Part 16: Mental and DivineUpdate 013.5: Mental and Divine
The last update is going to take me a bit of work, so in the meantime, have the last spellbook update to ride you over. Predictably, these will cover a lot of the ground where Psionics and Priests distinguish themselves. Something interesting is that there are only two Mental spells that aren't Psionic spells.
(Level 1, Psionic, Divinity, Single Target)
Welcome to a spell that I've never, ever cast. You'll likely only pick it up by mistake or because you got a spellbook for it and learning an additional spell of a given "element" adds spell points to said element. Ostensibly it attempts to make a target like you more, which can be relevant if you've accidentally annoyed a friendly NPC into being ambivalent and not wanting to talk to you until you bribe them. But this pretty much never happens and usually you can just pay them weregild(literally, bribe them) to make up for it anyway. Between this and Communication I feel like the originally envisioned social and faction system was going to have played a larger role.
(Level 1, Psionic, Single Target)
Probably the best of the level 1 single-target attack spells. Firstly, mental resistance is rarer than the others. Secondly, unlike the others that just do damage, Mind Stab has a chance to inflict Insanity and is thus a potential gamechanger if you land it, being surprisingly relevant even into the mid-game.
(Level 1, Psionic, Wizardry, Group AoE)
Probably your first group battlefield control spells... but you'll likely try to cast it as little as possible. See this is because, obviously, it inflicts the Afraid condition. And Afraid is 50-50 whether enemies do nothing or run away. In a lot of areas, an enemy running away gives you a hell of a lot of extra work catching up with them, and disrupts their formation so radial AoE's and cone AoE's don't hit all of them any longer. It can still turn around early battles, but you'll come to hate it.
(Level 2, Psionic, Wizardry, Party Buff)
As far as I can tell, all this does is emulate the Ranger's Scouting skill, by auto-searching for items. It has a painfully short duration, though, and you'll probably never think to cast it where there's anything to find. Just bring a Ranger.
(Level 2, Psionic, Divinity, Special)
So when your Ninja, Rogue or Gadgeteer is trying to disarm a trap, Divine Trap gives them a potentially very large buff. Probably you'll want this, since by the endgame, once Stony was hexed, even with a max Divine Trap cast, he was capable of fucking up traps. It seems like high-level chests have some kind of malus to actually picking them, since apparently a 99% chance of disarming each stage of the trap still means you can fail them four or five times in a row. But yeah, you want this unless you want to look at all those locked chests for the rest of your playthrough.
(Level 2, Psionic, Divinity, Special)
Again, another spell you want unless you have a FAQ open all the time, because it's impossible to have sufficient level of Artifacts to passively ID all items. Also a great way to level your Psionic's Mental spell skill passively. Especially since a lot of potentially great items have the exact same sprite as some utterly garbage items.
(Level 2, Psionic, Group AoE)
Your wonderful replacement for Terror. Well into the endgame this spell is great and useful. Even chance of enemies doing nothing or attacking their allies. It's great shit, Insanity is literally the best condition you can land on an enemy(because you'll never land Turncoat on them, don't even bother).
(Level 3, Psionic, Single Target)
Any NPC you can talk to, you can hit with Mindread, which gives you some of their internal monologue. A lot of it's just fluff, occasionally entertaining. But in a few places it lets you skip ahead or gain an advantage. Not on the level of Dragon Knight Saga, where reading people's minds could get you XP and skill points. But, for instance, you can learn that Kunar is a traitor and things like that. But again, in a game with as relatively little NPC interaction as there is in Wizardry 8, it's not a game-changer. But it IS the only level 3 Mental spell in the game.
(Level 4, Psionic, Cone AoE)
A workhorse cone damage spell. It does decent damage and, as per all mental spells, few things will resist it utterly unless they're mindless golems or something.
(Level 4, Wizardry, Party Buff)
Another one of those buffs you'll have up at all times. Letting you see enemies around corners is great for planning ambushes, which as mentioned is probably THE biggest tactical thing you have to master to have an easy time with Wizardry 8. If it's your first playthrough it also lets you spot not-in-a-chest loot on the ground, and where friendly and neutral NPC's are, which will be points of interest in most areas. If nothing else, keeping this up will help your Gadgeteer level his Engineering once you've got the Mook Alliance Letter.
