Monday, September 22, 2008
Wizardry 8 Part X: Missing Men and Mutant Frogs
This is a continuation of my series on my adventures in 2001's Wizardry 8. I missed the game the first time around, but that hasn't stopped me from enjoying it plenty now.
After having stolen the Chaos Moliri from the Mook, I didn't go back to the Umpani right away. Instead, I wanted to explore a bit more of the swamp. Almost immediately we were accosted by orbs and troopers of the Dark Savant, claiming they knew we'd obtained one of the artifacts and that they were going to take them from us. Seems like everybody BUT the Mook knew we'd stolen their artifact. How? I don't know.
Just Like the Temple of Doom!
I found an entrance to the "Mine Tunnels," a place where, once again, Sparkle didn't want to go. I let her go her own way, and went to explore this new area.
Most of the encounters in this area were relatively easy. I found a couple more RPGs willing to join my party, including a malfunctioning Savant Trooper that we were able to repair and, I guess, reprogram. There as also a T'Rang swordsman (samurai?) who was ready to sign up if it meant killing Umpani. Considering our ... uh... duplicity, I figured that might not be the best idea. I kept the robot, ignored the T'Rang.
The most exciting part of this area was a mine-tunnel puzzle. You control the switches at the entrance to the mine shaft, and then get on a mine car and go through a roller-coaster ride to see where you end up. Usually you end up in the same place you went last time, until you tweak the switches just right and find another place to go.
On our last ride, we found ourselves all the way at Marten's Bluff again - in a secret area I hadn't found before. While there was plenty to find and plenty to fight, there were a couple of notable encounters:
First of all, there was a statuette sitting on a table. It was kind of a Tiki-head thing, not unlike what the Trynnies use. I picked it up --- because it wasn't nailed down. That's what I do. Instantly, we were all knocked unconscious from some kind of poisonous gas or something. When we came to, our bard was missing.
WOOPS! There was some writing on the bottom of the statue that indicated Crock might be responsible.
Shortly thereafter, we spotted a sword sitting in an alcove at the end of a hallway, ready for taking. I fell sucker to one of the oldest tricks in the book. We approached the sword, almost close enough to take it, and the floor fell out from under us, dropping us into an underground canal. We fought through a bunch of alligator-esque monsters to emerge out in the exterior moat around Marten's Bluff. Since we had to go out to meet with Crock anyway, we just continued on our way.
When we confronted Crock, he immediately accused us of being in league with the T'Rang (and we are, as far as anybody but the Umpani and He'li are concerned). He disavowed any responsibility for the kidnapping of our party members. But he did claim that he might be able to help us FIND our missing member, but first we had to take care of a problem for him.
He said that Brekek had returned to the swamp, and he'd seen that thing kill tens of men beneath his webbed feet before. If we could kill Brekek and return with proof of his death, he'd do what he could to get us our friend back.
Attack of the Giant Mutant Frog
We explored for some time, killing lots of Flesh-Eating Slimes and various mosquito-creatures. Eventually, we wandered back into that lake we'd explored previously - now occupied by a giant mutant frog. On the first round, the frog hopped over to us and gobbled up our main fighter.
Great. Now we had TWO missing party members.
The battle was difficult, but we managed to kill the frog, and cut our warrior free. She immediately bragged that though it had been disgusting (and painful), at least SHE could take it!
We took a giant frog-leg back to Crock, who suddenly "found" our missing bard, and invited us to a frog-leg barbecue. We declined on the dinner invitation, and the bard said something about how terrible that experience had been, and then asked, "Can we do that again?"
With the whole party back, it was time to move the main plot along a bit.
Taking Design Notes
The quest with the missing party member was another of those really memorable quests that make an RPG. Face it - in most RPGs (including this one), the endless combats get capital-B Boring. Yeah, they shouldn't, but they do. Lots of wandering around, lots of killing - and it all blurs together over time.
But the quests like this one really stand out, because unique and different things happen. The shake-up of party composition with the missing PC was a surprise. It was a great twist. Finding Brekek who was just "somewhere" in the swamp was not nearly as much fun. A few old-school gamers complained about Oblivion where you were always directed exactly to where your next quest would take you. Does that take the fun out of exploration? Well, yes, sometimes. But so does stumbling around the world hoping to stumble over your next quest objective, because you were (or were not) only given general instructions that you've already forgotten.
There's gotta be a happy medium in there somewhere.
The mine-car puzzle gets kudos from me on several levels. While there is a lot of trial-and-error involved, the map on the wall does provide a few clues to its operation, though it is unclear where it starts and where it ends and exactly which way the switches are supposed to be changing things.
Having monsters that swallow party members can be pretty dang annoying if it happened a lot. But as a one-time event (so far), it was actually pretty amusing - particularly since my fighter really did have enough hit points to survive a few rounds of being digested. It was a surprise in combat - and as combats become grind-tastic after a while, a few surprises like this sprinkled in helps keep things interesting.
More Wizardry 8 Play-Through Entries:
Part I: So a Samuari, a Valkyrie, and a Bishop Walk Into a Bar...
Part II: Running the Gauntlet
Part III: Vi Domina Tricks
Part IV: Arnika Bank - No Safer Than Under the Mattress
Part V: In Fear of Little Naked Winged Women
Part VI: Old-School Goes Old-School
Part VII: Ratts!
Part VIII: Dances With Rhinos
Part IX: My Duplicity Has a Price
Part X: Missing Men and Mutant Frogs
Part XI: Swimming With the Psi-Sharks
Part XII: Desperately Seeking Marten
Part XIII: Lucky Thirteen, Unlucky Rapax
Part XIV: Storming the Castle