Part 1: Crabs. It's Mostly Just Crabs.Update 001: Crabs. It's Mostly Just Crabs.
Let's get this party started with... the party.
Apologies to everyone whose suggestion didn't get picked, there were no bad ones. Twinklesparkles was a no-brainer because multiple people wanted him on board, and also because I've been wanting to see The Weapon in action ever since I first played this game but never remembered it at chargen. Werdna got in because I couldn't pass up a good reference, Chewbecka because puns are my lifeblood, Lady because I was starting to realize I was going to need some beefy characters on the team to keep it alive, Stony because I wanted to show off Gadgeteers(and in part because that human male character image kind of worked as a reasonable facsimile) and Aurora because the extra items from a perma-searching ranger are good and also rangers are in general just a kickass class.
There's a different intro video if you import from Wizardry 7, but mostly the difference is that you arrive on board the T'rang, Umpani or unaligned vessel with a lady called Vitalia Domina whom we shall later meet. As a short recap of W7: You arrive on Planet Guardia, either fresh imports or from Wizardry 6, where the T'rang, Umpani and Dark Savant are fighting to be the first to acquire the Astral Dominae. You can side with any of them in the fight, but siding with the Dark Savant, if I remember right, gets your party tossed into the Negative Zone at the end, permanently nulling them and making them unimportable. The T'rang and Umpani import starts also drop us near our chosen factions, rather than in the middle of nowhere.
It is, at least, a nice enough beach to be stranded on literal lightyears away from home.
This track plays throughout this entire area and the next one as well.
Chewbecka pipes up with the first of many voice lines and I just want to reiterate they did a shitload of voicework for this game. There are 36 different voices, each of them have different lines for everything from landing a hit to being hit with a condition to a party member going down and in addition every single voice has a unique reaction to story events like this, crashing on Dominus(though only one character will get to chime in on most of them), and none of them are just the same lines with a different voice, every single voice is written with a different personality and it's a really, really great part of the game.
Now, if you notice the upper left of the screen, we have a choice of three different UI's. Our starting UI is the one where most of the character info is folded away, in favour of seeing more of the playfield, but vital stats still visible.
The very detailed option is definitely the one you want on for fights and, unfortunately, also the one I left on for most of this update, thus obscuring some of the environments. I apologize for that, I only realized it upon reviewing the screenshots and will likely go for the middle option in the next update and onwards.
The super-minimized UI is nice for screenshots but has some issues, for example the lack of your minimap in the lower left, which is just begging to get ambushed. Enemies move in real time outside of combat and having one of them sneak up on a poor angle of your formation can leave you with the choice of letting the enemy get in the first hit or leaving your wizards exposed to enemy frontliners on the first turn of combat.
With regards to formation, you'll usually find one you like and stick with it for most events. The way it works is that party members are always kind of stuck together in a blob, rather like a heavily armed hydra, separated into one of five quadrants: Front, Left, Right, Back and Middle. Enemies in direct contact with one quadrant can be hit by, and hit, that quadrant with short-ranged weapons, and be hit from, and hit, all adjacent quadrants with "extended" weapons. Ranged weapons and spells, of course, don't give a damn about this. If a quadrant is unoccupied, enemies adjacent to it are considered as adjacent to all of its adjacent quadrants.
For instance, now any enemies approaching the front quadrant is punchable by any of our guys and girls, while still mostly unable to reach the squishies in the back(Stony and Werdna). Another classic move would be to shove Chewbecka and Twinklesparkles up front, Stony and Werdna in the middle, and have Lady and Aurora on the flanks since Aurora ignores attack ranges with her bow and Lady can still poke melee enemies up front with her lances(all polearms and some staves have Extended ranges). If we had more than three short-ranged combatants, though, one of them would be perpetually in trouble at actually closing to punch the enemy.
Things on the minimap are either red: actively trying to find and kill you, yellow: will turn red if you get close enough but otherwise just patrolling, green: will at least talk to you before turning hostile and you can probably offload junk on them and white: items you can steal or creatures you spotted before moving out of sight range. As indicated by the text box, we got a bit too close to the crabs and they got extremely unhappy about it.
