Monday, August 9, 2021

Wizardry: Level 9 (a tale of two disasters)

My initial foray into level 9 was a disaster.  I began by exploring west of the elevator, and after only four moves I fell down a chute into a different area.  I tried casting DUMAPIC to get my bearings, but it didn't work.  I wasn't in an anti-magic zone, but that specific spell was being blocked.  Normally in this situation I would have cast MALOR and teleported to safety, but I didn't want to risk it without knowing my exact coordinates.  So I gritted my teeth, and set about exploring an area for which I had no map, and no obvious path back to safety.

The first thing I encountered was the following message: "Be it known that ye are trespassing on the property of the arch-mage Werdna. There is no possible way that ye can possibly get through my defenses, let alone defeat me in battle! So sure am I of this that I give you this clue, "contra-dextra avenue".  I was pretty sure this meant I was on level 10, and as I was close to full strength I decided to take a crack at defeating Werdna and finishing the game.  As for the clue, I tried running it through Google translate and got "against right avenue".  Searching the phrase in Google instantly brought up a translation from a Wizardry fan page, saying that it meant "don't go right".  Normally I wouldn't look up clues on fan-sites unless I was desperate, but this one just popped up in Google without me having to click through to the site itself.

A charming postscript from Werdna.

I explored down a winding corridor, and in the first room I was attacked by a group of monsters that included some Zombie Dragons.  I let fly with some MADALTOs, trying to keep my big spells in reserve.  None of the Dragons were affected, and their return volley wiped out both of my mages.  I managed to win through with melee, and some spells from my priests, but my party was in a sorry state.  Even worse, I was without a teleport spell to get back to the surface.  This was as grim as it had ever gotten for my party.

Fighting back against Zombie Dragons.

My priests still had some high-level spell slots left, so I decided to risk resurrecting my mages.  There are two resurrection spells: DI and KADORTO.  Both of these spells run the risk of failure, which reduces the dead character to ashes.  Only KADORTO can resurrect a character that has been reduced to ashes, but if that fails the character is lost forever.  (This same risk exists when resurrecting at the temple, but it's much lower.)

My first KADORTO reduced Misto to ashes.  My second KADORTO obliterated him completely.  That was it for Misto, there was no way of getting him back.  I was getting nervous now, because I had no KADORTO spells left.  If I cast DI on Merlin and incinerated him, I had no way to teleport to the surface, and my remaining fighters weren't going to survive the journey even if I found a way back.  Luckily, DI brought Merlin back, and I was able to MALOR back to level 2 and make my way to the castle.  (I teleported up 8 levels instead of 9, because I wasn't 100% sure if I was on level 9 or 10.  I didn't want to risk overshooting the mark and killing everyone.)

RIP Misto
Raise dead roll he missed-o

Misto was gone, but I still had Flanker, who I'd advanced to level 10 as a thief and then level 12 as a Mage.  I dropped him when I found out that his thief skills disappeared upon changing class, but now I was glad to have a high-level mage ready to go.  I did some quick grinding to get him up to level 13, but unfortunately he didn't learn TILTOWAIT, the best offensive spell in the game.  He did learn MALOR though, which meant Merlin had more TILTOWAITs to spare, so I still felt pretty good about it.

I quickly explored the rest of level 9, nervous about falling down another chute the whole time.  It ended up being a fairly small level, with a lot of unused space.  I am curious about all of those inaccessible squares; can I teleport in and explore them, or will doing so kill my party instantly?  It's not a risk I'm ready to take, but I might try once I beat the game.  (Or not, I need to keep my high-level characters for Wizardry II.)

Dungeon level 9

The fights were tougher on level 9, but at no point during exploration did I encounter anything I couldn't handle.  There were Trolls, Ogre Mages, various Mages and Priests, Demons...  As with previous levels I can't write knowledgeably about them because I was killing them too quickly to experience their special attacks.  At one point I killed four Giants that earned by party around 16,000 experience points each, easily the biggest reward in the game so far, but even they fell before they could get in a single attack.

Level 9 didn't have any stairs down (or stairs up for that matter; the only way to access the level was by the elevator).  The only way down to level 10 was the chute I had fallen down earlier.  I decided it was time to take on Werdna, but I didn't even make it to the chute.

