Part 17: ApotheosisUpdate 014: Apotheosis
Alright, let's finish up this game. Back in the Rapax castle after having killed a demon masquerading as a god, ending centuries of prejudice and warfare and also having guillotined a noble. A pretty good day's work, now it's time to make sure it actually lasts and the Dark Savant doesn't fuck it all up by becoming a god.
This is how close I have to get to the damn keyhole in the king's playroom before it'll accept the keyhole as being interactible and something I can put the actual key in.
This causes the rack to move aside and expose a very sinister portal which, unlike the other two in the castle, don't display the terminal location. I'm sure it's perfectly safe to dive right in, though.
I have to wonder why the Savant decided to put in a portal to his big tower in the Rapax castle rather than just having the other end on the Dark Ship in orbit or something so only he could access it. What an idiot.
Anyway, welcome to the Savant's tower!
On your right is scenic "a bunch of mooks about to get gibbed while I yawn because they're all underlevelled."
Straight ahead is the Rave Pit, also known as "lame puzzle hole" to the locals.
Above you is some slime that makes the interior of the tower feel like someone's nostril.
I also can't help but feel like more Savant-centric locations were planned, like maybe a visit to his ship or an android stronghold or something, considering the Savant chest we only ever see used in the basement of the Rapax castle and this entire tileset that sees no use anywhere else.
Anyway, mosey over to the edge of the pit and you'll see this goopy Fisher Price toy. It's one of those classic "press a button and some bits will go in and others will go out." The point is to withdraw all of the bars in the pit, but part of the problem is that because of the angle, you can't really see them very well.
So just press the first and fourth and solve it in two moves.
Aside from presumably raising the Savant's blood pressure, this raises a squodgy set of stairs leading up to a platform that's descended on top of the pit. The platform is an elevator we can ride down into the pit.
It contains more pre-corpses. They go splat.
You wade through the knee-deep slime until you meet the SAVANT BEHEMOTH, a unique super-big android that's still lower levelled than the party.
RFS is unimpressed.
And then you get unceremoniously dumped in Arnika by a teleporter. No locals will comment on this. Despite He'li commenting on a lot of other stuff, even she won't care about this. This does, however, actually make it possible to finish the game.
(Don't worry, I made sure you'll also get to see what happens if you don't do this)
Time to get back to the Rapax Castle. Consider me to be cutting out a lot of corridor-wandering, a final shopping spree at Ferro's and a good chunk of dead Rapax patrols.
Coming back to the Templar shrine, Sexus is hostile and gets flattened by the party.
He drops a unique weapon, the "Rapax Mageblade," which is a pure Mage-only sword that baffles me since it's still weaker than the dozens of staves and wands I could have on Werdna by now. In fact weaker than the Staff of Death Werdna is already wielding. Why would anyone ever use this?
Anyway, it's funny that Al-Adryian neither cares we've killed his king or his god or one of his colleagues right next to him. He just gives us a nod as we walk past, possibly because he knows exactly how it would turn out for him if he gave us any static.
Pictured here: The smartest Rapax in the castle.
I like that the Rapax thought to put in a fancy gate but not to, say, post a guard, or ten guards, or put down an alarm, or even lock the door. Idiots.
Anyway, welcome to Ascension Peak. It's all jagged rocky walls, cracked wasteland ground and the occasional unhealthy-looking pine trees clustered around the edges of clearings and in little nooks and crannies. It feels blasted and desolate, but also like it wasn't entirely intended to be that way and instead was a bit of a rushjob.
There's also precious little environmental detail around, though at least it shows us how the Rapax collapsed the pass.
Which is that rockslide on the left. It looks climbable, doesn't it? In fact it IS climbable, from the inside, which I figured out when I tripped over to the bottom side and had to teleport back to the Rapax castle and walk back through the portal. On the far side are a few Rapax which you're meant to bump into if you're coming up from the Mountain Wilderness.
Anyway, they get beaten to a pulp, predictably. And then back to the castle. And back through the portal.
One of the more common enemies on Ascension Peak is Maddening Gazers. They're high-HP mages who can bust out something similar to unicorns' rearing attack, where it just attempts to throw a grab pack of mental conditions on everyone. They also outlevel the party enough to occasionally stick insanity on someone at which point it's a rush to cast Sane Mind or Restoration on them before they ventilate the party member next to them.
Immediately behind these three is the "hub" of Ascension Peak.
