Thursday, July 14, 2022

The Return of Werdna: You Can't Get There from Here

Not even in defiance could I pretend to "enjoy my travels" on this level.
Throughout my coverage of this game, I have reiterated my feelings that mapping is an inextricable part of not only this game but any first-person game created in this era, including the first couple Might and Magics and Bard's Tales. This isn't elitism or some kind of fondness that only old-school players can relate to. Mapping is built into the very fabric of these games, such that the developers included it in their very estimations of game pacing and length. The first Wizardry is a 20-hour game if you map and a 5-hour game if you don't. But more importantly, the player who doesn't map Wizardry has no excuse to go poking down the various hallways and thus doesn't experience the encounters along the way. He reaches Level 2 far earlier than he's ready to experience Level 2. Later, he complains that the game is "grindy" because he didn't experience encounters as part of the natural pacing that comes with making the map.

Mapping is its own reward, something to show for all your work. That same Wizardry, Might and Magic, or Bard's Tale player might die dozens of times from first-level encounters before the party finally is able to level up to a point that the introductory areas are no longer dangerous. If all you're doing is fighting during those hours, your perception of the game is going to be warped. You'll think it's too hard and features too much combat. But the developers clearly intended for you to experience these difficult stages as part of filling in the map of Skara Brae, Sorpigal, or the Proving Grounds. In all three of those games, a completed map of their first levels (or introductory towns) comes at right about the time that the party is powerful enough to move on.

Even in games with utterly boring maps, mapping helps create this kind of balance. But in the best games, the maps themselves have their own challenges and rewards. When the developer does something particularly clever with wall patterns or teleporters or spinners, it's only fun and satisfying when the player uncovers these things himself, not when some online map alerts him before the game even begins. Maps also serve as handy ways to make notes, and to annotate puzzles that you can't yet solve or areas too tough for current exploration. To me, there's nothing more satisfying than settling into an CRPG with a cold soda at my side and a fresh sheet of graph paper in front of me. When a man is tired of mapping, he is tired of CRPGs.
Even if you don't feel the same way that I do, you have to pretend you do to understand how badly Level 4 abuses the inveterate mapper. The level isn't just hard to map; it sets out to destroy the player's very love of mapping, his very faith in maps as a tool. Except for the need to find certain key encounters, I'm not sure the player who maps does any better on this level than the player who finds his way blindly. Having finished the level, my "map" is little more than confirmation that I've visited each square and thus haven't missed any important encounters. Don't ask me to use it for directions.
Do not try to use this map to play your own game. I make no guarantees to its accuracy.
Listening to my hyperbole, you might expect that the map has a lot of spinners, teleporters, secret doors, hidden traps, or Dungeon Master-style puzzles. The map has none of these things. The author created this hellscape with only two simple gimmicks. The first is one-way walls. These look like empty space from one side and a solid wall from the other. It's a simple concept, not even hard to map when the level features only one or two of them. When practically every wall is a one-way wall, however, it creates utter chaos. Look at my map of the level and try to figure out how to get from any place to any other place.

A few of the one-way walls take you into rooms (marked by skulls and crossbones) from which there is no exit. A message warns you of this so you don't waste a lot of time trying to figure out how to leave. (Even MALOR doesn't work, as we'll cover.) All you can do is quit and reload. The infuriating thing is that you can tell where these death cages are because you can see the marking on the floor that indicates that they have a message. But this game requires you to find important encounters marked with the same symbol, so you have to force yourself to walk on every one of them just in case one is not a trap but a key item or NPC.
This happens six times on this level.
The second gimmick is rarer but also more insidious. The squares marked with "@" are not spinners (which is what I usually use that symbol for) but rather rooms where you remain fixed and the room itself rotates, always clockwise. Each of them has a combination of solid walls and open walls. To enter one, one opening of course has to be facing you. Once you enter, it rotates once, putting the opening you used immediately to your left and (usually) closing the way behind you. You can pass time and get an exit to appear where you want by entering and leaving camp but you have to be careful where you leave the room, as you might not be able to get back to the rotating room, and the configuration of walls that you leave may block off parts of the map. Fortunately, these rotating rooms reset when you leave the level and return. If they didn't there would be entire sections of the map, including one just north of where you enter it, where you could get permanently stuck. As it is, I don't think there are any places except the "cage" rooms (which warn you right away) that leave you stranded permanently, but the map is hard to interpret, and I certainly haven't worked out every possible permutation of the rotating rooms.
All four of these shots are from the same square facing the same direction as the room rotates around me.

