Wizardry III: Legacies

Coming right off of the power fantasy of Wizardry II, it’s impressive just how hard Wizardry III throws you at the wall. As you may recall from my posts of twelve years ago, Wizardry III, unlike Wizardry II, reduces imported characters to level 1. The only things you keep are your stats and your class. While this does introduce the possibility of putting a Ninja in your party from the very beginning, it remains the case that any level-1 character stands a good chance of getting killed in their very first encounter, possibly in a surprise round before you even have a chance to run away. I spoke of Wizardry II‘s eagerness to kill characters without warning, but there, it was at least always because of something the player did, and consequently learned not to do. The thing Wizardry III is teaching us not to do is go into the dungeon at all.

The in-world justification for disempowering the characters is that you’re not actually playing the same characters that you imported, but their descendants. Hence the title “Legacy of Llylgamyn”. Characters aren’t automatically reduced on import, but have to be linked into their descendants through a menu command (L)EGATE, a word that provokes etymological thoughts. (Oddly, the manual incorrectly gives the command (R)ITE OF PASSAGE for this. Were the manual and the executable in this anthology taken from different versions of the game? That would make sense for the first two games, which we know to be ports to the Wiz3 engine, but not for Wiz3 itself.)

This notion of legacy creates a false expectation. When a character wins Wizardry I or II, they’re awarded with a special mark on their stats page, like a medal in the form of an ASCII character. (In the version of Wiz1 that I played as a child, the mark was affixed to their name, but that isn’t the case here.) And these marks are inherited. Once you have a party that’s killed Werdna and recovered the Staff of Gnilda, it’s natural to think “These guys are special. They’ve got honors. These are the ones who will save the kingdom of Llylgamyn from disaster.” But then of course they all just die, and you wind up making a new party that you don’t bother going through I and II with because they’re just going to get deleveled and probably killed anyway. I can imagine getting fully-blinged-out heroes by sending a new party through I and II once you already have some powerful characters in place in III to act as bodyguards and shepherd them through the early levels, but it wouldn’t be the same. They wouldn’t feel like the real legendary heroes. They’d be more like tourists on a Legendary Hero package tour.

Which, come to think of it, fits the theme of legacy pretty well. We’re talking about creating systems to give the children of the rich and powerful a free pass and make sure they receive rewards they haven’t earned.

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