(Level 5, Psionic, Wizardry, Radial AoE)
I really can't gauge how well Hex works on enemies, since you can't see their stats, but I know it's totally crippling for PC's. It might be great to make spellcaster enemies constantly backfire and fizzle their spells if you could land it on them, though. By the time you have it, however, landing status effects on enemies is difficult, and good as it is... paralyzing an enemy or making them go insane is still better. If it dropped elemental resistances, too, it might be worth applying as a first step but... it doesn't. Only cast when my Wizard ran out of everything but Mental mana.
(Level 5, Psionic, Group AoE)
This spell is like casting Mind Stab on an entire group, with the same chance of causing insanity on everyone. In practice it replaces Insanity since you now have a version of Insanity that also does a good whack of damage even if it doesn't land the condition. It's an absolutely kickass spell.
(Level 5, Psionic, Divinity, Single Target)
It cures Insanity and Turncoat, but you get it so late that you'll almost never suffer from them since a combination of Soul Shield and Magic Screen will almost guarantee you never get hit by them.
(Level 6, Psionic, Wizardry, Single Target)
Turncoat is like the Insane status effect, except it guarantees they attack an ally every turn. Again, it has the issue that a single-target condition effect in the endgame is a bit... anyone who it'll matter to convert will be resistant to conversion, so instead you'll just hit an entire group with Psionic Blast instead. Plus Single Target spells are just... generally not worth it. More on this after we're done summing up the spells.
(Level 7, Psionic, Single Target)
Attempts to blow up a single target's brain, does insane damage, can cause Insanity.
(Level 7, Wizardry, Single Target)
Attempts to blow up a single target's brain, does insane damage, can cause Unconsciousness.
(Level 7, Psionic, All Enemies)
Does a big chunk of damage to all enemies, but doesn't cause any conditions. You will be casting Pandemonium instead. Generally from level 6 up, you won't be using the Mental spell school.
(Level 1, Divinity, Party Buff)
Bless is a general no-duh spell to put up on the first round of all fights as it increases your odds of hitting enemies. In the early and mid-game, enemies can still dodge your swings, so it makes for a big overall change in how much damage you can do.
(Level 1, Psionics, Divinity, Alchemy, Single Target)
Fixes up a character's hit points. Early on what you want to do is to never rest until you've poured all your Divine spell points into casting Heal Wounds, since it's easy training, and for some classes(like Alchemists), one of the few ways they have of training it up.
(Level 1, Divinity, Single Target)
If you keep your priests on the back lines, this is how they'll be doing damage early on, since ha ha at the idea of using slings for any kind of real damage.
(Level 2, Divinity, Wizardry, Party Buff)
It's like Bless except you can keep it up constantly. Once again, something you should have up at all times since it guarantees a bonus to hitting enemies, and also a bonus to the nebulous step of "penetration." See, attacks have to both hit AND penetrate. So you might think that characters and enemies have both an armor and a dodge stat? No. They just have an Armor Class stat. And pretty much everything that makes you better at hitting things(like being strong) also makes you better at penetrating, but sometimes attacks just don't "penetrate." Enchanted Blade should make that happen less, I guess.
Anyway, cast Enchanted Blade, keep it up.
(Level 2, Divinity, Single Target)
Adds a layer of ablative HP on top of a character. If you've already got someone else casting a heal, casting Guardian Angel instead of another heal can make sure you don't waste spell points. Additionally if you know there's some dickhead enemy who can hit your fragile casters(especially if they're fairies), you can use this to protect them ahead of time. Once you've got all the defensive spells up, it becomes less of an issue, but pre-Magic Screen, it can be what saves you from having your mages constantly wiped out by dickhead pixies and treants with their Whipping Rocks shit.
(Level 2, Wizardry, Cone AoE)
I never really cast Magic Missiles much. It does okay damage and few things resist Divine damage as well as other types, but it's kind of in this weird gap where you almost always have something better to cast and there are only a couple of levels where it's relevant before you get Fireball.
(Level 3, Divinity, Party Buff)
KEEP. UP. AT. ALL. TIMES.