The path from the elevator to the chute on level 9 is a short one, but this time around I was surprised by a group of level 10 mages (and some other monsters I can't remember) that proceeded to hit me with a barrage of high-damage spells.  The back half of my party went down immediately, and the front half followed soon after.  Everyone was dead, and I had no recourse but to start the game over from scratch.

Wizardry's death screen.

Thankfully, losing all of your party members in Wizardry isn't necessarily the end.  If you have a strong enough back-up party, you can find your original party's corpses in the dungeon, and bring them back to the surface.  Having lost my guys on level 9, I was going to need some very strong characters, but grinding in Wizardry doesn't take terribly long thanks to the Murphy's Ghost encounter on level 1.

My new party consisted of the following characters:

  • Faker, an evil dwarf fighter
  • Fraudo, another evil dwarf fighter
  • Pagan Pete, an evil gnome priest
  • Satanic Stan, another evil gnome priest
  • Spelric, an evil elf mage
  • Magical Gary, another evil elf mage

Most of my time playing this week was spent grinding these guys up while I watched episodes of WWF Heat from 1998.  It did seem a little odd to be using an all-evil party as my rescue posse, but I figured they were in it for the gold, and would loot the bodies of my original characters before raising them.  Once they advanced to level 12, I decided they were strong enough to survive a quick trip to dungeon level 9.

My rescue party ready to go.

Finding the bodies of dead character in the dungeon is done with the (I)nspect command, which searches an entire room or corridor.  The KANDI spell makes this easier, by telling you what level the dead characters are on, and the general area (south-west, etc.).  Apparently monsters can drag your characters to different areas, and sometimes their bodies will be devoured.  A few castings of KANDI revealed that my characters were all intact, and in roughly the same area in which they'd been killed.

Getting down to that room was easy: I just had to take the elevator from level 1 to level 4, then the other elevator from level 4 to level 9.  The room where my party had died was just two steps from the elevator, but there was one guaranteed fight along the way.  To make things harder, I couldn't go down there with a full party, as you need an empty space to carry a dead body.  That meant I was going down at somewhat less than full strength, and I'd have to do it six times.  I decided to leave Satanic Stan behind, as I wanted a full complement of front-line fighters, as well as both of my mages for maximum firepower.

The bodies of my party.  Penitent Pat is here, but I think it only
displays up to five names.

Luckily none of the encounters I had were super-tough; I was able to handle all of them with MADALTOs, and my six trips down to level 9 and back went off without mishap.  All of my characters were successfully raised at the temple, which meant I was finally back in action, and ready for another crack at Werdna.

Well, almost ready.  It turned out that some of my gear had been stolen, so I had to buy replacements from the store.  Most of my gear had still been there, but Roland was now forced to use a regular sword, and a few of my characters were a little worse off in terms of armour class.  I still feel like I'm ready to go and kill Werdna, and if I fail I know that I have a rescue party ready to go.  I'll miss my all-evil party, though.  Especially Magical Gary.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Wizardry: Levels Six to Eight

My progress in Wizardry has been fairly slow-going, through a mixture of over-caution and lack of time.  But with my characters as high-level as they're reasonably going to get, and my rejection of the game's class-changing system, I was able to make some decent progress this week.  I said last time around that I might get through two dungeon levels for this post, but I actually made it through three.

That said, I could have easily skipped all of these levels and gone straight from level 4 to level 9 by using the elevator.  There's nothing on levels 5 through 8 that makes them worth exploring, and their sole purpose seems to be the accumulation of experience and treasure.

Dungeon level 6

Level 6 is interesting in that it you could mistake it as being 17 x 17 instead of the usual 20 x 20.  The areas to the east and north are only accessible by a single secret door.  There's very little to find out there, unless you're looking for stairs to go down instead of using the elevator.

The only other thing of interest is an encounter with three humanoid figures: a barbarian with a glowing sword, a "sexy female mage", and another that looks like a huge ogre.  The barbarian calls out to "Ariel and Ookla" before the trio disappears around a corner. This a reference to the cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian, and must have been a pretty late addition to the game: Thundarr debuted in October of 1980, and Wizardry was almost ready to go by then even though it wasn't released until September of 1981.  I never saw Thundarr growing up, but I really should check it out, as it's written by a bunch of my favourite comic writers and has production design by legendary comics artist Jack Kirby.  It's kind of an irritating inclusion here, though. Not only does this scene serve no purpose, but it happens every time you enter the relevant square, which means Thundarr, Ariel and Ookla are constantly running up that same corridor.  I guess they really need to improve their mapping skills.

