taken me forever to find the pentagram.
         
My map of Level 7, which confuses "north" and "up."
       
The game tries to have it both ways with the geography. North is clearly north--you're not climbing or anything. There are no ropes. You don't have to cast a "Levitation" spell. Yet if you move through any of the six doors that take you "outside" of the ziggurat, the game acts as if you're on a ledge. If you then move east from any of these ledges, you "fall" to the lower ledge and take damage.
 
Even weirder, if you move north from any of the ledge squares, the game has you "fall" back to the square you departed from, as if by moving north you somehow jumped so high that you took damage falling back down. 
     
Yo, dawg. I heard you liked dungeons. So we put a 10-level dungeon inside your 10-level dungeon!
        
The two enemy parties that you encounter while trying to map all of this are Sorriman's Sorcerers and Thorin's Tramplers. The Sorcerers' silly battle cry is, "Bubble bubble toil and cuddle!" Of them, only Sorriman is a mage, although he does have a samurai named Zac. The rest are two fighters, a bishop, and a priest. Sajak is probably a reference to the Wheel of Fortune host, and Sorriman is a real last name. The party hits hard, casts hard, and has a ton of hit points, particularly Sorriman and Zac. I was able to kill them all a couple of times, but only at the cost of almost all my party members.
         
It's not fair that they can cast the same spells I can!
      
The Sorcerers drop a cloak labeled "USE ME" in the post-combat loot list and a "Cape of Jackal" in actual inventory. Either way, it's cursed and adds 9 to your armor class. Still, I put it in the black box in case someone's looking for it later. I suspect that's going to be a common thing.
         
That's not a good sign.
    
Thorin's Tramplers says, "Stomp 'em boys!" when they attack. Thorin, a bishop, has 300 hit points and likes to cast MOLITO (mass damage) and KATINO (sleep), so he can do a lot of damage before you take him down. If you can kill them, you find a "Mordorcharge" card on their bodies. I don't know what it's for. The oracle theoretically accepts "credit" for his clues, but I've had enough cash to pay him. [Ed. As Adamant points out below, the in-game charge card is an analogue to a physical version that came with at least the Apple II version of the game.]
         
I made the mistake of leaving Thorin alive in a previous encounter.
     
I discovered a new aspect of the game mechanics on this level: If you manage to defeat an enemy party without technically killing everyone, such as if the final characters are slept or paralyzed, they'll attack you again, but with all of the enemies you previously killed joining as "DEAD." You then just have to fight the ones that survived.
       
Even individual enemies are tough on this level. Plenty of them are mages capable of LAHALITO and other mass-damage spells. The fighters have a ton of hit points and often last long enough to kill someone (or last long enough that someone flees).
     
I don't know if it makes sense to list the individual enemies anymore; no one seems to be having fun guessing the source of the names. But I'll do it for at least this one level:
  • AC/DC, an evil mage.
  • Bankis, a neutral mage.
  • Bonis, a neutral fighter. 
  • Cutter, a neutral fighter.
  • Electro, a good fighter. 
  • Flint, a good fighter.
  • Laenger, a good bishop.  
  • Lance, a neutral fighter.
  • Lignin Lord, an evil fighter.
  • Sakura, an evil mage. He carries a Staff of Mogref. MOGREF isn't a great spell (reduces AC for the caster by two points), but it's still a better weapon than a plain dagger.
  • Tele-Vipers, a good mage. She's high enough to cast MAKANITO ("Deadly Air"), which I won't get until the next level.
  • Voltar, a good mage.
  • Warty, a neutral mage. He carries a Staff +2 and a Jeweled Amulet. Unless I'm interested in casting MOGREF a lot, a Staff +2 is a better weapon.
     
As for allies, the pattern I've settled into since the lowest level is staffing my party with a) one group capable of casting priest spells; b) one group capable of casting mage spells; and c) a melee group, ideally with a special attack like paralysis or level-drain. On this level, there are only two choices for a) and b): priestesses and goblin shamans. (I would think "shamans" would cast priest spells, but they don't and I'm not complaining.) That leaves a lot of options for the third group. Cockatrices, strangler vines, giant toads, and vorpal bunnies all have special attacks (petrify, poison, poison, and decapitate) but they activate so rarely that they're not of much use. Most of the other allies are just interchangeable melee attackers. Towards the end of the level, I started to value blink dogs. Their appearance makes little sense here, as the game's mechanics don't allow for them to use the one ability (blinking) that they're known for. Their attack isn't very strong, either. But they do self-replenish by calling for friends, so they work well as a regenerating meat shield. 
       
