Wizardry II has an even simpler approach to re-creating the power curve. It doesn't! At the end of Wizardry I, your party is likely at least level 13, at which point if you've learned the room-clearing Tiltowait spell (and you'll need it here), you're basically as powerful as you're going to get. By the end of Wizardry II, my fighters reached level 15 and gained an additional attack per round, which isn't nearly as useful as their tanking ability which they had all along, and my mages reached level 14. Granted, I was multi-classing, which resets your level to 1 (and significantly lowers your stats), but the 400,000 or so lost experience points would have only been enough to level up one additional time.
This approach makes sense if one views Wizardry as computerized D&D, which was always its intent. In old-school D&D you can spend years reaching the demigod levels of power attainable within weeks of playing Wizardry, and continue going on high level adventures with your familiar party. This game, after all, was originally sold as a "scenario" rather than a sequel. And death in an advanced D&D scenario means your character is done, those potential years of progress erased. Here, Wizardry II really ought to have shown some mercy - D&D offered limitless scenarios, and even if you lost it all, you'd typically re-roll a new character and go on completely new adventures. Wizardry at this point only offered two, and had to be played in order. Without a backup, party death means replaying the Proving Grounds all over again.
|Morty, my Fighter/Mage/Priest with a midlife crisis|
Multi-classing in Wizardry has its benefits, and has its drawbacks. In retrospect, I hadn't optimized quite as well as I might have, but the benefits outweighed the drawbacks. The basic theory is that, at any time you are in town, you can change your class provided your stats are appropriate. This resets you to level 1, but you keep your current HP levels and any spells learned, and can even continue to learn spells of your old class while leveling up in the new class, provided you reached the corresponding circle.
My fighters who switched to mage had a rough time starting out, being stuck in the back row and without great spells at first, but on the bright side their high HP meant they didn't get killed every time the party got hit by multiple group-targeting spells. And eventually two of them learned Tiltowait spells, making them tremendous assets.
My mages who switched to fighter were awesome at first. Front row tanks who can cast Tiltowait! They weren't the best fighters, granted - their stats were mediocre, their HP gains as fighters were pathetic, and did lousy damage in melee, but when you have four party members who can cast Tiltowait multiple times, you don't miss having melee (except for the odd enemy with insanely high magic resistance and scads of HP). It seems that in the long run, a fighter gains more from switching to mage than a mage gains from switching to fighter. Of course, you've got to have front row tanks at all times, so you can't all be fighter-to-mage minmaxers.
As of my last post, I had explored five of the six dungeon levels, found five of the Knight of Diamond's overpowered possessions bestowing ridiculous powers like free healing and Tiltowaits, gotten everyone to reach level 13, and given Morty a tactical class change to priest, mainly so that his descendant could have access to priest spells in Wizardry 3. All that remained, as far as I could tell, was to explore the sixth and final level, and get Morty some power leveling to boost his pathetic level 1 stats.
You can't teleport directly to level 6, but can to the stairs descending to it, so I did.
The initial corridor here had only one apparent exit, through which a sphinx offered a riddle. It wasn't quite what I was expecting.
SEARCH THIS LEVEL, IF YOU DARE
SEARCH EACH DEN AND MONSTER LAIR
THREE CLUES HAVE I HIDDEN THERE.
SEARCH EACH PASSAGE AND EACH ROOM
FOR A KING WITHIN HIS TOMB
FOR THE ANSWER WAS HIS DOOM.
IF YOU LIVE, YOU SHOULD NOT LOSE
FOR THE ANSWER TO THIS RUSE
LIES CONFUSED AMONG THE CLUES.
Wait, did he just tell me this is a ruse?
I tried MAN and STAFF, neither answer was accepted. Fortunately, there were other exits from this room, invisible ones illuminated with a Lomilwa spell.
My first encounter here was against some vampires, easily killed with all those Tiltowait spells at my disposal, and the experience was enough to level up Morty four times. His stats shifted around without really trending upward that much, but he also learned Tiltowait. A second encounter, against high priests and fire giants, leveled him another three times. A third expedition had a few easy encounters, and then one that nearly killed me.
The humans were no big deal, but I foolishly thought that two Tiltowaits would be enough. It wasn't, as demons have naturally high spell resistance. I killed two demons, leaving ten to blast me with party-targeting spells. Maybe half of them actually followed through, but it was enough to do a number. Even more foolishly, I didn't try to Malor out of there, but instead cast as many Tiltowaits as I could - four in total, and amazingly, this worked, leaving my entire party alive. You bet I Malored out afterward, and Morty leveled up once more.
Back in again, I made it in a little further, finding a few chests trapped with things I could manage. Usually they were teleporters, which always took me to the dark areas in this level's negative space, which had no encounters, just a teleport somewhere returning me to the start. In one room, I found a statue of Gnilda, which when searched revealed a "staff of light" - no special combats involved here. Appropriately, it cast Lomilwa when used. The experience leveled up Morty yet again - now at level 11 - and loot included a Mace +2 and Shield +2.
Exploring again, very little posed even a modest threat. I took demons more seriously, but most of the monsters here fell easily to a free Tiltowait cast from the gauntlets. Even better, whenever I surprised monsters, I was still allowed to use the gauntlets for a free Tiltowait that they couldn't retaliate against. Soon I found a clue in the northern part of the level:
THAT KING, THE KING WHO WORSHIPS POWER
WILL HAVE NONE WITHIN HIS TOMB.
