wizardry: traveler’s property

You might remember, back in December, when I covered the recently released Wizardry: The Five Ordeals. I had mentioned that the story text in the main game had yet to be translated, outside of a few of the curated fan-made scenarios. Well, the first of the five ordeals got an English translation last week, and I’ve been playing that.

The first ordeal, Traveler’s Property, is a bit of a basic one. The quest for this one is simple: find treasure. That’s it. There’s no big bad guy causing problems or an artifact that’s gone missing. Honestly, kind of refreshing just how simple this particular Wizardry is: Get That Money. Of course, the catch is that’s a ton of powerful monsters hanging around that will kill you before you can even blink if you aren’t careful, in addition to traps and cave-ins to impede your progress

Now, while the plot is simple, the game is anything but. This is a tough fucking game here, and it isn’t all based around the combat this time around. I’ve had a lot of moments where I’ve had to sit back, put my hand on my chin, and carefully think of my next move. Traveler’s Property is one of those scenarios where you are presented with a different situation on each floor, and the game plan is based around solving that situation. Navigating around cave-ins, moving switches in the right order to turn on abandoned machinery, exploring an entire floor covered in an anti-magic field that prevents you from healing or using your map, finding out how to enter a magic mirror, navigating a massive teleporter maze (though I felt a lot less intelligent when I figured out that the answer was to constantly hug the right wall (that’s your Protip for the sixth floor)), and so on. Of course, there’s still the old Wizardry standard of doing all of this while having to fend off large groups of Ninjas with a fondness for one-shotting you, or sorcerers with powerful magic that hits everyone at once, or big fuck off dragons that can turn you to stone, or large insects that can destroy your armor, and many other dangerous things that require commas.

murphy’s ghost even makes an appearance! i will forgive the fact that he is called “major ghost” here.

Traveler’s Property perfectly fits that Wizardry mold: it’s extremely difficult and immensely rewarding. Few games really nail that concept of slowly progressing through an intimidating structure. Solving a difficult puzzle and defeating strong opponents never really gets old. Plus, I’ll take any excuse to explore a black and white wireframe void.

Currently, I am on floor 7 (out of 10). My party has just killed two massive dragons, and I need to find an item to place on a pedestal so as not to trigger a trap that guards the item that I actually need. The 7th floor is also home to demons and giant elemental monsters who can hit the entire party for 30 damage every turn. My characters are all at level 11, and have reached a point where leveling up takes experience points in the hundreds of thousands. In any other game, that sounds extremely tedious, yet there’s this Wizardry uh, wizardry at work that makes this incredibly compelling

i appreciate that, despite being a japanese developed scenario, it still has the american sense of humor of the originals. “holey” armor is not a misspelling, it is actually really shitty armor that has a bunch of holes in it.

Because Traveler’s Property is even less interested in plot progression than any other entry I’ve played, it does that other thing Wizardry does well: the player’s ability to come up with a story and motivations for their characters. I still have not ever played a tabletop game, so this is the closest to roleplaying I get that doesn’t involve me doing sex work (yes, after I threw a big fit about quitting back in December, I made a return to Niteflirt because I wanted to get the money to order Forbidden Door). Why are all these people wanting to risk their lives and explore this mine for money? Why is the kingdom letting groups of ragtag adventurers explore, rather than using its own army and taking all the riches for themselves? What’s the deal with that? Just some blanks for the player to fill as they watch numbers go up. Hell, this game even lets you give characters their own birthdays, something I forget to do in all of these, so I have a bunch of 14 years olds running around that only age when they change classes or come back from the dead.

I’m looking forward to eventually finishing Traveler’s Property, and importing this party into the subsequent Ordeals once those have also been translated. I feel like that’s a bigger priority for the developers than the scenario editor right now, and that’s fine; I can wait. I’ll be here, ready to play and post about every new bit of content this game can give me.

