Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Wizardry 8 Part IX: My Duplicity Has a Price
This is a continuation of my blogging of my adventures in 2001's Wizardry 8 - what proved to be the final chapter in one of the longest-running computer RPG series. I missed it when it was new, and so I'm catching it with the more jaded eyes of a 2008 gamer. Truth be told - while the graphics may not be up to modern snuff, there's a lot of great stuff in there!
My next assignment from the Umpani was to form an alliance with the Mook. Ah-hah! That one has been on my "to do" list since I first ran into their holographic greeter in Arnika some time ago. With paper in hand, I raced back to Arnika. And on past it. "Racing" meaning "fighting long fight after fight in terrain where there's no place to hide." If there's one massive complaint I have about this game, it is these "travelling" zones with constrained geography that force you into battle after battle.
As I said, I skipped Arnika. Instead, I went to Marten's Bluff, and met with the T'Rang. They extended an offer that I should ally with them. I agreed. My first mission was to go scout out a base or something. Without engaging the Umpani. Easy enough, as I'm currently allied with the Umpani too. Now I might say that I'm being all idealistic and trying to maintain the balance of power between the two forces. I'm not. Quite simply, I'm greedy for mission-based XP.
So instead, I reached into my party inventory and produced a flag I picked up at the Umpani base's gift shop. Well, it was a commissary, but they sold flags to tourists like me before I'd signed up. Hey, they offered, and I bought it. I figured it might come in handy, and it did.
The T'Rang boss, Z'Ant, was pleased with my speedy results, apparently (why, he hadn't even noticed I'd gone), and gave me more XP than I normally get in two or three long, slow, annoying combats. Then he gave me a job to take care of a Rapax assassin who had been stalking the fortress somewhere. They had a trap set up for him, which I checked out. That entry way with the pit and the plexiglass walls that looked like they were supposed to come together and kill anybody in the entryway? That was actually for him. Not for me. A button dropped a decoy.
The decoy was a really horrible-looking target dummy with horns attached. Supposed to be a female, I guess. And yet somehow, that didn't fool the Rapax assassin. Go figger.
I tried everything to improve the bait, but I couldn't come up with something that would work. I was stymied. Only my second mission in! D'oh!
I looked at my journal, and found I still had some to-do items down in the local swamp - primarily, finding someone or something named "Croc" who knows what happened to Marten after the police raid - according to the Rattkin "gawdfather" I'd met in the Trynton.
In exploring the swamp, I discovered a group of "Rayjin" near the northern border that made those terrible leaf fairies seem like pathetic newbie-fodder giant rats by comparison. They slaughtered me - twice. Or rather, they drove my entire party insane in the first round, and made me slaughter myself. It was NOT pretty. Even with magic screens up, they just pwned me. I realized that there was this spell that I'd ignored the last couple of times I'd leveled up called "Soul Screen." "What use is that?" I'd thought. "I want to make MORE BIG BOOMS!"
Now I understand. D'oh. Next time. Or maybe I'll find a book for the spell and learn it before I level. Regardless - I can't fight these guys without it.
I chose the better part of valor, and - upon reloading AGAIN - avoided them completely. I found an empty lake area with a lot of interesting items submerged in the water with no guardian monster. Strange....
Eventually, I found Crock, and discovered he was actually pretty close to the entrance to Marten's Bluff. Well, a lot closer than where I'd been looking. He was actually human - and ran a shop in the middle of the monster-infested swamp that was apparently suffering hard times with no customers. Crock blamed the T'Rang. I have three words for Crock: "Location, Location, Location."
Anyway, he told me something about Marten having gone to Bayjin - a place infested with Rayjin. Yeah, those guys that handed me my posterior so easily. Needless to say, I felt I wasn't quite prepared to follow up on THAT lead.
So I checked out Crock's shop. He had a lot of really nifty stuff! I mean, really potent magical weapons, and books of spells, and stuff like that. So much for saving up to buy the real Astral Dominae from the Rattkin Don!
He also had something called, "Eu de Rapax Perfume."
