Wizardry III: End of Level 4 Observations

I’ve seen every last tile of level 4 now, even the secret bits. This also goes for the parts of level 2 that are only accessible from level 4. That done, I spent a while just grinding for XP and item drops, because level 4 has a very good place to do this, where you can basically summon random encounters at will by deliberately stepping on traps. It’s like the Murphy’s Ghost area that way, but more varied and dangerous.

In fact, I’m not entirely sure I made an overall profit on it, XP-wise, due to the occasional encounter with level-draining undead. Most monsters become less of a peril as you gain experience levels: a monster that can hit you for 8 points of damage will kill a level-1 character outright, but be far less of a concern to a level-10 character with 50 or more total health. But level-draining monsters like Banshees are the opposite. The higher-level the character, the more XP the banshees take away when they manage to hit you. Presumably there’s a break-even point where you gain levels exactly as fast as you lose them, but exactly where that point lies depends on your defenses and your party’s initiative. The best way to deal with Banshees is to kill them all before they get any attacks in, throwing all your highest-level group damage spells at them just to be sure — yes, the game successfully makes me terrified of undead, as is appropriate.

But any encounter has a chance of giving the monsters a surprise round — if you’re really unlucky and ill-prepared, they can kill your entire party before you have a chance to react. Good armor helps here — and that’s what all this grinding is really good for. Every once in a while, I find enchanted armor or a magical pendant or something, usually improving someone’s AC by but a single point, but every single point has a perceivable effect.

At any rate, I’ve braved level 5 by now, albeit just barely. I haven’t yet encountered anything there that wasn’t on level 4 — it’s not clear to me if there’s really a steady increase in difficulty from level 1 onward or if it compensates for the way it’s set up to send good and evil characters into different parallel tracks by making 2 equivalent to 3 and 4 to 5. But I’m not taking any chances.

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