Getting into a fight also gives us a chance to talk about magic. All casters have six separate mana pools, the four classic elements, divine and mental. One of the great bits of this, as opposed to one huge mana pool, is that it helps force you to swap up your spells cast a bit since you'll quickly exhaust one pool if you over-rely on it. Spells that don't target friends either: target a single enemy, target all enemies, target all enemies in a group or target all enemies in view of the camera.
Like Sleep here, it's a great spell that puts a group of enemies into Nap Mode, thus allowing you to stave their faces in unopposed until the beating wakes them up.
Each spell also has multiple different levels of power you can cast it at, those would be the little coloured rings to the right of the spell list. The higher the level, the higher the power, and also the greater the risk. You'll notice that Werdna can cast Sleep at intensity 1 or 2, the level 2 version would cost more mana and, as indicated by a non-green ring, have a non-trivial chance of fizzling or backfiring. More levels and more magic skill will solve that, backfiring spells are the sort of thing that usually make you bite your nails because it also tends to mean you've cast them at a power level where they will fuck you sideways.
Moving in combat postpones all character actions until you're done moving and usually lets the enemy get in their turn first. Against melee enemies the advantage is it lets them waste time walking up to you and then you can just choose to not move anywhere and let your fighters get on with the mauling. A pro strat is also to manually engage combat out of view of enemies(say, around a corner), so you can get in a free run/walk move up to them if they're ranged dudes and you don't want to give them free shots while you close on them. Otherwise combat automatically starts once you get in range of hostile enemies.
These being just crabs, Werdna puts one to sleep and the smashing ensues. And no, you're not missing something, enemies in Wizardry 8 do not leave corpses, they all explode, which is a great trick for saving frames and also a pro artistic choice on Sir Tech's part in my opinion.
Another advantage of putting enemies to sleep(or otherwise making them unable to fight back, with, say, paralysis or webbing), is that all melee attacks do double damage to them because they can't dodge. It's not a lot of extra damage now, but it will be later.
The crabs are, as appropriate for a very first combat encounter, easily put down, and then it's time to look around the area a little bit.
It's a small, enclosed area really just serving to give us a place to beat up some wildlife before we feel ready to open the door and enter the starter dungeon proper.
This ramp near the back leads up to an optional encounter which, depending on your party composition and the luck of the encounter generator, may in fact kick your ass early. Normally I bounce off it once or twice with my own artisanally crafted super cool parties.
These guys, though, are champs, and just bust right through it with nary a scratch.
Anyone paying attention to the combat messages will also notice that skills in use automatically level up. Every level up you're given 6 stat points and 15 skill points, with a max of 3 assignable per skill/stat. Stats never level up on their own, and unlock special skills when they hit 100, while skills being used will slowly increase towards 80 and then require manual upgrading for the last few points. Usually, though, you won't need characters to be so broadly skilled that you shouldn't put both your passive and active skill gain towards making them better and stronger at their core competencies.
Stepping into the Lower Monastery we're immediately faced with a dreadful challenge.
This one I turned into video form because I really loved Chewbecka's reaction at having battled and defeated one whole crab.
Further up the corridor we encounter our second type of enemy. Crabs are kind of non-entities in terms of enemy design, they have HP, a melee attack and fighting crabs is inherently funny, but they don't really do anything much beyond that. Slimes, on the other hand, start requiring a bit of preparedness as the game advances. Right now, they're not too dissimilar from crabs except that many of them also have a ranged spit attack that can endanger your back rows. But it soon becomes common for them to be able to cause Nausea, Disease and Poison. Poison, obviously, causes damage over time, and unlike some games it will kill you. Disease starts dropping all sorts of random stat effects on the victim, fear, nausea, poison, paralysis, unconsciousness, etc. and eventually starts lowering stats permanently. Disease also does not go away with time. Nausea, lastly, is a minor stat malus that sometimes causes lost actions if characters are interrupted by having to stop and vomit.
Coming up the ramp we enter this large room where we're reminded that Wizardry isn't a pure fantasy setting, because this ancient, foreboding monastery is lit with electric lights rather than flickering torches.
