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Wizardry A Zoomer's Musings on Wizardry: Proving Grounds

Discussion in 'General RPG Discussion' started by AdvancedHero, Jun 6, 2020.

  1. AdvancedHero Arbiter

    AdvancedHero
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    So I just beat Wizardry 1 for the first time! I had dabbled with the game in the past, but never made it past floor 4. I defended the game in the Wizardry thread after Red Panda quit it, but then he found out that I had never actually beaten it myself, so we agreed that I would play it to completion and then make a review/write-up afterwards. So here I am, and boy, what a ride that was; I'm not even quite sure where to start. I'm sure many of you have at least tried the game, so I may be treading over ground that has already been covered, but I'll just talk about a few things I noticed. The main thing that kept amazing me again and again is just how polished this game is for 1981, and I think that is pretty unique compared to it's contemporaries.
    So, we get into the game, and we start mapping the first floor. This is something I have already talked about on 2 separate occasions now, but I'll mention it again briefly. The first level is a perfect tutorial for the rest of the game. The first floor is split into 4 quadrants. Each of these "chunks" presents a different style of mapping, and so you can begin to get used to what to expect. You have long corridors ending in 2x2 rooms, dark spaces, single space rooms, secret walls, teleport squares, special encounters. It begins to introduce the concept of the maze to you, but keeps it digestible by neatly sorting it into quadrants, all connected near the center. Not only is this a good tutorial floor, it also is distinct enough that after a while you can even navigate without heavy reliance on the map; it's just that well thought out!

    Throughout your explorations of the first floor, you may notice something about the encounters: there are very little random encounters. In fact, I found myself only getting into 3 or 4 random encounters per floor. Instead of relying on random encounters, the game does something specific instead; you will find enemies in fixed locations, often in room behind doors. This creates a really interesting dynamic. Since this is the case, you may find yourself pausing before you go through a new door. I would think to myself, "okay, is my party ready for what I might find in the next room?"
    Something really cool that I noticed is that this system of encounters is actually specifically used in parts of the game to create tension for the player. On level 4 things begin to ramp up; this is where you fight your first "boss" encounter, and this is where the tutorial ends. This floor has 2 chains of rooms, that loop around each other. By this point in the game you will know that you find enemies behind doors, so the developers are creating a kind of gauntlet for the player to go through. They do not artificially ramp up the difficulty by increasing random encounters, instead they rely on the established system to very clearly show that you will be encountering a lot of enemies here, so you had better be prepared. The best part about this is that the player is mapping all of this out, so they are organically observing themselves that the game is ramping up in difficulty, and it is up to them to adjust accordingly.

    This brings me to perhaps the most important aspect of this game. Wizardry has some tedious mechanics. Death comes quickly, and it is costly to revive your characters. There is no refuge in the dungeon and you must climb to the top every time you want to rest. The thing is, all of these "hardcore" and seemingly "unfair" mechanics are all working together to employ what I will call "forced immersion". If you want to succeed in overcoming this game, you will need to invest yourself. This is not something that can be played idly in the background. The mechanics are forcing you into the game and demanding your attention. This can have 2 effects. If you are like me it may captivate you and drive you forward, or it may just drive you away from the game. If you do not invest yourself into the experience, you probably will not have a great time. The running back and forth from town to dungeon will seem tedious and frustrating unless you are playing the game smart. You need to learn the rules of the dungeon, and then use them to your own advantage. It is possible to just spend hours grinding Murphy's Ghost on the first floor, and then plopping down to floor 10 with the elevator to fight Werdna, but this will not feel very fun. The game is best enjoyed if you can devote yourself to its peculiarities.

    The last thing I will talk about is the combat. I can't quite put my finger on what makes it so good to me, but wow, it feels just as exciting and snappy as a turn based RPG can hope to feel. Combats are not the main focus of the game (I would say that the focus is on resource management and mapping) but the combats are definitely rewarding. the most important thing is that they do not overstay their welcome; fights are fast and decisive. Either you will defeat the enemy, or they will defeat you. (It's not always quite so black and white, but it certainly feels that way)

    It is also worth mentioning that this game does have a few "boss" encounters, and these are certainly where the combat shines the most. It almost feels like a game of chess: You are presented with grouping of enemies, all of whom have specific attack patterns and spells they can use. You must find out the best way to counter these moves, and send out your own attacks. Combat happens in phases, so you must choose all of your actions at once, and then the game executes these in order of initiative. The best moments happen when you successfully parse what the enemy is trying to do, and you preemptively shut them down with a well chosen spell. If anything, I wish there were more encounters like this in the game.

