Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

[Archive] Wizardry 8, Episode 11: Swimming With the (Psi-) Sharks

Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 17, 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’m continuing the saga of my first-time play-through of Wizardry 8, the final game of the classic RPG series that spanned 20 years.

After all the excitement with the T’Rang, I reported back to Mount Gigas for my next orders from their mortal enemies, the Umpani. I was to report for scuba training, and then rescue (or find out what happened to) an expedition that swam through the Water Caves to Bayjin.

I lost both Sparkle and Vi. Vi was afraid of a sea monster. Man, I’m so disappointed in her. We’ve faced death in the guise of a thousand horrible monsters, and she’s scared of some critter in the water?

I went ahead and let them go. It’s too bad – we could have really used both of them. The sea caves were HELL. Mostly because of the Psi-Sharks – and the fact we were underwater.

The underwater part was annoying because our best area-effect damage-dealing spells (fireballs and firestorms) were useless. On top of that, nearly everything we encountered was immune to water-based spells, which nearly eliminated some of our OTHER top spells. When you are blowing most of your spell points for the category just doing an average of 5 points of damage to a group of monsters with 250 hit points, its just not worth it.

And then there were the psi-sharks themselves. They were also pretty much immune to mind spells. Basically, they are pretty friggin’ immune to everything down there. And we encountered tons of them. Even with Soul Shield and magic screens up, they were regularly getting powers through that would paralyze or turn our own party members against us. Since our magical effects were severely limited against them, they’d have a huge advantage against us at range, and rushing forward to attack would expose us to an extra round or two of uncontested mind-warping, party-killing effects.

I was not amused.

Once we got through the psi-sharks, the ghost pirates, and a few other monsters, we emerged in the Bayjin Shallows. This was really fun, because this was the realm of that little sea-monster. Named Nessie, after that quaint little legend from Scottland, I guess. Except the Nessie near Bayjin is a level 25 sea-dragon that is pretty much impervious to everything and can kill party members in a single round. She doesn’t move, however, so we were able to make our way around her by dodging from rock outcropping to rock outcropping. There was one section where we simply couldn’t make it behind cover in a single round, however, so we just had to suck it up and hope she didn’t hit us with anything too lethal.


We found some caves around her, with some monsters and treasures of various kinds. One of the caves went to Bayjin. There were also some skeletons and IUF ID tags that I thought might be the remains of the missing Umpani I was supposed to find (they weren’t…)

We didn’t completely explore Bayjin, mainly because we were getting our collective butts kicked. Even some of the dumb crabs here were just nasty, and made the Rayjin seem like pushovers by comparison. However, I did find a wrecked space ship with a nonfunctioning blaster pistol and a working black-box recorder.

I left Bayjin with the mission incomplete – and found the trip back to Mt. Gigas to be, if anything, worse than the trip there in the first place. Long, long, nasty, horrible battles. Mostly with Psi-sharks. Through tunnels with very little chance to avoid the suckers.

Returning, and finding the IUF ID tags were insufficient, I decided to run a few more quests and gain a few more levels to see if they’d help. Though, typically, I’ve found that most levels continue to throw harder and harder challenges at you as you level, so it’s impossible to get ahead unless you get REALLY far ahead. I can teleport back to Arnika now, but I still end up getting into a lot of fights along the road. These fights aren’t challenging anymore, just time consuming. Every once in a while I’ll manage to dodge all enemies along the road, which makes my day. I’ve tried drinking Tincture of Shadows potions to be less visible, but they make very little difference. I wonder if they’d work better against psi-sharks?

I went back to Trynton, and managed to pay a visit to the shaman again – armed with more knowledge. He decided that, like Neo, I was the chosen one (well, “we” – it’s a group effort with my party and all), and gave me the key to obtain the Helm of Serenity. Most amusingly, the key didn’t unlock the big barred door to get to the helm. Instead, it got me to the hut above the one with the helm, where I was able to drop down through a hole in the floor into the locked room with the Helm of Serenity. I was able to unlock the barred door from the inside and walk out. I guess if you are trying to defeat Ratkin thieves, you need to make the obvious route impossible like that. I liked it.

After that, I returned to the T’Rang again. I was nervous about handing over the Chaos Moliri, but after saving my game, I let them borrow it. The dude was very impressed, and gave it back to me. He then told me that they wanted to attack the Dark Savant’s ship (though he’s a secondary target to the Umpani, I guess), and needed to get the coordinates of his ship in space.

Hmmm…. I just got a black box from a ship that had been shot down by the Dark Savant’s ship, right?

Teleporting back to Arnika, and facing some new, improved models of the Savant’s androids — VERY nasty pieces of work, let me tell you — I was able to fight through to the spaceport, and inserted the black box into the reader.

Unfortunately, I was missing a scanner, so it was almost useless.

Actually, I had the scanner on me all the time. I just didn’t know it. It was a mysterious little orb that was located at the bottom of a Hogarr pen in Trynton back when I was getting the living crap kicked out of me by those tiny naked winged women. I’d forgotten all about it! Once I installed it into the computer, I was able to get the actual coordinates of “the black ship.” I returned with that information to the T’Rang, who rewarded me with lots of money and 300,000 experience points. Once upon a time, that would have been a lot. But my party is around 18th level now, and those levels are coming very, very slowly.

Now I’m supposed to locate someone named Drazic for the T’Rang, but they aren’t giving me any clues where to find him. I’ve probably MET the dude before, and just don’t remember who he is.

Design Notes:

Okay. I’m still loving Wizardry 8, but I got some real serious bones to pick with it at this point.

Number one – long, thin zones with lots of patrolling monsters. Like the water caves. And the road. And some other areas. There are monsters here EVERY time. Kill a zillion bandits, and a zillion more return on your return trip. The combats feel like just a way to stretch out the game – by a significant margin. When I’m spending an hour just “getting through” to someplace interesting, there’s a problem.

Number two – scaling encounters. I’m actually not opposed to scaling encounters in principle, but it really robs the game of a feeling of progress. When every encounter is roughly the same difficulty level, it also robs the game of a lot of its texture. It robs the player of a chance to simply “come back later” to a previously too-difficult section, because said section of the game will simply be increased to an even greater difficulty level later. Wizardry 8 isn’t quite as bad as Oblivion in this respect, but I’m still not thrilled with the approach. Psi-sharks are wicked-hard, and would be fine as major encounters. But spending forty-five minutes out of every hour fighting them gets really, really tedious.

Number three – weapons. My fighter is still equipped with her newbie battle axe. There have been all kinds of swords, spears, and bows I’ve found in the game… but not axes. Maybe I’ve just gotten unlucky, but I wanted my dwarf to wield an axe, dang it. And now she’s doing less melee damage than the little faerie with a stick! If you have a weapon skill in the game, make sure it is supported by, like, you know… actual weapons that use that skill.

And as a word of praise – Nessie. A big ol’ honkin’ uber-monster in the center of a level, taunting you. Awesome. I loved it. There was simply no way to take her on at this point, but we didn’t have to. Key point. Hopefully she will not scale up in difficulty level when we meet her again. I totally want to turn her hide into a few pairs of boots.

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