Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wizard Wars: Need "Defeat Copyright Protection" Spell

Note: The first comment on this posting completely rendered it moot. I'm leaving it as-is, but the GIMLET is premature given this new information. I will return to the game and finish it after Thanksgiving.

I'd really like to help.

Well, it turns out that I won't even be able to win Wizard Wars, let alone finish my comprehensive walkthrough--not unless someone reads this and comes through with the game manual. It turns out the game features an evil bit of copy protection by which the manual provides the "ingredients" you need to create the spells you need to solve the quests.

It's too bad, because I was developing a real fondness for it. Wizard Wars is the oddest little game. It's clearly intended for novices, or children, but it has a certain frivolous charm, and it's been an interesting counterpoint to Skyrim.

The first section is like a cross between a "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" book and a game of "Concentration." Amidst the 30 territories in the first dimension are a number of quests to solve using items that you find in other areas, so ultimately you end up visiting most of the territories in a precise order that you have to work out through trial and error. There's no real danger, because you can visit a territory multiple times, but figuring it out and taking notes is simplistically fun. It would prepare young CRPG players for more complicated games later on--at least, it would have in this era. Nowadays, games take all your notes for you and make your maps for you and have big arrows indicating where you're supposed to go next.

Unfortunately, it was in the first dimension that I started noticing that a lot of the encounters required spells I didn't have. I thought maybe I'd find them somewhere--I did get one spell called "Psychic Energy" as a quest reward--but after exhaustively visiting each of the territories multiple times, I'm forced to conclude that I'm supposed to create them.

The "Create Spell" screen brings up all of the different objects that you've found and asks you to combine the right ones. The manual apparently lists which items you need for which spells. I started to try them randomly, but there are something like 30 items in the game, and I don't know if the spells occur in combinations of 2, 3, 4, or more. I haven't had to calculate binomial coefficients in a long time (remember "n choose k"?), but if I did the math right, there are, out of 30 objects:

  • 435 possible combinations of 2
  • 4,060 possible combinations of 3
  • 27,405 possible combinations of 4
  • 142,506 possible combinations of 5

Now assuming there are no spells that require six objects, that's still 174,406 things to try. This still sounds like something I might have done when I was a kid; at an average of one attempt per 3 seconds, I could do it while watching all 7 seasons of The Dukes of Hazzard--60 times. But I don't think you'd all have the patience for it.

Somehow, these objects combine to create spells.

I was getting pretty far with "Lightning Bolt" and frankly beginning to question whether I needed any of the spells or objects that these quests would give me, but progress to the third dimension requires defeating a chimera guarding a unicorn in the first dimension, and neither of my existing offense spells will even touch him. Clearly, there's some trinket or spell I need from one of these unsolved quests.

I miss every time.

I did progress some distance through the second dimension, which turned out to be a 15 x 15 maze. Unlike similar 15 x 15 dungeons in, say, The Bard's Tale or Pool of Radiance, it was an actual maze, with essentially one path from beginning to end, and no special encounters anywhere else.

The game helps you out by giving you your starting position, and then updating it after you finish every combat:

There are several named monsters in the maze, and the end of it brings you face-to-face with a wizard named Kalzir, who starts the combat by summoning a random monster. When you defeat the monster, he casts a "light shield" spell that defeats your attacks for a few rounds. He's a tough customer, and I died twice before I finally was able to return and defeat him. You can't save in the maze, but you can return to the main screen by "fleeing" combat with any enemy.

After defeating him, I was rewarded with a trip to the second level of the maze, which promised more of the same. But the foes were so much harder, I realized I needed to bring a lot more loot from the first world. It was a bit of a shock, actually: the combats in the first dimension and the first level of the maze had been fairly easy, even lacking all of my available spells.