    All in all, this is a seriously good cRPG. It really is amazing to see how many things they got right in 1981, and how many things we still use from Wizardry's formulas. Wizardry 1 isn't just a game, it is a game system- and a darn good one! The maps are all so well thought out, and it is truly a joy to go down to each new floor and see what unique challenges it presents you with. They are each unique, and very fun. It's also not very long to beat; I didn't keep track, but it couldn't have been more than 15 hours.

    So there you have it, today I have become a man.

    Show Spoiler
    For those interested, my party was Fighter-Fighter-Samurai, Priest-Mage-Thief. Everyone was level 10 when I beat Werdna, so I didn't have Tiltowait, but once his vampires were dead I managed to silence him and he couldn't even do anything. Just melee'd him to death at that point, making sure he stayed silenced.
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2020
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  2. octavius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    octavius
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    Wiz 1 is an elegant game, and a game you can Iron Man even when playing it the first time (helps if you are an experienced blobberer, of course).
     
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  3. AArmanFV Arbiter

    AArmanFV
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    Totally agree. It even makes sense when you surprise the monsters, imagine they are playing poker and having drinks while suddenly you kick the door and surprise them (It's similar as how Werdna was defeated accordingly to the manual of Wizardry 4), or the contrary, you kick the door but you find nothing, then you turn your sight left and they were expecting you already and starting the ambush.

    I still can't believe that two college students managed to make an almost no bug and well polished game in an era where that wasn't a standard.
     
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  4. AdvancedHero Arbiter

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    That is the version I played; it's the SNES port. It only came out in Japan, but there is an English translation online. It's pretty much a straight port of the original version, the only difference I noticed is that thieves have the option of hiding and ambushing from the back row- a mechanic taken from Wizardry 5.
     
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  5. Machocruz Arcane

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    With Wizardry, we see the CRPG practically nailed right out of the gate. It's distillation of pen and paper RPG works tremendously well, as combat (numbers vs. numbers) and dungeon exploration are well suited to the limitations of computers. Basically:

     
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  6. Ysaye Savant

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    Is it fair to say it nailed it right out of the gate, as it was a distillation of other games played on University computers like Oubliette?
     
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  7. AdvancedHero Arbiter

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    While it is true that it took a lot of ideas from games like Oubliette, the level design and game system itself was entirely original. They could have just made a straight clone and called it a day, but what is impressive is that it was highly play-tested and balanced before it was released. That was pretty unique for the time.
     
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  8. Machocruz Arcane

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    Yeah maybe not. But I think Wizardry was the better, more realized product though and the first great CRPG that set the standard. And they did it with the first game, it didn't take a bunch of sequels.
     
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  9. Nah game fucking sux and y'all are either a bunch of autists or codex sheep.
    There are quite a few design choices that make the whole game tedious and you can only ignore them if you are one of the both mentioned people.

    The fact that you can only rest in the inn makes the whole game annoying and slow. And its very telling that later blobbers dont do it that way.
    In fact i can't think of the top of my head of a game that solves this so badly as Wiz1.
    The farer you get in the maze the longer it takes to get back and forth so that the majority of playing Wiz1 was communting between dungeon and inn instead of mapping the dungeon out.
    The elevator would help if it wasnt on the other damn side of the first floor.

    In contrast look how they solved that problem in Diablo 1. You get checkpoints at certain floors and also a portal.
    Damn what a casual game!

    Actual gameplay once you were in the dungeon was ok but fun was interrupted once you stepped into those nasty pits which kill your party members once they lost a little life.
    Not to forget the fact that there is no indicator at all that there might be a pit.
    This makes me somehow doubt the iron man story of octavius but okay maybe its possible with luck or playing very, VERY slow and carefully.

    Also the idea with those enemies that just randomly poison you is very great if you dont have enough money for the potions or enough spell slots.
    So even more running back to the inn.

    Set encounters made sense on floor 1 where you could decide if you go into that room after you mapped it out but on floor 3 it went insane and wouldnt work anyway as there were doors every few seconds and
    therefore far too many encounters.

    I mean there are reasons that stuff like that doesnt appear anymore in modern games and i'm glad its that way.
    My interest in the game came from the question if games could become obsolete.
    You could for example still watch Citizen Kane and have fun without being completely autistic.
    But Wizardry 1 has so many design flaws (they didnt know better back then) that it was made obsolete by later blobbers like World of Xeen e.g.

    Everything Wiz1 does, WoX does better in my book.
    Maybe i'll look into Wiz6 and see if the series solved the problems i see.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 8, 2020
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  10. octavius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    octavius
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    Ever heard of the Malor spell?

    And BTW, I did have a party death (one of two, the second being against Werdna, which was the only time I reloaded) in one of those pits, due to not paying enough attention. As you said it can be Iron Man'ed if you play cautiously.
    And the good thing about Wiz 1 is that a party death is not Game Over, since you can send in a new party.

