October 14, 2011

Wizardry I - Ranking

Story & World

A small town and ten floor dungeon is the entire Wizardry game world.  All the characters know is that Werdna has stolen Trebor's amulet and he'd like it back.  The town has a place to rest, purchase items and organize / inspect party members.  All the places are very impersonal and it felt more like a home base for my team rather than a bustling town. The dungeon levels themselves are well designed and so chock full of tricks and traps that detailed mapping is quite necessary.

Other than meeting Trebor for one panel of text, there are no other NPCs unless you want to count those damn greedy priests at the Temple of Cant (which I don't).

The one and only main quest itself is very basic.  It's a classic dungeon crawl following the time honoured tradition of kill the foozle.  Strap on your gear and start killing because that's all there is to do.  4/20

Character Development

A massive six character lineup allows for a ton of party configurations.  Classes available to a character are stat based with certain classes having exceedingly high requirements.  Characters can change classes anytime they like, as long as they meet the stat requirements.  The character begins again at level 1 in the new class but keeps equipment and hit points.  Wizardry can save up to 20 characters in a roster which is essential in order to have multiple "teams" of characters in case a party is lost in the dungeon and needs to be retrieved.  Gaining a level results in some stats being raised but also a chance of a decrease as well.  Hit Points gained vary wildly, anywhere from 1 to over 20 (with the 1 showing up the most frequently, grrr).  The complexity of the Wizardry party system is perhaps its strongest feature which is nice since there are more chapters to follow. 

  
Weapon and armour restrictions tied to classes are present here and most characters can use many pieces of armour (e.g. helmet, shield, gloves).  Magically bound weapons and armour are described only by their name.  There is no means in game to determine the stats of any magic items.  Trial and error in the midst of combat is the only way to get a feel for how strong an item is.  Even going off the selling price of the item is not entirely accurate as to how powerful it is.  Other items can be used in combat and usually duplicate a spell effect.  The most powerful items are found only after encounters in the deepest recesses of the dungeon and certain drops are very rare.  Favourite sword has to be the Blade Cuisinart (ended up with two of them, heh).  15/20

Combat & Monsters

With the strong six party structure to support it, the tactical options for each battle are numerous.  This is further enhanced by a basic party formation scheme.  The first three positions are in the front line and the last three are in the protected back ranks.  No melee attacks can reach or come from the back ranks with the exception of the thief (who can try to hide from the back line and backstab the next round).  Combat magic has a good mix of spread attack, party buffing and status ailment spells.  The utility spells are relied upon heavily.  Proper spell management is critical to success in the dungeon and most of the spells retain their usefulness throughout the entire game. 


An impressive number of monsters stalk the Mad Overlord's dungeon.  Monster types and attacks are quite varied and encounters can have different mixes of monsters together making for some interesting situations (usually resulting in death).  At the beginning of most encounters the actual foe that is being fought cannot be seen.  Rather, it displays a shadowy generic picture of that creature's base type (e.g. a Giant encounter could be a Fire, Frost, Earth, or Poison giant).  Makes the fights a little more tense when you don't know exactly what it is (especially in the early game).  Encounters can be random or static with the static ones usually set off after passing through a door.  Static encounters are also the only way to get chests after winning.  Every encounter has a chance to be with a "friendly" group of monsters.  Choosing to leave them alone counts as a good act and has a chance of making any evil aligned characters change to good.  Attacking them gives a chance to change good to evil.  It's not much in the way of role playing opportunities but it's something.  14/20

Graphics & Sound

Each level of the dungeon had its own texture and Werdna's interior decorator for level 10 did an absolutely fabulous job.  At the start of the game, when light spells are hard to come by, walking around in the dungeon is downright spooky.  You can barely see the walls to the sides much less farther down the hallway.  Nice ambient touch as opposed to a lot of RPGs that don't let you see at all without a light source.  The only other graphics in the game are the monster sprites and luckily they are very well done.  New monsters kept popping up all the time as the party delved deeper and kept things fresh.  The music was fantastic although a little sparse on the number of different tunes.  Sound effects got the job done but were nothing exceptional.  15/20

Gameplay


The economy in Wizardry at first seemed very robust.  Resurrections are very costly as are poison and paralysis cures.  An entire outing's booty can be used up on a single death (ensuring a good razzing of the resurrected character).  The one shop in town has a few tempting items for the beginning party and with at least six character to purchase for, there was always a reason to pinch some coppers and sleep in the stables.  After finding and pawning the Ring of Death found on level 4, the economy broke and stayed broken until the end.  In future installments of Wizardry, I think this obvious breaking of the system will be avoided if the situation presents itself again.  A lot of the tension goes out from the encounters when you know a resurrection is guaranteed.   

Wizardry is quirky in that while there is a good amount of replayability, it would be used as you are playing.  At any point, an entire new party can be generated without having to start all over.  Much of my adventure had high level characters chillin' with low level ones, showing them the ropes and whatnot.  Once the entire dungeon is mapped out however, there would be little incentive to try it again.  Wizardry had a few very difficult parts (especially in the beginning) but was overall manageable.  I am fairly certain this port of Wizardry is easier than the original PC version but I'm glad it wasn't a complete cakewalk.  Fans of dungeon crawls should be sure to check Wizardry out (regardless of the platform it's on).  14/20

Final Ranking:  62/100