Thursday, June 18, 2020

Wizardry II: The better part of MALOR

Wizardry's teleporting Malor spell feels like a game breaker, because it lets you go almost anywhere in the dungeon instantly. Mazes and walls barely matter when you can simply zap your party to whatever coordinates you choose at any time. You don't want to teleport blindly, mind you - embedding yourself into a rock wall means a total and irrecoverable party kill, but as long as you've got a Malor in reserve, you can effectively recharge your party any time you like by teleporting back to town, resting/healing, and teleporting right back and be completely restocked on health and spell points minus one Malor. With enough time and patience, you could do this after every combat and ensure that you're always prepared for the next one.

In Wiz1, you don't get it until you're powerful enough to finish the game anyway, and it doesn't work in the final level, but Wiz2 expects you to play with a high-end party with access to all of the spells from the start. It's not even possible to finish the first level without Malor. Your goal is to defeat the Knight of Diamond's pieces of armor scattered throughout the dungeon, and will likely need to grind a bit before you're powerful enough to take them on, but on the levels where Malor is allowed, the dungeon itself feels like a formality. Levels 2 and 6 don't allow it as a destination, but do allow it as an origin.

At the end of my last session, my party had gotten their butts kicked by the Knight's magic shield. My blades and spells just bounced harmlessly off it while it ricocheted off their chins like they were Hydra agents, and I barely managed to escape thanks to having a one-time Malor-casting helmet in my possession.

So I began this session, fully healed and recharged, by Maloring to the stairs to level 2, and made sure to always keep two Malors in reserve. One to escape a hopeless combat, and one to return to town. A chest trapped with a teleport-trap took me to a darkened area, where after fumbling around for awhile, a wizard living in this quadrant offered me "valuable information" for 100,000 gold. It's not like I was going to spend it at Boltac's, but this was just slightly more money than I had.

This dark region took up half of the map, but there were few encounters, and eventually I found a one-way passage to the light, leading back to the central area with the stairs and teleporter to the three doors. The middle door took me back to the dark region, but I escaped it quickly, having mapped it out, and then took the left door, teleporting me to an unexplored quadrant.

That sounded bad! This area was a compact maze of doors, and every step I took triggered an encounter. The fourth and final of this run led to a quintet of Earth Giants, who mostly resisted a flurry of Madaltos and did upwards of 50 points of damage per hit, killing Sam in the first round. I Malored out of there.

The temple of Cant bungled their resurrection, turning Sam to ashes. And the resurrection bill doubled. Thankfully the retry was successful.

My fighters reached level 12, and Fred identified some valuable items, the most interesting (and valuable) called the "Metamorph ring," which I decided to hold onto rather than test its power. I sold the rest, recouping my hospital bill and with enough left over to pay the mage's 100,000 gold fee, which I did during my next expedition:

Good to know. In Wiz1, status effect spells were often useless against monsters of high levels. Against level 5 creatures, sleep and paralysis effects were impossible (and the latter rarely worked anyway), and silence effects failed at a rate of [Monster level] * 10%, meaning that a level 7 mage could only be silenced 30% of the time. In Wiz2, it's rare to find anyone under level 7, so it was good to see that these spells had been rebalanced for the higher level play here. The mage here also noted that Latumapic and Mahaman - two spells that were bugged in the original Wizardry, were made more favorable by the alignment of the stars.

I gave the monster maze another try, and true to the information I paid so much gold for, Katino proved very effective at putting monsters to sleep. The other two status effect spells, Manifo and Montino, remained uncast as only Parker could cast them, and they shared slots with my precious Calfo. I managed to clear nine rooms, each one with an encounter, before an ambush of 18 Were-Amoebas killed Sam and poisoned my two other fighters. Back to town I went, to revive him again, where my mages reached level 12.

I then decided to see if I could take on the Knight of Diamond's shield. I made my way to its lair, entered its chamber, and started off the encounter with multiple Masopic casts to try to render myself invulnerable to its buffets. Surprisingly, the shield's attack hit its target even after four casts of it, giving my front-line fighters AC's in the -20's. After one more round, the shield missed. So I switched to casting Morlis and Mamorlis to raise its AC until spell points ran dry, while Parker attacked. Soon Parker wasn't missing, and then had my three fighters simply melee it to death while its own attacks bounced uselessly off my tank-like armor spells. Turnabout is fair play or something like that.