That puts us at 1, with the gates of Life, Knowledge and Chaos each leading off to their sub-area(all of them very linear, except for Life, which has a single large side path). I make a right turn and head for Knowledge, the only guarded one. We'll check out the big monument in the center when we get back.
Yawn, just a bunch of Savant goons. They go splat.
Now, let's have a look at the gate itself...
A big crystal barrier flanked by pillars and statues is pretty cool, I have to admit but...
A big ol' clunky brass lock right in the middle of it? Also note that there are no keys for these locks. Apparently the Chosen Ones of prophecy have to be larcenous bastards, or at the very least know Knock Knock and have a decent earth mage with them, unless they want to sit here for ten hours re-rolling attempts to force the lock. It's like this for all three gates, not just Knowledge.
Each of the three paths has one little quirk, and we need to get to the end of each one of them. The path of Knowledge is probably the least quirky of the three.
Because this is its quirk, this guy up ahead, Amit.
His protection money is scaled by level rather than how much you actually have like so many other payments in the game, so it's entirely possible to not be able to pay him. If you can't, he sics "Pee Wee" on you. Amit himself is a level 12 chump and explodes after a single round of combat, as for Pee Wee... he comes around the corner a moment later.
A bit scarier. If he lands all his attacks, he can kill 1 or 2 PC's per round, but like most golem-type enemies half his attacks will be throwing rocks(which Missile Shield deflects), meaning he only rarely uses his murderous stomp attack(it does upwards of 70 damage per hit, "overflows" to other PC's like tentacle attacks and he gets two or three of them per round if he focuses on them).
He's not all that hard for us.
What happens if you CAN pay Amit, though?
Theoretically, yes, if you have a fight near Pee Wee, he'll help you. But practically there will never be a fight in range of Pee Wee, and actually hauling enemies back to him would take forever, plus with the increased spawn rates on Ascension Peak, new enemies would have spawned before you got back to their original location anyway.
Still, let's pay him off and be nice.
Adamant Unicorns are the unique enemy of the Knowledge Path. Like all unicorns, they're made to fuck up your characters' spongy brains so they kill each other. They'd quite dangerous if you don't get your defensive spells up on round one, and even if you do, they managed to land several Turncoats on the party over the course of the path. They can also cast Quicksand and thus attempt to instant-death your entire party at once.
Also, they have a unique death animation.
My personal theory is that they intended unique death animations for all enemies but ended up using the placeholder gore explosions for most of them in the end when they ran out of time and/or budget, and considering how good the non-generic ones look, I'm really sad that was the case.
Eventually the path leads to this little vale.
The doors glide open as you approach them.
After a bit of getting groped up by ghosts(considering that the game prevents you from moving while displaying this dialogue, I wonder if it was originally intended to be accompanied by a voice-over or some animation)... an old acquaintance pops up out of thin air with no fanfare.
Pop through the portal behind him and you arrive at a receptable for the device which he's just riddled you about.
Slap the device in to the receptacle, the ground shakes, a bit of geometry in front of you moves... but it's unclear what just happened. It'll make sense later, however. Behind you, a portal takes you back to the "hub" valley.
So the monument contains a Higardi, Trynnie and Rapax statue. Hard as it may be to tell, there's now a glimmer over the Higardi statue because we've handled the Destinae Dominus down the path of Knowledge which she points at. Next is the path of Life, which the Trynnie statue indicates.
Said path is slightly more lush than the other two, but that's about it. It also has one of the bigger unique features and probably what most people remember about Ascension Peak more than anything.
See, you round a couple of corners and then you spot figures in the distance. A LOT of figures.
Looks like the last of the belligerent Rapax nobility and Stony's illegitimate half-demon child have shown up to party. Also the jump in time is because the one crash of the playthrough happened here.
So let's analyze this battle. You start at long range and have no way to sneak closer. First range WILL need to be self-buffing, during which most of the Templars will also self buff with stuff like Magic Screen, Missile Shield and Element Shield, making your job even harder. The archers are the main weak link for getting chipped away by stuff like Tsunami.
On top of that, the Rapax have a nasty trick up their sleeve. Watch the radar in the following screenshot.
Your Rapax child can spawn offspring, which she ostensibly has an 80% chance of doing per turn, but I only saw her do it once when I tried(both for the try that crashed and the one that worked), but the thing is that what she spawns is more Templars, not chaff, and she spawns them centered on you, not herself, so you're instantly getting back attacked.