Both of these features are extremely hard to map. First, you don't know whether a wall is a one-way wall or a solid wall until you see it from the other side. I settled into a pattern of making it solid until I'd worked my way around, then turned it into a dotted line with an arrow if it indeed was open from the other side. Since everything depends on the perspective from specific squares, you have to track which squares you've been in carefully. After a certain point, though, the map is just a mess of arrows. It doesn't give you any real sense of how to navigate the level. As for the rotating rooms, I just put dotted lines around them. How do you annotate on a map that "three of these walls will be closed and one open, but I can't tell you which will be which"?
While you're trying to find your way through this nightmare, of course enemies are attacking you. As I reported on the last level, both Werdna and the enemies he faces are so deadly with MAKANITO ("Deadly Air"), LAKANITO ("Vacuum"), TILTOWAIT ("Ka-Blam!") that combat comes down to who goes first. Since the worst enemy attacks affect all groups of monsters (including Werdna), allies have become almost superfluous. They help soak up some of the lesser spells and melee attacks, but few of them can be relied upon to wipe out an enemy mage or priest in the first round. I found the allies on this level particularly underwhelming. They're almost all physical attackers, some with a status effect or two, but we're way past the point where poison or even level drain is terribly useful. Giant mantises, which have a decapitation attack, are sometimes effective. Dark riders and evil eyes have up to Level 3 spells, but I was getting better than that two levels ago. I ended up going back a couple of pentagram pages and summoning wights and Priests of Fung most of the time, along with mantises or myrmidons. Myrmidons seem to suck, but I thought I might need them because they're mentioned in The Iliad--they might, in fact, appear there for the first time. Maybe I'll need them later.
Allies of Werdna or Marvel Comics characters?
The two enemy parties on this level were Dorion's Grays ("Well, curse your soul!"), which has two high-level mages and a high-level priest, and Khan's Kosmic Killers ("C'mon, do you want to live forever?"--a Conan the Barbarian reference), with two high-level mages, a priest, and a bishop. The Killers drop a "Get-out-of-jail-free" card that will remove you from one of the "cage" rooms.
The Killers kill me.
There is a smaller number of wandering enemies, thankfully:
  • Brud, a neutral samurai.
  • Celica, a neutral fighter.
  • Darwin, a neutral fighter. 
  • Demonslayer, a good ninja.
  • Deadly Hand, an evil ninja.
  • Double-Strike, a good bishop.
  • Dr. X, an evil fighter.
  • Fireslinger, a good fighter.
  • Shandra, an evil priest. 
  • Stalker, a neutral thief. He drops a "Night Cloak." It didn't seem to be better than my "Good Hope Cape."
  • Starleto, an evil fighter.
  • Toranaga, an evil bishop. Casts MAKANITO.
  • Trueno, a neutral mage. 
  • Urbo, an evil fighter.
  • Yuron, a good mage. 
Werdna gets what I assume is his last level-up on this level, which grants him TILTOWAIT, MALOR ("Teleport"), and MAHAMAN ("Beseech"). I had been looking forward to MALOR, which I wouldn't have done if I'd known that it simply doesn't work. You can't even use it to move you one square along a perfectly open path. And trying and failing resets the level! MAHAMAN doesn't work any better than its lesser version (HAMAN), either; the game just says that the gods can't hear me. So a lot of enemies are getting TILTOWAITED, but I think LAKANITO is the better go-to spell. 
Trying to cast MALOR.
Trebor is still around, too. I haven't mentioned him in a couple of entries because it's rarer that he gets me, but it still happens a few times per level. 
If there's an ending that lets me torture Trebor for eternity, that's the one I'm taking.
There are a couple of key encounters on the level. I came across an old witch stirring a cauldron. "A man with your aspirations," she said, "should definitely have some of my famous 'Blue Blood' special." She said she'd need six ingredients from me to finish the recipe. She further noted that I already had four of them: camphor, rabbit's fur, "fe-s-sub-2," and tannic acid. I don't have any of those things specifically, but I'm guessing the rabbit's fur is one of my hats or cloaks, "fe-s-sub-2" is the pyrite (FeS₂), and the tannic acid is my witching rod, since I recovered it from a pool of such. Finally, camphor is almost certainly the "aromatic ball" that I found elsewhere on this level. She says I still need Spanish unguent and a blender.
You know what? I think I'm good.
The second encounter is a small grotto with a pool of water between a couple of walls at (6,5). The game calls it the "Ron Wartow Not-Yet-Memorial Wading Pool." Ron Wartow seems to have been an employee at New World, maybe someone Roe Adams knew. Anyway, it seems to be an in-joke. Also proof that Sir-Tech didn't need David Bradley to descend into goofiness.
The "Wartow song of death"?
Even goofier, the game wants me to ponder before bathing:
Oh, will he ever return?
Will he ever return?
His fate is still unlearned!
These are slightly incorrect lyrics to the song "M.T.A.," which you hear a billion times if you live in Boston. It was written in 1949 as a political song to promote a particular mayoral candidate who opposed fare increases for the subway. The song tells a tale of poor Charlie, who gets on at one station just before the fares increase and doesn't have money to pay the exit fare when he gets to his destination. The Kingston Trio recorded it in 1959, and it became a pop hit.
What does this mean for Werdna? Well, if I bathe in the pool, the game says, "It is as if the evil of your soul has been somewhat cleansed!" Sure enough, Werdna is now of neutral alignment. I assume this is a point of no return that determines the potential endings you can get. I reloaded and left the pool alone for now. I imagine that Hint #19 (""You too can be saved! Repent ye sinner! Wash away thy sins! Repent!") is about this pool.
This isn't the only point of no return on this level. I found the stairway up fairly early in my explorations, but there's a message right next to it that says: "Upward from this level, there is no turning back!" I haven't taken the stairs yet.
At least there's a warning.
More Oracle hints [Ed. I later created a special entry just to record and analyze Oracle hints]:

25. "Cursed with too many blessings? Find relief in a bottle!" No idea.

26. "Your future is grey and hazy!" A possible reference to multiple endings?