I gave the Magic Shield, which offered 6 AC and regeneration, to Sam who seemed to be hurting a lot lately. This isn't quite as fantastic as the Magic Armor's 14 AC, but still a good upgrade over the 4 AC Shield + 1 he had before. More remarkably, the shield can also cast Dial unlimited times, which on one hand essentially means limitless free healing after every combat - it's hard to overstate what a big deal that is - but also means tediously camping and invoking the item over and over again to take advantage of this.

After a recharge in town, I Malored down to level 3, a level which had wrap-around borders on all four sides, and a curiously low encounter rate. The level seemed to center around an open arena in the middle, with a fractal-like maze on the outside of it. Sam, once again, bit the dust here when a ninja landed a lucky hit that did only one damage but decapitated him. The priests of Cant once again burned him to ashes, and this time the attempted Kadorto, which cost most of the gold I had left, failed as well.

This, I would not tolerate. A lost character is gone, permanently, and trying to play Wizardry without a full party is unthinkable, and having to re-roll a level one character from Wiz1 unreasonable, so for the first time I reloaded a backed up save, which happened to be from right after I got the shield.

Another attempt here failed when a group of seven LVL 11 Bishops survived my initial onslaught of spells - in retrospect I really ought to have silenced them, and blasted my party with Daltos and Lahalitos, killing both Bo and Sam, leaving me Malor-less. Parker lived and I had to use a Di spell to revive Bo so that I could escape.

After mapping out the outer rim of this level, I entered the central arena, which had an inner enclave. There, the run came to another end when a group of carriers, normally not a difficult fight, managed to land a lucky paralyzing hit on Bo just before he was to cast a Madalto on them. On the next turn, they landed paralyzing hits on Parker, the only one who could un-paralyze him, and on Sam, just before he could cast a room-clearing Tiltowait, ending any chance of Malor'ing out. Reload!

Maloring back to the arena and entering the enclave again, I found four rooms within. One contained a pit trap. One contained a familiar scenario.

And just like in Wiz1, this sends you back to town.

Recharging and Maloring back, a third room teleported me to the magic sword, finally!

The sword was MUCH easier than the shield. I put up one round worth of MASOPICs, and then it didn't land a scratch. By round three I killed it through melee. Fred identified it as HRATHNIR, and I gave it to Parker, who lacked good offensive magic. This sword roughly tripled Parker's damage, and sometimes landed critical hits, just not often.

Level 4 was a cavernous region.

I didn't witness any cave-ins, but caverns, I figured, meant rocks, so I didn't dare touch treasure chests out of fear of triggering a misidentified teleporter trap. Monsters didn't prove too troublesome, and Makanito - which kills everyone below a certain level - worked surprisingly well against many of them. A "foaming mold" did once managed to stone Parker, forcing me to Malor back to town to restore him. There were no doors here, and not very many encounters, but the corridors did wrap around the borders, making it all the more necessary to pay close attention to the map and keep track of your position.

In one alcove, a magic fountain offered random effects to anyone who would bathe in it. This fountain is actually in Wiz1's source code, but no fountain appears in that game. Assuming nothing changed, possible effects include:
  • Permanently lose 8 HP
  • De-age 1 year and lose 1 IQ and 1 Piety, death if IQ or Piety are already at 3
  • Poison
  • Sleep
  • Paralysis
  • Stone
  • 30% chance to fully restore a dead character, 70% chance to burn them to ashes. No effect if alive.

These are all bad, so I left it alone.

It didn't take me long after to find the helmet.

The helmet, as before, shrugged off my spells. Unlike before, it returned fire with group-hitting spells of its own, but Parker was inflicting over 50 damage per round and we killed it before it could do too much damage to my party.

The helmet offered regenerative powers and 4 AC, which is great for a helmet, and could cast Madalto in combat, which was perfect for Parker as he alone lacked offensive magic outside of some mediocre Priest spells. I had also found a Stone of Youth, which I allowed the oldest active party member Parker to rub, shaving 1 year off his age of 31, and breaking the stone.

