Monday, February 22, 2016

Game #51: Wizardry: Knight of Diamonds (NES) - A Grandiose Grind (Finished)

A final screen that could pass as the first
When last we left the party, their corpses lay at the feet (hands?) of the magic gauntlets. That encounter was by far the largest spike in difficulty I'd ever seen in an RPG. With the stakes so high (essentially perma-death), I decided to grind until I had a party capable of withstanding at least one turn against them and still stand. Admittedly, I went a bit overboard.
About halfway through the grind I switched up three of my six fighters to spellcasters
My initial plan was to train everyone as a fighter until about level 20. At some point I decided I needed some spells, and switched out three to gain cleric and mage spells. By the time I'd gotten through those, and ready to swap them back to fighers, my front line fighters were nearing level 25 and capable of great damage without any new gear. I considered keeping some characters at level 1, hoping they would be immune to level drain; quite the opposite it turned out. Level 1 characters that are drained are lost completely. Luckily I'd heeded the advice of some viewers to try it out with some stand-in characters. I decided on a new plan. I'd keep my front line fighters, and make a ninja to open chests.
A ninja with 4 strength is useless on the front line
So, I shuffled my classes around again: I upgraded one spellcaster to fighter, and changed a fighter to wizard for some additional spell power. At first I was grinding on Murphy, but I found the Magic Armor was worth more experience and only required dropping the KOD Armor to spawn again. After a while, I realized I could fill my characters' inventory with junk to avoid picking up the armor altogether. I also found that the magic sword was susceptible to magic, but it also had a chance to kill a fighter with a single blow. So, I grinded on magic armors. Five hours later I felt ready to tackle the gauntlets.
After 1 turn, my fighters are nearly level 40 and hit like a ton of bricks
The sixth floor turned out to be mostly superfluous. There were immediately four doors after entering, and one led to an apparition that said, "One alone." I unfortunately explored half the floor before finding that one, and had some other clues that didn't lead anywhere. I figured I should return to that door with one fighter wearing all the pieces of the Knight of Diamond. I decided that fighter should be Strato as he was the only one with spells, so I leveled him up until he had over 300 HP, just in case. Well, it was completely without cause as Gnilda was waiting on the other side and just handed over the staff. I then returned to town to watch the ending sequence.
This felt good
I was much closer to the end than I had realized. I feared exploring the entire sixth floor, but had most of it mapped by the time I attempted to enter that door solo. I knighted five other characters that assisted Strato, and then the credits rolled. I think the best part of putting this one behind me is knowing I don't have the third or fourth games on my list.

Elapsed Time: 9h59m (Total Time: 34h00m)
I wonder what other gems they've created
Combatant - Wizardry is punishing. It actively discourages taking risks. So much so that grinding on a safe single enemy is much more productive to accomplishing the end goal. Experience points don't scale well, and item drops are rare. Experimenting with spells, and how effective they are against each creature is discouraged by having a chance at a full party wipe. In the end, the path to victory is easy, except for those gauntlets.
Rating: 7
The enemy art is very well done, and quite detailed
Admirer - Choose a name, and you're off. With little graphics there's not much to say about this category. Controls are menu based, which isn't the best for console. Aside from class changing, there's no customization.
Rating: 2
Full roster of characters
Puzzler - Honestly I expected a bit more in the way of puzzles. There's one huge fetch quest to get keys, which was trumped by point where instead of a key the party needs to teleport past it without any clue. Maybe some of this was lost in translation or porting, but there was another incident that spoke of different effects to certain spells that never was fully explained.
Rating: 1
"the stuff"
Instigator - What? Story? Oh yeah, there's a dungeon where you collect a bunch of stuff and kill random creatures indiscriminately. At least when Werdna was running the show there was a pretense for why all these random creatures were about. There is a bit of lore here that's fun to toy with, but in the end it does little to sell itself. The little notes all about don't really help. Just enjoy the dungeon crawling for what it is.
Rating: 2
Truer words never spoken
Collector - There is a wealth of rare equipment to find, but probably won't because you're too busy grinding on Murphy (or Magic Armor). The economy gets trashed by the mid-game that the developers put a useless money sink on floors three and four. Equipment strength is only gleaned by the resale value, and even that isn't an accurate indicator.
Rating: 4
The last of dragons seen here, obviously the rest were vanquished by the numerous dragon slayer swords
Explorer - The graphics for the monsters are well done. The music is also really enjoyable. It's too bad exploring the dungeon feels so empty. There's nothing to find outside the of the keys that unlock the rest of the dungeon, and little else needs to be found. Just grind on magic armor to win.
Rating: 2

