Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

[Archive] Wizardry 8, Episode 4: Arnika Bank, No Safer than Under the Mattress

Posted by Rampant Coyote on June 29, 2015

Back in 2008, I did a playthrough of Wizardry 8, a game I’d missed the first time around. At the time, it was hard to acquire (yay for getting it brought back as a digital title!), and I felt (correctly!) that I’d missed out on a classic title. I blogged my efforts, but with the Great Blog Reboot we lost those articles. Since they’ve been requested, I’m re-posting them now. I hope that with the game now made available again via digital distribution, this may help other people discover this overlooked “final” game in the Sir-Tech series.

I continue my play-through of 2001’s Wizardry 8, one of the last of the mainstream “old-school” style RPGs. Here’s Part 4.

Wizardry7Box-731913Since my last report, I have acquired a couple of tools to help me out. The first is… a manual! The used copy of the game I bought from E-Bay came with nothing but the discs (those with the full packaging are often selling for as high as three digits). I have found that I was able to figure out most of the game without the documentation just fine. I wouldn’t call Wizardry 8 intuitive in its gameplay, necessarily, but for fans of the series and the genre, things aren’t too hard to figure out. It would have been handier when creating race / class combinations, but familiarity with Wizardry 7 helped in that. You can find a PDF version of the Wizardry 8 manual at replacementdocs.com. (Editorial Note from 2015: Fortunately, you won’t have this problem if you get the game digitally from GOG.COM or Steam today)

So I’m grateful that I’ve held on to that paper Wizardry 7: Crusaders of the Dark Savant manual for all those years. (Editorial Note from 2015: And yep, still have it! Still enjoy thumbing through it from time to time!)

The second nifty tool is a utility called WizFast which was recommended by several people. I was able to download it from wolfie.wiz8.de. It speeds up monster movement beyond the 5x maximum for the in-game option. I’m actually pretty happy with it at around 5x, but for those really big wilderness encounters that turn into chase scenes, this could really be a time-saver. (Editorial Note from 2015: Not only was it essential, it still didn’t speed things up enough later in the game. But at this point in the game, I only *thought* I knew how bad it could get.)

Scorpia also contacted me, and offered me some semi-cryptic hints and tips. She always tried hard to do this without giving too much away when she was writing for Computer Gaming World (man, I miss those days). But she did warn me point-blank about the tower, saying, “The Arnika bomb is for real. The DS is not someone who bluffs.”

Ah. Good point. Important safety tip.

Anyway, I’m still in Arnika and the nearby areas. There have been plenty of things to do in the city, although most of those things involve that noble goal of adventurers everywhere: To loot anything not nailed to the floor, and to break into any place that is sealed against you. And the locals often don’t seem to mind. Hey, these are desperate times, right?

I recovered a diamond for the Arnika bank – stolen, somehow, under their tight security measures. I wasn’t pleased enough with the reward. So I made some withdrawals of my own. I was able to… uh, “find” several security cards that gave me access to the vaults in the basement. And the emotionless bank teller apparently didn’t seem to notice that I didn’t look much like Antone the Rapax. And she complains that these things (like the diamond theft) always seem to occur on her watch!

I found the nearby jail to be abandoned by its guards, who I guess were busy patrolling the streets to aid me in frequent battles against the minions of the Dark Savant. I found their security less than adequate. I ended up releasing some bandits, who I imagine must have been half-starved, as they attacked me immediately rather than expressing their gratitude. I unfortunately had to put them out of their misery. At the bottom of one cell, however, I found a secret entrance to a tunnel that went under the street and into one of the bank vaults. With more loot.

I had one other offer to interact with the bank. Some Ratkin named Rattus. Rattus asked me to cash a check for him. And he gave me a zip gun in payment. I agreed, and even made it all the way back to the bank. Before handing Rattus’s note to the teller, I decided to read it first. Good thing I did. It was a hold-up note. That prankster! I quietly folded the note and put it away and left the bank. I later found a gullible merchant who was willing to buy the note for 1 gold piece. I have no idea why.

I hope the Arnika Community Bank is insured. Because I don’t think they are going to be in business very long.

In true Gygaxian style, the same exploration that can reward you so handsomely can also bring you a great deal of trouble. While locked doors may be there to protect valuables inside from people like me, that can also be used to keep bad things locked IN. I discovered this exploring one too many locked doors inside the temple of Phoonzang. Who knew there were all those deadly ghosts inside? However, I prevailed, and I’ll consider it a service rendered to the temple. With the ghosts gone, maybe they can renovate the chambers and turn them into dining areas or guest rooms or something.