Where are these monsters coming from? Are they created when I summon them? Am I yanking them from their daily lives?
     
The entire pyramid is composed of 2 x 2 blocks, making mapping somewhat boring and predictable. Most of the west side is a waste of time, as there's nothing to find and it's closed off from the rest of the pyramid. There are multiple paths to the top if you wait until you're in one of the four eastmost bottom squares before you start going north. There's an insidious secret door at 8,13 that I missed the first time I went through the room because I didn't have "Light" active. 
 
You enter the apex room in the southwest, where a message reads: "Priest's Hole. For emergency use only!" There's a door going west from here. If you take it, you get a message about an orange rod drifting in the air to the west of your location on the ledge. If you turn around, you find the door has sealed behind you and you have no choice but to fall all the way down to the first level, block by block, which you can only survive if you brought some DIOS potions with you (falling costs 8 hit points per block) I eventually stocked up with enough of them that I was able to test every single ledge, on both sides, which is the sort of thing you have to do in this game just in case one of those squares had some special item or encounter. Incidentally, I had to reload the first time I went out this one-way door. I hadn't saved since the pentagram. You can imagine the torrent of profanity that followed. 
      
There's at least one thing to come back for.
    
The second time I reached the apex room, I saved there in an alternate slot. (Allowing eight save slots is one of the few ways this game is actually a bit easy.) The southeastern square says, "This way to the scenic vista!," with a silly note about accompaniment needed for "children under the age of 90." Moving outside--the door mercifully does not seal behind you--you get a message about how wondrous the scenic vista looks, and how you can see the ladder to the next level on the ziggurat's roof.
 
Did Werdna mandate the creation of this sign when he was in charge of the dungeon? If not, who did?
        
 
How am I seeing anything in a dark dungeon?
      
The northwest corner of the top room has an altar. You can offer gold or an item. If you choose gold, half your gold disappears for no apparent gain. In any other game, I'd do it anyway just in case it's important later. Generally, in the early Wizardry games, all progress is measured by inventory. There are no flags for encounters having already been tripped. We've seen that you can return to the same places again and again, so I'm skeptical that donating half my gold trips any switch that the game later consults. On the other hand, the progression of clues given to you by the Oracle isn't based on inventory. Somehow, the game remembers where he left off. So might it not remember other things? I ultimately left without giving half my gold, but if it becomes important later, I'll take a hint.
      
It's not like I was representing it as gold. I just thought it had some value despite its name.
    
That leaves items. If you try to give it the golden pyrite, a bolt of lightning strikes and kills you, the message saying that "the gods are not as foolish as you are!" If you put any of the other three treasures from the lower levels--bloodstone, Lander's turquoise, or the amber dragon--a bolt of lightning comes and destroys them. Anything else disappears before it hits the altar.
    
While unequipping items to make room for more treasures to try, I saw that the treasures can be "invoked." I had missed that earlier, since I put them all right into the black box. Each "glows ethereally" when invoked. After invocation, the altar says that each item "nestles in the depression . . . as if it has become a part of the altar." 
       
I'm afraid to know what will happen.
       
Once you've sacrificed all three treasures, three magical swords appear above the altar. A voice says, "Take ye one of these swords as a reward for restoring unto me my sacred temple." Your choices are green, blue, and amber. 
      
Even without something in my inventory, the game "knows" I've already donated to this altar.
       
A couple of entries ago, commenter Jeearr warned me that this was a "point of no return," as the choice of weapon determines the ending to the game. I kind-of remember hearing this somewhere else, too. Jeearr recommended I leave it until much later if I wanted to experience multiple endings. Commenter Jon Lundy replied that you could just discard the sword later and go get another one to experience the ending based on it. I tested it by choosing "green" and getting the East Wind Sword. When I returned to the altar, it said that it was bright and resplendent, a post-donation message. I then dropped the East Wind Sword and returned, and it allowed me to choose one of the three swords again. I thought it would make me find and donate the three treasures again first. 
         
The message I get when I have a sword, so it's clearly reading my inventory.
       
So clearly, I can change my choice of sword, but equally clearly, the game uses a non-inventory-based flagging system for some of the things that happen. I therefore don't know if a) I can experience multiple endings by changing my choice of sword at the key moment; or b) the game remembers my initial choice and determines the ending based on that. I'd appreciate confirmation either way. In the meantime, I left the swords alone and headed up the stairway to Level 6.
 
I'll have to come back to this level eventually anyway. There's at least one thing to pick up in the dead space off to the sides of the ziggurat, and there's one 2 x 2 room with no entrance that I can find. MALOR should take care of both issues if I don't find a solution before then.
   