Heading further east to the corner of the map, I encountered three rooms full of high priests and fire giant companions, which were no big deal, and a teleporter back to the starting chamber. A different passage from there led through some corridors with more unchallenging fights. Even getting surprised by a big group of demons, dragons, giants, and ninjas was no big deal - I only suffered damage that I could undo with the magic shield's free healing.
|This was the worst of it.|
What eventually forced my retreat wasn't encounters, but an accumulation of anti-mage traps which I kept triggering on purpose for the loot inside, eventually running out of priest spells needed to cure Charles and Luke of their effects. For this extended journey, everyone leveled up, and useful loot included two Helm +1's, another Shield +2, and Winter Mittens, which provided 3 AC but had no other apparent effects.
The very first encounter of the next expedition went very badly, as twelve demons blasted me with high damaging party-targeting spells even as I unloaded as many Tiltowaits on them as I could, and killed everyone except Morty and Charles, who Malored out of there and back to town to revive everyone for a pretty penny. Thankfully the revivals worked.
The next trip down the second corridor took me all the way to the northeast corner of the map, where I found this clue in a room flanked by some spinners:
THAT KING, THE KING WHO WORSHIPS GOLD,
WILL NO MORE SEE HIS TREASURE ROOM.
At this point I was pretty sure the king in question had to be Davalpus, and there were a few possibilities concerning the answer. Prince Avalik was the most direct answer, but perhaps STAFF OF GNILDA, or just GNILDA was expected. I had a feeling the answer would be the title drop KNIGHT OF DIAMONDS, though that would be a stretch logically - we know nothing about him except that his gear kicks ass, and nothing really suggests that you become him by wearing his stuff. There was one more clue to find anyway, and one more passage from the starting chamber's south, waiting to be explored.
In the northeast corner I once again I battled high priests and fire giants, and used their teleporter to restart this level.
The southern passage led to a large room where I encountered greater demons, challenging foes with powerful magic, high spell resistance, and who call for help often. I didn't mess around and hit them with multiple Tiltowaits, and everyone survived, but with major injuries which the shield and a bit of priestly magic fixed.
This passage led to another part of the northeast quadrant where I found the last clue:
THAT KING, THE KING WHO WORSHIPS THESE
THAT KING, HE FINDS DOOM!
Not helpful, guys. If I didn't already have a pretty good idea who you were talking about, this wouldn't have told me anything new.
Soon after, a random encounter surprised me and screwed me over.
|This happened to everyone in the front row, and Parker got quadruple-level drained too.|
I cursed silently, loaded a backed-up disk, and proceeded to finish the level, and soon the game.
Back at the start of level 6, I approached the sphinx and answered its riddle, which sure enough was THE KNIGHT OF DIAMONDS. He let me pass and I received one last clue.
One step forward and I was teleported right outside the Temple of Gnilda. I Malored home, gave all of the Knight's gear plus the Staff of Light to Parker, and sent him back into the dungeon, alone. Embarassingly, I had to run from Fuzzballs, these pathetically weak enemies who are immune to magic and incessantly reinforce their numbers faster than one character can hope to kill them. But I made it to the temple without further incident, where the apparition tested me to make sure I actually finished the last level.
|Ooh! I know this one!|
THROUGH YOUR VALOR, WIT,
AND PRESENCE OF MIND, YOU HAVE PROVED
YOURSELF THIS DAY. BY OBTAINING THE
FULL REGALIA OF THE LEGENDARY KNIGHT
AND PRESENTING IT HERE BEFORE ME, YOU
HAVE DEMONSTRATED THE WORTH OF YOUR
ILK. I SHALL RECLAIM THOSE ARTIFACTS,
BUT ALSO I WILL PRESENT YOU WITH A
RECEIVE THE STAFF OF GNILDA!
Suddenly naked and alone, I hightailed it out of the temple and back to town, where Queen Margda gave me accolades.
|What does "gaudeamous" mean?|
Parker made a level, and his character sheet now showed
">G"next to his name, but an empty inventory - I thought she said I could keep the staff?
Before ending my adventures, I grinded experience in level 6 for a little while longer, just to strengthen Morty a bit in preparation for the next game. Without the Knight of Diamond's gear, I'd have to be a bit more careful / lucky, but I accomplished what I meant to without incident, aided by having no qualms about Maloring back to town after any combat that proved even slightly challenging.
GAB rating: Above average. Your experience of Wizardry II is certain to be colored by the kind of party that you bring into it. Mine was one where 95% of the fights are manageable, even easy, but 5% of the time you roll the proverbial critical miss and take a severe beating, and whether you manage to crawl back to town or die depends partly on how cautiously you'd been playing, but also on a great deal of luck, sometimes beyond any reasonable contingencies.
I awarded Wizardry a harpoon back when I played it, and Wizardry II does improve in some ways. Most notably, by having fewer levels, there's less filler, as half of Wizardry's ten have nothing in them to make exploring worthwhile. On the other hand, half of Wiz2's levels have nothing worthwhile to find in them except the titular Knight of Diamond's gear, and become little more than an exercise in mapping until you discover their locations, a task made easy with correct use of Malor. And my overall impression is a bit soured from having experienced total party kills, at least two of which I am certain weren't my fault, and knowing that if the experience were truly authentic, then I'd have to start the first game all over again!
There will be a few more posts on Wiz2. I don't have source code for this game - I assume it's largely identical to Wiz1, but there's evidence that some things have changed. Lack of source code, though, hasn't stopped me from extracting tables and maps off of the disk. Expect the fruits of this effort in the coming weeks!