There’s a new Wizardry

After waiting for seems like an eternity, Wizardry: The Five Ordeals has finally arrived. Naturally, as America’s Most Important Wizardry fan, I snagged a copy.

The titular Five Ordeals in question are five different campaigns that follow the traditional Wizardry rules: create a party, go into a dungeon, solve the mystery of said dungeon, which always means kill the big bad guy at the end, then transfer that party to the next campaign and do it all over. In and of itself, The Five Ordeals is more than worth the cost of thirty big ones. But there’s even more. See, this is a rerelease of a 2006 Japan-only PC game. The selling point of the original game was a scenario editor, which allowed you to create your own Wizardry campaigns. Now, unfortunately, the scenario editor is not yet implemented in the Steam version, so I can’t mess around with that and see how good it is. But to tide everyone over until then, a large number of fan-made campaigns from the original have been included. 59 to be exact. You combine that with the five main ordeals, and that is a whopping 64 different stories to play through. Granted, a number of them remain in Japanese, but there are a handful in varying degrees of English.

Right. I should point out that, as an early access game, the localization is not complete. The UI and the combat are in English, but any story beats require you to be able to read Japanese for a majority of the campaigns, including the official ones. The game is still entirely playable, but you may feel like you’re missing out on some things.

hachi machi

So, as such, I have not been playing any of the official chapters. Rather, I’ve spent the past week messing around with a couple of fan scenarios, settling on “Fate of Accursed Beings.”

As a veteran of many fan-content driven games, I have to tread carefully through this minefield. There’s a lot of would-be designers that like to pump out absolute garbage; I’m still trying to forget the dark days of LittleBigPlanet. Given that the scenarios for Wizardry’s Steam port were hand-picked by the devs, that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue. And it is absolutely not an issue with Fate of Accursed Beings. If anything, these feel just as good, if not moreso, than many commercial releases of Wizardry.

Like any good Wizardry, Fate of Accursed Beings encourages you to take it slow. Make a bit of progress mapping out your environment, fight a couple monsters, run back to town to heal and buy/sell equipment, then go back in to make a little more progress. Each time, you get a little stronger, and you begin to recognize the layout of the dungeon. It’s clearing these small milestones that make Wizardry so rewarding. Yes, Wizardry can be difficult, if you run headfirst into everything with a level 1 party, expecting to clear each floor in a single trip. If you keep a cool head, and play cautiously, that level of challenge goes down more and more (it never fully goes away). Slowly chipping away at this wall until it comes crumbling down is half of what makes dungeon crawlers so good. The other half of course being in creating your party.

I’m currently on the fourth floor of the first dungeon (this scenario has two). Currently, there are a number of closed gates that I’m trying to find a switch for, to no avail. So I keep going down, further and further, to see if that switch can be found. Opening up these gates will allow me easier access to the elevator on the first floor, shortening the amount of time I spend on runs, until I can get to the wizard that’s causing all the problems down here.

Something about this game that I was worried would no be included, due to weird legal issues popping up earlier in the year, were the wireframe dungeons. There’s a weird fucking part of my brain that needs that extremely lo-fi visual aesthetic, and I’m glad it’s here. Not that the hand drawn environments are bad or anything, but I need wireframes. We also get the excellent monster designs from Jun Suemi, who is the best at creating a sense of wonder and majesty with her depictions of medieval fantasy.

She’s just a really fucking good artist:

The Five Ordeals is as worthy a successor to the Story of Llygamin crown as it can get. I get that same feeling playing this for a week than I have playing the Super Famicom compilation all these years. A perfect game to play, late at night, trudging your way through a black and white dungeon, watching numbers go up. All that’s left is to wait for that full localization and that editing tool. An editing tool that will bless the entire world with the gift of ENDLESS WIZARDRY.

If this takes off, I might have to add another recurring segment to the site where I play more fan-made scenarios. Another recurring segment that I will forget to do regularly after a few months, Laugh Out Loud.