Immediately on entry, some bats show up, and much like slimes, bats can be real bad news later on as they're often carriers of Disease or the rarer Draining ailment that permanently lowers hitpoints(though there's a specific curing item for Drained hitpoints, while there's none for stats lost to Disease).
At least they're just Level 1 bats. Until our Mythology skill gets better on one or more characters, we won't be able to really know much about enemy elemental weaknesses, strengths, total HP, potential status ailments they can inflict, etc. it's somewhat irrelevant in this first dungeon, but later in the game, especially for a mage-heavy party, it's very important to know what will actually stick and what will just be wasted.
Three exits to the room, one of them is...
Barred, not bolted, until we get to the other side to open a shortcut. The other is the source of the bats, and thus the last one we'll go to, the third one...
Is another enemy that can cause some mild trouble as, per the name, it can inflict the Nauseous stat effect if you get unlucky.
This cool crew chews right through it, though, getting us our first level-ups of this playthrough, for Werdna and Stony. This isn't (mainly) because characters get different XP rewards(because sometimes they inexplicably do), but because "pure" classes(Fighter, Mage, Priest, Psionicist, Alchemist, Gadgeteer, Bard, Rogue) level up faster than Hybrids(Valkyrie, Lord, Ninja, Monk, Samurai, Ranger) who level up faster than horrible messy classes(Bishop).
Now, truth be told I don't entirely know what the stats do. I mean, okay, some of it's obvious. Speed makes you act faster and be harder to hit, Strength makes you hit harder and able to carry more, Piety gives you more mana, etc. but the game also insists that, say, Intelligence "influences" lockpicking ability. However, at no point does it give a direct, listed percentage or skill point bonus indicated anywhere, so maybe it means that you learn the skills more quickly passively? Neither the manual or in-game tooltips deign to specify it in any detail. Probably there's a FAQ out there that has a very precise definition but I'm not a nerd who needs FAQs.
Speaking of things that don't do anything. The Communication skill, I'm quite sure, has no actual effect even though it levels up every time you talk to NPC's. It might faintly influence shop prices? Engineering, for Stony, determines his ability to slap two objects together and get a third object that has a spell-like effect or the couple of special weapons he can craft that way. Artifacts is for ID'ing items, Mythology for ID'ing monsters. Outside of those, character skills are pretty self-explanatory in what they do.
Werdna, meanwhile, gets a free spell on levelling up, like all casters do. It should be obvious at this point that pure casters have a huge advantage in terms of learning spells, here, especially since a good few spells don't exist as spellbooks and can only be learned by levelling. I teach him Terror because locking down enemies is great. The Fear effect on enemies can make them run away, make them lose their actions, make them pass out from terror and just generally gives them a variety of combat stat penalties. Of course it does the same to our goons if they get hit by it, except that they can't run away.
Beyond the slime is this poorly-lit office containing a few random items, including a Spellbook of Light for Werdna. I don't think I've ever actually needed to cast Light, but learning another Fire spell adds more Fire mana to his pool which is needed for casting Energy Blast so he can make crabs explode with the power of his brain. There's also a window overlooking a later area.
A bit of lore and some less fascinating reading in the office, then we turn around and head down the corridors the bats came from.
It can be easy to get lost in some areas of the game, but thankfully Wizardry 8 has an automap.
Unfortunately it's top down and some areas have rooms and corridors stacked on top of each other, which it deals poorly with. It's not so bad here, but there's at least one location in the game where it always drives me completely insane finding my way around.
No real interesting fights along the way except for another Noxious Slime in a pit of goop, a fight which levels up the remainder of our party and gets Lady a shirt.
The stats on most items are quite straightforward, but mysterious and sinister items should be kept at a safe distance until you know if they're cursed or not, because curses in Wiz 8 are rough. Some of them are stuff like a permanent HP drain which, if you don't have a permanent regen to counter them, is incredibly crippling. Interestingly enough, though, some of the cursed weapons are also incredibly heavy hitters and thus may be worth equipping anyway if you have the other equippables to counter their curse.
