Wizardry IV: Memories

The third level of Wizardry IV — which is to say, level 8, because you start at level 10 and work your way towards the entrance — is the first one that I remember from my first pass at the game. Level 10 is too simple in design to be really memorable, just a series of nested rings with guardians between them. Level 9’s whole deal is that it gives you a winding corridor with a zillion tiny rooms off it, and the only trick is that yes, you really do have to check them all. But level 8 has a gimmick. A message by the stairs down announces it as “death by a thousand cuts”: it looks like a completely open space, but it’s really a minefield — essentially a maze where you have to figure out where the walls are by walking into them and taking damage. Although “walls” is really too strong — you can ignore some of them, right? If you’ve got healers with you, you can take a few mines. But you can’t ignore them completely. So it’s all a big exercise in map-making without relying on visible cues.

More importantly, though, level 8 introduces an element that I misremembered as occurring earlier. Just before the stairs up, there’s a message: “Have you forgotten something?”

This is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in a game. You see that and you immediately start to wonder. Is there something I’ve neglected? Something I failed to realize I should have done in the early levels? Will I have to go back through the minefield? It feels like an accusation, but a maddeningly non-specific one, one that leaves you with no clue how to act on it.

Having been on this ride before, I know that the question “Have you forgotten something?” becomes a repeated motif, like a catchphrase for the game. It’s really directed more at Werdna than at the player. Nonetheless, it still brings a bit of a grue. It comes right when you’re congratulating yourself on your progress, having made it through a difficult challenge, but it isn’t really all that difficult a challenge, is it? Mapping the mines doesn’t take any special insight. It just asks you to be methodical, perhaps for longer than you’d like. This lulls you into a certain state of mind, and the question shocks you awake, shakes you out of your complacency, reminds you that there’s a bigger picture that you’ve been ignoring while your attention was on more immediate concerns. Yes, you have forgotten something. Immersion is forgetting. Time to remember.

2 Comments so far

  1. Arthegall on 20 Oct 2022

    I’m really enjoying reading your Wizardry series.

    Wizardry (Proving Grounds) is the first boxed PC game I ever encountered. The manual was fascinating, and even though I only ever played a little at a friend’s house, I have a boxed copy on my shelf to this day.

    CRPG Addict recently finished a complete playthrough of Wizardry IV, so reading your take so recently after his is also fun.

  2. XmartianX on 6 Feb 2023

    I remember this game fondly. So many creative ways to die including credit card fraud. I remember placing the golden pyrite on the alter at the “top” of the temple and getting struck down by the gods for being the fool that I am. I didn’t know what “pyrite” was at the time and couldn’t understand why the gods called me a fool.

Leave a reply