Wizardry IV: The Return of Werdna, released by Sir-Tech in 1987, is not just the fourth game in the legendary Wizardry series - it is famously the hardest game in the history of computer RPGs. There is nothing harder. The majority of those who have played the game were unable to leave the very first room. Incidentally, Wizardry IV remains to this day one of the most innovative role-playing titles.
You are Werdna, the evil wizard who once decided to conquer the entire world. You were busy trying to unlock the secrets of the magical amulet you "acquired" from your nemesis Trebor when an unruly mob of adventurers burst into your inner sanctum and defeated you. At first they thought you were dead. Foolish mortals. It is most difficult to kill a master of the arcane arts! When the authorities realized that your indestructible body lay in a deep trance, they adapted an ancient subterranean ruin into an escape proof prison. They surrounded your bier with patrols, traps, and guardians. You awake in a small room at the bottom of this prison maze, a room with no doors. You are as weak as a newborn babe, your magical powers drained from you. Getting out of this room won't be easy; escaping from the rest of prison may prove near impossible. But you are undaunted. You want revenge and the amulet back!
Turning things on their head, Wizardry IV reverses the standard RPG premise. In this game you play Werdna, the end boss villain you defeated back in Wizardry I: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, trying to escape his escape proof underground prison. As such, Wizardry IV is a direct sequel to the first Wizardry title. Contrary to the first three Wizardry games, however, which were at least somewhat, if marginally, fair, Wizardry IV fervently hates your very existence and takes the notion of resource management to a whole new level, turning it into starvation and despair. Stripped of his powers, Werdna starts out extremely weak. Doing away with the customary experience-based character development system, the game has you rely on summoned monsters and only increase your power at pentagrams - specific, sparsely placed points in the dungeon. Basically, though not quite so, each dungeon floor you survive brings you a level-up, so that your power is directly tied to your progress. Allied with monsters, you battle parties of adventurers fully intent on banishing you back to your eternal rest. Simply put, Wizardry IV has you fight as a monster party against an adventuring party.
Monsters are, however, an unruly bunch. They do not follow Werdna's orders directly. To make things worse, most enemies you encounter - Werdna sarcastically dubs them "do-gooders" - can kill you in one or at most two hits, and you tend to encounter them every other step. An unlucky roll of a die, a wrong step or a foolish decision, and bam! you're dead and have to reload the game.
Beginning at the bottom of the penal dungeon, you struggle to climb up to the surface, not down to the depths of the dungeon. (To be fair, it isn't the first Wizardry to feature a bottom-to-top dungeon crawl: Wizardry III had you ascend a volcano.) Useful loot is minimal, being mostly limited to puzzle-related items, and there's no way of telling a plot-critical item from a fluff one beforehand. And even if by some miracle the enemies don't get you, the dungeon itself will. To that end, Wizardry IV features the most sadistic, and brilliant, dungeon and puzzle design that no other cRPG except maybe Dark Heart of Uukrul or Chaos Strikes Back can compete with, where not only every step you take may mean certain death or a devilish puzzle or both, but the dungeon itself is basically one large puzzle that you must figure out to make progress or at least survive. The dungeon is also insanely hard to map. Overall, it's plain incredible just how much evil Sir-Tech managed to cram into the standard 20x20 grid.
WARNING: EXPERT LEVEL SCENARIO!
The Return of Werdna is an EXPERT level scenario for experienced Wizardry players ONLY. Novices will rapidly become totally frustrated - this game is VERY difficult! If you have never played Wizardry before, you may find it difficult or impossible to finish this game. We very strongly recommend that you play the first scenario, Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, before you attempt to play The Return of Werdna.
Given the above warning, printed on the back of the Wizardry IV box as well as on a separate sheet of paper inside it, it should come as no surprise that Sir-Tech placed a sealed envelope containing the solution to the very first in-game puzzle in the packaging. And it only gets worse from there.
And did I mention the immortal ghost of your nemesis Trebor who pursues you in real time, and as soon as he touches you, you drop dead and it's game over? Or that you're only given a limited number of keystrokes to beat the game?
What kind of LP will this be?
This will be a completionist, and hopefully informative, screenshot LP. There are five different endings to Wizardry IV, and the ultimate one, Grandmaster ending, is infamously
I just should be able to pull that off.
Since dungeons are this game's highest point and main challenge, I will occasionally post dungeon maps so you can have a better grasp of what is going on.
What version of the game are you playing?
The original Apple II version. Remakes are always inferior to the original experience in my book.
Any prior knowledge of Wizardry required?
Not really. I'll be explaining everything. And if I fail to explain something, feel free to ask and I'll explain that too.
That said, there's an excellent Wizardry I LP by Chokes McGee that you might want to check out.
Table of Contents
- Werdna's Backstory
- 1: Trapped!
