Part 2: Virtuous ThievesUpdate 002: Virtuous Thieves
So the vote seems to be pretty clearly in favour of stealing everything but not killing most people. When there's an interesting result from murder, or a we encounter some new factions of people, I will of course put up the vote again so you guys can decide what encounter you want me to get my face staved in by next time.
Without further ado... welcome to me getting owned by Burz. Skip the video if you just want the highlight screenshots and explanations, though the video does contain Chewbecka's voice snippet for when an ally goes down.
Sneak up behind Burz, initiate combat, set everyone to target him. Seems simple enough, right?
It isn't, though. Firstly Burz is real tough, he can take more punishment than Gregor.
Secondly, his "Pray to the Spirits"-move, as indicated by the lack of space, it's a summon ability, and I thought maybe since it had bugged out in this one case, I'd be free to own Burz on my own time.
Because his personal damage output is low, and Stony saved the day by blinding him, doubling my melee damage output against him.
I beat him down to his first damage texture and he prays again...
Hmmm yes, this is bad news. There are three but you can't see the third because it spawned right behind Stony and Werdna.
And they, uh, hit like trucks. They're high-level Earth-focused mages that start off by buffing Burz and then just annihilate you. One round after this they do the following.
A blast of Whipping Rocks that just one-hit KO's the entire party. At least we get to see the death screen, though!
So. Let's leave Burz alone for now. I think the only hope of taking him down is multiple bugged summons or Chewbecka/Twinkles landing an instakill crit in the first couple of rounds. To top off the embarrassment, his chest doesn't even contain anything worth showing off, though Stony has at this point not failed a single trap disarming, making him literally the best rogue-type I've ever had along in any game of Wizardry 8.
Getting back to the update proper, let's start with an overview of the team.
Lady and Chewbecka are much like how they started out, though they've been equipped with bows for when caught at long range. Probably one of the first things you want to do for all your melee characters.
Werdna's main improvements are in his spellbook, he's the only character with zero gear changes so far, since I've found nothing appropriate for mages and if he's ever fighting instead of casting spells, I've fucked up grievously.
I gave Stony a sword but honestly don't expect him to ever use it. Once his Omnigun starts firing arrows and quarrels it will be his permanently superior weapon.
Twinkles got a sling for ranged combat, but once I get a decent stash of darts and shurikens, I'll swap him over to that so his thrown auto-pens can benefit from it. For now, though, the darts are better in Stony's hands. Shurikens are the best, but also rarest, thrown weapons, except for the infinite-use Boomerang Shuriken of which there is only one in the game.
And Aurora's biggest change is that she now has an axe and shield for if something comes right up in her face. The axe isn't a superior weapon to her bow, but combined with the shield it gives her some more survivability since she's the weakest member of the front line in that regard.
These area intro screens are very cool, but sadly you'll probably miss most of them if playing Wizardry 8 on Steam since it just loads so goddamn fast.
We crawl out under these stairs, making the Lower Monastery feel very much like a forgotten part of the place that sees little use, emerging in this storeroom sort of area. Most of the boxes in the center can't be interacted with, but a few can be picked open, or just plain opened, to yield some low-level armor.
Crawling around the crates we get ambushed by a couple of rats. Rats are generally low-level enemies, but they're able to nauseate and sometimes disease you with their attacks, the latter of which can be extremely bad news, as mentioned.
The storage hall has two doors and some stairs. Since I know where things lead, I hit up the stairs first as they're a short, dead end.
Seekers are odd little lizards that always have a spit attack but rarely constitute a threat, apparently nesting in this old... control room?
I love the juxtaposition of old-school architecture and modern items like electric lights and computers. None of the machines yield us any clues, however, simply beeping "ACCESS DENIED" when interacted with. We will be back here later, however. The sharp-eyed may already have an idea of why.
On the way out I look up at the ceiling because it being an open courtyard would explain a lot about why it looks like a loading dock, but no such luck.