So far, Werdna has been difficult only in the amount of time I've had to invest, and even to that extent it's not much more difficult than a regular Wizardry. But I did have some memory remnants of the first four levels, and because I knew I had defeated them before, I knew I could do it again. We'll be in uncharted territory when I next write.
  
[Ed. Apparently, I was mis-remembering, and I actually completed Level 6 and a little of Level 5 back in 2010. I don't remember anything about it, though, so in some ways it will be "uncharted territory."]
    
Time so far: 20 hours

56 comments:

  1. I for one, like the names. I rarely get the reference, but it is neat to see what people named their characters.

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    1. Agreed! Although many of the names don't mean anything to me, it's still fun to see the array of references that pop up together: LotR, Prydain, Belgariad, Dragonlance, etc.

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    2. I'm really doubting that every single person who mailed in a disk named their party [NAME]'s [NOUN].

      I mean, like every single one followed this pattern. Why aren't there parties named "The Fellowship of the Ring" or "The Grammarians" or whatever?

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    3. Wizardry really didn't give you an option to name your party, so I assume that the party names are a creation of the developers. The mailed-in disks might have just been used for the single-character encounters.

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    4. stepped pyramidsJune 24, 2022 at 4:45 PM

      It seems likely that the party names and even some of the party compositions were made up by Sir-Tech, rather than taken from players.

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    5. I wonder if anyone on the blog is one of the people to send in a character? Would be kinda cool to see if the (reasonable) assumption of what characters were named after assorted people and what was just coincidences.

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  2. "We'll be in uncharted territory when I next write."

    Hmm...I could swear that the first time you played this games you reached the penultimate level, looked at the map in the clue book, and failed a morale check.
    But since then you have prevailed through The Chaos in Dark Heart of Uukrul...

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    1. I didn't get that far, but you're right that I got a little farther. I just checked the post in which I bailed on the game, and apparently I got through Level 6 and even a little of Level 5 before I decided to quit. Oddly, my mapbook doesn't have a map for Levels 6 or 5, so I don't know how that's possible. However, the entry leads with a screenshot that could have only come from Level 5.

      In that entry, I wrote: "Fairly certain in my decision to pack it in, I risked a peek at a walkthrough--just a peek--and immediately felt even better about my decision. Take a look at this map for Level 4."

      My guess, knowing my past self a little, is that I got sick of the game well before that, and used a walkthrough's map to get through Level 6, and felt bad enough for playing an "adulterated" version of the game that it contributed to my decision to quit.

      If I had just played one level at a time, taking it easy, and alternating with another game, I wouldn't have put myself in a situation where i faced such a moral collapse.

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  3. I've always thought of the ziggurat as being on an incline, and moving north means going uphill.

    @PO: I think he made it to level 6 or 5 and gave up when he saw the map of level 4, but I could be wrong. Level 7 isn't really that hard puzzle-wise, but that's when the enemies get a quite a bit tougher, at least before the pentagram.

    @ Chet: good observation on the stones and swords, but I think this particular situation is still inventory based. I won't say why because it would be a spoiler, I won't even ROT-13 it because might ruin stuff later on.

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    1. if you imagine that North/South facing doorways have stairs, this almost works - you're moving North and Up, and moving East off the edge would have you fall to the level below.

      However, if you moved North from a ledge space, you'd just be walking on the outside of the ziggurat, rather than perplexingly falling and taking damage.

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    2. Maybe, but there could be stairs going North, or some kind of incline. I try not to overthink it too much. I also took the Dreampainter to be an early wielder of the Cosmic Forge (similar concept). I figure Bradley may have been inspired by this in a similar way that W5 uses an orb like in W3.

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  4. I think Sorriman is an allusion to Saruman rather than a last name.

    Also, I've never played this game, but it looks like you just passed the point where the Oracle's first clue was applicable. PT Barnum was known for putting a sign in his circus saying "this way to the egress" to get rid of people who didn't want to leave, and the sign text makes it very clear that it's inspired by that story. So the Oracle's first clue about the egress leading to the exit indicates you need to take that door instead of the other, one-way door to practically certain death at this point.

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    1. I really failto see how you get from "Priest's Hole. For emergency use only!" and "The egress shall set you free" to "don't use the door on the left".

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    2. That isn't the sign I was referring to. The sign that evokes PT Barnum is "This way to the scenic vista! Children under the age of 90 must be accompanied by..." which the Addict found silly but it's the clue linking to the circus sign.

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    3. Ah! I hadn't made the Barnum connection, but it makes sense. So, the idea is that players with limited vocabularies back in the 1980s were looking for some NPC or creature called the "Egress," not realizing that the clue simply referred to an exit.

