Part 8: Creatures of Light and DarknessHard to believe it, but we're already halfway there. Halfway until Werdna reaches the surface, free to bring about his dreams of infinite power and avenge those who did him wrong. Will he make it? Will it be as he imagines it? Will this LP live long enough for him to see the day?
In any case, it's B5F for now. I've got to say I'm glad to be here. This level is practically a free break for coffee (and bagels) compared to the previous one, and I just happen to like it a lot.
Surprisingly, apart from a couple of unpleasantly placed teleporters -- child's play in the world of Wizardry IV -- B5F doesn't have much in the way of unfair gimmicks intended to screw you up. Sure, it has this quasi-checkerboard design where normal tiles alternate with dark ones, making it a bit hard to orient yourself ("a bit" compared to the kind of hard that we experienced in the last update), and the do-gooders are again much stronger, but that's about it. They didn't even put a single secret door here, which honestly baffles me. With darkness squares extinguishing all light spells, it would've been exactly the kind of design move that the game thrives on. But no. It's almost like they wanted you to relax and let your guard down... for whatever reason.
Just as a reminder, you can't see anything when on a darkness square, not even what's right under your nose.
Note also that the amount of light and darkness squares is uneven. There are typically more darkness tiles near walls, but more light tiles near certain events or landmarks, such as the floor's entrance and exit.
We hurry to reach the pentagram, but stumble on a do-gooder party on our way, the first of the two on this flor.
Horin's Holy Rollers worship St. Trebor, meaning Trebor has been beatified for defeating our protagonist and casting him in prison, which only adds insult to Werdna's already deadly injury.
The Holy Rollers aren't quite a pushover, so it's a bit unfortunate we met them before we got to the pentagram and not after. It is a full-spellcaster party with three Lords, one of which (Horin, the leader) has a whopping -8 AC and 174 HP.
You might as well call it a game over because we don't stand a chance. The game even hints at how screwed we are by giving Horin and the other two Lords a new character portrait with a Blade Cusinart' on it, and you don't mess around with a Blade Cusinart'. Nor do you actually mess around with Malikto, also known as "Word of Death", a heavy hitting 7th tier Priest spell (let me remind you there are precisely seven spell tiers in total) that sends a shower of 12d6 meteors on all enemies standing in the caster's way.
The thing is, you can't just avoid or run away from the Rollers; you have to defeat them so you can loot a plot-critical item, "A Furred Cone", showing up as Magician's Hat in the inventory -- and we do manage to defeat them eventually, but only after a level-up. Taken by itself, the Magician's Hat is useful but not too powerful, lowering Werdna's AC by 2 and allowing him to cast Sopic, which you might remember as a spell that reduces the caster's AC even further and amounts to pretty much a waste of turn since tasks like that are better left to Werdna's priestly followers.
Its true purpose will become apparent to us later, but for now we don the Magician's Hat because -2 AC never hurt anyone.
But back to the pentagram -- some pretty exotic monsters here, including gargoyles, dragons, hellhounds, and other creatures of myth.
Gargoyles were first introduced in Wizardry I. Expectedly, Wizardry turns gargoyles from stone creatures to creatures who can turn others to stone. Aside from being capable of petrification, Gargoyles can also attack up to five times per turn for a maximum total of 43 points of damage, have 10d7+5 HP, which is the highest among this pentagram's monsters, and AC of 5, which isn't particularly great. Ghasts, arriving from Wizardry III (I'm linking their character sprite from the C64 version, because in the Apple version they have the standard Unseen Entity portrait that I already linked to earlier), are undead monsters who can inflict paralysis and drain 1 level from their opponents. Together with their AC of 1, that would make them a decent summon if they didn't have only 4d6+6 HP and their regular attack wasn't so weak. Komodo Dragons, who are incidentally a real kind of lizard and not just a fantasy one, also come from Wizardry III (PC version sprite), and are substandard in just every possible way, even if you take their mass target poison breath into account (poison in general is pretty much useless at this point, in contrast to paralysis or level drain). Hellhounds are the rarer case of a Wizardry II monster making its way into this game's summons (looking through the bestiaries, however, I can't find Hellhounds in the Apple II version of Wizardry II, so I believe they may have been first introduced in the PC version). Having a pack of hellish supernatural dogs accompany Werdna would admittedly be pretty awesome, but even though their HP is higher than average and their AC is as low as 2, Hellhounds can only attack once per round and their single special ability is acid breath -- again, not particularly helpful at this point. Hellhounds can call for help, though, so that more appear to replenish their ranks, and there can be up to 8 of them in your party at once, so you might still want to consider summoning them as "tanks" if it suits your playstyle.
