|The hearts really make this special. The people love me.|
We're going to have to call it a tie. I won, but I played like a jackass. And I cheated.
I'm looking across the void of years at the younger CRPG Addict that played Wizardry I in the winter of 2010. How innocent he was. He had set a mission to play games without cheating and without looking at spoilers, and by the gods, he didn't cheat or look at spoilers. He mapped all the levels faithfully and carefully recorded each encounter for posterity. When one of his characters died, he raised the character. If the character became "LOST" during the raising, he started over with a new character at Level 1. If his party died in the dungeon, he mounted a rescue expedition, brought them to the surface in groups, and raised them. It took him a while, but he played the game like it was meant to be played, and victory sure tasted sweet.
Of course, Wizardry I only occupied about 3,000 squares. Wizardry V is closer to 8,000 (even accounting for the unused ones). What was new and exciting in 1981 was old and tired in 1988. But I'm just rationalizing. Being older, and more jaded, and more cynical doesn't excuse the deceitful way in which I "won" Wizardry V.
To take it from the top: when we wrapped up last time, I had just finished Level 6. At the time, I thought there were four more levels to go (I had it in my mind that the game had 10 levels, just like the first one). But it turned out that there were only three more, and two of them were so small and predictable that it wasn't even worth mapping them. Level 7 was really where most of the endgame took place.
|On Level 7, we finally found some symmetry.|
Mapping Level 7 took a long time, mostly because I kept running into monsters bent on killing me for good. Repeatedly, I had to fight parties with multiple spellcasters who thought nothing of casting mass-damage spells like LAHALITO and LADALTO, wiping out half my party members in a single round. Eventually, I got so sick of returning to the surface to raise my dead party members that I simply started reloading every time one of them died. Thus did I start on the slippery slope to the CRPG scum that I ultimately became.
|I was just sick to death of being killed by a shirtless Kris Kristofferson.|
In various places on this level, I found four magical staffs--air, earth, fire, and water--in places that required me to have certain inventory items to pass. For instance, in order to past a gust of wind, I had to have a lark in a cage that would sing to the wind. Who would have guessed?
|The game also had one last bout of goofiness to throw at me: an encounter with King Kong and Fay Wray. I don't think they did her justice in the portrait.|
By the time I reached Level 7, I also had three cards, and it turned out that I needed to show them to the guardians of the Triaxial Gate to get passage to Level 8. There were four guardians, and four portals to Level 8, but I only got the fourth card after doing some fighting.
On each of the four sections of Level 8, I had to face a party composed of my own characters. Someone--The S*O*R*N, I guess--kept cloning my party and sending them against me. Since these characters had all the items and spells of my regular party members, they were reasonably tough.
|Level 8 had me fight myself. It was very metaphysical.|
After defeating them, I encountered glowing orbs that corresponded to the four elements. Using the appropriate staff on these orbs (it took some trial and error) caused a talking head to ask me a riddle.
I had no idea how to solve this riddle. There were multiple options, and I had to make multiple selections for each element. None of it made any sense at all, and there was nowhere that I encountered any hints as to how to solve them. And thus did I engage in the next level of cheating: I looked up the answers in a walkthrough.
Friends, I can't overestimate the significance of that. My rules clearly say "no walkthroughs," and for over two years, I have faithfully played each game, winning most of them, through my own wits and copious notes. I am appalled and embarrassed that I capitulated here. But the good news is that I never would have come up with the solution without the walkthrough. Figuring out the answer would have required finding some obscure NPCs back up on Level 5--wandering NPCs that I didn't even know existed--and then asking the right keywords of NPCs back on Level 1 that I thought I was all done with. So between cheating and abandoning the game, did I make the right choice? I give myself to your judgement.
Ah, but it's not over yet. After I "solved" the four puzzles and broke down the barriers keeping me from the Gatekeeper's prison, I marched up to the Gatekeeper himself. At this point, The S*O*R*N (Are we supposed to read something into that? Is it an abbreviation?) whisked him to another dimension before attacking me with a host of demons. They slaughtered me quite badly. Part of the problem was that she had a magic shield around her that prevented me from doing any damage. It turns out that the solution was to cast the SOCORDI mage spell, which normally summons an elemental to aid you in combat, but which for some reason summons back the Gatekeeper in this combat. I have no idea where I was supposed to get that information, but I was cheating at this point so I got it from the walkthrough.
|"To remain forever!...unless you think to cast an obscure Level 5 mage spell."|
It still didn't do me any good. Even with the Gatekeeper on my side, her minions killed me again and again. I realized that I hadn't really paid my grinding dues. Most of my characters were only Level 14-15, and my constant avoidance of combat on Level 7 meant I wasn't really getting any better. I needed to buckle down and spend a few hours killing demons before I could hope to defeat The S*O*R*N.
But I didn't want to do that. I was sick of the game. So I engaged in my third form of cheating: save-scumming so bad it would have horrified a 13-year-old playing a first-person-shooter. The S*O*R*N's companions seemed to be chosen at random, so I just reloaded, reloaded, and reloaded--probably 40 times--until I finally encountered her with a relatively pathetic set of minions. I won, but just barely; only two of my characters were alive at the end. Fortunately, one of them was my mage, and I was able to get back to the castle and get the winning screenshot above.
|I really came to over-rely on the mass-damage spell TILTOWAIT.|
Killing The S*O*R*N freed the Gatekeeper, who had a little narrative for me:
I am the Gatekeeper, and guardian of the Triaxial Balance. It is through your courage, and more importantly, your understanding and wisdom, that the Triaxial Balance of the forces has been restored.Hereafter, I bequeath to you the power to guard this mortal plane, for none are more worthy or more deserving than thee. I thank thee, both for my life and for thy effort.And now that I have found worthy successors, my duty is done in this world, and I shall soon return to that higher plane of the everafter. You shall be remembered, and I offer this small token, from which I hope taht you shall remember, not me, but what you yourself have done this day.Fare the well, my friends.
|Is he being sarcastic? Does he know I cheated?|
This all sounds great, but what if I had been playing with an evil party?! That's not much of a reward.
In college, I felt bad about cheating on a term paper, but I was still happy to get my degree. And here, I feel bad about cheating in this game, and yet I'm still happy that I won. Let's GIMLET this baby and, for La-La's sake, finally get the hell out of 1988.
|The shamefully victorious party.|