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    4. You will know when you reach a reference to the Oracle Egress clue. There is nothing subtle about it.

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    5. The main purpose of the oracle clue is mostly just to inform less literate players what the word "egress" means, so considering Chet's original reaction to the clue it's unlikely the clue is going to benefit him in any way once he reaches the relevant spot.

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    6. I still fail to see how you get from "This way to the scenic vista!" and "The egress shall set you free" to "don't use the door on the left". Sounds like a deliberate red herring to me (and frankly, old RPGs tend to have a ton of red herrings or outright false statements in oracular musings, pub gossip, or fortune cookies).

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    7. As Jon said, the oracle's egress clue has nothing to do with these doors. Some of the clues can be pretty obtuse, but they're generally clues towards actual PUZZLES, not simple "if you enter this door you'll have to backtrack" traps.

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    8. Oh, that's really interesting. OK. Like I said, I haven't played this game so I guess the Egress clue applies later, but I would be really interested to see why they chose the circus-like wording and pretty much the exact phrase "This way to the .." for the "right" sign.

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    9. This wasn’t the egress clue. But you were completely correct that it was a PT Barnum reference. And I’m pretty sure Adamant was correct that the oracle clue was a vocabulary aid.

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    10. Also, supporting the idea that Sorriman -> Saruman, there's Warmtung (Wormtongue) in the very same party. And Thorin leading the other party on this level.

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  5. Hunh...four of those names are GI Joe names....Cutter, Flint, Tele-Viper(s), and Voltar....but Voltar didn't debut untill 1988...wonder if the different releases had different adventurers.

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    1. Cutter is also possibly an ElfQuest reference.

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    2. Flint *could* be a reference to a Dragonlance character. Although seeing several GI Joe characters together could indicate otherwise.

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  6. "Without knowing what futurism is like, Johansen achieved something very close to it when he spoke of the city; for instead of describing any definite structure or building, he dwells only on broad impressions of vast angles and stone surfaces—surfaces too great to belong to anything right or proper for this earth, and impious with horrible images and hieroglyphs. I mention his talk about angles because it suggests something Wilcox had told me of his awful dreams. He said that the geometry of the dream–place he saw was abnormal, non– Euclidean, and loathsomely redolent of spheres and dimensions apart from ours" (Call of Cthulhu)

    So maybe the Dreampainter is just an Elder God, twisting the spatial dimensions around its temple?

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  7. Since you didn't recognize the term "Mordorcharge", I assume you're playing a cracked version of some kind? The original game came with a plastic Mordorcharge card trinket (just for fun) plus a small booklet with a valid card list, which served as the game's copy protection - the game would regularly stop to ask for a specified Mordorcharge Card's validation code, which you had to look up in the booklet. To prevent photocopying, the booklet was printed black on dark red, which was obnoxiously difficult to read (and impossible to photocopy, since it would just copy as black), annoying players to no end:
    https://i.imgur.com/U07yVji.jpg

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    1. just 2 minutes trying to read this gave me headache.

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    2. Additionally, at least the first Wizardry's manual mentioned Boltac's Trading Post taking Visa and Mordorcharge.

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    3. @Adamant: I seem to recall Chet bought the Ultimate Wizardry Archives to play the games (I think because he ran into some problems getting one to work?). These probably don't include such extras. Also, the copy protection was removed for all games in said compilation.

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    4. That is correct. After having trouble with, I think, W2 or W3, I bought the Ultimate Wizardry Archives, a 1998 compilation, but I'm assured by the Internet that the versions of W1-5 in the Archives are the original self-booting disk images for the PC. I don't know if they removed the copy protection in the process of packaging the game in the Archives or if it never existed for the PC version.

      Either way, the in-game "Mordorcharge" card is something different than the external one. I figured out one use for it, although I don't understand why I would use it for that purpose.

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    5. The flavor text on the Mordorcharge booklet does actually explain what the deal with the ingame card is too.

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    6. @Chet re copy protection: the reference card for the UWA says:
      "All of the Wizardry games have originally been copy
      protected in one form or another. We have removed
      these copy protections from the game for your ease
      of use."
      (https://www.mocagh.org/sir-tech/wizarchive-refcard.pdf)

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    7. Only paying customers got punished by having to read that eyestrain-inducing abortion. Pirates got a game that played normally.

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    8. I can personally attest to being stymied by manual-based copy protection. This was long before the era of Internet piracy when you'd just download a cracked release - me and my circle of computer-gaming friends would simply share copies of the games we bought, the idea of it being illegal not even crossing our minds, and if the game asked you to look up things in the manual, then that was tough luck - you just had to borrow the manual from its owner or buy your own copy. None of us had even heard of the crack group scene at the time.