Some more flattened rats on the way out give Werdna another level-up, and I choose to teach him Web. It's a cone spell which, well, webs enemies up for beatdowns. Unlike Sleep, victims don't get unwebbed when beaten with sticks. It also opens his second-to-last elemental selection of spells.
Both side areas are little barracks for the monks, with further areas branching off them. One leads to a small shrine and library, and I visit that one first because my gaming instincts always tell me to put off progress for as long as possible.
The shrine contains our first humanoid enemies, which is great. They're not fundamentally tougher than monstrous enemies, but they tend to drop more gold and have a chance of dropping equipment items. Again, these fellows are unlikely to drop anything useful but eventually a good number of our potential better equipment choices are likely to be looted from corpses.
A slightly better look at the shrine with the ruffians evicted, it has no equipment of interest, just a plain quarterstaff and a couple of potions.
Of course in a library you're required to remain silent. If you try to cast any spells inside...
The library itself only contains a few rats, and splatting them yields a level-up for Lady, Chewbecka and Aurora, leading to their first spell-casting options! For Lady and Aurora I get Heal Wounds since I desperately need some healing access(and I also want Lady started on Divine spells so she can eventually get Soul Shield), while Chewbecka gets Frost, an unexciting single-target Water offense spell. But she's learning the same spellbook as Werdna and so far Water is the one he hasn't touched, so I'll prioritize that one with her for now for the sake of spell variety. The one advantage of Frost is that it doesn't have a projectile, so it'll never get caught on intervening terrain.
The library has a spellbook we can't yet identify by way of loot, and a bit of flavour text besides. One side of it is occupied by a big, locked gateway and the other by a small doorway. Since we don't have the key for the gate, we have to check out the doorway first.
Looks like a kitchen. Hmmm.
Eventually we can use this to make a reasonably powerful gadget for Stony. For the time being, though, it's just evidence that we're fuckups who'll poke anything till it breaks.
On the way back out I also remember to look up at the ceiling of the library.
There are sometimes some surprisingly nice ceiling decorations despite it being super easy to completely miss them while playing the game. I don't think I ever actually looked up and saw this one.
I get why all the corridors are twisty-turny(to prevent you aggroing too many enemies at once), but it makes the building layout feel really wonky. I wonder if a simpler solution wouldn't just have been more doors to section things off.
Heading past the other monk dorm, we get a peek at the main hall.
And the somewhat unimpressive ambush there. So far all encountered bandits have gone down like chumps, these are no exception.
With the bandits bonked, I figured the front hall looks a bit nicer in video format. But I'll also post it as screenshots for the people who prefer it that way.
Apparently a pretty important guy, I'm sure we'll learn more about him sooner or later.
From the main hall there are four places to go:
The front door leading out, we could actually leave right now, but we're not going to.
This little museum with a chest(containing nothing impressive, but once again Stony disarms a trap successfully), the glass case that we can't just bust open(yet) containing some armor and an instrument.
Without a bard it's useless to us, but let's keep it around just in case.
This stairway leading up to a small rest area for the monks.
It contained a couple of spiders that the team splattered in seconds, though they did manage to paralyze Aurora and Werdna, giving Twinkles the level up needed to access his Alchemist spells. He gets Itching Skin since status effects from him will likely contribute more than pure damage at this point. Predictably it causes the Irritation debuff.
The Amulet has a limited number of Energy Blast charges, it's a simple first-level, single-target attack.
The Lightning Rod is our first gadget for Stony, it also casts Energy Blast, but runs off his stamina rather than mana. It's a decent enough backup ability, but considering that the Omnigun is already a decent ranged option, I never got that much use out of it. Using it does raise his Engineering skill, though, which is vital. The key unlocks that door back in the Library... so obviously I haul ass right the hell back to crack it open, ignoring the fourth door in the main hall for now.
It's guarded by bats and... it's worth noting that flying enemies in Wizardry don't really fly. Instead they just hover over the ground and have the same movement limitations as walking enemies. So what happens when you paralyze one?