Level 5 began in a small ring-shaped room with a door leading to a dark hallway. Exploring showed that the maze has four quadrants, each one fairly identical to another, and are arranged around a central region that can only be entered from the north. A few rooms had chutes dumping me into dark rooms on level 6, which I promptly Malored out of. Most of the enemies here were tame, consisting of level 7 humans easily Makanitoed away, and even Murphy's Ghosts, but also occasionally scarier monsters like Vampires, and annoying ones like Bleebs who tank hits and mostly just summon more Bleebs.

In the center region, a wishing well teleported me back to town when I tossed in 5000 gold. My fighters leveled up to 13, and I Malored back down to level 5's inner fortress where I found the Magic Gauntlets. They went down in round 2 having done nothing but cast a single harmless spell between the two of them - I swear these pieces are just getting easier.

The gauntlets provided 4 AC and regeneration. Even better, they cast Tiltowait in combat. These went to Sam, for AC balancing, who became my new designated Malor caster. The experience had also helped my mages reach level 13, giving them access to even more Malors, but only Charles learned Tiltowait.

At this point, I reflected for a bit on my multiclassing strategy. Parker, Bo, and Sam had been pulling most of the weight, and having access to so much combined spellpower was amazing, but their HP gains as fighters were disappointing, likely due to their mediocre vitality. Seems that if you want high HP, you've got to start life as a high-vitality fighter. I looked at the numbers, and determined that a fighter with average vitality will accrue no more HP than a mage with maximum vitality. Their melee damage output was nothing special either, at least not until Parker started wielding Hrathnir.

I also started thinking about the next game, seeing as I was reaching the end of this one, and certainly wished to continue my current party's adventures. Wizardry 3's import process resets your level to 1, and would effectively erase the gains I made by multiclassing. My experience here showed me that you can get by without a thief, but you definitely want to have someone who can cast priest spells. I'd need to switch someone to a priest so that they could begin the next game as one, and I chose Morty, leaving me with three fighter-mages and two pure mages. With any luck, Morty would learn Tiltowait at some point while leveling up as a priest in Wiz2. With a great deal of luck, his stats would improve to the point of not being altogether horrible in the future when I would import him into Wiz3.

I now had four pieces of magic armor plus a magic sword, but one more level was unexplored. I tried visiting Gnilda, who demanded the return of "the five" to see what would happen with them all in my possession, but the message was unchanged, even when I equipped them all on Parker. Perhaps the sword doesn't count, and the fifth piece of armor is on the last level? We'll see what we find there in the next post!


  1. "Were-Amoebas" is an amazing concept.

    Later, you say: "I found four rooms within. One contained a pit trap. One contained a familiar character."
    And I feel like the screenshot is meant to explain who the familiar character is, but it does not.

    Finally, that screenshot of the Magic Helmet being surprised is amazing, since the helmet actually LOOKS so surprised!

  2. I have some thoughts on ways to rebalance MALOR. First, allow the party to use it freely to establish it's value, but then subvert it so that it will only take you to plot-relevant locations when used, and use it to drive the story forward.
    Or maybe just have MALOR blocking shrines on each level that you have to find the old-fashioned way, and once they are destroyed you can MALOR freely on that level again...

    1. The graphic used for the were-amoebas is pretty good too. Expect to see it in a future bestiary post.

      Regarding the familiar character, in the "area out of bounds" of the first level of Wizardry 1, you can find a secret room where a wizard chants those same words, teleporting you back to town. There, though, this is probably what you want to happen, while in this level of Wiz2, you'll more likely just find it an annoyance since you're probably looking for the armor piece here and if you wanted to go home you could just Malor there yourself. I've reworded things here, hopefully to avoid misleading!

      I like the Malor-blocking shrines idea. Or maybe have the armor itself block Maloring both to and from, but once collected it's fair game. You'd just need to move the magic armor on level one so it's in front of the infinite hallway instead of at the end of it.

  3. Clever title, by the way. 😁


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