Posted by: Ben | January 10, 2010

Wizardry Part 2: Massacre

Part 1 is here

I’m starting to understand the role-playing experience, although it’s quite alien to my usual way of playing. The way I have previously understood videogames, somebody gives you a mission, like killing 10 rats, or acting as the getaway driver for a bank job. Successful completion of the mission qualifies you for the next one, thereby advancing the story. In a “pure” RPG like Wizardry, the story is the changes that occur within the player-character rather than in the outside world. Your motivation for going back into the dungeons isn’t to discover what’s in there, it’s purely to gain Experience Points to make your character more powerful. If you concentrate on the world and what the characters in the game tell you to do, you find yourself experiencing a form of motivational dissonance.

In related news, I am utterly, utterly bored of Wizardry.

My characters are all up to Level 3 and I decide to venture further into the maze this time. I head down to the second level, meet a friendly group of Creeping Cruds and pick a fight with them. Keema is poisoned again, but the Cruds are beaten, leaving a treasure chest, the attempt at opening which poisons Shadrach. Back to the surface we go. At least now I have a healing spell. I’m starting to understand the magic system now, and it seems that while restoring lost health costs money, regenerating spells is free. I can use the healing spell to heal my party and then sleep in the stables to get the spell back. This means I can spend my hard-fought cash on better weapons and armour instead of hotel bills. I find a shield in the dungeons, and pay the local trader 20 gold for him to correctly identify it as a “large” shield.

On our return to the maze, we meet a group of spell-casting gas clouds, one of which paralyses Shadrach. This turns out to be even more expensive to cure than death, although as a higher-level character he is a higher priority. He’s also our only priest, and therefore the only one who knows healing spells, so we’ve lost an extremely valuable party member. My three remaining characters are going to need to work even harder now. On the plus side I finally managed to get the staff Keema found after her very first fight identified. It turned out to be an Anointed Flail, which I sell to buy Butch some chain mail.

Back down in the dungeons, we bump into a man in robes. He runs away, leaving us 120 gold pieces. Shortly after defeating a pair of zombies, we meet another group of adventurers. The developers have gone to the trouble of creating AI adventurers who wander around the dungeons autonomically. This simultaneously impresses and disappoints me for different reasons. Around another corner, we come across three zombies. It’s not long before Marlon and Keema are both paralysed, so Butch has to fight on alone. He kills them, but is too afraid to open the chest they leave behind. Heading for the exit instead, he bumps into six gas clouds. He has his companions, one of whom is seriously injured, to drag back to the surface and doesn’t want to get into another fight. He decides to run.

Soon he is hopelessly lost in the maze, running from encounters left, right and centre. When he encounters a group of Creeping Coins, he feels compelled to fight his way through. The paralysed Keema is soon killed in the battle. But Butch has the red mist now. His cause is hopeless but his heart is valiant. He fights on, and soon Marlon is dead too. But there’s no stopping Butch now. He knows his cause is lost, but the walkthrough says to fight some Creeping Coins, and he’s going to do just that. He dies fighting, surrounded by malevolent coins.

Total play time: 5 hours.

Verdict: Wizardry provides a role-playing experience of admirable purity, but something of a slow-paced slog that lacks variety in the early stages. There’s a more tactical element to the combat compared to the other games I’ve tried so far, and calculating the optimum strategy for each group of monsters would have added considerably to the replay value. If it was 1981 now I would definitely play it again, but as it is I find myself hankering after something with a little more graphical fidelity.

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