Wizardry III: The End of Level 1

The premise of Wizardry III is that the descendants of the legendary heroes are sent to end a series of cataclysms by retrieving the Orb of Earithin from the great dragon L’kbreth, who may or may not be the dragon depicted in the cover art of Wizardry I. (Given the origin of the names Werdna and Trebor, I keep looking at these names, crafted in a void of etymological context, to see if I can find other names encoded in them. “Luck breath” feels too obvious to be right.) L’kbreth is devoted to balance, so her mountain lair is designed in such a way that only good and evil working together can approach her. Whether the idea is to pass her trials and be found worthy or just kill her and seize the orb, I don’t yet know.

Also, that “mountain lair” detail means dungeon levels go up instead of down, not that it makes much difference. But at least it’s an attempt to make the environment a little less abstract. The same can be said of the lake and castle on level 1 — perhaps we’re supposed to be pretending that the entire first level is set outdoors. The castle is described in a text passage when you approach it, but of course the engine here is incapable of rendering an actual castle; it’s barely capable of rendering a corridor. But there’s a castle-shaped region, in the middle of a “moat”, which is to say, a wider loop of corridor where you can encounter “moat monsters”. (It seems like the moat monsters pop up randomly, but possibly they’re fixed encounters at specific points in the moat, like bosses. I don’t think the system actually supports random encounters that are localized to anything smaller than an entire level.) At each corner, the castle has a protrusion like a tower, but of course it’s not a tower, it’s just a little loop of rooms in a shape that suggests a tower. We’re not in a castle, we’re in a picture of a castle, drawn with walls.

I was hesitant to approach the castle at first, because of the sign in front of the moat saying “Beware of moat monsters”, but now that my team is strong enough to more or less freely explore level 1 without any real danger, I’ve gone through it, past the boss encounter, and to the stairs in the back that lead up to level 2. And with level 2, we’re back to nonrepresentational dungeon design, a map made of confusingly similar polyominoes that you really need to map to not get lost in. By contrast, I’m not consulting the map at all as I make my way through level 1 to reach it. And while that’s undoubtably in part just because I’m more familiar with it from going through it so many more times, I think the fact that it has recognizable landmarks like the lake and the castle helps as well.

1 Comment so far

  1. Ross on 30 Sep 2022

    my gut instinct is that L’kbreth is a derivative of Tolkein’s “Akallabêth”, though obviously it’s a lot looser a connection than Garriot’s Akalabeth.

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