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March 2, 2012

Wizardry VII Crusaders of the Dark Savant - Revisited

I have to postpone playing realtime CRPGS like Legends of Valour for now. I have to have a game where I can make my moves without any time restrictions and so turn-based CRPGS are the best bet right now. There has been a lot of talk about the wonderful Wizardry series. To tell the truth, after reading CRPGAddicts torturous experience of this series, I wonder why I do jump in. I have played Wizardry 8 and that was a very good game indeed. Around Wizardry VI the series seemed to turn more user friendly and more forgiving regarding keeping saved games etc. So my next deep dive goes into the seventh installment called Crusaders of the Dark Savant.


The game was released in 1992 and I try out the CD-version from 1993. The game was re-released with recording speech for Windows 95 in 1996 and was then called Wizardry Gold but I have yet to get that to install successfully in my Windows 7 machine. Also I have read that includes several bugs not existent in this version.
My personal interest in trying out this game is because of the advanced character generation and development.  You create a party of six characters and choose between a dozen races and professions all with their unique abilities and statistics. You can change profession during the game and you also have dozens of different skills to use. The game supposedly features automapping (one strong reason for jumping into this genre) and have a whopping 96 spells. Add to this a huge game world both above and underground with 500 unique weapons and items and I think this game could last quite awhile. I am quite certain my interest and patience will not endure for the games completion but it will give insightful experience of this game and perhaps I will be able to fairly review it in the end.


To make a long story short the mission is to go to the planet Guardia to locate the Astral Dominae item. It seems you are not the only one interested in that item  so I expect some resistance later on. Anyway, that is enough of a background story for now. After all, these games are all about hack´n slash and levelling anyway. Ok, I will return to the story when it does unfold for me in the game but not until then...

You begin by choosing a race and sex. Yes, sex actually plays a part in this game. You are either more strong as a male or gets more personality and karisma. You choose amongst a dozen different races, each with their differernt starting base attributes. Each race also have certain bonuses like poison- or sleep resistance.

You are then randomly given a bonus pool of points you could spend on increasing attributes of your choosing. The attributes are as complete as could be expected from this kind of game. There are strength, vitality, dexterity, personality, speed, intelligecne, piety and karisma.

Each profession has its own requirements of attributes. You could change profession in the game so you are not stuck but you should carefully plan ahead. Of course, playing this game for the first time it is almost impossible to know what is a good starting party or not.

The skill system is divided into three areas: Weapons, Physical skills and Academia which is more intellectual and contains magical skills. When you create your characters you get skills points (random or based on your attributes, I am not sure) for each skill class which you can spend.

There are a lot of tips and hints on the internet about this game. I spent about one or two hours building up my party. That was much less than usual for this kind of game but I really don´t have the time right now to give it more than that. I will surely regret that later on when I got stuck somewhere but at least I have tried. Because this game is hard. Make no mistake. Users out there complains about getting stuck because of not optismising the character building section.

My group consisted of a fighter, monk, priest, alchemist, mage and a thief. Eager to start we entered the world. We started out in a forested outdoor area with no clue of where to go at all.

So....where do we go from here ?
The movement is purely a classical step-by-step manouvre. The interface take some time to get used to but gets better along the way. I had huge trouble in figuring out how to look at a characters skills for example. Anyway, we moved on and after not more than 20 or 30 steps we stumbled upon a ladder leading down into the underground.


At least somewhere to start our adventure. We climbed down through the ladder and found ourselves in a dungeon. So far I haven´t found any way to use the automap, though one of my characters are having skill points in mapping. I refuse to draw any maps with pen & paper and searched the internet for a substitue. I found an online program called Pyromancers.com. It enabled me to draw my dungeon maps. I lack clear symbols for doors and the like, but what the hell. It contains the most useful stuff.

Here and there you are given some environmental descriptions of what you see or feel. There is no ambient sound at all in this dosbox version and just some very simple sound effects during combat.


One skill is called Scouting. It is used to detect secret doors etc. I believe - or rather hope - the skill is checked for the character having the highest skill value and not the one who is in the front. I am not sure yet if it is used automatically or if I have to manually use the search function.


Compared to Wizardry VI, this game is in VGA with 256 colors. The graphics is pretty ok but the animations is not. The user interface is also quite cumbersome to use. In order to properly map out my starting level I let my wizard cast the Direction spell. It shows a compass in the above upper row.

I had yet to take more than 10 moves until my first encounter with an eerie moth. There is a skill called mythology and it is used to identify monsters. The monsters in Wizardry is so far not comparable to classical races like orcs, goblins, bats and rats. It is more like Bards Tale III with unique names which means it is quite impossible to know wether a an eerie moth is less scaring than a rattkin for example.