27. "It's all Greek to you! (Well, maybe a little Latin)." I would think this refers to The Iliad again, but I don't think any of that is in Latin.

28. "A tisket, a tasket. Trebor's rump in a basket." That would sure be nice.
Here's a random shot of me taking care of "Dorion's Grays." What's next? "Lady Windermere's Fans"?
29. "Find the paths of the true way!" I'm doing my best.

30. "Sniff, sniff! Whew, what a stench!" A reference to the aromatic camphor?

31. "Look to the Lych-Gate!" No idea.

32. "Seek amongst the historical writings of Trebor's foes for the password." Again, I think I know what this references, but I'll cover it when I get to it. I have been looking through my maps and notes from previous games, mostly because I was curious if the dungeon in Wizardry bears any resemblance to this, as it's supposed to be the same dungeon. It doesn't, really.
Before I bathe or head upstairs, I have a number of things to accomplish and a few mysteries to solve--a lot fewer mysteries than all these Oracle hints would suggest.
  • I have to return to Level 9 and perform that bell, book, and candle ritual at the Gates of Hell.
  • I have to return to Level 7 and explore the external areas of the pyramid and see about getting into that blocked room.
  • Hopefully, those two expeditions give me the final two ingredients for the witch's brew, as otherwise I have no idea where to find those objects. I hope a "blender" isn't one of the dozens of weapons I haven't bothered to pick up from slain foes.
  • Level 4 also has a bunch of walled-off rooms. I don't know if there's any hope of getting into those. MALOR doesn't seem to help. One of the walled-off areas looks like the letter "K," but I don't know what to make of that.
  • I guess I have to pick one of those swords since it doesn't appear I can come back to these levels once I ascend. Could one of them be the "blender?" Weirder things have been in this game.
I was preparing to head down when just for the hell of it, I tried MALORing down 5 levels, and damned if I didn't end up on Level 9. So now I have no idea what the rules of MALOR are. It will take me down to the bottom of the dungeon but not one space to the east? Weird.
MALORing the hell out of here.
I'm looking forward to a break from this game for a few days. I hope there aren't any more levels like that one.
Time so far: 34 hours


  1. I figured you'd get through this one just fine. Now that you've gotten through the level, I'll go ahead and spoil (ROT-13'd, of course) a quick note about the mapping itself, since you don't really need it at this point (although I promise I won't say anything about inventory-related issues or anything else):

    V jnf pbeerpg va nffhzvat gung lbh jbhyq cvpx hc ba gur snpg gung ragrevat naq rkvgvat pnzc plpyrf guebhtu gur ebgngvbaf ba gubfr jnyy-ebgngvat fdhnerf. Ubjrire, V'z cerggl fher fbzr bs gur jnyyf ebgngr pybpxjvfr, juvyr bguref ebgngr pbhagrepybpxjvfr. Vg'f boivbhfyl abg rffragvny gb xabj guvf, ohg V gubhtug vg jnf xvaq bs rivy gung gurl jbhyq qb gung (nygubhtu guvf *vf* Jvmneqel VI jr'er gnyxvat nobhg). V fgvyy unir n srj fdhnerf ba zl bja znc gung V'z abg fher nobhg, gubhtu, naq V'z cerggl fher gung rira gur orfg zncf bayvar unir n srj guvatf jebat. Hygvzngryl, vg raqf hc abg ernyyl znggre gung zhpu ng gur raq bs gur qnl.

    Regarding the mapping for what's coming up (probably not a spoiler, but I'll ROT13 it just in case): Gur hcpbzvat yriryf nera'g tbvat gb or yvxr gur bar lbh whfg qvq, qba'g jbeel. Gurl'er n cnva va gur arpx va gurve bja jnl—nygubhtu V gubhtug gurl jrer n sha cnva va gur arpx, crefbanyyl, jura V jrag guebhtu guvf ynfg lrne.

    I was going to mention one other thing, but I'm afraid that even calling attention to it with a ROT13 would be saying too much. If you end up making a call for hints on a certain issue at some point down the line, though, I'll say something then.

    Enjoy your break from this one; in the meantime, I look forward to your next post on it. (These Wizardry IV entries have been a highlight to my evenings, I must admit.)

    1. I appreciate that everyone has been careful about spoilers. I haven't been decoding the ROT-13 comments since the beginning, but I know they're there if I get completely stuck, so thanks.

  2. THIS is where Wizardry 4 truly begins for real. Your first encounter with an actual puzzle and a level design that actively hates you and wants you to hate it back. Both of these are going to get ramped up another few notches.

    "I hope there aren't any more levels like that one."
    Oh boy.

  3. I've been reading Crooked Bee's LP of the game along with yours. She mentions two things on this level that you don't. First, "The entire enclosed section tot he south of the pentagram at (1,7) is one huge dead end. Once you're in, there's no getting out."

    Second, she says that "rotator rooms," which I guess are the same things as your spinners, "suck you in, spin you around, and spit out out in a pre-determined direction." You make it sound more like you can wait and determine what direction to go. Did you experience either of those things?

    1. LP found here, incidentally:

    2. I'm not going to read that for fear of spoilers. so I don't know all the context. I wouldn't consider that area below the pentagram a "dead end" because you can make your way back to the entrance stairs, and by taking the stairs and returning, you can reset the level. But that type of reloading is hardly better than just quitting and reloading, so I guess you could consider it a "dead end" from a certain perspective.