Anyway, even if I defeat the second level (I'm not sure how many levels there are), it's clear I won't be able to progress without the puzzle-solving spells that the game requires. It's pretty clear that there's nothing online. I've Googled "Wizard Wars" with "Create Spell" and gotten nothing, and I've tried Googling the specific object names and similarly returned nothing. The only way I'm missing anything is if there's a PDF manual somewhere that hasn't been OCR'd. Couldn't find a legitimate copy on eBay or Amazon. If anyone else has any suggestions, please let me know.

The GIMLET on this game (which I'll update if I do get a manual and can finish it) looks a bit horrible. The game world is thoroughly outlined in the descriptions of the territories, which sound evocative but don't allow you to do much interaction with them (3). Character development is very light, with boosts to the four attributes through combat and encounters, but you don't even get to name your character (2). There are NPCs of a sort, but you have no interaction with them except to agree to help them or not. There are some roving NPCs like dwarves which provide various clues (3). Encounters with enemies offer no role-playing except to decide to "reason" with non-evil monsters, and combat consists of blandly casting your chosen spell over and over until one of you dies, although there might have been some tactical aspects involved in choosing the right spell that I didn't get to experience (3).

The equipment part isn't bad: in addition to spell-creation items, you find a variety of potions, gems, staffs, and other "usable" objects that each serve to make you more or less effective. You have to figure out the uses through trial-and-error or through hints obtained from NPCs (4), but there is no economy (0). Not all of the little quests seemed to be necessary, so I have to conclude that the game has side-quests in addition to the main quest. These were very simplistic, with no role-playing options, but still satisfying, in a very basic way, to check off (3).

The graphics are actually reasonably good (although they take a turn for the worse in the maze), but the sound is virtually non-existent. While the keyboard controls are okay, transitioning between screens takes to long, even with the processor cranked (2). Overall gameplay is methodical, mostly linear, non-replayable, and easy--but at least reasonably fast-paced. I'm pretty sure that if I had the manual and hadn't been trying to write a walkthrough at the same time, I could have won it in 6-8 hours (unless the third dimension ends up being really huge). Still, I can't give it much more than a 2 here despite, as I said before, a certain unreasonable fondness for it.

That gives us a final score of 24, lower than all but a few games, most of which I didn't finish. I would have finished this one. Maybe I felt I needed an easy win before another Wizardry title.


    Ivory horn
    A twig of Firethorn
    A small mirror

    Here are all the spells:,11004/

  2. AAAAH! I was all over the MobyGames site! HOW DID I MISS THIS?!

    I owe you big time, Skirie. I'll edit this and repost after Thanksgiving.

  3. What luck, too: It turns out that every specific item I Googled, hoping to find a page with the list of spells, ISN'T USED IN ANY SPELL. If I'd just Googled "twig of firethorn" or "enchanted shaft," I would have found it. Actually, the latter might have taken me elsewhere.

  4. For old manuals, try looking at - they have a great database of scanned manuals for old games.

    They don't have it for this game, unfortunatley, but I think you'll find it very useful in the future anyway.

  5. If it's any consolation: I use Mobygames a lot, but I've never noticed the "Tips&Tricks" link before either.

  6. I analyzed the game and have generated a list of the plain-text spells, items, monsters, locations, and I believe the final bosses of each level in the maze. Let me know if any of this info would prove helpful.

  7. Sounds like you should have written the walkthrough I've been working on! If you want to send it to me at, I'll credit you in the walkthrough, but I won't look at it until I've finished the game on my own.

  8. I posted the excel file on my blog. If the manual has the list of ingredients for the spells, I would suspect knowing that there appear to be thirty named spells would not be too much of a spoiler.

    It looks like it would take me awhile to analyze the data for the combination of ingredients for the spells, but if it helps I may be able to crack the copy protection quicker. If interested, send a save file that leads to the protection and I will take a look and see what I can do.

  9. There are now two google results for "twig of firethorn" ...and this page is the top result.

  10. It's times like this that make me feel like I'm making a long-term contribution to the world.


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