Combat is resolved in turns and you give individual order for each character starting with the first in your rank (in my group that would be Rizlo, my fighter). The options reminds me of the system used in Bards Tale/Dragon Wars. You could individually choose to Fight, Run, Use item, Equip, Hide etc. The Fight option lets you choose which type of attack you will use based on your skills and weapon. For example you could Thrust, Swing or Bash your opponent. Each of them has its own pros and cons. To Swing is the easiest way to hit an opponent but will not be as effective to penetrate the enemies armour like a Thrust would do.
I do like that detailed implementation in the game. It adds to the tactical element in combat. By the way, this game is more advanced than first impression would let you think. Your carrying capacity affects your ability to fight in several grades. That goes for your stamina as well. You could also get a lot of different ailments like nausea, sleep, paralyzed, illness, frightened etc. It all adds upp to creating a better atmosphere.
Your could also meet enemies in several groups just like in the Bards Tale series. The ones in back could then use ranged weapons against you.

Below is my male priest Rawulf. He has just advanced to level 2 and I am awarded with a bonus spell. Spells are choosen from 6 different classes depending on your profession. These are fire, earth, air, water, psionics and divine. See the dices below ? These are the power level of a spell. Each spell could be cast with your choosen power level. The higher the better. It either adds to damage, duration, stronger effect or whatever. I really like that kind of system as well. That means that lesser direct hit spells could be used for a longer time in the game before becoming obsolete.


Level advancement happens automatically as soon as you reach the next level. You could not choose when to level up. The drawback of this is obvious. One could not reload easily in order to get better results since you have to at least complete your last fight to gain the XP needed and if several of your party memebers levels up at the same time you are having a hard time to try to let them all get good results. This game is said to be so unforgiving and hard later on that I believe all tricks should be used.

Anyway, I have not the time to powerbuild my party so I just accept what I am given. When you level up you could be awarded increases in your attributes. That seems to be purely by random and sometimes you get one increase and sometimes I´ve seen three increases. After that you are given more stamina and hitpoints, the latter which also is random. Last but not least, you are given more skill points. This is the first time you could choose which skills to improve in the three different skill classes. If you are a spellcasting character you might be awarded to choose a new spell as well.
I must admit so far that levelling up in this game is very, very rewarding. Just the CRPG feeling one love to have.


Our exploration of the dungeon continued. There are some fixed combats, perhaps 5 or so of the entire map and then there is a chance for a random encounter. So far the amount and frequency of random combats are not very high. That is a very positive sign.

I did find two small buttons in the walls. Both opened up a nearby wall to reveal new corridors. They both led to a chest in the end and here is when the next interesting part begin. To open a chest you could use a scroll or spell, but in the beginning you have to trust your thief. The thief get the skill Skulduggery and is able to disarm chests. Each chest could have one of several different types of traps like magic bolts, poision, guardian etc. Your thief inspects the lock to try to figure out which kind of trap it has. You then have to manually try to figure out what the most likely trap could be and begin to disarm it. It took awhile before I understood how it worked but then I suddenly disarmed the chest and was rewarded with an armour, sword and some potions.

Both the armour and the sword had no name and was accompanied by the ? sign. They need to be identified. There is a skill called Artifacts that let you assay items. My priest was not successful in the beginning due to low skill level so I still don´t know if there is anything special with them. I use them though and don´t see any special change in my armour class either.

The second level continued in the same fashion as the first. There where only one place that was special and that was a gate opened up by a lever. It led to someones domain. Immediately when entering we where attacked by a monster whose name I cannot recall. He was made of bones that scrambled from the ground to attack. This was the toughest fight so far but eventually he was killed. At least we got some hefty XP.


I made the mistake of entering the water and immediately drowned with most of my characters. So water is very, very dangerous. I have to put more skill points into swimming. I was a little dissappointed not to get any loot from my defeated foe, but I soon found a chest in the far end of the room that - when disarmed - contained a lot of potions, a scroll and an amulet of life.


There are so many combinations of races and professions to choose from and I am not sure my team is the best. For example, my thief is a Fairy. Very high dexterity but also extremely low on strength. What use do I have when my thief hides in the shadows and tries to backstab the opponents ? Hmm. Also my monk is not very good in combat either. I hope he will become better later on.


Between fights you have to rest to regain stamina, spell points and hit points. It takes a lot of time but at least in the starter dungeon you are not interrupted so often by random encounters.