      For the second thing, are you sure she's talking about this level? There are rooms that rotate, but nothing with the dynamic that you've quoted there. You don't spin in any of them--the ROOM spins--and you're not forced to exit a particular way.

  4. Also, one of the oracle's hints is applicable to this entry, though it's not supposed to be yet. Rot13ing for the commenters: "Lbhe shgher vf oynpx, lbh srry obkrq va" zrnaf gung orvat bs gur rivy nyvtazrag zrnaf abg nyy raqvatf ner ninvynoyr gb lbh. "Lbhe shgher vf terl naq unml" yvxrjvfr uvagf gung gurer ner zhygvcyr raqvatf, nf Purg pbeerpgyl thrffrq.
    Bs pbhefr, ng guvf cbvag n cynlre vf abg fhccbfrq gb xabj nalguvat nobhg zhygvcyr raqvatf.

  5. ""C'mon, do you want to live forever?"--a Conan the Barbarian reference)"

    Not sure if serious...(google Daniel Daly).

    The "blender"...could it be a "Cuisinart"? I completed the game myself, but can't remember.

    1. Indeed; having never played more than about 5 minutes of this game, but finished all the other early Wizardries, I definitely recall there being a Blade Cuisinart in at least some of them. That would be my guess as to what you need to find for the "blender".

    2. You think it's more likely that Roe Adams was quoting an obscure bit of WW1 history than a fantasy movie that came out a couple years earlier?

    3. I first encountered that quote in a play-by-mail game, one of many quotes from military history. So I don't think it's that obscure.

    4. I think its entirely likely that Adams heard it somewhere or even made up a version himself. Military history was very related to gaming when he was around and WWI was hardly the first use of it, since apparently Frederick the Great was quoted as being the first known person to use it. He's also well-read too, so...

    5. I first heard it in Highlander

    6. I think I did in Starship Troopers

    7. I think it was the Frederick the Great quote i read. Bloody Wikipedia messing things up...

    8. Pretty sure my first time hearing the quote was Flash Gordon?

    9. To add one more variety, I've first encountered it as the title of a German WWII movie about Stalingrad made in 1959 and based on an eponymous novel - with the quote also going back to Frederick the Great:,_Do_You_Want_to_Live_Forever%3F.

  6. You're on the right track with your planned next steps. I don't think you're missing anything important in terms of enemy drops. A clue if you get stuck with the witch's shopping list: Lbh pnaabg pbzcyrgr vg lrg. Erzrzore gung ZNYBE pna gnxr lbh qbjajneqf va gur qhatrba.

  7. Not sure if this counts as a spoiler or not, rot13 just in case. What do other commenters think?
    Gurer ner ab cbvagf bs ab erghea va guvf tnzr.

    Gur bayl ernfba lbh'q guvax gurer zvtug or jbhyq or vs lbh'ir nyernql orra fcbvyrq gung gurer ner zhygvcyr raqvatf, fb V'z abg fher vs guvf jbhyq ernyyl pbhag nf n fcbvyre be n pynevsvpngvba bs n zvfvagrecergrq fcbvyre.

    1. My hint above is a softer version of this one. Regarding your second paragraph, take a look at the paragraph and screenshot in this post right before "More Oracle hints". The game certainly tries to give that impression, for some reason.

    2. Vg qbrf, naq gurl pbhyq'ir qrsvavgryl jbeqrq gung zrffntr orggre, ohg gurer'f fgvyy n pbafvqrenoyr qvssrerapr orgjrra guvaxvat lbh'yy or fghpx vs lbh qvqa'g fbyir rirel pheeragyl ninvynoyr chmmyr naq Purg pbafgnagyl frpbaq thrffvat jurgure ur fubhyq or qbvat fbzrguvat orpnhfr ur guvaxf vg zvtug ybpx uvz vagb bar bs gur zhygvcyr raqvatf ur'f abg npghnyyl fhccbfrq gb or njner bs ng guvf cbvag naljnl.

    3. Ohg bapr Jreqan ragref gur Pbfzvp Phor, gurer'f n fbeg bs cbvag bs ab erghea hagvy ur yrnirf gur qhatrba. Hagvy gura, ur pna'g tb onpx gb yriry sbhe be Znybe onpx gb cerivbhf yriryf.

    4. V jnf bs gur vzcerffvba lbh pbhyq Znybe bhg bs gur Pbfzvp Phor, gubhtu V nqzvg V qvqa'g obbg hc gur tnzr naq cynl guebhtu vg hc gb guvf cbvag whfg gb irevsl.

    5. Adamant: "zhygvcyr raqvatf ur'f abg npghnyyl fhccbfrq gb or njner bs ng guvf cbvag naljnl."

      Gur znahny sbe gur tnzr gryyf lbh gung gurer ner zhygvcyr raqvatf.

    6. Uhu, lbh'er evtug. Orra sberire fvapr V ernq vg, thrff V whfg sbetbg.

  8. Another great caption here I enjoyed: ""Dorion's Grays." What's next? "Lady Windermere's Fans"?"

  9. Oh, and getting "rabbit's fur" for the witch requires the magician's hat, yes. Werdna is a skilled enough magician he can pull a rabbit out of a hat.

  10. He reaches Level 2 far earlier than he's ready to experience Level 2. Later, he complains that the game is "grindy" because he didn't experience encounters as part of the natural pacing that comes with making the map.