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    9. Yeah, I think manual-based copy protection was probably effective against most pirates. I wouldn't have known how to crack it, and I didn't know anybody who would have.

      The UWA reference card only says that it removed copy protection, not the specific type of copy protection that it removed. What i'm looking for is a copy of the credit card number list that would have come with the PC Booter version.

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    10. I remember we spent hours copying copy protection documents by hand when it came to photocopier-protected sneakery like this one. Not possible with Wizardry 4 though, as the horrible little book contains eight THOUSAND codes.

      Of course, that meant the correct codes were calculated rather than just stored in the game, and magazines eventually figured out the system and how to deduce the correct code without the booklet. Well played, Sir-Tech, but not good enough.

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    11. @Chet: You mean this here, I assume: https://mocagh.org/sir-tech/wiz4-cardlist.pdf.

      According to a WizIV guide page (contains Spoilers! - https://www.tk421.net/wizardry/wiz4guide.shtml), this "Mordor Charge Valid Card List ... is the copy protection, and is printed in that irritating black-on-dark-red-paper fashion. This copy protection doesn't exist in the Archives version."

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    12. We didn't let manual-based CP stop us when we were kids.. those wheels that came with gold-box games, bards tale 2 and 3, etc.. we just took them apart, copied each piece and assembled new wheels. Didn't have to cut the holes, you could just lift the top part and see where the hole would be and read the value.

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    13. What! There I was, punching holes like a sucker...

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  8. Also, the scenic vista is a Zork reference. In Zork III you at one point run into an area where you find the following: "Mounted on one wall is a table labeled "Scenic Vista," whose featureless surface is angled toward you. One might believe that the table was used to indicate points of interest in the view from this spot, like those found in many parks. On the other hand, your surroundings are far from spacious and by no stretch of the imagination could this spot be considered scenic."
    The viewing table is a teleporter you can look through to see locations from Zork I, II, III and (neatly foreshadowing its sequel) IV, and of course also jump through to visit these locations.

    In Wizardry IV, the joke is of course that the scenic vista really IS a scenic vista, like the label said.

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    1. And Zork's Scenic Vista is a reference to Adventure's breathtaking view.

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  9. I distinctly remember going back to swap out swords to see alternate endings when I played.

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  10. Having never played Wizardry, does it make a difference whether the hero you fight is good or evil ?

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    1. In Wizardry, alignment primarily just affects which character classes are available for the character. You're also not allowed to have good and evil characters on the same team (at least not in theory, there is a workaround).

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    2. According to the manual to the first game, evil characters aren't really evil, they're just basically jerks (selfish). It says they'll still help old ladies cross the street, but for a price. They're still against the real evil of bigger jerks like Werdna, who would still consider them do-gooders by comparison. But these evilish characters still don't party with good ones, at least not in the tavern...

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    3. You can’t mix good and evil characters in the same party. However in the third wizardry there were levels that you had to have a good or evil party to enter. So for that game you had to develop both alignments to win. Looking back at the blog it looks like our gracious host had the much better approach of switching alignments by attacking allied entities.

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    4. @Anon - Actually you CAN mix good and evil characters in the same party, just not at the tavern. You can send a few good characters into the dungeon, even in the first two games, and then send a few evil characters and Search. That way you can add characters of opposite alignment to the party. You can also have a good ninja or thief and an evil Lord or Samurai depending on how you handle friendly dungeon encounters. The only kinds of characters you can't have are neutral priests, bishops, Lords or Ninjas.

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    5. Let me add that this works for the DOS version from the Ultimate Wizardry Archives. I don't know whether it works for other versions.

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  11. The game checks which sword you have equipped so you can go back and change it later.

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  12. Is it possible to spend all the million keys? keystrokes

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    1. There are so many that I think it would take days even if weighed down a key. Maybe something happens that consumes a lot of them later.

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    2. Assuming one keystroke per second, continuously, that would take about a week and a half (11.57 days). I think they only included the keys thing to add to the psychological horror of playing this game, not to be an actual barrier to success. That or the original idea was to be a lot fewer keys, and they then decided it would be too sadistic.

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  13. I think the key strokes just affect your end score iirc.

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  14. Sorry, I didn't realize I could not post anonymously.

    I was trying to say that iirc the key strokes affect only your end game score. So less there is, the higher your score.

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    1. That makes sense, though I can't imagine anyone playing this game really caring about his "score" as long as he wins it.

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