Next in line are Priests of Fung, originating in Wizardry III but equal in their spellcasting abilities to Wizardry I's High Priests, which means they're capable of casting 5th tier Priest spells. The former have four times the latter's HP, though, and their AC is lower; plus, as you know, Werdna can always use some Priest spells to back him up, so there is little choice for the player but to summon them. As for Masters/Dragons, they are exclusive to Wizardry IV, and I think their name should be interpreted as "Masters of Dragons" -- or at least that is the way New Age of Llylgamyn seems to treat them: as humanoid warriors with 10d5+5 HP and AC of 4. Their regular attacks are strong and deal up to 48 points of damage per turn, but you can summon merely up to three of them and they have no special abilities to speak of, so I wouldn't summon them if I were you.
EDIT. Quarex has a conjecture:
Wizardry IV is late enough in the history of computer games that I cannot help but wonder if "Masters/Dragons" was a sly nod to cracking groups, whose members would refer to themselves as "Name/Group" which was read "[Name] of [Group]" if you said it out loud. Well, or at least that was how we rolled by the time that style filtered to the Demoscene in the early 1990s.
Or, you know, it could just be they did not have space and used the only special character they imagined making any sense. But still.
Now this isn't quite Shin Megami Tensei, but we can even recruit Seraphim at this pentagram. Wizardry IV wasn't the first game in the series to introduce Seraphim; it was Wizardry III (their Apple and PC portraits are generic so I will link to the New Age of Llylgamyn one and the PC Engine one instead), and they were classified as "demons" there, in contrast to their traditional image as beings of light in the Christian theology. Here they are treated as demons too, given that Werdna can recruit them. "Seraphim" is plural in Hebrew, but you can only summon one Seraph at a time. However, it can call for a friend, so you aren't really stuck with just one, and it knows Mage spells of up to 3rd tier.
Weretigers, arriving from Wizardry III again (their character sprite looks pretty weird in the original Apple II version of the game, and not really a lot like tigers), are one of the worst summons at this pentagram, weak and only able to inflict poison. Boring Beetles, true to their name, are indeed as boring as it gets, having no special abilities or strengths whatsoever. You might remember them from Wizardry I; they weren't much of a threat there, and neither are they here. D'placer Beasts, standing for "Displacer Beasts," are again exclusive to this game, originating not in Wizardry but rather in the 1975 Greyhawk supplement to the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons and described there as a puma-like creature with six legs and two tentacles growing from its shoulders. (Gross, I know.) A Displacer Beast is notoriously hard to hit due to its "displacement" ability, an illusion it creates that makes it appear to be a few steps away from where it actually is. Obviously, Wizardry IV has no positioning and therefore no way of implementing such an ability, but it imitates it by lowering the Beasts' AC to zero, thereby also making them harder to hit. Apart from that, like Hellhounds and Seraphim they can call for help, but unfortunately lack any offensive abilities, so their usefulness is limited. Corr. Slimes are actually Wizardry II's Acid Slimes, albeit with a slightly different name, and they have up to 50 HP and AC of -4, which is very low; but yet again, they can only poison the enemy and not much else. Finally, Gas Dragons (from the first game) are, like Seraphim, capable of casting 3rd tier Mage spells, complementing that with a poison breath attack targeting all do-gooders at once, HP of up to 40 and AC of 3. By itself poison breath isn't that great, but overall the Gas Dragons are more or less worth summoning.
We also summon Wights from the previous pentagram in order not to lose the level drain ability.
Werdna himself is lvl 6 now, which raises his attributes to 14s and his HP to 60, and makes 6th tier Mage spells available to him. The new spells are Lakanito, or "Suffocation", the more powerful version of Makanito that I already described in the previous update; Zilwan, or "Dispel", which destroys one undead monster -- useless to us, useful to do-gooders; Masopic, or "Big Glass", the group target version of Sopic that lowers the entire party's AC by 4; and finally the mysterious Haman, or "Change", a spell so powerful that the caster loses one level of experience (!) just to cast it. Haman is a random spell, in that there are several effects that can occur when you cast it: it can augment your party's magic so that spells have greater effect; it can cure the entire party of status ailments; it can silence all enemies; it can heal up the party; or it can teleport all enemies out of the combat area. It sounds crazy, and it is. (Un)fortunately, Haman doesn't actually work in Wizardry 4 so there's no point in casting it. If you try to, the game just tells you that "The gods do not hear you."
But let's go back to exploring the floor.
Raiden's Raiders is the second do-gooder group on B5F.
Mechanics-wise, their motto doesn't really make sense in the world of Wizardry: there is no formation to speak of, and therefore no way to spread out.
The Raiders are a pretty average do-gooder group, and they don't carry anything useful either. "Average", however, still means deadly in Wizardry IV, and it doesn't take long for Werdna to die to Aurelius' well-placed Lakanito.
Apart from the groups, there are naturally also solo do-gooders around these parts, such as this neutral Mage going by the name of Interface. There's also another Mage called Login at this floor, but I haven't been able to discover anyone named Password.
Other do-gooders include Sultan and Zandor the Fighters, Mage Marian the Mage (capable of casting the aforementioned Zilwan, aiming to dispel the undead in your party), Seleg and Aurelia the Priests, Fingers the Thief (why yes, it's a pun), and Chryseis the Bishop. Then there's also Telima the Thief, who drops a Cape of Hide (AC -2, casts Malor once and Dios thereafter) when defeated.