    Having to go through excessive repetitive random encounters makes a game grindy irrespective of whether it's to grind levels explicitly, to make a map or to do whatever else.

    1. Grinding is meaningless encounters merely to increase XP. If you're exploring a level and mapping it, those encounters aren't meaningless. You have to defeat them to finish the level. A big difference.

    2. I think a game can ask you to grind while working towards any type of goal (levels or mapping or whatever). The point is that you are being asked to repeatedly engage in a task where you roughly know what to expect and what your response will be, and randomness aside what the outcome will be. Your brain is no longer engaging with a problem, but on auto-pilot, and it becomes busy work.

      Repeated random encounters can be interesting enough that you need to engage with each one to find an optimum response, and I wouldn't consider that grinding. But if you're always going to fire off the same spell and hope you go first, that would feel like grinding to me.

    3. I am playing through Wizardry 5 right now. In that game, I feel I need to level up a bit so I can explore the rest of the levels. There's some grinding to be able to do exploration because those levels are so big. This is probably less of an issue when you have a set level size.
      Though I am going to be honest, I think that Wizardry 5 is a game that does not respect the player's time. That's a whole different issue, but the grinding for levels and gear is part of that.

    4. "The point is that you are being asked to repeatedly engage in a task where you roughly know what to expect and what your response will be." I think that's what's great about the first few Wizardry games. The difficulty, the permadeath, and the limited number of spell slots make every combat a nail-biting experience. You don't sleepwalk through any of them.

      "Having to go through excessive repetitive random encounters makes a game grindy irrespective of whether it's to grind levels explicitly." Early RPGs weren't about anything more than mapping and combat was my point. If you take the time to explore the level while making a map, you'll fight enough combats that you'll reach Level 2 when you're ready for Level 2. If you just make a beeline for the stairs, because you looked at someone else's map, you won't be ready for Level 2. You can't possibly expect game developers to cater to the second type of player.

    5. "I think that Wizardry 5 is a game that does not respect the player's time." Yeah, I get that. I'm pretty sure I said as much while I was playing it.

    6. This game is certainly one where a large percentage of intended gameplay is mapping. With a good map you can zoom through the game very quickly — the only grinding is killing people for essential loot but that occurs pretty quickly. The pentagram mechanic eliminates all grinding. Also while there are a lot of references to forgetting something the game makes it difficult to get into a walking dead scenario and even provides a warning at the end of this level. I wish all adventure games were so considerate (and this is a hybrid game, part inventory based adventure/part crpg).

    7. If you take the time to explore the level while making a map, you'll fight enough combats that you'll reach Level 2 when you're ready for Level 2. If you just make a beeline for the stairs, because you looked at someone else's map, you won't be ready for Level 2. You can't possibly expect game developers to cater to the second type of player.

      I couldn't have said it better. Applause.

      If you're playing the game the right way, there won't be any grinding. Calling any random encounter "grinding" I think comes from console JRPG players. You can't walk five squares in the overland without an encounter, and they take *forever* to play out, with all the attack animations. Plus, leveling is anticlimactic and happens in the middle of battle - oh, level 28 now...wee...that character will be in the seventies before the endgame.

      Or, the second type of player who wants to rush through the game and shortcut to the end. In that case, why not just cheat and give yourself level-appropriate XP when you go down the stairs? Combat is an integral part of the game, but who are we to judge if players don't want to play that part of the game? That's where cheating or hex editing come in.

  11. Well, I get it now. Mapping is a bit like filling out a crossword puzzle.

    1. Only in Might & Magic IV :)

    2. Actually wasn't in in Uukrul that a password was revealed on the automap?

    3. Perdro I'm not sure about Uukrul but in M&M the map you have to draw yourself definitely does reveal an important password at some point.

    4. And M&M 5 repeats the same trick, with the exact same password no less.

    5. "Mapping is a bit like filling out a crossword puzzle." It is, a bit. There's a satisfaction that comes from just completing the grid.

    6. Dark Heart of Uukrul doesn't have a password on the map that I can recall, but it definitely has an actual crossword puzzle (using the answers as the magic words for secret doors).

  12. Fables of the Reconstruction is a favourite of mine. Have all the Werdna titles been song references so far, and will it last until the end?

    1. Wondered if the Addict was referring to REM myself when I noticed the title! Although the reference isn't uncommon...

    2. The funny thing is that all of my Werdna subtitles ARE songs (if you include song lyrics), but that was intentional only in the case of two of them.

      I didn't know the REM song. "You can't get there from here" is a common Maine saying, originally the punchline to a Bert & I joke:

    3. I never realised "You can't get there from here" was a saying external to Zork! Maybe a New England thing for the Implementors at MIT...

    4. Ah, "When the world is a monster, 'bout to swallow you whole" would have fit this level so well. But on closer inspection the R.E.M. song is actually spelled without the "You".

  13. Maybe if you use that pool to become non evil, you can use those spells that pray to the gods?

    1. Oh, good thought. I'll give it a try.

    2. If that actually works, you could title your next post "Losing My Religion".

  14. Rabbit fur is the magicians hat. ‘Have you forgotten something?’

    Spoiler about what you need to do before going to the next level:
    Lbh arrq gb fbyir uryy orsber tbvat gb yriry 3

  15. An even better song than spin the black circle!

  16. I am very grateful that you are playing and mostly enjoying this game. I don't see anything about this experience that would give me positive feelings toward the game. Required mapping, repeating random encounters, perpetually losing experience, the list goes on and on.