Unlike Soul and Element Shield, this buffs all six resistances, and it's one of those out-of-combat casts that remain up at all times. When you get it, it'll probably account for 50+% of your total elemental resistances. Generally items, stats and racial bonuses don't give you all that much, and your buff spells account for the majority of your elemental resistances.
Eye For An Eye
(Level 4, Divinity, Single Target)
Also known as the game that gets you killed because you missed one enemy casting it. See, if you hit an enemy with this spell with an AoE spell, it loops back and hits your entire party with it, not just the caster. At the very least it repeatedly kills your casters. Your first experience will probably be when a pixie in Trynton casts it and fuck you up. Theoretically it's a good cast, but you're better off buffing your elemental resistances and just retaliating with offensive/status spells.
(Level 4, Divinity, Wizardry, Single Target)
If you accidentally or purposefully equip a cursed item, this will let you unequip it. It's good for once you eventually get Fang or a Bushido Blade to replace your Bloodlust sword, but generally you shouldn't be equipping a lot of cursed items because by the time they really start popping up you can cast Identify Item before putting them in someone's hand. And then once you have it, curses are totally irrelevant so it kind of feels like they shouldn't even have been in the game.
(Level 4, Psionics, Divinity, Party Buff)
AKA "how you prevent the entire party from being killed by Death Wish when fighting the Sorceress Queen." Resists Divine and Mental damage and their associated conditions. If anyone can beat the game without this one, I will give them a prize. Elemental casters are mostly just shitloads of damage, and sufficient grinding will deal with that. But the Mental/Divine casters in the later game will usually either turn everyone Insane or just straight up kill them if you fuck up your save rolls.
(Level 5, Divinity, All Allies)
If you don't play with either a Gadgeteer or a Bard, this is a great spell, but if you play without both a Gadgeteer and Bard, you're probably some sort of deviant who should be in an asylum somewhere. Both of them get access to items that cast this spell. I guess a pure Priest could be casting this, but Lords and Valkyries should be laying down a smackdown instead and casting as few spells as possible.
(Level 5, Divinity, Psionics, Single Target)
See every other complaint about high-level single-target spells so far. Enemies can barely ever manage to stick this, so you shouldn't even bother.
(Level 5, Wizardry, Alchemy, Special)
The main obstacle to learning this spell is that Alchemists and Wizards have little Divine access to level up with and Bishops have a hard time reaching the relevant level to learn it. But it's absolutely worth your time. High-level elementals can deal out over 100 damage with a punch and get two of them per round, which can help accelerate later battles, especially if you've got someone paralyzed or otherwise helpless and the elemental gets to double up on the damage. Non-boss enemies rarely get over 400 health even in the latest parts of the game. They also draw some hostile fire.
Sadly, they require a certain amount of space to spawn, and a lot of areas in the game have too low ceilings for them to be summonable. Their AI also seems buggy, sometimes they just defend even when they're perfectly able to attack enemies.
(Level 6, Wizardry, Divinity, All Enemies)
Attempts to blow up all Undead and Demonic enemies in the area, a purpose for which it's great. It deals out fat assloads of damage and sends them right back to hell. Unfortunately... by the time you have it, you're past most areas that actually contain undead in any real amounts, and the list of demon-type enemies in the game is incredibly short, and they generally show up as single large targets(like al-Sedexus) rather than anything that would benefit from an area wipe effect.
(Level 6, Alchemy, Radial AoE)
So, Draining Cloud. It hits enemies' health, stamina and spell points, the latter of which can be really annoying when it hits you rather than them. However... it deals less damage than Acid Bomb or Toxic Cloud, the latter of which can also poison, nauseate and knock out. And... enemies don't actually use spell points as far as I can tell. Instead their spellcasting is entirely based on random rolls their AI script goes through. If enemies actually used SP, it would be great for dealing with hostile mages, but as it is... just cast Toxic Cloud instead.
(Level 6, Divinity, Single Target)
Hits a target for big damage and heals the most wounded party member. Which... you know the drill by now. Just cast Heal Wounds or Heal All or have the bard play his dulcimer. By the time you can cast this you almost certainly won't do enough damage to make the healing OR the damage-dealing worth it.