On top of that, I got unlucky and some treants spawned off to the side and cast Eye For An Eye on themselves. This means any time I try to cast Asphyxiate or Freeze All, I also hit the entire party with those spells. That interaction seems to have been what crashed the fight the first time around, but aside from that it strongly encourages me to be careful with how I toss spells around.
The battle wasn't exciting and didn't involve any unique tactics but, crash aside, it took me thirty goddamn minutes to hack my way through all these idiots. Jesus Christ.
They don't drop anything worth looting, either. In any case I just want to forget the damn fight exists. Time to get on with it and hand off the Astral Dominae.
Of course, I take the wrong turn on the way there, finding the one way to get lost. Which is hilarious because in real life I have an unerring sense of direction and never get lost anywhere, but in some games I'm just like a confused fly bouncing off window panes and taking every illogical turn and twist.
I find this path that switches back and forth, going up and up and up.
In an alcove there's also this bugged bundle of arrows, I think someone mistyped how many were meant to spawn there. It's like 20 or something stacked on top of each other.
I end up on the path leading to 6 rather than 8a on the map. This is actually the last place we need to go.
Each inserted item raises part of the stairs so we can get to the top, because we're too dumb to build a ladder or use a grappling hook.
Anyway, back to the right path, we'll be back here again later.
Over creeks, down caves.
Up caves, into battles.
The Furor is a unique big boy.
Just a plus-sized Scorcher. Keep your elemental shield up and he's a non-issue soon turned to chunky salsa. He guards progress and a small cave full of pre-placed gear that would have been outdated ten updates or so ago.
Things get slightly more lush as we approach the end of this path...
The shrine of Life is guarded by a few fairies and a treant, once again, they go down like chumps because I can hide behind a boulder to charge straight into melee with the fairies and whack them around like little baseballs until their wings come off.
Once again, we get groped up and...
And with that, we have only the path and shrine of Chaos to get through.
Of the three paths, it's probably the one that's the most decorated, but also the least unique.
It has monuments that collapse as you draw close.
Corpses tied to stakes, and similar signs of chaos. Like the other paths, it has a couple of unique encounters, but they're less unique than, say, Amit or the Rapax prince.
Like 90% of the game's actual demon-type enemies are located on this path. I don't think Djinns, other than the one in the Umpani training course, actually spawn anywhere else, and all other demons are uniques, like Al-Sedexus. Also no, like usual, the Soul Eater gets KO'd and beaten to death before he gets a chance to even try his special soul-devouring attack. Neat design, though.
At the end of the path, the shrine of chaos is guarded by a few more djinn that get beaten to paste in moments.
They have this one unique demon with them just called a Greater Demon. Not very threatening but at least it's another unique design? There's apparently a whole tier of demons and djinns we don't get to meet because I didn't grind my way up to, like, level 36.
The Shrine of Chaos is in a decent bit of disrepair. Though, one thing that stands out to me is that Ascension Peak has statues of Higard, Trynnie and Rapax, like, the Rapax are a natural part of the planet and ostensibly the ascension process as well, the Rapax Queen even mentions that they were supposed to ascend with the rest, not apart from them. I wish it was something that was dug into a bit more, the Savant and Al-Sedexus twisting the Rapax from a force of chaos and change to a force of cruelty, etc.
Anyway, let's go in.
And there goes the third riddle.
And as is obviously evinced, now the steps at the final shrine are raised all the way to the top. Time to hoof it over there and show you what happens if we do this without disarming the bomb in Arnika first.
As soon as we get near the apex of Ascension Peak, the game takes over our camera and...
So what if we weren't forgetful goofs and remembered the tower? Well, it goes mostly the same...
Skip to 44 seconds in if you want to dodge the repeated material. I really recommend watching this bit because the Savant VA's take on this bit is pure genius.
So uh, I guess we follow them and...
I love this little track, it's short but sweet and really sets the ATMOSPHERE of setting foot in a new, weird place. Also, recognize this place from somewhere?
Here's the map of the Cosmic Circle...
And here's the Umpani telescope from the last update...
Update 13 posted:
Apparently it exists in real space and can be seen through a plain telescope, meaning the Umpani, T'rang and Savant could've just flown a spaceship here at any moment!
Anyway, we're here now, and that's what matters. Let's have a look around.
It's primitive, but I really love the design of the Cosmic Circle, though I strongly suspect it's a smaller version of what was originally intended.
The fellas are ready to beat some villainous faces in.
Something about this whole situation just screams "80's album cover" to me. I love the cosmic skybox.
The interior is spartan. I feel like more must have been in the original design specs, but as it is, it's really just a breather before the final showdown, and speaking of which, it's only a couple of steps away...