Final Rating: 18 [30%]
Is that the same Andrew Greenberg of Star Saga fame?
I definitely enjoyed this more than the first game, but the "final boss" is really a bit much. Sure it goes well with the rest of the series, but for this title it felt out of place. I expected the final encounter to have Tiltowait at its disposal, but with no way to actually stop it (no lucky silence) the party just needs the HP to tank it and deal physical damage capable of taking them out quickly. There's really no other way around it, and no sense of the impending doom. I'm not sure there's going to be a Wizardry game that turns out recommended. This one is another straight grind, with only a slightly more interesting dungeon to explore. The mapping was the best part.
Many test players who never realized that the gauntlets are inaccessible outside of teleporting
And on that note we move on to games not so trying of my patience, and many more maps to make. Pool of Radiance is right around the corner, and Order of the Griffon offers a similar experience. First though, let's cut Ax Battler and move on to another D&D license: Warriors of the Eternal Sun.


  1. Congratultions on finishing this beast. I've still got occasional tremor from the hours of grinding and full-party deaths, though in the DOS version. Warriors of the Eternal Sun, on the other hand, I remember very fondly.

    1. I second those congratulations on completing another beast of a game.

    2. Warriors of the Eternal Sun has been fun, and I'll get a post out this week.

      Thank you both for the congrats, but getting through the game by grinding like this doesn't feel like the achievement it should have been. I did beat it though, and that's enough for me.

  2. Wait, isn't Wizardry III: Legacy of Llylgamyn on the NES???

    Nice job finishing this one. Interesting how you have a cluster of WRPGs altogether.

    1. According to GameFAQs's data, it was a Japan only release in 1989 under the title "Wizardry II: Legacy of Llylgamyn - The Third Scenario". Apparently they released 2 and 3 out of order, thus it being number II yet the third scenario. This game was similarly given the number III in the title in Japan, as well as the second scenario being part of the subtitle.

    2. Oh wow you're right. Good catch, thanks. I've seen the cover art many times online and always figured it was NES due to the English text and vertical orientation of the box art (I tend to think of Famicom art as being horizontal even though that isn't true 100% of the time).

    3. The sequel's naming being out of order also applies to the Super Famicom compilation of the first three games. When choosing which game to play, I naturally think pushing to the right will bring up the next in line, 1-2-3. At the time when I was playing it, I thought the 1-3-2 order was due to the Japanese propensity to go right-to-left. Good to know it was just a general mess all around.

    4. It's nice to see a series order and numbering can get just as messed up going from the US to JPN. I wonder why Wizardry 1 - 3 didn't get released on SNES, but the fifth game did. I'm happy for the long break before I have to see another Wizardry game.

    5. The Super Famicom release of Wizardry 1-3 wasn't brought to the USA because it was first released in 1999 for the SFC's Nintendo Power cart-writing service, by which time, the SNES was already off the market.

  3. I just thought I'd mention that there actually IS a way to combat the Gauntlets without grinding. You can do it pretty much as soon as you get the Malor spell. How? By casting the Haman spell. In D&D terms, this functions as a "limited wish" spell. It allows you to choose one of three options, with a pool of 5 that these effects are chosen from. One of those effects is "Silence All Enemies." This effect overrides the Gauntlet's magic immunity, at the cost of the caster losing an experience level at the end of battle. Small price to pay to freely slap them around, as they almost never physically attack, and just repeatedly (and futilely) attempt to cast Tiltowait.

    As for Legacy of Llylgamyn, it may be a Famicom exclusive, but it's fully playable in English (after making a few alterations in the options menu) and is probably the most intricate game of the original trilogy. It's also the only one of the three where alignment actually makes a gameplay difference, as you will need to run more than one party (or grind out alignment changes, or run a fully neutral party) in order to beat the game. Just an FYI from a huge fan of the series :)

  4. I think wizardry is a lot more fun if you think of mapping as the key challenge rather than combat. KoD is by far the easiest game in the series due to the KoD equipment being so powerful. The gauntlets having unlimited tiltowait and the helmet with unlimited dial let you explore the last floor with little fear.

    Legacy of Llygamyn (the third game) is much more combat-heavy.

    Interesting fact that Robert Woodhead did an interview with Retronauts awhile ago and he said he considered the NES version of wizardry to be the best.