Each item also has a list of classes and races that can equip them and... yeah, fairies are excluded from like 90% of all items which usually do not have any real racial limitations unless they're Mook-only, and there's an item or two that are elf-only and beast-race only.
A +lockpicking item not equippable by any class that can actually pick locks. I think the idea is that if you engage with the cryptic multiclassing of Wizardry 8, it can give a bonus if you swap a lockpicker out of a lockpicking class. The game, of course, does not tell you a damn thing about how multiclassing works except that you can do it, but my understanding is that you keep all abilities from the class you leave(aside from class-specific bonuses like ninja's thrown auto-pen), get the new class' gear limitations and can no longer advance in skills your new class doesn't also have. So say if you stated with a rogue and powerlevelled his Locks & Traps, you could swap him into a Fighter or something once you capped it out at 100. I've honestly never done anything with it, though in the older Wizardries you had to multi-class or you'd never have the power to finish the game.
Mulching some more vermin gets Stony a second level-up and his first Omnigun upgrade. Every two levels, he does something new and terrifying to it.
It now has less bad penalties and can fire darts in addiction to rocks, providing a decent damage upgrade and access to more ammo types. For now the ammo we've got is just "hit enemy, do damage," but later on just about every category of rocks, darts, quarrels, arrows and shurikens has upgraded versions that either do more damage, cause conditions or both. Some of these can be hoovered up in bulk amounts at shops and others are either sharply limited or primarily from random enemy drops.
The monastery basement also has some cells. The first one is unlocked and so we bust in and rob the corpse of his jewelry, his boots and his diary.
At this point we have no clue who Al-Sedexus or the Templars are, but if this monastery has cool dangerous weapons, we need to get our hands on those. Worth keeping in mind, but it'll be a few updates before we can acquire the necessary key since it isn't actually in the monastery and I don't believe anything in the monastery tells you where it is. You'll really only find it if you're a dickhead who busts into every closet you find and steal everything there.
The second cell door... is locked! The lockpicking minigame isn't actually a game. Any tumbler you click on will be raised, and the objective is to raise all tumblers. However, every time you raise one, your skill is the % chance of any given other raised tumbler not falling down. Thus even for a simple two-tumbler lock, it takes us in the vicinity of five tries to unlock the door. The Knock Knock spell can be used to force a number of Tumblers up and is more or less necessary for later locks, though sufficient patience will technically allow you to open all of them, good luck with 10% lockpicking skill and an 8-tumbler lock. I'm sure someone can do the maths on the average number of tries needed to to get through(Since you effectively would need to succeed 20+ 10% rolls in a row).
Once open, though, the only contains some roaches(very low-level enemies) and some unidentified potions.
So far we've found blue(generally healing, also holy water), yellow(usually cure conditions), purple(some buffing effect) and red(grenade-type weapons, occasionally they also have a spell-like effect), but the goon squad isn't smart enough to tell what any of them do yet.
Up ahead is another locked door. From this side, though, I can hear something making crab-y sounds inside, so as soon as I pop the door, I hit combat mode before I see any enemies, and rush inside the room, giving me a chance to close to melee range instantly.
The King Crab is another little intentional midboss sort of enemy, mostly there as a check on whether you've got enough damage output and know not to put your squishy idiots in the front row. The party blenders through him like nothing and I'm slightly concerned to notice that this party so far seems to be doing better than the parties I usually put together myself. The sharp-eyed may also notice that Twinklesparkles is now unarmed, which is entirely intentional. All fairy characters start with a Faerie Stick equipped, one of the few melee weapons they can wield, but fairy ninjas(and presumably fairy monks as well) are actually much better off just going bare-handed and punching their enemies to shreds, in Twinklesparkles' case it resulted in close to a doubling of damage output(and double the chances for critical strike instant kills as he now gets both a kick and a punch attack each turn rather than just a single poke attack).
I also unbar the path back. There's really only one reason to come back there, ever, but I'd like to make it slightly faster when I do.
Meanwhile, upwards and onwards! For a (potential) starter dungeon, the monastery is actually quite large.