(Worth opening this one on Youtube since it's hard to see the funny part in the smaller in-post view)
So what happens is that anything that prevents an enemy from acting(paralysis, sleep, web, KO) stops their animations. However, being in the air isn't part of the bat's model animations, nor, apparently, is the up-and-down bobbing, so you get this silly display. This also counts for any other "flying" enemies we eventually meet, I'll note.
With them out of the way, it's time to check out this room we've opened up.
A mysterious machine and a bunch of bells, also a chest in the corner and once again Stony proves to be far better at disabling traps than any goddamn trap-busting character in a party I've made myself. Seriously, what the hell? Let's see what happens if we fiddle with the machine...
The sound of breaking glass makes it very obvious what happened when we slammed the monastery bells at full power. Let's go check out the glass we've seen in the past!
The loading dock glass being broken is at first glance unimportant except... the crates are arranged in a circle.
Get up top, hop down and one of the crates can be opened from its interior side. It contains a cloak that we can't ID just yet, but all of the game's cloaks are useful even if they only offer an AC bonus, and many of them offer much better than that.
Up top we got a book, a note and a stick.
The note will be useful when we reach Arnika, and the stick is just a melee weapon that I don't quite "get" as it's really barely more useful than a wizard's bare hands or a plain quarterstaff.
In the museum is a piece of samurai-only armor, though since we can't ID it yet, I'm a bit leery of putting it on Chewbecka since I can't remember where every cursed item in the game is and many of them share sprites with normal or beneficially magical versions.
So into the inventory it goes as we check out the last parts of the Upper Monastery.
Behind the statue of PHOONZANG is a door leading into this nice little garden(the XP is from a pair of Seekers that were running around inside) and a door leading to the last room in the monastery. This one is gonna be a video since there's a good bit of voice acting in it.
Pretty cool that the Cosmic Lords have a robot for an emissary, in my opinion, and also we meet the first of the Dark Savant's androids. It also sets up our overarching goals for the game.
Firstly: Life, Change and Knowledge? Clearly we need to acquire the Astral Dominae(Dark Savant has it after the events of Wizardry 7), the Chaos Moliri(in the hands of the Mook expedition on Dominus) and the Destinae Dominus(some dude named Marten ganked it and no one has any idea where he's ended up with it). We'll have to find all three and then their current owners are unlikely to relinquish literal artifacts of the gods without a struggle of some sort.
Secondly: If we want to actually make use of those to Ascend... well, we're going to have to disarm the Dark Savant's literal planet-destroying bomb in Arnika. I'd also like to point out that I absolutely love how perfectly villainous it is. "If you're about to win I'll destroy everything, including myself and this planet. Fuck you." It goes well with his petty, spiteful tone from the intro. You can tell the Savant is used to getting everything his way and absolutely WILL cut off his nose to spite his face because he's that sort of asshole.
Also this is obviously the place from the intro, where the Destinae Dominus used to hang out. Nice touch that it was obviously an object of public worship and veneration, the Brotherhood of the Ascension clearly never expected that anyone would try to steal it.
In any case, that's the last thing we need from this place, so let's hit the road and get out of here.
The Arnika Road is the first place the game really takes off its gloves, aside from Gregor and if you try to fuck with Burz. Most encounters out here can and will fuck you up if you're careless. I had to reload twice just getting to the main road from the monastery.
Right out the door? Poison crabs.
Even having webbed them down they took away half of Chewbecka's hit points, and poisoned her and Lady.
With the crabs gone we can also turn around and look at the monastery we just left. It's weird that compared to how well-crafted the interiors were, the exterior looks like someone's Minecraft house. Presumably one of the bits that didn't get sufficient polish before launch.