Might to Magic
(Level 6, Psionic, Single Target)
Like Lifesteal, except it deals more damage and restores spell points rather than hit points. Actually sometimes worth casting, though... your casters will probably be swimming in magic nectars and mana stones by the time you get this far. So real mana outages are unlikely to happen. Still, could be situtationally useful.
(Level 6, Alchemy, Divinity, Single Target)
Cures being dead. It's a useful thing to have in your toolbox, but again, by the time you have it, you'll probably have tons of Scrolls of Resurrection and Powders of Resurrection, enough that you could feed pigs with them. Especially since spells get disadvantaged in terms of init, and you probably want to pick up your dead guy early so he'll benefit from a Heal All in the same round and doesn't instantly go down again, using an item for it would probably be beneficial.
(Level 7, Divinity, All Enemies)
Attempts to instakill all enemies. The same story as Asphyxiation and to a lesser extent Quicksand. I mean, yeah, there are a couple of late-game fights where you might as well roll the dice. I think there's a limit to how likely enemies can be to resist things, like an 0.1% chance of something slipping through even a 200% resistance, so if there's like 30 enemies, roll them bones and see how many of them explode. If it's even one, you got a return on your investment.
(Level 7, Divinity, Single Target)
Cures all conditions(bar being dead or drained) and fixes up a huge amount of hit points. Yeah, it's alright if someone's both hurt and insane and you need to fix both at once. But once again, the Bard gets a Rennaissance Lute that casts the same spell, so let him handle it instead. There are worse things to get with your level 7 spell picks, I suppose.
Wizardry 8 Magic Post-Mortem
So magic in Wizardry 8 kind of sucks, which is funny because it's called Wizardry. How do you make magic suck in a game literally named after it? Mostly it's down to how the game handles resistances. In most games, the flat default for an enemy is to have 0 resistance to a thing, eating the full effect, and then being resistant, immune or sometimes vulnerable to certain things. In Wizardry 8, the flat default resistance rises as the game goes on, and there's no such thing as an actual weakness, until by the endgame the flat default is 80 or 90 resistance to most things. Which, for all intents and purposes, means that they eat very little magic damage and ignore most conditions inflicted by magic(I don't trust claims that, say, paralyze from weapons still runs off water resistance since I see the weapon effects sticking far more often than the spell effects).
It means that in the early game, magic is okay. In the mid-game it rules because it's your big battlefield clear artillery. And then in the endgame your wizards are better off summoning elementals and casting buffs, then bringing out their beatsticks.
Secondly... potentially high-level magic is worth more than I give it credit for. But I don't know. Why? Because the system is obfuscated as fuck. Consider that two decades after release, people still aren't sure how resistances and the spellcasting system actually work. Now, I don't believe a system needs to be super-simple, but if it isn't, then the game should tell you the end result. I point a Fireball at someone? Tell me the damage or damage interval for the targets. I ready up a Freeze Flesh? Tell me the rough odds of affecting each target. Either make the calcs simple enough that they can go in the manual, or tell me the factors and the end result. But Wizardry 8 does neither, so usually you stumble on what's actually effective by accident rather than on purpose. Like... a balanced party sucks shit. You want a Bard, a Gadgeteer, at most one full caster and the rest should be hybrids and pure beatdown guys. You don't want half casters and half choppers, because the casters will be useless by the endgame.
Lastly, there's the issue of splitting things up between four schools and six realms. I love the idea, honestly, but there are just some huge gaps. Like, it's fair that the Mental school is most important to psionics... but at the same time wizards have a couple of spells in the top there that they'll almost never be able to cast because they have no real low-level spells to get in the training with unless you grind by spamming Detect Secrets and resting over and over again. There are also some spells you just can't beat the game without: Magic Screen, Soul Shield and Elemental Shield, because of the way the magic is "balanced," i.e. that you more or less have to be completely immune to it by the end game or get mercilessly annihilated.
There's no easy fix towards unfuckling all this, but goddamn, it's probably the game's biggest weakness. Imagine if magic didn't suck shit, suddenly all of those huge mobby end-game fights and hard-to-reach enemies could actually get blasted down to a respectable size in the first few rounds.