I hope no one feared that my lack of posting this week signaled a waning interest in this project. It was, rather, a result of some unexpected business travel arriving right after some expected business travel. It's one thing to play games when you ought to be working on the quarterly report; it's another thing to do so when your colleagues are waiting for you in the bar.
One thing is certain: Wizardry isn't going to go as fast as Ultima I. I have finished mapping two of what I guess are 10 levels, which sounds like I'm about 20% done, but I have a feeling it's going to get harder as I press forward. A few things I've discovered:
- My strategy of rotating my characters is working well. On the couple of occasions in which my entire party has been wiped out, it's been relatively easy (albeit slow and expensive) to rescue and resurrect them. Hopefully this deals with the permanent death problem through the rest of the game.
- Getting poisoned gets old fast. My useless rogue seems to trip every poison needle trap, and there are several creatures that poison you. My priest hasn't acquired the cure poison spell yet, so every poisoning means a trip back up to the surface. Thankfully, paralysis wasn't the problem that it used to be.
- Your characters age in this game, when they change classes or spend a week resting in the inn. I'm guessing there's a danger (if somewhat remote) if getting too old and dying. I remember that happening decades ago in Might and Magic. I can't think of other games where the characters get older.
- When you embark from the castle, your spellcasters have a certain allotment of spells per level. As far as I can tell, the only way to refresh this allotment is to return to the castle. This forces you to "budget" your spells as you adventure because there's no "resting" in the dungeon.
- Leveling is a bit odd. You have to rest in the inn to gain levels, and when you do your statistics change--not always for the better. Sometimes you gain strength but lose vitality, or gain agility but lose intelligence. I'm not sure how the game decides what you gain and lose. One theory is that it's based on what you used (e.g., someone who "(f)ights" a lot gains strength), but that seems awfully advanced for a CRPG of this era.
What I really want to talk about tonight is mapping, though. It's one of the things I enjoy the most about old CRPGs and one of the things I miss the most when playing new ones. It would of course be functionally impossible to map Oblivion or Baldur's Gate without the automap, but manual mapping works great in these older, "tile-based" games.
Wizardry levels are arranged on a 20 x 20 Cartesian grid and the DUMAPIC spell tells you where you are on the x- and y-axes. Games that I remember sharing these square, limited grids are the "gold box" Dungeons & Dragons games and the Might and Magic series through #5. This makes mapping them somewhat easy. As I posted before, I'm using Excel to draw the maps on the computer screen, although it's been hard to find a border style that makes a good door. I use letters to indicate special encounters.
If I recall correctly (and I could be wrong), the Might and Magic games used every square, so if you found yourself walling off an area, it was a sure sign of a secret door. Wizardry doesn't seem to use every square, although walled-off areas are sometimes signs of secret doors (I didn't have any on this level). If you have a walled-off area, you have to test it by (k)icking at every wall square around its perimeter (something I have fun picturing my characters doing). If, having done so, you can't find a way in, it's a good sign that those squares aren't used. I color them in at that point. But there's always a chance that some alternate staircase or teleporter will toss you into that area (perhaps with a one-way secret door for an exit).
The maps in Wizardry also have another odd characteristic: they double back on themselves. If you look at the one above, space 0,10 is theoretically at the westernmost extent of the map. But there's an opening to the west. Take it, and you find yourself at square 19,10. Without the DUMAPIC spell, this would all be a little tough to figure out.
I suspect I'm going to run out of things to say about the game long before I win it, but I don't want to wait too long between postings. So here's a discussion topic for the next post: coming up with character names. How do you do it? Probably some of you can figure out where the names of my party at the top of this post came from, but this isn't my usual modus operandi.
Later edit: I was getting cocky, apparently. Level 3, in addition to featuring numerous pit traps, plays host to legions of ninjas who can decapitate your characters with a single blow. I've run out of money to use for resurrection, and it will take hours of killing low-level monsters to build up my finances again. I'm going to sleep on it, but Telengard (the next game on my list) is starting to look really good right now.