I bought the perfume, went back to Marten's Bluff, experimented some more with the trap, and put perfume on the horned target dummy. Unbelievably, a cry of animal desire emerged from the dark recesses of the fortress, and out came the assassin. I had to do some manipulating to get him into the trap, but then I closed him in and started the diabolical trap, crushing him. Somehow, it didn't crush his head, and I was able to return it to Z'Ant for a sizable reward.
My next mission was - surprise - an alliance offer for the Mook.
With two offers in hand, I returned to Arnika. The Dark Savant is now sending these floating orbs with ranged attacks at me from the tower, rather than just those dumb android robots (which were, at least, easy to kill). I went to the Mook, and decided to give them the Umpani letter.
They let me into the base, and offered to show me the artifact in their possession - one of the "three" - the Chaos Mollari. For visual inspection only. Unfortunately for them, it wasn't in a locked case. When I picked it up, though, a doorway with guards opened up just out of sight. Putting it back prevented them from attacking me and my faction with the Mook plummeting.
I tried a whole bunch of solutions, including just sucking up a faction hit - but I wanted to keep them friendly in case I wanted to give them the T'Rang alliance paperwork too.
What finally worked was replacing the Chaos Mollari with the fake Astral Domina I'd gotten from the pissed-off Dark Savant. They were both globe-like objects, right? Apparently, it was good enough. The Mook's visual accuity is apparently not much better than that of a Rapax.
By this time, I had a teleport spell, so I set an anchor point in Arnika. I keep coming back here, after all. Before heading down the road to the Umpani base, I wanted to rest up. On a whim, I stayed at the Inn. I don't really go into a room, I just rack out next to the barkeep, He'Li. I always talk to her first, see what she has to say. This time, she had extortion on her mind.
She mentioned how the Umpani in her bar had talked about having me for an ally. And she said the T'Rang in her bar had said the same thing - that I'd been allied with THEM. The Umpani and T'Rang, being enemies, don't talk much with each other, but if *I* wanted to make sure that little bit of information didn't leak out, I had to pay her around 4,000 gold pieces!
YEESH! I thought she and Vi were BFFs or something like that. Apparently not. Or she's cutting Vi in on the take. Dang RPCs. My duplicity comes at a price, apparently.
But I wasn't done yet with being extorted. No! On leaving Arnika shortly therafter (I'd made a quick side-trip), I ran into a whole pack of Rattkin. I was immediately on my guard, even though they were highlighted green, as I figured they were still sore at me for um... you know... killing a whole bunch of them. Apparently, though, they were in a mood for talking... in their best New York Thug accent. They told me they knew what I'd done with the Mook and had stolen the Chaos Mollari, and if I didn't want the Mook to find out about it, I had to pay them some hush money.
I agreed. Dang, how am I ever gonna be able to afford to buy the real Astral Dominae from the Don?
Taking Design Notes
First off, it spite of my compaining - having NPCs note that I'm playing both sides or pulling fast ones in my quests is way cool. Any time NPCs can show recognition of the player's actions - particularly their more free-form, optional actions (not that these were - I'm convinced I'm taking the "preferred" approach) - it really helps the world come alive. This simple thing is probably a bigger deal than tons of advanced AI programming with neural networking or whatnot.
The Rapax assassin quest was kind of silly - and finding the perfume was annoying - but I think it was one of those big, memorable events in an RPG that stick with you for years. This is about a million times more interesting than a "kill six rats and bring me their tails" type of quest that is becoming all too common in some RPGs these days. A quest should be a self-contained story.
(To their credit, I felt Baldur's Gate II, Oblivion, and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines all had plenty of very memorable, fun, and dramatic quests like this one).
While the battles against the Rayjins were frustrating, I really do like having some "impossibly hard" encounters mixed in with some moderately difficult and some easy ones. Sometimes it is better to flee. It is irritating that Wizardry 8 really does stack up the difficulty to try and make every encounter a challenge, but it is not as bad as Oblivion in that respect. And Wizardry will let you get in over your head.
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