Saturday, March 23, 2013

Game 13: Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (NES) - I Must Be Mad

I always assumed the mad overlord was Werdna
Game 13

Title: Wizardry
Year: 1989
Platform: NES
Developer: Sir-tech Software, Inc.
Publisher: NEXOFT Corporation
Genre: RPG
Exploration: First Person
Combat: Turn-based (Party)

"We've gathered in great swarms to answer the call of our lord Trebor. Our singular quest is to confront the wizard Werdna and return with the amulet. Simple, right?"
Why would anyone subject themselves to this grueling, unforgiving game? I don't remember it being this hard on the PC when I played it about 15 years ago. I have maps of all floors to prove I beat it (I haven't peeked). Yet, here I am, writing a post on my first session, and I'm basically at square one.
My first party with some good HP despite single digit bonuses
Everything started well enough. I created new characters quickly, without worrying too much about stats, and decided upon the above party. I figured two clerical spell casters, one mage, three fighters for the front line, and a thief would lead to great victories. Little did I realize the wizard doesn't get cleric spells right away. I outfitted them with the best I could buy using the limited resources of just their initial gold.

I entered the maze and set about mapping the first level. I only got to the second room before one of my fighters died.
Encounter rates seem to rise considerably when entering doors
I finished off the battle, and realized I had no way of gauging my party's strength. The slimes and skeletons seem easy enough, but the kobolds I just faced nearly slaughtered me. Resurrecting just one character takes 250 gold for a level one character. To put that into perspective, after the four fights and with the gold left over for equipment purchases, I had 300 gold. It also takes 10 gold / hit point to recover at the inn, although I think I found a way around this. Well, as long as I don't die too much I should be able to eek out a meager existence until I gain some levels.
Well, that didn't work out...
With no money to resurrect these characters, I decided to recreate them and head back out, but I ran into a problem. I couldn't add my cleric anymore. That's strange, he just disappears as soon as I added my fighters. Did they not get along? Wait a minute, when did Durian become evil? I moved past it at the time, but in review of my recording I found the point he turned.
Skeletons are unnatural, but attacking "friendly" skeletons is bad
In my zealous pursuit of gold to resurrect Zatoichi, I attacked a few friendly encounters. Doing this turned Durian evil. Well, with my front line decimated and my cleric unwilling to travel with my goodly wizard, I decided to recreate my entire party. This time I was going to spend some time rolling up better stats.

My wizard already had a good roll of 17 bonus points, so I kept her around. All others had single digit bonuses, which I took quickly since I wanted to dive right in. Even after getting 16s through 18s for my new party I didn't notice a marked improvement. I stuck with the same names for this group, except for my cleric I picked his twin brother, Dorian. (I still have Durian as I might find need for an evil party.)
A higher vitality than last time, but less HP
Before disposing the of bodies, I looted the gold, but left the equipment. I know gathering gold from new characters is looked down on, but what's the consensus on taking from departed parties? I don't plan on creating characters purely for gold drops, but how much of this practice should be shunned? I haven't come to a decision, but since Lohlieth was a part of the original party, I didn't see much harm. Still, it's a lingering question.

Adventuring begins anew, and I spend some time grinding out some fights in the lower right room where enemies seem a little more manageable than other rooms. I do my best keeping everyone healed, and only Dorian spends nights at the inn to recover spell points so he can heal the rest of the party, saving some gold. 

A fighter or two dies, but this time I have the funds to raise them quickly, and most of my party reaches level two. It didn't seem strange then that I found a new enemy.
I missed the sign when all three fighters missed
I should have ran. I didn't. I mean it could have been a fluke, missing three times in a row. I should have ran when Fujimoto died the following round. The enemy's name changed to Highwaymen, and I realized this happened in the past too. I wonder if I've now learned what they're really called, or I killed the Man in Chain in front and now the Highwaymen are next in line.Would I always know what a Highwayman looks like?
I killed one, so I should be able to take on the rest...
Instead of running, I pressed on, and threw all my chips in when my last two fighters fell. My best laid plans came crashing down. Kreiggul was going to be Lord, and Zatoichi a samurai while Fujimoto would remain a fighter. Lohlieth, the only remaining member of the original party met her end at only level 3. It would take the gold of 6 new characters to resurrect her. Both Gullynets were great thieves, never failing to disarm a trap.
Alas, the adventure ends
Now, the next session will start like the last, character creation. I wonder if I should bother with the high stat bonuses. I wonder if I should bother retrieving the bodies of the fallen party, and to what end. I wonder if I should have some extra fire power by dropping a fighter for a full mage. The default party has two fighters, one cleric, two mages, and a thief, so maybe that's a more balanced group.