Regular do-gooders are not, however, what this floor is really about. The sign at the entrance speaks of "creatures of light and darkness", so let's meet these creatures too.
There are five light and five darkness creatures on this level (some of them are repeated multiple times, though, meaning there are more than just ten encounters with them in total), designated as L-1 to L-5 and D-1 to D-5 respectively.
All of them are fixed encounters; here, I've marked them all on the map:
I'm not actually sure whether their placement is totally random or not.
These are A Pair of L-5 Pioneers, found at (7,1), and they are unique as far as the creatures of light and darkness go in that they have a motto, just like regular do-gooder parties. The Upward! motto even makes some sense, given the nature of what we're up against...
Butterflies: Wizardry IV's innovation in fantasy monster race design.
The name of this "party", "L-5 Pioneers", is now more clear: after all, Pioneer is a butterfly. It is also clear what "The Creatures of Light and Darkness" stands for: "creatures of light" are daytime butterflies, and "creatures of darkness" are nocturnal butterflies, or moths.
As for the two we're facing now, Mistress Flavia and John Ap Griffin aren't exactly the most frail representatives of the butterfly race. The game doesn't go so far as to introduce any butterfly-specific features or abilities, so they are just their description says: Good-aligned Lords with AC of -5 and HP of 200. In general, Lords can be pretty overpowered in this game, some more, some less; the players who submitted them were obviously expert enough to grind a lot and abuse class switching. You could say that Wizardry IV is not just aimed at expert Wizardry players - it is also full of expert Wizardry players. As you can imagine, they aren't the easiest kind to deal with.
These two are also real people apparently, or at least kind of. Baron John ap Griffin is a baron of the fictional kingdom of Caid, "created" in 1978 by the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), and "Mistress Flavia" is, from the looks of it, his wife. These LARPers must've submitted their names to SirTech to be included in the game. Either that, or Roe Adams (the lead designer on Wiz4) was involved with SCA himself somehow, which I don't find that improbable.
Slaying these two is actually plot-important, because of the "Molting Leather" they drop.
The leather turns out to be a pair of Winged Boots, and they are as useful as they sound. We put them in the Black Box for the moment being, but it won't be too long until we need them.
At (11,3) there is a fixed encounter with A D-5 Creature.
A Ninja butterfly by the name of Death's Head. As mentioned, "creatures of darkness" are moths, and therefore Death's Head is here a reference not to the Marvel character, but to Acherontia lachesis. Clever isn't it?
And here we have A L-2 Creature.
It's a butterfly Mage by the name of Silverstripe. Naturally, it is also a kind of butterfly.
Note that, interestingly, not only do different butterflies have differently colored wings, but the game even attempts to approximate the wing color of the real thing somewhat. It's a nice touch.
Other "creatures of light" on B5F include such butterflies as Meleager Blue (L-1, Fighter), Purple Emperor (L-3, Priest) and Golden Danaid (L-4, Bishop), and the "creatures of darkness" have among themselves such moths as Io (D-1, Fighter), Lappet (D-2, Mage), Gaudy Sphynx (D-3, Priest) and Emperor Tau (D-4, Thief). The classes were probably just assigned to them randomly, but you never know.
Too bad butterflies don't really belong in the Wizardry bestiary and we can't recruit them into our party. "Werdna the Butterfly Tamer" would make a great MegaTen-like Wizardry IV spin-off.
Along the way, we finally manage to trap the Wandering Oracle again. Doesn't happen often in this playthrough.
There are many things one can find in The Iliad. I seem to remember something about wrath, Hector, funeral games, a list of ships, Achilles' heel... I wonder what exactly the Oracle has in mind.
As we approach the exit from this floor, at (9,18) we come across a body of someone less fortunate than us. In a way that reminds me of the multiplayer system in From Software's Souls games, he left a message for us, telling us to "beware the Cosmic Cube." Cosmic Cube? What kind of a stupid name is that?
It's probably nothing a 100-year old wizard can't handle anyway.
EDIT: Syrg Sapphire spots and clears up the Cosmic Cube reference:
Syrg Sapphire posted:
hahaha this is the STUPIDEST reference but I just keep laughing.
(old Captain America foe "The Red Skull" was obsessed with creating and keeping a Cosmic Cube)
There's not just a message here, but also some kind of ominous-looking mask.
But what's that about "the silent screams of the butterflies"? I guess it's time to make haste.
Called "Breath of Life" as we pick it up, the mask later shows up as the Oxygen Mask in our inventory. When equipped and invoked, the Oxygen Mask protects us against all suffocation spells (i.e., Makanito and Lakanito). However, if you invoke it twice on a single floor, it will explode, so be careful.
The beautiful symmetry of light and darkness ahead of us means we've reached the stairs up to B4F...
...so we take them.
Next time we'll poke around the Maze of Wandering, trying to watch where we step, with mixed results.