- 2: The Pyramid of Entrapment
- 3: The Catacombs
- 4: The Death of a Thousand Cuts
- 5: The Temple of the Dreampainter
- 6: The Realm of the Whirling Dervish
- 7: Creatures of Light and Darkness
- 8: The Maze of Wandering
- 9: To Hell and back
- 10: The Cosmic Cube
- 11: Werdna Reformed
- 12: So You Want To Be a God
- 12a: Interlude: The Softalk All-Stars
- 13: Grandmaster Werdna
Named after Andrew C. Greenberg, one of the game's developers (clever isn't it?), Werdna is the antagonist of Wizardry I: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. In that game's prologue, the evil magician Werdna steals an all-potent amulet from Trebor, the overlord of the land of Llylgamyn and an anagram of Robert Woodhead, another Wizardry designer. Granting Werdna's wish to escape to safety and study it in peace, the amulet creates a 10 floor dungeon underneath Trebor's castle, teleports Werdna to the lowest floor and surrounds him with powerful monstrous guardians. In his attempts to get back the amulet, the overlord Trebor goes mad, seals off the access to the fifth floor and begins to utilise the top four dungeon floors as his personal proving grounds for adventurers. If they can conquer the first four floors, they're allowed access to the floors below to try claiming the amulet back from Werdna. After many years, the group of adventurers you created in Wizardry I attempts the task successfully. In Werdna's own words (),
I was entertaining a Vampire Lord and several of his liegemen, when the door to my study was kicked open and in burst a wild-eyed team of adventurers bent on my destruction. I was too far away from the amulet to reach it in time, and my pentagram for summoning monster allies was on the other side of the room. I quickly gathered up my energy and began to cast the awesome Tiltowait spell, while my guests rushed forward to my defense. Just as I unleashed that hellish fireball, I saw the Vampire Lord dissolved by a Zilwan spell! So, they had a high mage also. What! They still stood! That's one very tough team. Another Tiltowait should finish them, though. Before I could cast it, the leader of the team stepped in under my outstretched arms and delivered a critical hit to me. As my consciousness faded, I heard one of his men say, "Hawkwind, I have the amulet! Trebor will be pleased." I cursed Trebor with my last breath that he might endure endless torment. My final view was of their black banner bearing both a gold and a silver dragon in bend, and of the amulet dangling from the end of a sword. The darkness claimed me and I slept as unto death.
The above is taken from Werdna's rather lengthy backstory found in Wizardry IV's manual and reproduced below in a separate post for those who care.
Long years have passed since the events of Wizardry I, years that the mad overlord Trebor's physical form couldn't outlast. But even in death, Trebor keeps vigil and begins hunting for Werdna as soon as the evil wizard rises from his sleep. The problem is, you can't fight Trebor's ghost; as soon as he catches up with you, his one touch chills you unto death. Major threat in the original Apple II version as well as the Ultimate Wizardry Archives DOS version, where he pursues the player in real time, Trebor's ghost is toned down in all subsequent versions and remakes, where his movement is turn-based and simultaneous to the player's.
In Wizardry IV, monsters are your allies, your minions. Coming from the three previous Wizardry scenarios, they range from weakly Kobolds to poisonous Hydras to level-draining Wights and Vampires to mighty Giants. As has been said, they do not, however, directly follow Werdna's orders, fighting on your side yet on their own. They can even flee the battle whenever they might feel like it. After all, you can't really reason with monsters. Be thankful they're even still allied with you after all these years! As you climb up trying to escape and your powers grow, the monsters you can summon become stronger... but so do your foes.
It sucks being an evil magician bent on world domination - everyone's out to get you. The do-gooders you battle in Wizardry IV are typical adventuring parties and lone adventurers, many of which were extracted from actual user disks sent to Sir-Tech for recovery.* As such, they follow all the standard Wizardry character development rules. Typical doesn't, however, mean average, and some of the do-gooders bear clear marks of powergaming through Wizardry's trademark class-switching mechanic. Enemy parties behave like typical adventuring parties in Wizardry, even to the point of recovering their dead comrades' bodies and trying to carry them to the temple for resurrection (kind of, they never really leave the dungeon floor they're on), something you'd normally be doing yourself when playing the first three Wizardry titles.
* According to Robert Woodhead, "Wizardry players sent in disks with their characters to act as enemies. We received hundreds of disks, which resulted in some players having the experience of killing their own parties after the product shipped. I'd say we used 40-50 complete parties from players."
To quote the description from the packaging: Over 400 adventurers developed by Wizardry players form the cadre of Werdna's jailers! Your favorite character may have been selected for this honor. If you meet him, show no mercy... he surely won't! Wizardry IV isn't ashamed to put you as the underdog in every battle you fight. Then again, you're fucking Werdna! Kill those foolish heroes with your monster hordes!
FRONT & BACK COVER
PRIEST & MAGE SPELLS CHART
FanartHere's a thing: procrastinator's elegant summary of the entire game:
(To be explained in update #12.)