    You doing all the unpleasant work, and I can just read all the good parts? Perfect for me! I am coming away with an understanding and respect for this game because of your writing. Well done!

  17. Regarding Malor, it works the same way it always has. You can teleport to any given coordinate on any given floor, as long as that floor doesn't have a Malor shield up. Looking through your old posts I see you never got Malor in Wizardry 1 or 3, but you never tried Maloring around in Wizardry 2 and discovered that certain floors would just bounce you back?

    1. I won Wizardry II more than 8 years ago. I don't remember getting the message very much. If its failure is about "MALOR shields," then most of the dungeon has one. I can't seem to be able to MALOR to any floor but the first or second.

    2. In Wizardry 2, the entirety of floor 2 and 6 have Malor shields. Most likely you just forgot about this feature because it's been so long, as you say.

      "most of the dungeon has one"
      Yep. Roe Adams doesn't want you to just Malor around his puzzles and traps.

    3. MALOR works in a way a bit more complicated than that (ROT13):

      Jura lbh svefg trg gur fcryy, lbh pna bayl gryrcbeg gb qhatrba yriryf gra be avar. Bapr lbh rkvg gur qhatrba, lbh pna nqqvgvbanyyl gryrcbeg gb qhatrba yriryf rvtug gb bar. Bgure yriryf ner nyjnlf creznaragyl fuvryqrq nf n qrfgvangvba.

    4. Lrc, fbzr bs gur Znybe fuvryqf riraghnyyl trg yvsgrq. Gung'f jul V fnvq "nf ybat nf gurl unir n fuvryq HC" :)

      Nyfb, V qvqa'g jnag gb fcbvy gung ovg va n aba-ebg13rq pbzzrag.

  18. "Except for the need to find certain key encounters, I'm not sure the player who maps does any better on this level than the player who finds his way blindly."

    Oh no, no, trust me. The game designer 100% agrees with your views on the necessity of mapping. Especially for that level.

  19. " As I reported on the last level, both Werdna and the enemies he faces are so deadly with MAKANITO ("Deadly Air"), LAKANITO ("Vacuum"), TILTOWAIT ("Ka-Blam!") that combat comes down to who goes first."

    The term I've often seen for this is "a game of rocket tag" , often applied to high level 3.5e D&D.

    1. Rocket tag because much of the higher level combat falls down to who fails a save (and dies instantly) first.

      Order of the Stick made fun of this and how unimpressive touch spells were at the same time.


  20. This entry reminded me that I've wanted to thank you for something for quite some time.

    So, for some quick background, I came into computer/video game RPGs via consoles and the later generation computer RPGs. Mapping in those games wasn’t really always required for success.

    My first Goldbox game, for example, was Champions of Krynn. A good chunk of the areas in that game are mapped in the Adventurer’s Journal. Entries that they’re detailed in are just kinda given to you.

    Yes, you do need to explore some areas, but they’re all generally simple enough that you can just memorize them. Especially when you’re a kid, with limited access to games, that plays the same handful of them, over and over.

    Which is a very long winded way of saying, that I never was a mapper. Despite being a CRPG fan.

    Due to your blog making me realize the error of my ways, with certain games, I started moving more in that direction, when it makes sense to.

    Good example, I did play though of Phantasy Star 2 a while back. Normally when I’ve played it I’ve just used the clue book that came bundled with every US copy of the game. It has full maps, etc.

    Since that clue book was included with every copy, I always assumed it was developed with the intent that one would use the maps included in a normal play-through.

    At the same time, whenever I’d play that game, it felt grindy. Since I’d end up having to just sit and level up fairly often, to keep my party in line with the power curve of the game.

    I found out later that the clue book was not included with the JP release, and the game wasn’t designed or tuned for it.

    When I did that recent play through, I avoided maps, and manually mapped every dungeon on graph paper. I didn’t always go to every step, but I did explore and map organically until I was able to reach all of the required objectives per dungeon.

    As you mention here, suddenly the game stopped being grindy. As I gained enough levels while exploring, to match up with the power curve of the game.

    I guess it’s silly to say, but I appreciate the fact that you kinda unlocked something for me. For whatever reason I just never really though that mapping every square was a success state. I always felt like it was a failure state, because for my generation of gamer, we always seemed to have some sort of shortcut like a Clue Book map, or Journal Entry map, to bypass that part of the “busy work.”

    But, no, that’s really a huge chunk of the journey, and if you want to actually play the game, you need to go through it.

    1. Thank you for both this great comment and for understanding my point so well. We haven't heard from you for a while; I'm glad to see you're still reading.

    2. A great comment, agreed. I've found that games that are highly conducive to graph paper mapping (typically dungeon crawlers from a first-person perspective) tend to be very well-balanced in that regard, i.e. the effort required to map translates quite neatly to the amount of random encounters required to progress at an appropriate rate. Games that aren't conducive to graph paper mapping, typically because they occupy less geometrically straightforward spaces that don't seem to have hand-drawn maps in mind, tend to be a lot less consistent about that and range all over the map from "you've got to grind like hell" to "engaging in random encounters is outright pointless".