One of the treasures in the bank – the sword Bloodlust – turned out to have a curse attached to it. I wasn’t paying attention when I gave it to my samurai-turned-gadgeteer. I figured it’d make a good close-quarters weapon when we got flanked. Then I discovered he was incapable of switching back to his gun – or any other weapon. Fortunately, selling the sword back to its original owner, Antone the Rapax (who assumed it had been made by his brother – I’m not making this up!), almost made up for the cost of the “remove curse” scroll we had to use to free our gadgeteer-swordsman from its powerful compulsion.

Greed has its drawbacks.

I am now on the trail of the big artifact that the Dark Savant is after – the Destinae Dominus. The introductory movie made it sound like someone had just absconded with the thing moments before the Dark Savant arrived. But, according to certain townspeople, the theft took place a hundred years ago. I guess when you are dealing with ancient prophecies, a mere century is still a current event. Anyway, the thief was a former cop (well, HLL guardsman) named Marten. While he’s being painted as a villain by some, I wonder if he didn’t have a heads-up that the Big Bad would be coming one day and decided to keep it safe. Or maybe he was an adventurer like me, and had that problem with looting everything that wasn’t nailed down.

He apparently fled to the nearby town of Trynton, and the “Trynnies” hid him and the Destinae Dominus for some time. When the HLL came after him, he managed to give them the slip.

Since I think I’ve exhausted most of the currently-available quest opportunities in Arnika (I think), it looks like my trail now leads to Trynton. I wonder if there is anybody alive there who knows about Marten, or where he might have taken the Destinae Dominus…

And besides, it might be best to get out of town before people start discovering that their private vaults are empty and start putting two and two together. Maybe after I’ve saved the entire universe, they’ll cut me some slack.

Design Notes:

(Note: These are more recent, from 2015. I noticed the earlier episodes didn’t have ’em, and so I thought I’d add some thoughts to make them consistent.)

Cursed items aren’t popular anymore. Actually, they were never “popular,” at least among players. They were a thing in Dungeons & Dragons, and tended to pop up in many CRPGs of the 80s and 90s. From a design perspective, their purpose seems to be┬áto introduce risk to the loot / equipment upgrade cycle. As with the threat of death or any other “risk” involved in the game mechanics, it’s the perception of risk that’s the fun part, not actually finding yourself on the business end of it.

BackbiterIn early D&D editions, the curses were pretty much impervious to detection until a life-or-death situation took place, in which case your character turned into a complete liability. We’re not just talking, “Oh, they can’t fight as effectively now” type problems, we’re talking full-on stab-yourself-in-the-back liability, here. Literally. Or even kill a character outright (which is admittedly super-bad, but in a game with resurrections not necessarily game-ending).

The reason to have that risk and the possibility of magic items “gone bad” was simply to keep the acquisition of new equipment interesting. As experienced computer / console RPG players know, that whole “upgrade cycle” can get pretty mechanical. This was especially true in older games where the magical abilities were deliberately simplified to keep things manageable. Nowadays, this has gone out of vogue, frequently replaced by systems where equipment’s special abilities are a combination of factors so that there’s no obvious upgrade “path,” or by balancing the extraordinary abilities of an item with some noteworthy drawbacks.

But there was nothing quite like having a full-on, character-crippling curse like the one on Bloodlust, for making an item memorable.

Filed Under: Archive, Wizardry 8 - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

  • McTeddy said,

    I kindof miss cursed items, or at least the concept of them.

    That said, My preference though is “Cursed” weapons being a hidden drawback instead of a locked bad thing. This weapon has massive attack power but drains HP with every attack, or a powerful armor but increases the enemy spawn rate.

    It makes them more of an interesting decision instead of just forcing you to run back into town to get off those stupid tight pants.

  • ogg said,

    I agree with what McTeddy said, going with the whole idea of keeping things interesting without the player thinking of reloading to before. A curse like anything else should be interesting. But then I like sandboxes with interlocking systems. Enjoying the design stuff as always!

  • alanm said,

    Bloodlust’s curse is just non-removability. No actual debuffs iirc. The Berserk ability it grants more than makes up for removing the ranged option on many character builds.