    Saving everywhere makes you lazy, while the Wiz 1 and Bard's Tale approach makes you stay sharp.
     
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  11. Level 7 Mage spell. LOL
    No of course not. When would i have gotten that one? On Floor 6 or smth? Far too late.

    But c'mon is that really your kind of fun to play a slow and tedious game as Wiz1 as slow and tedious as possible?
    How isnt that completely autistic? Why should i do that instead of playing smth that's fun and fast like WoX?
    Are you afraid nobody respects you if you havent beaten Wiz1 ironman?
     
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  12. octavius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    octavius
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    Huh? I played it Iron Man because it's actually possible, and because it's a challenge.
    A game like WoX rather bores me because it's too simplistic and too easy. The weakest M&M after MM9 IMO.

    If I want fun and fast I'd much rather play something like Doom.
     
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  13. WoX weaker than 7,8 an 10? Dude.

    So you basically play RPGs when you want a little fun over a huge timespan? :interesting:
     
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  14. Werdna's Revenge Cipher Patron

    Werdna's Revenge
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    Wiz1 fucking nails it indeed. I don't really think of Wizardry as tedious. It's certainly tense, but it never really drags out.
     
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  15. octavius Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    octavius
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    10? There is no MM 10, except only in name.

    Your "So what you are saying" trick doesn't work on me.
     
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  16. It was a different thing altogether but i had fun playing MM:X.
     
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  17. AArmanFV Arbiter

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    Red Panda Autistic is keep trying to spam your same opinion we already know, then there are people saying that we like to talk about games more than playing them :roll:. And blobbers aren't even popular here in the codex, so your "codex sheep" thing doesn't even apply.

    We already know this game is a piece of history and could not compete in a modern gaming scenario, at least in the dungeon design aspect after Wizardry 1 a lot of blobbers came out with much memorable level design, in fact a lot of codexers had stated that the game have a lot of filler levels. For other aspects like the game mechanics and gameplay, you can still make a good game by today standards (if not ask aweigh), so at least it system is not really obsolete. And all the nuisances you point out were cutted off in Bane of the Cosmic Forge onwards, so there you have buddy, an "improvement", I can't wait to read your disappointment for whatever reason once you try it.

    Wizardry came out in a time were you played a game for a year and even more, games weren't consumable things like today, so is understandable that is designed to be played carefully and slow, taking your time. And like octavius said, there're still guys that want a little more challenge.

    All the wall of text that wrote AdvancedHero is about his thoughts of a CRPG released in 1981 in the context of 1981 (and you even know that) and how it holds up still to this day, being the proof that he actually could find value in this antiquity and played it to the end.

    Like Citizen Kane, Wizardry 1 is a classic and set the bar to it succesors and there's no point in making comparisons, you can like it or not.
     
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  18. Tweed Professional Kobold Patron

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    Grind Murphy's Ghost, skip 90% of the game. :cool:
     
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  19. Grauken Professional Procrastinator Patron

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    If you want to skip the game, why play it at all
     
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  20. AdvancedHero Arbiter

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    I didn't mention it in my write-up, but it has come up a few times here now, so might as well. Before playing the game I had heard that levels 5-9 are basically filler, and that they just ran out of space for unique encounters and item based puzzles and whatnot. Most guides you can find online also just walk you through floors 1-4, and then tell you to plop right down to Werdna on the elevator.
    So I had all of this in mind when I was playing, but I decided that I would work through the floors consecutively in order to get a more complete feel on the game.

    And guess what I found out? Floors 1-4 are just the tutorial, my friends. If you skip 5-9, then you're truly missing out on the meat of the game! Each of the floors was such a joy to map out, and in a game like Wizardry, mapping is at least half of the fun. I mean, it's called the Proving Grounds for a reason; floors 1-4 aren't even the "real" dungeon, they are the tutorial before you receive the actual quest of returning the amulet.

    And yes, it is possible to just stay on level 1 and grind Murphy's Ghost, but I actually found out that if you explore the lower floors you will get exp a lot quicker, and more importantly, the deeper you go the better the treasure you will find. The weapons you find on the lower floors really make a difference.

    So again, if you play it smart and map out every floor instead of skipping them, you should be prepared to fight Werdna when you reach the bottom. No mindless grinding unless you want to get loot for your party (like the Dagger of Thieves). Heck, I didn't even have Malor the entire time I played, but I survived.
     
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  21. Grauken Professional Procrastinator Patron

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    You give me hope for zoomers

    :bravo:
     
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  22. Tweed Professional Kobold Patron

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    For when you've played it a lot and you want to get going, or you do something stupid like make a character the wrong alignment without thinking about it so you have to get a new guy and you want to level him up quickly.
     
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