I suppose that in the world of Wizardry, "sexy" is an objective term.

Level 7 is laid out as a grid, with nine distinct areas and enough symmetry for it to be potentially confusing.  Adding to that confusion are a few well-placed teleportation squares, which give no delay or warning when they're activated.  I did get myself turned around on a few occasions here before I realised what was going on, but at this point I was still surprised at how easy to map this game has been.  Wizardry has an unforgiving reputation, but at least in mapping terms I've been finding it quite breezy.

Dungeon Level 7

Level 8 is where things started to get a little hairier in that regard.  The middle area, with its layout designed to look like the initials of creator Robert J. Woodhead, is not so bad.  (Decide for yourselves if that design choice is cute or obnoxious.)  The top two corners are where things get more difficult.  At the top right is a room in complete darkness, that teleports you into the room's center as soon as you enter.  That one's not so bad once you figure out where and when the teleportation is happening.

More irritating is the room to the top right, which is full of spinners.  You can enter this room via teleportation, or by taking the stairs down from level 7.  Note that there are no stairs back up; if you came down here without the Blue Ribbon needed to use the elevator, you'd need a MALOR spell to get back out again.  Even with all the spinners, though, this room isn't so difficult to escape.  Spinners only turn you around when you enter their square; after that you can reorient yourself as normal.  As long as you hug the walls it's no problem at all to edge around and find the secret door that exits to the north.  (I think I'm more annoyed by this level's needless wrapping.  Couldn't they have shifted everything down a couple of squares, so that the rooms aren't split across the top and bottom of the map?  I kind of hate levels that wrap around to begin with, and stuff like this just makes that annoyance even worse.)

Dungeon Level 8.  Note that the area I've mapped
is only 20 x 17; there's a 3 x 20 area on the east side
of the map that's inaccessible.

I'm still getting through the combats with little trouble, mostly by blasting my enemies with MADALTO and LORTO, or with TILTOWAIT and MALIKTO (a priest spell that instantly kills most foes) when things look really tough.  I've occasionally been caught with my pants down by underestimating how much spell power to use, and Misto and Merlin have both required a couple of resurrections.  But by being generous with attack spells and returning to the castle regularly I've been able to survive everything so far.

Unloading with a TILTOWAIT

I am starting to have some trouble with traps though.  Without a thief I'm just using my other characters to disarm traps, and its becoming less successful as I descend further into the dungeon.  At the moment I'm pretty much resigned to setting off any traps I discover; I just identify them with CALFO, and make a decision as to whether I want to suck up the consequences or not.  ALARM? Sure.  SPLINTERS, or ANTI-MAGE?  Probably not.  For the most part, I try to avoid traps that I think will affect the entire party.  Misto and Merlin are drastically low on hit points compared to everyone else.

It is worth opening chests, though, because it's the best way to find magic weapons and armour.  All of my characters have +1 weapons now, and it's a made a big difference to their effectiveness.  I'm not sure how magic weapons work in Wizardry.  In Dungeons & Dragons, they simply give you a bonus to attack and damage rolls.  In Wizardry, I noticed that my cleric started making multiple attacks when I equipped a +1 mace.  I also levelled up at the same time, so I'm not sure if it's the weapon or the levels that did it.  Equipping a Dragon Slayer sword also solved my problems with Mean Joe's drop in effectiveness.  He's not quite back up to where he used to be, but he's not far off.

"Yeah man, Wizardry is awesome!  You go into a  dungeon
and thrust at men in leather!"

I only have two more duneon levels to go, and I expect things to ramp up from here.  I'm not all that worried about being wiped out in a fair fight, or killed by traps.  If I do get wiped out, it's almost certainly going to be the surprise mechanic that does it.  If I don't get ambushed by some powerful spellcasters and blown away, expect a victory post in the near future.  If I do, well... it's back to level one I guess.