On the way up, there's a side path to the cave we saw from the office with the Noxious Slime.
It's got some water(with no way out except looping back to the first area, so I won't go in there just yet) full of fish(which'll go hostile if we drop in) and a bridge with a red button that just begs to be pushed. Pushing the button raises and lowers the bridge, we'll need the bridge raised for later, so the pro move is to cross over the bridge, loot that area and then raise it. We can even ride the bridge up to where we need to go anyway.
A savage roach attacks on the way over the bridge, handing Werdna yet another level-up which I use to teach him Magic Missile. Unlike D&D's Magic Missile, Wizardry 8's Magic Missile is more like a blast of magic buckshot that nails everything in sight. Being a Divine spell, resistance to it is also less common and thus god's shotgun is very useful.
Over the bridge is the monastery's small wine cellar and...
Our first trapped chest! Trapped containers are a random roll, essentially, like lockpicking, but you have multiple chances to trigger the trap. First you try to find out what it is:
Stony is 100% sure of one of the components of the trap(green) and suspects two(yellow), then I can scroll down the list and try to find something with matching components, eventually landing on Dagger Scatter as the only one whose matching components are all in the possible ones. Then you attempt to disarm each component in part, again each of them being a random roll whether Tony gets everyone fileted by the trap or not. To my surprise, he actually pulls it off, I think it's the only time where I've ever not sprung the trap on this chest.
The contents are nothing exciting, just more arrows and un-ID'd usable items, but I still consider it a good omen.
I jump in the river, kill the fish and carefully ride the falls down. While Wizardry 8 has no jumping it absolutely does have falling damage and rushing down the falls can kill you easy. The falling damage is very merciless. The reason I hop down the falls is that after the first "section" of the falls there's a ledge with a mysterious Powder on it. The most common useable revive item is a Powder of Resurrection and thus I want to grab every Powder-type item I come across, because sooner or later someone will die.
This is really the sole reason to open that shortcut with the barred door, to make the way back up slightly faster.
Riding the elevator up...
At one end is this door with a weird lock and a lot of ominous monster sounds coming from the other side. This is the vault that the corpse's note was referring to, we will be back here as soon as we can crack it.
In the other direction, the path splits...
Burz is our first merchant, and first friendly NPC in general. NPC's have a pretty decent array of keywords we can ask them about, there's plenty more I could ask Burz about, but that would involve keywords I don't really know yet. He, of course, bilks us out of some money for a bit of lore(a lot of NPC's will do this, but later the cost isn't as notable as it is now). Mostly what he sells is ammo(rocks, quarrels, arrows, darts), a few healing items and resurrection dust. He's also guarding the toughest chest on this level of the Monastery, or, well, "guarding." He won't aggro if we crack it, possibly because he realizes it would be hypocritical(if it isn't obvious, he's a fence for stuff stolen from the local humans).
Burz' species is "Trynnie," a race of giant squirrelfolk who are somewhat dorky but generally inoffensive. They're like if someone tried to write Kender and wasn't an asshole, since they're a species of polite thieves, more or less.
We can also attack Burz. No NPC's that I recall are immune to being attacked, except for a few that appear only to talk and then vanish immediately after. We can also ask all NPC's to join us...
...though for a while yet, most of them will turn us down. Sometimes with mildly amusing dialogue, though. The Magic option is that we can hit all NPC's with Charm and Mindread, if we had a caster who knew them. The former would make them more well-disposed towards us, while the latter would give us some info from their internal monologue. Sometimes funny, sometimes pointless, occasionally vital(like a password or the location of something important). Without a Monk, Bishop or Psionicist, though, we sadly won't have that access. Perhaps an argument for later multiclassing.
Back inside, the next level of the lower Monastery has a nicer interior and a corridor running two ways. At this point I have yet to realize I've cornered myself.
At one end is a small room with a locked safe.
At the other end...
Now, Gregor is the boss of the Lower Monastery and will absolutely kick your ass. He can spit to hit your back lines, he can cause paralysis, he can cause nausea and he can poison. He also hits like a truck, and like for monsters, if he paralyses one of the goonsquad, his next bite is double damage.