In any case, I hope my next outing is a bit more fruitful. I'm curious to know what the readers here consider acceptable gaming of the system. Three areas come to mind, making new characters purely for gold, retrieving bodies of past characters purely for their gold and equipment, and creating characters until high bonus point values are reached. What are your thoughts on these areas? I can think of one more hypothetical that doesn't need an answer right away: creating characters to equip items to see if they're cursed or have ill effects.

Looks like I'll need a reserve of names, so let me know your favorite class and I'll pair you up for the next adventure.

Session Time: 1h30m (Total Time: 1h30m)


  1. Ah Wizardry I, one of my favorite games. You should have fun :)

    I've beaten it several times - on the nes, where I was introduced to the game, and on the pc/dosbox a few other times - and of course there's Wizardry VII which I love more but never managed to beat.

    Sign me up for a bishop and the name Archivis? :)

    1. Will do, although they seem to be called Wizards in the NES version.

  2. Wizardry's enemies look really nice; SIR-Tech did a really good job with the NES's graphical capabilities.

    1. I agree so far. Of course, they could afford to do so compared to other games of the time since the rest of the graphics were one or two tiles and the rest was text.

  3. My original party contained mostly higher classes, but it was taking way to long to level them up. I had more sucess with 2 fighters 1 cleric and 3 mages and i left a wizard out of the maze for item identification. There is a way to get past the class alignment problems...

    1. Do tell once I beat the game. It'll be interesting to know. How did you get by without a thief though?

      I've considered something a little crazy, making mages / clerics for a future thief and fighter, and changing their class at the beginning. Based on what I read in the manual it should work. Of course, the downfall to this is an age increase and my stats drop to base for the race. I wonder if the extra spell casting would be worth it though.

    2. I already had the one item I needed the thief for from my previous party. You will definitely need one though till you have that item. Age is not to much of a problem as long as you do not stay in the Inn. Just have your cleric rest in the stables and use their healing spells to heal the party.

    3. I actually started doing that with my last party, although not consistently. It's another one of those ethical dilemmas that I went back and forth on. It seems there's really no other way to keep HP at max between adventuring.

  4. Gounds?

    Never played any in this series but I'm curious of your opinion...

    1. Gah, changed, but it's forever immortalized in the url. So far my opinion is why does it have to be so bloody hard? The manual suggests I should fully heal after every single battle until I reach greater levels. It sure is a slow build up.

  5. Wow, BRUTAL. I have never played a Wizardry game, but I have read the CRPG Addict's reviews of I-IV, and I have to say that they only sound fun in a particularly masochistic old-school kind of way. It's interesting that you find the NES port harder than the PC version. Good luck with this one, Zenic!

  6. I have barely played this game, but about the rerolls for perfect stats and looting new recruits things... I double-cheated in the most efficient manner I could devise. I created character after character keeping the ones I liked best within the party while the inn filled up. Then I would pick from the best to switch out my party, loot the rest, pool the gold, and restart the process over again until I had enough money to buy one of everything in the shop (my party had immaculate begginning stats long before then). To expedite the process I began naming everyone with numbers until tripple digits, then went to letters (all lowercase then all capitals), then letter number combinations, and so on in sequence (my final party I renamed to what I wanted).

    Not long after that I got bored with the game and swore off illegally owning software through emulators... not the first or final time (I'm thinking of getting a 3DSXL and loading up on all the used carts I could want for my birthday to alleviate this occasional longing for new handheld games versus poor non-vibrating touch controls on emulators for my Kindle Fire).

    1. Well, I've grinded enough on Murphy's ghost that it feels like I've cheated the game. Even so, my character's HP still haven't reached a level where they're out of instant destruction range of Tiltowait. I'm going to bite the bullet soon and grind up some better equipment and then charge Werdna once again. 20 hours so far, and probably another 10 before I'm done.

  7. I hated this game so much.

    I mapped everything out to the 4th level, then kept running into instant-death ninjas who would 1 hit kill my heroes (especially on ambush). Finally got sick of trying to level grind my way past this encounter and gave up. I don't remember grinding on Murphy's Ghosts for xp though; this was before I had access to internet FAQs.

    Much later, I read in FAQs how people doing Wizardry challenge games would regularly use the NES reset button to get out of bad fights. People doing solo challenges would reset one mandatory ninja fight on level 4 until they got a "friendly" group and could just stroll on by.

    Every time the CRPG addict complains about how grindy or punishing or boring a given RPG is (especially the Bard's Tale series), I want to yell out "But you beat Wizardry!" Since Zenic has admitted to finishing Wizardry on the PC, I'll probably have to bite back similar outcries while browsing this blog, too...

    1. And he enjoyed Wizardry strangely enough, or maybe he just recognizes it for its innovation. I remember Wizardry on PC being much easier, even with exploring all floors. I honestly didn't remember the null magic fields, but there was a huge room with spinners that I'm glad I skipped over.

      I'm hoping the second game offers a more interesting experience. At least I won't have to play through the first game just to get another crack at the second after my party gets wiped.