    3. Oddly, some of the more modern games that were literally built around the need for mapping (the DS Etrian Odyssey games) don't seem to have this feature. In my play of them, I always seemed way underleveled for the next floor even after finishing the map.

    4. Gnoman, this is because many JRPGs require grinding period. Because they originated during the origins of the Japanese consoles, and you were expected to play them for weeks, if not months, to get your value out of them.

      Although most aren't as bad as Deadly Towers (they learned from that game that there IS such a thing as too much grinding), many still expect you to have to spend at least some time just trying to get gold and/or level up. It's so expected by this point that some people there call games too easy if you don't have to grind.

    5. I do think we have to be careful talking about how a game was "intended" to be played because it can be difficult to know. For JRPGs, it's been common ever since the earliest era of JRPGs for cheap hint guides to come out the same day as the game. The instruction manuals often have ads for the hint guides in them, and there are added perks to encourage purchase of the hint guides (like concept art, short stories, etc). Sometimes there also seem to be things that are intentionally vague or difficult in the game that could only be figured out with the hint guide.

    6. As a followup, when I was a kid playing these games it never occurred to me that there was a correct way to play them. I made maps for MM1 and Wizardry 1 (and I still have my MM1 maps) but that's just because I didn't have any other choice. When I got Wizardry 6, the clue book was accidentally sent to me instead of the game -- when I later got the game sent, I used the maps in the cluebook without a second thought. It didn't even occur to me that I was doing anything wrong.

    7. I've been slowly making my way through Deathlord mapping every single inch of it with colored pencils. I've made so much more progress than when I first purchased the game in 1987 for the Apple IIe. Granted, emulator save states are a must for this game. But still, I haven't actually "grinded" because every act has been putting more color down on the map. Just finished the first continent and all the dungeons (save the very bottom level of the Wakiza Ruins as my characters are definitely underleveled for a map that plays teleporter games on levels with sea serpents and level draining undead).

      Basically, it's an entirely different experience. Before, Deathlord was frustrating and confusing. Now, it's relaxing and enjoyable.

      Although, really, it's mostly due to emulator save states!

    8. Personally my mapping experience is it being enjoyable, but enough of a time sink for me to almost always prefer either an automap or premade ones. I still usually try and hit every square though, I just really don't want to make maps unless I have no other choice.

    9. "I do think we have to be careful talking about how a game was "intended" to be played because it can be difficult to know." While I concede your point for some games, the Wizardry titles literally came with graph paper.

    10. @Chet: So, I understand, did the first Might and Magic (see e.g.,337140/).

      They even had an ad which, as Jimmy Maher notes, describes pencil-and-paper map-making as a virtue rather than a necessary evil and takes a (not so veiled) jab at BT by saying MM has more (necessary) "Cartography" / map-making:

    11. The Might and Magic 2 rule book even has 3 pages laid out at the back to map areas.

  21. "Do not try to use this map to play your own game. I make no guarantees to its accuracy."

    I hope this quote appears verbatim at the end of the introduction to the Addict's autobiography.

  22. I had similar suspicions about the first Final Fantasy, which also has a reputation as being grindy and tedious, especially in the early game. So when I did my JP playthrough of that game a while ago, I made an effort to fully search the dungeons without checking the plentiful strategy guides to find out where the important chests are. Sure enough, if you methodically explore the whole Marsh Cave and make multiple trips back to town for healing and upgrades, you end up at the notorious wizard/piscodemon fight at pretty much the right level for it.

    1. Yeah, we actually just had a discussion about that back in the Runes of Virtue comment section. According to certain commenters, you just insulted a lot of people's intelligence by making this normative claim. :)

    2. The way that conversation should have gone in a sensible world:

      PERSON 1: I found Final Fantasy very grindy.

      PERSON 2: I didn't.

      PERSON 1: Huh


      How it actually went:

      PERSON 1: I found Final Fantasy grindy.


      PERSON 3: I found it a bit grindy, too.

      PERSON 2: Then you SUCK at playing games.

    3. Being person 2 in the above, this is ACTUALLY how it went (direct quotes):

      Person 1: I flee games that require grinding. That's why I never played the Final Fantasy games.

      Person 2: I don't think ANY of the Final Fantasy games have ever required any grinding.

      Person 3: The NES/Famicom Final Fantasies definitely require grinding

      Person 4: I don't see how these games are reasonably possible with absolutely no grinding. You can get an optimal party and optimal equipment and know exactly what you need to do and never have to grind, but at that point you're an expert at it and what you're able to do isn't going to be the same as what the vast majority of the people that play can do.

      Person 2: But I'm telling you, that just isn't the case. Beating the game without grinding isn't some sort of crazy expert-only challenge.

      Person 4: What I'm saying is that the average player wouldn't know those strategies, wouldn't know what party members to use, and wouldn't know how to beat the game without grinding.

      Person 2: "I shouldn't bother fighting monsters whose attack has the potential to afflict instadeath because my options for restoring dead characters back to life mid-dungeon are extremely limited/nonexistant based on my party lineup" is not some sort of expert strategy, it's just applying logic to what you learn in the game.

      Person 5: We also have to differentiate between the experience of an original purchaser who had the manual and map (and maybe even a strategy guide on top of that), vs. someone renting or acquiring the game with nothing but the cartridge to work with. your claim that the game "doesn't require grinding", full stop, is a normative claim that doesn't specify the category/skill level of player you're talking about. I'd be very careful about insinuating, even vaguely, that a lack of competence or intelligence is responsible for that different experience.

