Part 5: The Death of a Thousand Cuts
B8F is a minefield.
Exploring it is like playing Minesweeper, except blindly and in first person. Minesweeper was a popular segment of the puzzle game genre in the early 1980s already, so it might as well have been an influence on Roe R. Adams when he designed this floor. In particular, it could've been influenced by a 1985 Minesweeper-like called Relentless Logic, or simply RLogic, in which you controlled a US Marine Corps private who had to cross the minefield starting from the top left corner to the bottom right corner in order to deliver an important message to the Command Center. In contrast to the regular Minesweeper, the size of the minefield was fixed and it was not necessary to clear all non-mine squares to accomplish the mission. RLogic was top-down, but the main features are similar here. And holy shit, there's a lot of mines on this floor. If you are the kind of RPG player who thoroughly explores every tile, this floor is your personal Hell.
Getting from the stairs to the pentagram isn't exactly trivial with all the mines in your way. But even though it will take you many deaths to reach the pentagram, it is getting from the pentagram to the exit that is pure insanity. Things are further complicated by a bunch of tough random do-gooder encounters, as well as by the fact that there are two plot-critical items hidden among the mines, at (0,5) and (0,9). Yes you can get there, and there are two ways to do it. One involves finding a certain piece of equipment later that should make accessing those items easier and going back to grab them, but there is also a particularly masochistic way of getting them without the special equipment. And the more masochistic, the more authentic kind of experience this LP conveys, so we'll be getting them the hard way in this update.
After all, that's how I discovered them, trial and error style, in my first play through.
In contrast to Minesweeper, there is some room for error here because stepping on a landmine doesn't strip Werdna of all his HP at once, only a part of it. The farther south you go, the more powerful the mines get. Unfortunately, a landmine isn't destroyed after you've blown up on it, and if you move back to or remain on the same tile for another turn, it will detonate again.
As you can see by the map, you should head east from the starting point, yet the game tries its best to make you go west first by deliberately pointing you in that direction.
Along the way we trap the Wandering Oracle again, but this time we don't have enough gold to pay him for a clue.
Arriving at the pentagram, Werdna surveys the summoning options.
This is a pretty great pentagram.
Monsters A, B, and C all come from Wizardry I. Rotting Corpses are undead monsters with 2d8 HP and AC of 6 who can paralyze on touch and attack up to 3 times per turn. Dragon Flies have a breath attack, 20% magic resistance, and their regular attack has a chance of putting its target to sleep. Spirits, called "Unseen Entities" when unidentified, are low-AC mythical beings with 25% magic resistance who regenerate 1 HP per turn. They have solid HP of 7d3+2 and their attacks may cause poison. Finally, they cast 3rd tier Mage spells. All in all, a perfect summon at this point in the game. Harpies, arriving from Wizardry III, and Bugbears, a rare case of Wizardry IV introducing a monster type that wasn't there in the previous titles, are neither particularly strong nor useful in any other respect. Wererats can inflict poison, but not much else.
Ronins are Wizardry III's samurai enemies who cast 2nd tier Mage spells. That makes them a relatively appealing summon, if inferior to Spirits. Gaze Hounds are strange animals from Wizardry I and this pentagram's tanks. Not only can they paralyze their target, but they also have 4d8 HP and AC of -1, which is very low at this point. In PS2's Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land, Gaze Hounds have a special paralyzing ability, "Glare," separate from their regular attack. Early Wizardry games aren't, however, that advanced, so here Gaze Hounds only paralyze on touch, not with their gaze. Banshees (Wizardry III) and Shades (Wizardry I) both have the level-drain ability and high resistance to magic, which makes them highly worth summoning; Banshees' level drain is more powerful, but Shades have considerably more HP and, in contrast to Banshees, aren't prone to fleeing from combat at the most inopportune moment.
Lvl 5 Priests are capable of casting 3rd tier Priest spells. Those are Lomilwa, a more enduring light spell than Milwa; Dialko, or "Softness," a spell that softens the target's body and cures it of numbness caused by sleep and paralysis; Latumapic, or "Identification," only handy when facing an unidentified group of monsters, which means it isn't of any use in Wizardry IV; and finally Bamatu, a "prayer" spell that lowers the entire party's armor class by 4. On an unrelated note, Lvl 5 Priests were a formidable foe in Wizardry I, where I remember them always paralyzing my characters down on the fourth dungeon floor.
We go for Spirits, Shades and Lvl 5 Priests, which is definitely one of the deadliest combinations at this point. An even deadlier combination could be achieved by summoning Banshees instead of Shades, but at the same time that would make our group more vulnerable due to Banshees' cowardice and lower HP.
Having reached level 3, Werdna now has 30 HP and 11 in all his attributes. But even more importantly, he can now cast 3rd tier Mage spells. The Spirits we've summoned are also capable of casting these spells, which greatly adds to our party's collective might.
There are only two 3rd tier Mage spells, but they are both very powerful and deal mass damage. Molito, or "Spark Storm," does 3d6 points of damage to a group of monsters. It is the spell the Pyramid's Outer Guardian could cast back on the starting floor. The second one is Mahalito, or "Big Fire," one of the most indispensable Wizardry spells. It is another group target spell, and it deals 4 to 24 points of damage. As you may remember, B10F's end boss, the Pyramid Guard, had access to it. We only gain access to these spells now: the balance in Wizardry IV isn't tipped in your favor.
It is worth noting that spells in Wizardry are elemental-based: Halito and Mahalito are fire elemental, Dalto is cold, and Molito is lightning. Different monsters have different resistances to these elements. For instance, Dragon Flies are resistant to fire, Frost Giants to cold, Creeping Coins to fire and cold. (I am not aware of any monsters resistant to lightning, though.) In Wizardry I, Werdna himself was resistant to both cold and fire, but he was still powerful back then; now he is not. I haven't been able to find out how exactly elemental resistances are implemented in the early Wizardry games, but my impression is that they do not reduce the damage taken, but rather represent a percentile chance to resist a spell of the respective element. I may be wrong on that, though.
