Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Game #51: Wizardry: Knight of Diamonds (NES) - A Bitter Betrayal

There it is, the screen we've all been waiting for
I can't say I was surprised to get a full party wipe, but each time it happened was a reminder of just how brutal this series is without some kind of character backup. Last session ended innocently enough as I gained my first set of upgraded weapons. I added Mace of Pounding, Sword of Slicing, and Dragon Slayer to my front line. I took the new gear to Murphy to see which one was more powerful. I couldn't really tell much difference at all. Confident in my new power I went grinding on the battles on the third floor to collect more. That's when things started to turn.
Level drain is the single worst enemy ability I've encountered
Ako, my ninja, was doing fairly well. Slightly above average agility with good luck, and hadn't failed to disarm a trap once. Come a few unlucky encounters with level drainers, and he was down three levels. So, I grinded on Murphy a bit to get him back up to snuff. Stat gains in Wizardry are random, and they can go either way a single point. All three levels saw agility go the other way, and now I had a very useless ninja that eventually lead to the death screen above after triggering a teleport trap into solid rock on the fifth floor. Luckily being inside rock meant the characters were transported to town, but they still lost some equipment for dying in the dungeon.
Finding a magic fizzle square on the fourth floor
A small setback, but not a total loss. I managed to get some unique sounding items: ring of metamorph (learned through use it changes class to a Lord), ring of jewels (no clue), ring of rigidity, sword of slashing (best sword I've found), and something called a "stone stone." At the point I'm currently at though I've lost all of that equipment and more, but we'll get to that. I branched out to the fourth floor to fully map it. I paid 100,000 gold to learn some cryptic gibberish that probably has something to do with the end game.
Everything is a combat spell except Latumapic, so I'm not sure what this actually means
I ran into a familiar figure as well that shouted out, "Mapiro Mahama Diromat" before being whisked away back to town. There was a similar square on the third floor that teleported the party back to town for a mere 5,000 gold. Most battles result in about 500 gold at that level. Without a reliable disarming character, I ended up using Calfo to identify the trap. I left it alone if was one of the more dangerous, and forced it open otherwise. I've been enjoying the variety of monsters. Some are found in the standard fare of fantasy bestiary, but others are quite unique.
Does any other game offer a Were Amoeba?
I was slowly gaining back my momentum, regained my sword of slashing and a new blade cusinart'. I turned my ninja into a second mage for some added power. I stored a lot of my equipment on a separate character just in case, but I hadn't accumulated much when the inevitable struck again. This time I ran into a new monster that I didn't take seriously enough. Poison giants, which I thought might only poison my characters, had a breath attacking capable of 30 - 40 damage. Multiplied by four in the group and their advantageous initiative, I really didn't stand a chance with my highest HP total at 120. I marked the tile I died, and grinded up a new party, specifically a new mage to get to level 13 for Malor. The rescue party was assembling.
I can't imagine ever having enough HP to face off against 9 Poison Giants
And so I did what I thought wouldn't be necessary. I grinded on Murphy's Ghost like no other. All to get a mage capable of teleporting to the party and back out. My only saving grace this time was that the enemies I died to weren't a set encounter. Some squares have a guaranteed encounter the first time the party enters the floor. At first I started grinding up a full party, but I eventually dropped the cleric and an extra fighter to make it go a bit faster. Once my mage was high enough I took one fighter and the cleric down to the spot where the main party had fallen.
There's a menu accessed by the select button to search for party members, but you have to be on the exact square they died
It takes two trips to drag a full party out because they need to be added to the current group. This means you need to take less than a full party into the maze in the first place. Really the only way to feasibly do this is to have a mage capable of teleporting, and hope you don't run into an encounter. I took stock of my missing equipment, and it wasn't too bad. I lost some armor, but it was easily replaced. My patience for this game waned as I realized it was intended to be unfair. There's no gauge for how much the game expects you to grind, and the punishment for being wrong is so severe.
Don't do it! This game is just one big trap
I ended my map of the fifth floor by finding a blue fountain at the end of a riddle. I was unsure it was time for the fountain, and I mapped everything else, so I finally went back to the magic armor. There was a door on the fifth floor as well, but it sent the party back a square with a message that implied I didn't have the right key to continue. I easily collected the magic armor (KOD armor), the magic shield (KOD shield), the magic sword (Hrathnir), and the magic helm (KOD Helm).
I wonder if all the magic items have a special spell they die to
Most magic fails against the KOD armor, so it's strange that Tzalik so easily destroyed the magic sword. Even the great Tiltowait failed against the shield. After the helmet was a teleport square to the same stairs I'd taken down to the fifth floor. Up to this point were a special set of stairs previously unreachable leading to each magic item. I had mapped everywhere, and couldn't find another option. I decided to try to wade through the blue fountain with all four pieces equipped on one character. I knew there was a fifth, but couldn't locate where, so I hoped the fountain was the key. Before I realized it Tillbot had permanently lost 8 HP. It took myself a night of sleep to realize I could try teleporting beyond the door and past the tile that bounced me back. I expected this action to be blocked, but I faced off against two magic gauntlets.
There's no way my current party could take these out first try
Everyone except Tillbot was wiped first round. He was left with ~20 HP. I tried to run, but ended up getting bounced into the same room because I didn't have the key. Starting the battle again with a fresh pair of gauntlets meant I stood even less of a chance. I accepted my fate and rerolled new characters. I used the fighters from my previous grinding, and decided what I really needed to do was start with max vitality and six fighters. Get them up to near 200 HP, and class change to mage, cleric, and back to fighter might enable them to survive. Then I'll leave the front row at level 1 (hopefully immune to level drain), grind out some equipment, and then see if that Tzalik on the Magic Sword was a fluke or what. It's possible there's a special spell for each piece, and I need to find the one for the gauntlets to stand a chance. My main party remains unrecoverable until I can defeat the gauntlets. I tried to duplicate the KOD equipment, but as soon as a character carrying it dies it's wiped, and the encounters don't spawn as long as any character (in or out of party) is carrying it. Welcome to Wizardry; welcome to the grind.
That's how this game feels like
Elapsed Time: 14h49m (Total Time: 24h01m)


