I’ve been slogging slowly through Wizardry VI. I read CRPGAddict‘s review of the game, and found myself agreeing with him on all of his complaints. Since his “perfect game” and my “enh not for me” is pretty consistent, that’s surprising.
A friend of mine, watching the early parts of the game, decided to pick up Wizardry VI. He played up to the Pyramid (the third major area of the game,) and quit, sick of cheap deaths, annoying game design, and gameplay that he described as “painful.” You see, Wizardry has a history of being difficult. The first game was balanced with the idea of being a fun difficult romp with a D&D esque party, and D&D esque rules through a complex maze. Part of the fun is the mapping and the difficulty is balanced around slowly mapping areas and then fleeing back to safety. You could send in parties, and in Wizardry IV, your own parties could appear as enemies.
Wizardry VI came at a time that Sir-Tech was running into trouble. The main writer for the game shows a heavy hand in the credits, and his writing covers your entire experience with the game. The graphics are simple stone walls (for the entire game, including the stone walled forest, River Styx, and mountains.)
Unfortunately, where I sit, just before the “pick your ending” point in the game, I hate the writing.
I sat down and watched some of Menzoberranzan (1994), and the writing had the same dense love for words and florid descriptions. It’s particularly noticeable in Wizardry VI when you meet the dead wizard Xorphitus. Xorphitus proceeds to tell you that he is dead (repeatedly,) that the thing you’re looking for is dangerous (repeatedly,) and to talk about his other half who’s evil. This is 30 screens worth of about two to three average sentences each.
So, it’s verbose, you say, and the writer loves a thesaurus and is making up for simplistic graphics.
The writing hits some fatal flaws for me.
- The game has anachronistic “humor”. (Middle Eastern terrorists and death by a Buick are the prime examples.)
- The word puzzles / dense writing / clever writing feels like humor at your expense. (A puzzle literally involves figuring out instructions to use a catapult claiming they’re perfectly engineered clear instructions. Even if you do this correctly, the process can fail.)
- The game hates women.
That last one needs some clarification. You see, Wizardry VI is infamous for having a large amount of topless women. In the entire game, I’ve found exactly one woman (not counting a ghost) who had a shirt. Rebecca, child of a vicar’s mistress who was raped by a demon, wears nothing but thigh high boots and what I hope is a thong. The king bought her as a maid, had a door from his room into Rebecca’s, and got her pregnant at 13.
Xorphitus? Our charming wizard guy? Calls Rebecca’s mother a whore.
You get one of the best items in the game by telling Rebecca that you love her.
The king’s wife? Sleeps around, wants Rebecca dead, and enjoys non-vanilla sexual practices. Of course, she’s incredibly evil.
The writing may be about horrible people, who say horrible things, but the author of the writing chose to write about them. Chose the naked women. Chose the plot point centering on two people being raped. Chose how your characters can respond to them. Chose what sort of story the camera focuses on.
I’m curious now what I’ll find in Wizardry VII. I will not regret leaving Wizardry VI behind.
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