The first do-gooder party we encounter on B8F are Abduul's Artful Dodgers.
Interestingly, this is an evil "do-gooder" party. Even evil-aligned adventurers haven't got anything on Werdna, who is beyond D&D evil, and are therefore "good" by this game's standards.
The Artful Dodgers are an assortment of all Wizardry classes except Ninja and Lord. This kind of variety is what makes them dangerous. Thankfully, we now have mass damage spells to take them out with.
However, for some reason enemy spellcasters decided to target Werdna all at once. Oh well, thankfully I saved the game right after the pentagram. (Which is what you should always do.)
The second do-gooder party on this floor are Arcturus's Avengers. Despite there only being two parties here, there are many individual do-gooders on top of that and you're bound to die every other step anyway.
It is again an evil do-gooding party, probably to signify how evil the floor itself is.
This fight is, however, significantly easier than the previous one, because the Avengers are mostly pure Fighters.
Assisted by level drain, Mahalito makes short work of them.
Neither the Artful Dodgers nor the Avengers drop anything useful, so fighting them is there for the sake of challenge alone.
Thieves continue to be the most annoying kind of do-gooders, attempting to steal everything we don't have equipped.
Incidentally, I have a feeling the name Memole is a reference to "Little Memole," a 1980s Japanese anime television series. Robert Woodhead and Roe R. Adams were both huge anime fans and later went to found AnimEigo, a company specializing in licensing, translating and distributing anime and samurai films.
From Spell-Weaver, we obtain and equip a Mage's Staff, marked as a "stick" when unidentified.
It only deals minor damage (1d5) and doesn't improve Werdna's to-hit chance, but it can be useful against weaker enemies.
(Also, I believe I forgot to mention that the items we currently have equipped are marked by an asterisk in the inventory.)
A bearded Fighter named after a female pop duo... The wonders of user character submission.
Other do-gooder names on this floor include Tars Tarkas, Aspergil, Dreadnok, and Lord Gwydion.
Meanwhile we have reached the southern wall of the dungeon in one piece.
We still have things to do on this floor, but for now let's enter the southwestern room.
We have, actually, but that can wait a bit.
For the time being, let's focus on the fixed encounter that awaits us at (1,1).
It's Glum the Assassin.
Glum is important enough for one of the Wandering Oracle's sayings to refer to him:
The Wandering Oracle of Mron posted:
Secrets abound all around you! Psst! Have you met Glum yet?
He is a Ninja, and he can decapitate on a critical hit.
(Note also that Werdna's AC has changed to "Low" thanks to all the defensive spells his allies have cast on him.)
Why is Glum important?
Because of a certain item he drops, "a weighty cube."
This is arguably the single most important item in the entire game, the Black Box.
The Black Box is basically a holding bag. It can hold up to 19 items, and more importantly, we can equip it so that it doesn't get stolen by thieves. We will have to un-equip it at times, but for the most part we should be safe from thieves from now on. The items inside the box cannot be used during combat, but there are going to be some puzzles that can reach directly into the box for the necessary items.
Technically, you can put the Black Box inside itself, but it just disappears if you do, together with all the items it contains.
Look how neat our inventory is looking now.
I won't exaggerate it if I say the Black Box is a godsend; without it, given the sheer amount of special items we're going to need, the game would be even more - much more - unbeatable.
With the Black Box equipped, we return to (14,1) for a special event.
It takes some imagination to picture a grove of majestic oaks here.
Pools are going to be important throughout Wizardry IV. This particular pool conceals an item, but later on they will also have a different kind of purpose. We won't necessarily need, or want, to wade into every pool we meet, but this time we do want to.
This is going to be painful.
Oak wood is rich in tannic acid!
You have obtained A FORKED STICK.
Despite the pain, Werdna holds onto the prize.
The forked stick is a Witching Rod, and we place it inside the Black Box. When used, it casts Kandi, or "Locate Dead Soul," a 2nd tier Priest spell that lets you spot the location of Trebor's ghost. It is also a key item needed for a certain plot-essential puzzle at a later point, so we better not use it lest it breaks.
All that's left for us to do is acquire the two items at (0,5) and (0,9), protected by the many landmines surrounding them. Exploring the mine tiles isn't too tricky: just be sure you're well stocked up on potions of Dios. It also helps when you already know where the items are.
Random encounters continue to pop up with the same frequency when walking over landmines. Unfortunately, mines don't harm do-gooders. This game is just unfair like that. On the other hand, they don't harm the monsters in our group either. These are special anti-Werdna mines.
Making your way through them is relatively straightforward, if tiring: move a step -- gulp a potion or two -- if out of potions, wait for a random encounter to get healed by your allies during combat and loot even more potions afterwards.
You have obtained A STONE.
At (0,9), we pick up the third precious stone, the Golden Pyrite, and carefully put it inside the Black Box.
You have obtained A STONE.
Yet another stone is located at (0,5).
It is a beautiful Amber Dragon, and in the box it goes, too.
On our way back to the exit, we trap the Oracle once again. It gives us a belated hint about the Black Box... but it may as well be a reference to something else entirely, something that awaits us much later.
At (0,0), there is another - optional - fixed encounter.
It has us pitted against Golem.
Golem is just a Fighter, so he isn't too tough. He doesn't drop any worthwhile loot either.
Now that we've made sure we haven't forgotten anything, we climb the stairs up to B7F.
And then we step into the darkness...