Monday, February 1, 2016

Game #51: Wizardry: Knight of Diamonds (NES) - A Familiar Friend

Game 51

Title: Wizardry: Knight of Diamonds
Released: 1991 (1992?) (March 1990 JPN)
Platform: NES
Developer: Game Studio (original game by Sir-Tech)
Publisher: ASCII Entertainment Software (aka Asciiware)
Genre: RPG
Exploration - First-Person
Combat - Turn based
Series - Wizardry

It's really hard to pin down US release dates. I originally used GameFAQs suggestion of April 1992, but the manual and MobyGames refer to 1991 as the copyright and release respectively. Even stranger is a second copyright date of 1990 attributed to Andrew Greenberg. My understanding was that Werdna's namesake had left Sir-Tech well before that time. He had worked on Star Saga One and Two in 1988 and 1989, so I wonder how he got attributed to this title personally. Due to the lack of an import feature, the game was reworked as a standalone title, so maybe he provided some input.
There's a nice set of black and white art paired with exposition detailing the new story
The city of Llylgamyn was protected by the Staff of Gnilda, which shielded the city from all forms of attack from outside. Unfortunately, it didn't protect from within, and an upstart evil tyrant named Davalpus seized this opportunity after the fall of Werdna. He slew the entire royal family, all except the prince and princess. After some time, Alavik returned wearing the armor of the The Knight of Diamonds and wielding Gnilda's staff. Davalpus fell, but so did the castle. With no sign of the staff, the city was now defenseless, and it was up to a brave band of nameless adventurers to retrieve it.
Wizardry is a rare breed of console RPG that requires building the party from scratch. There is a default party, but they have generic names like Fighter2 and Thief1. When rolling up my first set of characters (I expect many to come) I decided to roll for 10+ stats, and aimed for an evil party with Fighter, Samurai, Cleric, Cleric, Wizard, and Mage as my starting classes. I remembered the Calfo spell incorrectly, and thought it also disarmed traps. In this game, it only identifies the trap type with a high reliability, but a thief or ninja is required to disarm it. For the first couple of levels I ignored chests, and after a couple of levels had my fighter take the brunt of trap damage until I could class change my wizard to a ninja.
I nearly had one from the very beginning
From character creation, to stripping the default party, to purchasing new gear, I didn't actually enter the maze for the first hour. I was a expecting a trial by fire the way the first game had, but I think this version is a bit fairer in the early game due to the re-balance. The only time a party member died was due to running into a pit trap, then opening the menu, which caused the pit to hit a second time when I exited it. After that small setback, I fought some early creeping coins for a good amount of experience, and I was level 3 before I knew it.
Even the cost for resurrection seems adjusted
I was feeling confident with those early levels that I hardly thought of the gold I was leaving behind. Low level thieves usually fail disarming rolls anyway. On this first floor I found an are deemed for officers only, a corroded key, and a kobold king that dropped a gory badge. I also found a dusty statue with a golden light. You know what that means, right?
Our old friend Murphy is back
I didn't spend much time with Murphy, but the opportunity is there to grind out some early levels with fighters followed by a class change to mages in order to get higher HP. As it stands, my current mage only has 33 HP, and would easily die to most breath attacks or high level mage spells. If the first Wizardry has taught me anything, it's that I should be able to survive at least one tiltowait by the end of the game. I feel like I'll need a good number of class changes before that happens. The drawback to grinding on Murphy safely is that special items are only dropped on the lower floors, and those battles are actually worth a good amount of experience.
Much like the first game, the main quest is revealed while inside the maze
Gnilda appeared before the party in a small room. She claimed responsibility for the disappearance of the staff and armor, and declared only those worthy of her favor could reclaim them. I'm not sure what "the five" are or what the seven barriers entail. If it means the keys and badges, then I've crossed at least five barriers so far, and traded for a couple more keys. The manual says there are only six levels to the dungeon, and I'm about halfway through mapping the fourth. It's a rather short game if that's really the case, and I'm not sure there's enough content to support leveling very high.
Of course, the manual also says elite classes like Ninja and Lord are reached by characters level 18 - 25
With a ninja in my party, I was able to start disarming some trapped chests. The most troublesome at the moment are those that give random status effects to mages or clerics. I found a living magic armor, that very well could be the Knight of Diamonds' armor, but I ran away before finding out how tough it was. I'll make another attempt after I've exhausted my options on the lower levels.
It's available fairly early on the first floor in the officers section, but I still fear it may be too soon to tackle it
Most of my exploration has led to empty corridors giving the game a eerily quiet feel punctuated by the sudden appearance of monsters capable of wiping the party given the right set of circumstances. On the second floor I traded the kobold's badge for an emblem, which allowed me to exchange the corroded key for a black one in the officer's area. The black key was then traded for another key I didn't bother to identify that opened the path to the third floor. There I let my guard down for one second, and was sent down a chute to the floor below in complete darkness.
That square marking on the ground denotes tiles where events take place. Up to this point they've all been items to find, stairs, or helpful messages, but now they include chutes. Luckily, I had already located the stairs down to the fourth floor, so I knew where I needed to go to get back up. How to get there was another matter to figure out. I managed to get out alive without teleportation while running low on spells. I'm very glad I picked a party that included two clerics as the extra healing is more helpful than a second mage. I think my first set of class changes will be to increase my overall spell potential.
In the first Wizardry, this is a deadly battle that could result in instant death
I could be jinxing myself here, but so far this game is much easier than the first Wizardry. The idea that there are six floors gives me hope that the game could end soon; although given my HP totals, I feel like I should change classes two or three times before I actually venture further. Most of the ninjas in the battle above fled instant of attempting their instant kill attack. The only truly nerve-racking battles are those against enemies with breath attacks, or the carriers capable of paralyzing on touch. I'm going to spend a bit more time on floors three and four to collect some higher level gear. I don't have many magic items, but I did manage to wrap up my last session with a sword of slicing, slayer of dragons, and mace of power. To save money, I made my own ID-GUY after I found some cursed items would auto-equip upon identifying them.