As far as I know there is no way to replace your characters when starting the game. Or, if I am lucky perhaps there are when I come into a town or city ? Anyway, before leaving the dungeon - there where no other exits - I cast the spell Detect Secret in order to search every hex of possible hidden rooms/levers/buttons I might have missed. I didn´t find any and so I returned to the wilderness again.

When finished, the first dungeon level looked like this:


Anyway I returned to the outdoor area and continued my exploration. It took not long before I was greeted with by a group of hostile Rattkin Bandits. They where pretty hard to defeat but allowed me access to continue my exploration further.


What lied behind them was the first town called New City. I was not allowed to pass at first. A guard blocked the way and asked for my business. Only after having entered the name of the shop (found on the parchment in the dungeon) was I allowed to pass him. But it seemed I could pass him anyway but then I had to fight myself past.



I have just entered the town and not met any NPC yet or any shop. That will be part of my next post.


I´ve put 5 hours or so into this game by now and so far I like it alot. I will continue to explore what Wizardry is all about and if it will become as hard as previous installments. I have no illusions about completing this game though. I don´t want to spend the next six months with this game but I will play as long as I am making good progress.

Before I forget. The manual of this game is very, very good and comprehensive as well. Detailed descriptions of all attributes, skills, spells, professions, races and game mechanics. Its at least 100 pages thick. I really regret we don´t get these kind of manuals these days.
Until next time...

7 comments:

  1. PetrusOctavianusMarch 4, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    I just completed Bane of the Cosmic Forge and briefly tried Crusaders of the Dark Savant after transfering my characters. Since I play games chronologically I will probably not play Crusaders properly until next year, though.

    The graphics were a huge improvement from Bane, except for the character portraits that are strangely pixelated compared to the rest of the game.

    Since the game takes place on a different planet I guess it makes more sense that all the monsters are unfamiliar and not the usual assortment of giant rats, skeletons, orc and rogues.

    If things work like Bane the Scout skill is automatically checked for all members of the party, while Search will automatically find things if the skill checks failed.

    The game is supposed to be huge; about four times bigger than Bane, I think. I found Bane to be somewhat smaller than Ultima V and Might&Magic 2.
    The difficuly is supposed to be more from the puzzles than from combat.

    One thing I learnt in Bane is that character levels are extremely important, and I think Crusaders work the same way. That means that if you change classes you will get more skills (Hide and Critical Hits for all is nice) and higher skill levels, but against the most dangerous enemies your skills will fail more often and you will have a harder time resisting enemy spells. At the end of Bane only my Valkyrie who had never changed class was able to resist the spells from high level priests.
    Personally I felt that it was a bit silly that character level should be this important when the game already have things like skill levels, spell power level and resistances that should determine chances of success.

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  2. @PetrusOctavianus
    Thanks for sharing your experience and glad to see you are still playing these oldies.

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  3. I loved this game. I initially bought it with savings when I was in 5th grade and didn't really get it, as you can probably imagine.

    After years and years, I started going back and playing old CRPGs I missed like Ultima 1-5 and Might and Magics. When I hit Wizardry, I was pretty excited. I actually skipped 1-5 after messing around with them, I just didn't have the time. Bane of the Cosmic Forge was pretty awesome, and I transferred my characters into this one.

    I was rolling along well until my savegame got corrupted or something around the 30-40% point and I wasn't going to play that long again. Maybe I can play vicariously along with you, although this game is on my Backlog list, so it will come up sooner or later.

    Good luck!

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  4. Alas, in 1992 when this game was released I was owning an Amiga 600 and there was with dread I looked at all those cool RPG Pc-games coming out that never got ported to the Amiga platform. It wasn´t until 1995 I switched to the PC platform and at that time 3D games had just become popular and a dark period begun for CRPGS until Baldurs Gate arrived in 1999.

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    1. I was in a similar situation owning an Amiga 500. I remember browsing through a game shop and they had Ultima VII and Ultima Underworld on the shelf for the PC which both looked great. I didn't get my first PC until about 1997 which by a happy coincidence was the same year the Ultima Collection and the Ultimate RPG Archives collection (with Wizardry VII) came out.

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  5. I think I was back in maybe 6th grade when I picked this up. That was back when the quality of a game was often judged by the weight of its box on the shelf.

    I've played and replayed but I don't think I've ever actually completed this one :)

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  6. I am replaying this game right now. I got it when it first came out. To use the auto-map feature, you have to get the map kit. If you go back to where you first started and explore in the woods, try to get to the water. Near the water is a chest and the map kit is in that chest. Once, you get it, everywhere you have gone with pop up in a little window off to the side and it will all be mapped. As you get better mapping skils, the maps get better also.

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