A bit farther up the road we meet a bunch of plants. Plants are mostly noteable for the fact that almost every single variant of them can cause Irritation, and most can Poison, Paralyze, Blind or Nauseate you as well. Unlike a lot of games where the devs didn't quite seem to know what the most powerful strat was, in Wizardry 8 it's lockdown conditions and the devs made sure the NPC's were both capable and willing to use those, too. NPC casters are also usually very well-scripted in terms of what spells they use and can catch you off-guard.
This sandy pass also has a small bandit camp, which caused my first need to reload. Not from this particular pack, but the next one down the road. I'm mainly showing these guys off for their barely-visible-in-that-screenshot buddies.
Wasps! Enemy mobility varies some, and wasps are very mobile and tend to come in swarms, so you have a large risk of having your back row attacked by them on turn 1 or 2. On top of that, a very common variant can also potentially blind you with every sting, which sucks.
Worth noting is also that we're starting to run low on our yellow bars, too. That's our stamina. Zero stamina makes characters pass out, and they don't wake up from getting stabbed or poked until they recover sufficient amounts, thus, +stamregen items and the spells that recover stamina are very important. All attacks eat stamina and so does getting hit by enemies, as noted by Xerophyte low stam hurts your ability to hit enemies(and seems to hurt successful casting chances of spells, too, from personal experience). The reason Stony is so low is because he used the Lightning Rod a couple of times and that eats shitloads of stam every time at this point in the game, gadgeteers and bards really need tons of stamina to do their thing regularly.
This is the camp that got me killed once because I didn't think when casting my spells.
This short video from the fight is purely because that hit with the Energy Blast making the one guy explode felt real good. The sound design in this game just makes every spell and impact feel meaty and satisfying and like you're kicking ass, and minor stuff like enemies getting more bloody and ragged when injured contributes, too.
The fight nudges Werdna up a level and his next spell is Missile Shield. Like Enchanted Blade it's a persistent, party-wide enchantment that persists outside of battles(letting you pre-buff, thank Phoonzang) and offers you a shot at no-selling any enemy missile attack(as long as it isn't a spell) that would otherwise hit. It's one of the less vital party buffs, but in some specific battles it contributes a lot to your survivability.
The bandits' loot also yields two upgrades for Lady:
First a pair of pants.
And secondly an upgraded spear, the Awl Pike. Check out the huge difference to her damage at the top of her sheet, from 1-14 to 10-23. She is now absolutely the team's chief asskicker for a while since no one else can really match her damage output and a good roll from her can splat many enemies from full health for the next while.
The bandits also had some magic bagpipes for Bards, capable of casting Shrill Sound, a cone-shaped damage spell that attempts to blow up enemy eardrums.
After another stretch of sandy canyons, we finally reach the edge of the badlands around the monastery and reach somewhere with a bit of green and life.
Off to the side is this Mysterious House that we'll eventually learn the purpose of, it's one of two Mystery Houses, though also the less important of the two. The other one will save us a great amount of headaches in the future.
For the moment, though, there's no way in, and wandering around outside we can hear a bunch of machine humming noises inside.
Then when I turn back to the road, I get attacked by giant ants. On the first try I fuck up and cast a cone spell rather than a group spell to start the fight, and end up not locking down enough of them and the remainder strip Aurora to the bone while Chewbecka harangues her for being the weak link.
The second time I properly lead with a Sleep spell which hits them all since they're only arranged in one Group and Lady shows off her stuff by dunking on them with her new pike.
With that out of the way...
Where do we go next?
Here's the gameworld.
And here's where the party is currently, leaving us with two destinations. South to Arnika or North to Mt. Gigas.
Pros: Obviously the intended progression, lots of merchants, some relevant plot stuff, we get to check out the Savant's bomb, recruitable NPC's, more gadgets for Stony, ghosts
Cons: It's what The Man and the Savant want us to do, and we're not going to let them push us around, are we?
Pros: We get to meet some different friends earlier than we normally would, I've never gone that way around before, I will probably get my ass kicked in funny ways, there are some different merchants to patronize
Cons: I will probably get my ass kicked in funny ways