I'm not really sure how he's dual wielding a Sword of Wishes and Epee of Dismay, but that's probably not good for his health, especially given his AC 15
My spellcasters are nearly able to use level 7 spells, which is really only a big deal for mages that gain tiltowait and teleport. I think once that happens I'll move one cleric to mage, and possibly swap my current mage with my samurai (who has been underperforming with minimal HP gains). I realize now that I'd have been better off going all evil instead of mixing in neutral alignments as those are locked out of clerical classes. If I were truly min/maxing, I'd go all fighters to level 13 or 14 for HP, then half to clerics half to mages, and swap once level 7 spells were unlocked. Repeat until satisfied with HP, and a final class change to include a thief or ninja, fighters for the front line, and a wizard for identification. I like the challenge though, and the tension this party has deep in the dungeon is palpable when I encounter a new enemy type.
Hold reset, then power off; we never knew why, but we always did it even with games without battery saves
With any luck, I'll have this game wrapped up by the end of the week. Without any luck, I'll have a new party and might be implementing the plan above. At least Murphy will be there for me when I need him. I think one reason I didn't really get into the first Wizardry may have been my choice to solely grind on Murphy without bothering to get gear from floors 5 - 9.

Elapsed Time: 9h12m (Total Time: 9h12m)


  1. How do you make your Wizardry grinding (or other RPG grinding, I guess) less boring? Watch TV? Listen to podcats? Audiobooks? Music?

    1. Not sure why the below comment didn't get set to reply here, but anyway, yeah I haven't had much grinding in any of the RPGs. At least not the mindless kind where I wander the same area to get into fights. Most of the games I've played so far have hidden the grinding fairly well that I can attempt to push forward a little more in my exploration while fighting all battles. This tends to set my at a good level of strength to take on the next challenge. Notable exceptions: Wizardry 1 + 2, Phantasy Star 2, and that's about it. Dungeon Magic and Sword of Vermilion were a little grind heavy, and others have high encounter rates, but still maintain a good pacing. I wonder if I should make a list or something, but I haven't kept good track so far since they're few and far between. That may change in the future.

  2. Well, I stream the full playthrough, so I'm chatting with the viewers, and thinking about what comes next. I've only recently found the need to grind (full party wipe, and need a rescue party now), but it doesn't take a lot of time. I probably should have done it in preparation for this inevitability as it would have been faster to power level with my previous equipment (Blade Cuisinart + Sword of Slashing). I hope my equipment is okay.

    During the first Wizardry I didn't bother to stream it, and I actually played through a text adventure while grinding. Grinding in Wizardry 2 takes a might more focus though as it's not simply mashing a single button.

  3. Yeah, pretty much any given "exact" US release before Sonic 2 or Mortal Kombat is suspect. Those were the first games to have set release dates and they made big huge deals about the exact dates those were coming out, Sonic 2'sday and Mortal Monday. Usually you can at least pin it to a year or a season, maybe a month, but anyone who who claims that games before that came on a specific date is just pulling things out of their posterior. Heck, a lot of games wouldn't even come out at the same time in different chains, or different regions (of the US, obviously different world regions have differing dates, even today), etc.

    1. As long as I don't get too far off (more than a year) I don't really mind. I'm already playing some ports and remakes early to coincide with the first release of the game rather than the release for the remake.