  1. Awwww isht, screw those Gauntlets. They got me too except I got completely wiped out first encounter (I believe they surprised, did tilto, then got first attack next round and tilto'ed again). I didn't make new chars though, as replaying they whole game probably would have killed my blog, so mad props to you for keeping it more real than I did.

    1. I'm curious to see how you ended things, but I'll hold off on reading your take on the game until after I've completed my playthrough. I've been holding off on using the reset trick (exploit?) to avoid party death. (If you reset before combat ends, you can restart with an out party right before combat.) I may end up doing it though as this game is really just a big grind, and I don't fancy spending another 12+ hours getting to this point.

    2. I love these Wizardry Magic Gauntlets stories.

      I once ran into a similar situation in Final Fantasy for the NES; four dragons got a surprise round, all of them breathed on the party, then they went first on the next round, and the party was dead without any chance to act.

      The difference being that in Final Fantasy I COULD RELOAD FROM MY LAST SAVE dammit.

      I still harbor bitterness for Wizardry.

    3. I was surprised in the encounter with the gauntlets that I inevitably won. Luckily Wizardry has a limit on surprise encounters: no spells.

  2. I played all these Wizardry games many years ago when I snagged a bunch of "abandonware" copies off the internet. I shudder at the thought of ever revisiting them, though if I did these console ports look (somewhat) appealing. It's amazing to see how this series took off in Japan and how many spin-offs remained overseas.

    Incidentally, last night I finished a game on the Famicom Disk System called Deep Dungeon, which is a bit like Wizardry but stripped of all the elements that make Wizardry difficult (and interesting). JRPGs - always easier than their Western ancestors.

    Anyhow, good luck with this beast. And be thankful that part IV never saw a Western console release.

    1. Oh yeah, check out for some blogging on Deep Dungeon. Really interesting to see how well it took off in Japan. I think they got more Wizardry games than we did. Very thankful IV isn't a game I'll be playing.