      This is not person 2 saying "If you found FF1 grindy you suck", this is person 2 saying "If you hate grinding you shouldn't let that stop you from playing FF1, because it doesn't actually require you to grind. Even if you've never played it before." and then getting told by person 3 and 4 that this is wrong, only someone with expert knowledge of the game could possibly beat it without grinding, and making normative statements like "if you methodically explore the whole Marsh Cave and make multiple trips back to town for healing and upgrades, you end up at the notorious wizard/piscodemon fight at pretty much the right level for it." full stop, you are implying that anyone that weren't at pretty much the right level for that fight despite doing this sucks at video games.

    4. Adamant, if the statement "FF1 doesn't actually require you to grind, even if you've never played it before" were true, why do you think multiple commenters (including the blog owner) spoke up to say their experience was different?

      Here's one answer: because the definition of "require" you're using -- to quote you: "If they "definitely require" grinding, people wouldn't be able to beat them without grinding" -- is overly literal and not a helpful one.

      Yes, it's possible to beat Final Fantasy without grinding; literally no reasonable person would deny that, because there's ample evidence of the fact. But the average player's experience of it isn't like that, and whatever insights are required to beat the game without grinding, they clearly aren't typical of the average player's experience. You've got plenty of feedback in that comment thread making that clear, as well as the Final Fantasy wiki link that was posted.

      Let me emphasize this again: when we talk about "required", we're talking about baseline experiences, because those are relevant for characterizing what a game is going to be like for the average player.

      If you have trouble understanding why other people have had a different baseline experience of the game, that's an interesting topic for a good-faith conversation, but it requires you to (a) accept their experience as legitimate, and (b) imagine seeing things from a point of view other than your own, which can admittedly be quite difficult for some folks (e.g. people with some forms of neurodivergence).

      Still, if we start with a question like "What's a rational reason that some players choose not to run from monsters that can inflict instadeath?", I think it's easy to imagine some possible answers: because running from combat is a high-risk tactic in many RPGs; because something elsewhere in the gameplay loop has made that tactic seem undesirable.

    5. All right, I know I contributed to it, but we are absolutely not doing this a second time. No more.

  23. I think I commented this morning and I don't know if the comment was removed.

    My point, though, was that the discussion on games part from all thinking that we talk on objective concepts, like "grinding", when that is very subjective, like when people talk about "pixel hunting". Well, it was longer and it was better written, but I feel too frustrated to repeat it.

    1. You had commented in the thread above, which I already announced was done. I'll leave this one because you're talking about general concepts that relate to this entry, and you make a good point that "grinding" is a subjective term. To the player making maps and reaching the next level organically, he is not "grinding"; he is simply experiencing a sensible number of combats while exploring a level.

  24. The level design in this game reminds me of when people first use a level creator and go absolutely mad filling a level with a single thing. The dungeons have obviously had a lot of thought put into them, but I find that single-minded focus on a small number of elements quite offputting - I like a game to feel like it could be a real place on some level.

    In this, it's so aggressively self-satisfied with how devious and difficult it is; you can almost sense the designer leaping around with glee, like a trickster imp in a Grimm brothers story. I'm really glad that Chet is playing it so that can vicariously experience this notorious game, but I'm equally glad that I never have to play it.

  25. Chet, one of the things I enjoy about your blog is how when you get stuck you look at the ROT13 hints and comments, and half the time they disagree, and more then a few of them have wrong/misremembered information; I think it is a good simulation of either going to school when stuck on a game and asking around, or going on a BBS or early message board and seeing a bunch of conflicting opinions.

    1. It's also possible that everyone in a discussion is right, but played different versions. This is routine for Pool of Radiance, for instance -- both platform, and on PC v1.0/v1.1 versus v1.2/v1.3, make a significant difference.

      It's also often tricky to even know how many significant versions there are (just limiting ourselves to PC: Hero's Quest/Quest for Glory 1, King's Quest 4, Wizardry 1 are good examples).

      Software at the time also often failed to make clear what version it actually is. Earlier Infocom games aren't up-front about what version you have, for instance; asking for "version" is not sufficient, you must also separately ask "$verify". This also extends to non-games; PC DOS v4.01 will explicitly say it's v4.00.

      Chet said something about relying on what the game itself reports, but I would not necessarily rely upon that, as there are many counterexamples.

  26. About where to go next: Yes, you should backtrack (you do not have everything you need to proceed), but you cannot actually get all the ingredients the witch is asking for yet.

    Also, you may want to take a look at the first page of the copy protection booklet.

  27. Chet: I first came across the title of this episode in this comedy video about Maine, and I'd love to know if it is accurate at all:

    1. Oh my god, that guy should not try to do a Maine accent.

      But yes, as I said above, it's a common phrase here thanks to a popular humor recording called Bert & I. Maine can be a complex state to navigate with all the peninsulas, islands, and rivers, and back when the recording was made, there were a lot fewer paved roads. It could be a real effort to figure out how to get from one place to another.

    2. The bit about Moxie soda and the similarities with Alaska were funny, I should add.

    3. I suspect he is about as bad at it as the person he had on to represent Canada in one episode who tried to do a hoser accent


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