Sunday, September 5, 2021

Wizardry: Level 10

When I left off at the end of my last post, I was ready to tackle dungeon level 10, and take on the evil wizard Werdna.  My last attempt at that had ended somewhat disastrously, when a surprise attack left my entire party dead.  But I sucked it up, developed a whole new party, retrieved the bodies of my original guys and brought them all back to life.  I was in a pretty good spot, with a dozen characters sitting on level 13.  I couldn't mix and match them because of alignment constraints, but it felt reassuring to know that I had some ready-made back-ups.

My trip down to level 10 via the elevators was uneventful, and on level 9 I only had to fight a trio of 10th-level Fighters (easily dealt with) before dropping down the chute to level 10.  Exploring the initial area of level 10 I was attacked by a group of Murphy's Ghosts, which I found somewhat amusing considering that I'd spent the bulk of my time with this game killing these guys by the hundreds.  I stumbled into a teleporter that took me all the way back to the castle, which brought a wry smile to my face.  Not so long ago I'd been trapped in this area, desperately trying to resurrect my mages so that I could teleport to the surface.  I'd even reduced one of my mages to ashes during that whole saga, when all I'd needed to do was take two steps to the right and I'd have been safe.  You can't beat hindsight, I guess.

I started at 1. The Ts are teleporters,
with red being the origin point and
blue the destination.  TC goes back
to the castle.

Again I made my way back to chute on level 9, fighting a 10th-level Mage along the way.  I fought a pair of mages on level 10, trusting my melee fighters to take care of them before they could get off anything too damaging.  After that I discovered the teleporter to the next area.

Right next to the elevator was a message from Werdna: "One group of guardians ye have beaten but many more await ye! Turn back while you still can, mortals!"  Aside from being irritated by his inconsistent use of ye/you, I was also quite discouraged to see that I had "many more" fights ahead of me.  I was hoping this level would be small, and that I'd get to Werdna in short order.  That was not to be.

A winding corridor led to another room, where I was attacked by three groups of spellcasters: 1 High Wizard, 1 Arch-Mage, and 5 Bishops.  That was a lot of potential spell power, so I dropped them with a MALIKTO (a 7th-level Priest spell that causes 12-72 damage to all foes).  This wiped them all out, and I was able to step into the teleporter to the third area.

Level 10, Area 2. T3 leads
back to the beginning of
the level.

Area three started with another winding corridor, ending in a room.  (That's the pattern for all of the separate areas on level 10: a corridor ending in a room, with an unavoidable fight when you enter.) I was attacked by five Bishops, a High Wizard, and two "strange animals", who surprised me and got a free round of attacks.  I suspect the "strange animals" where Chimeras; they both hit me with their breath weapons, causing a decent amount of damage.  Luckily the Bishops didn't cast anything too devastating, and the High Wizard opted for a melee attack.  I wiped them out with another MALIKTO when my turn came around.

Exploring the room, I stumbled into the wrong teleporter and was taken back to the beginning of the first area.  It's not an enormous inconvenience because it doesn't take long to traverse through the level, but I did have a couple of fights along the way.  One was with a pair of Will-o-Wisps, which I found surprisingly hard to kill in melee.  They didn't pose much of a threat in return, but my fighters really struggled to hit them.  I ended up hitting them with two MABADI spells, which reduce a foe to only having 1-8 hit points left; that way, my next melee hit was guaranteed to kill them.  I also got attacked by a pair of Fire Giants, three Monks, and a Lesser Demon; three MADALTO spells took care of them.

Level 10, Area 3

In the fourth area I had to fight five Arch-Mages, one "strange animal" and one Chimera.  I hit the Arch-Mages with a MADALTO, focused my melee fighters on the Chimera, and killed the "strange animal" with BADI (a death spell that affects a single target).

Level 10, Area 4

In the fifth area, I had to battle two groups of high-level Fighters.  Fighters are never much of a problem in Wizardry, so I killed them with some mid-level damage spells (MADALTOs and LAHALITOs).

Level 10, Area 5

In area six I had another laughable encounter with Murphy's Ghosts.  It's almost like a reunion with old friends, because at this point they pose no threat whatsoever.  I also had to fight a Gorgon and 2 Chimeras.  I had to use lower-level DALTO spells, and a priest's LITOKAN (flame tower), because by this point my MADALTOs had been exhausted and I was saving my big guns for the final battle.

Level 10, Area 6

By the seventh area my characters were hurting, so I stopped to heal everyone back up to full.  My instincts were good here, because no sooner did I leave camp than I saw the following sign: "Lair of the evil wizard Werdna. The wizard is **IN**"  This was it, the final battle with Werdna.  I'd depleted a lot of my mid-level spells, but I was fully healed, and still in possession of most of my 7th-level arsenal, including the ability to drop multiple TILTOWAIT spells.  I was ready to mess Werdna up.

Level 10, Area 7.  The sign is at 3,
and Werdna is at 4.

As soon as I kicked through the door I encountered Werdna, accompanied by four Vampires and a Vampire Lord.  Despite me being well prepared, they got the drop on me with a surprise attack.  They hit me with a barrage of spells and attacks, and by the end of the first round Penitent Pat, Merlin and Flanker were all dead.  That was half of my party and three-quarters of my spell-casters, and the survivors were in bad shape.

My remaining spellcaster was Pious Pete, a priest.  I spent a long time deliberating over what to do.  I considered casting LOKTOFEIT, a spell that whisks the party back to the castle at the cost of all their equipment and most of their gold.  What stopped me was the note in the manual that this spell doesn't always work; I didn't want to try something that had a chance of just fizzling out.  Instead, I decided to hit the enemy with MALIKTO, hoping the damage would be enough.

Halfway through getting wrecked by Werdna.

It wasn't.  Werdna took some hits, but the Vampires all shrugged it off (even though the manual says that "none can escape or minimize its effects").  They wiped me out in the second round, and that was it for my first proper crack at killing Werdna.

Fortunately, I still had my party of evil characters as back-up, but there'd be no retrieving the bodies of my dead party this time.  They were now lying in Werdna's chamber, and I'd have to beat that fight in order to retrieve them all.  Not just that, but I'd have to beat Werdna with a party of less then six characters if I wanted to add dead bodies to my party.  That seemed unlikely, so unless Werdna disappears from the game permanently once killed, I was pretty sure that I'd seen the last of Mean Joe and company.

I have to say, at this point I was getting mighty sick of Wizardry and its specific brand of cruelty.  I think it's actually very well balanced, except for one thing: the surprise mechanic.  It's annoying to get wiped out by enemies without a chance to retaliate, and it's especially galling when it happens against the final foe in the game.  The last fight in a game should definitely be challenging, but it would be nice to have some semblance of chance at victory.  As it was I got surprised, my spellcasters got killed, and the best spell I had at my disposal was one the enemy was immune to.

Ah well, at least I had a better idea of what to expect next time, and was able to prepare for the rematch. My posting is several weeks behind my playing, so I've already taken on Werdna with my evil crew.  I'll try to post about how that went in the next few days, but let's just say that I fell afoul of some more of Wizardry's dirty tricks.  More on that next time.