I'll note that I absolutely love the narrator VA as well.
But good question. What do we do?
Well, the answer is, of course, we do all three. Let's start with the most obvious one, we grab the pen and write: "the Dark Savant suddenly turned into a duck."
Sadly, the Savant isn't an idiot and ninja kicks the book out of our hands before we can delete him from reality.
So, the final battle. We've got Bela on our side, and I think he shows up no matter what. I'm actually not sure what happens if you instead kill him in the Mountain Wilderness, or if he's even killable. If we had Vitalia along, she'd hop out of the party at this point and join the battle independently rather than as an RPC. I think she'd also have a few lines of dialogue to contribute.
The Savant's first move is always to summon three henchmen. Because our backs are literally against the Forge they can't ambush us and we can mostly ignore them, because if the Savant goes down, so do they. I summon two elementals and we get to work. Bela's no slouch either.
Oddly enough he's a level lower than as a Mountain Wilderness vendor, but he's still beefy, highly resistant to most things, can cast high-level spells and he has three volleys of three physical attacks that each have a 25% chance to instakill. He mulches through the henchmen while we focus on the savant himself.
His level means we can't stick any conditions, but between Haste from the Rousing Drums, Bless, defensive spells and Stony dropping Superman on the frontliners so they're hitting several levels above what they normally would(in hindsight it occurs to me that dropping Superman on casters should potentially have superpowered their ability to blow through defenses, damn.), we lay into him with just raw damage. It's not even a challenge, he can't damage us since he mostly uses spells, but we can certainly damage the hell out of him. In the end...
The drop back on to the Forge platform is a known issue. I think it happens because the animation starts as soon as people start talking, but the level-up alerts take up some of that time, so if they persist just a second or two too long, you get the float up, up, up... hitting the boundary and dropping down.
Another kind-of issue with the ending is... Bela. He's just... there to explain a bit of the plot and not much else. It feels like he should have participated in the storyline at more points, perhaps even been an RPC. But, enough of that, we have another two endings to go through!
This time, let's be smart. We tear out the page proclaiming Phoonzang's banishment, thus unravelling the entire timeline and doing immense amounts of damage to causality itself.
And battle is joined once again. I could swear I remembered spectral Phoonzang joining in on our side, but maybe that only happens if you have Vi Domina along. Either way, the Dark Savant gets his second savage owning of the night and...
Frankly, I feel like I preferred it without him. He's kind of patronizing! Also having just one book that someone could mangle with their hands as the literal foundation of all reality sounds like poor OSHA practices.
But what about the third option?
In this case your only opponent is Bela, and Vi too if she's here. Vitalia wouldn't even rate a comment in terms of challenge, but Bela can be surprisingly nasty. If you managed to fight your way here at a lower level, certainly he could wreck you, with his high number of potential instakill attacks. I also wonder what would happen if Bela should happen to kill the Savant here, whether the ending would act like he survived or just keep rolling to the first ending. But, either way, Bela isn't long for this world with an angry former deity and a bunch of career kleptomaniacs seeing their chance to steal a universe bearing down on him.
So where does that leave the universe?
So that was Wizardry 8.
The last Wizardry game by the original developers(mostly, DW Bradley among others had jumped ship shortly before, apparently a lawsuit of some sort was part of it). The Wizardry game that tried to do things differently and... managed to do some good things, but lacked the polish to be truly legendary and a fitting cap to the series. The first voiced Wizardry game, and a very well-voiced one at that. Sadly none of the game's credits, IMDB or manual, indicate who voiced what, so I don't know who to applaud for as Saxx, the narrator and the Dark Savant. But they were all good, not a single one of them was a bad or lazy performance, even if some of the T'rang took "sibilant" perhaps a step too far.
Whatever flaws it has, it's one of those games I'll return to every so often, because there's always another party combination to try out, and enough paths to take through the game that you can always do things a bit differently than last time. Part of it is probably having it as one of my formative RPG's, I played it back when the demo was first out, getting to the end boss over and over until I could do the Lower Monastery in my sleep. With a powerful tool like the Cosmic Forge editor, it feels like if it was released today, it might have been one of those games that spawned endless mods.
In any case, thank you to everyone who joined one of my first forays into LP'ing, as always it's having an audience that makes it a fun thing to do. For everyone who hasn't played Wizardry 8 I hope you had some fun reading/watching it, and for everyone who has, I hope you enjoyed the nostalgia trip as much as I did.