Normally I might go down and grind out a quick extra level to speed up fighting him, but because I rode up on the bridge, the way down(as the bridge's button on the top level is busted...)... is past Gregor. There are a couple of places I can jump down, but sadly Wizardry 8 water doesn't buffer falls at all and when I tried it, most of the party just straight up died from the fall damage.
So how does fighting Gregor go?
Not very well. I realize the only place I can find a bit more XP is if I hit fight mode, run past the entrance to Gregor's lair, and into a room down the hall with some roaches that will hopefully nudge someone into another level.
It goes pretty well, they're just bugs after all, even if there are a lot of them and even if Werdna screws up casting Magic Missile on a yellow tier(usually safe but... not entirely).
Then halfway into the fight Gregor psychically senses the rumble and comes to play. Shit.
You know what the really crazy thing is, though?
Despite a Magic Missile backfire, despite Gregor showing up with the roaches already having mostly killed the party, this is the time I actually take him down.
I credit Werdna managing to actually stick some Sleeps on him with this working out.
Gregor was guarding this hall with six entrances. One was the one where he first attacked us, another is an entrance to the roach room and a third is the way down to the lower levels of the lower monastery, leaving three passages behind.
One is the way upwards, from this side it requires a small amount of work to open since no one in the party happens to be the owner of something long, like, say, a polearm, that could be reached through the bars to push the button. Ahem. Lady.
The second leads to this hall of coffins that I was sure you could somehow desecrate to spawn a bunch of ghosts, but it turns out that you can semi-safely crack them open at your leisure. Four have minor random loot and gold(and the basin at the end would heal us if everyone wasn't fully topped off), the remaining two...
One spawns an Apparition. Spectral undead are pretty scary customers in Wizardry 8 because almost all of them can inflict Fear, and at higher levels they start packing on stuff like Insanity, which causes your characters to lose turns or attack allies(or attack a random enemy, occasionally).
It manages to scare Lady, Werdna and Aurora so hard with a single cast of Terror that they all pass out in a dead faint. Thankfully the rest of the crew beat it back into the grave and nail the coffin shut.
And the last coffin is full of toxic fumes that nauseate half the party, knock out the other half and get within an inch (a literal single hit point) of making Werdna need the coffin the party just opened. With that, though, the crypt is cleared out and it's time to examine the last accessible hallway.
It splits in two, and down one side is this very non-suspicious statue.
Let's read the warning sign first.
So if you touch the skull the statue is holding, it opens a small compartment holding the key to the safe from before, which contains some Resurrection Powders. If you touch the statue itself, on the other hand...
This'll drop you all the way down to the green goop room where we fought a Noxious Slime back at the start of the update, oh and it'll probably kill half if not all of the party, too.
Instead we'll go cash in our key for some resurrection powder and check out the last branch.
Approaching the button causes a bunch of spiders to literally drop from the ceiling.
Predictably, spiders often have access to web and paralyze effects. In effect they're the same, except paralyze has a cure item/spell for it and web does not, also high strength lessens the duration of being webbed if the manual is to be believed. The bugs get stomped without causing us too much trouble. This does get Stony his next level and thus also another Omnigun upgrade, however!
He slaps a laser sight on it and is now able to blind enemies with it. Blinding causes loss of actions when enemy stumbles around, makes it hard for them to hit things and gives you the classic 2x damage bonus in melee if you wail on them.
And with that, the bars are gone and we can progress to the Upper Monastery.
Choice of the Update:
Before we do so, however, we have an important decision... do we loop back and ice Burz for his stuff and crack open his chest? Burz is a real tough customer, but with a few tries, we should be able to beat him. It'll remove a very minor merchant from the map, get us some XP and gear, and in my experience the other Trynnie don't notice that Burz has gone absent. I also don't believe he pops up at any later point in the game, most NPC's stay where they are. We could also stick to just breaking open his chest and leaving him alive.
You can also consider this to be setting the tone for our visit on Dominus.
Are we going to be murderous assholes?
Or virtuous assholes?