Wizardry IV: Running Away

One thing about the gameplay in Wizardry IV that’s a lot different from any previous game in the series: you run away from a lot more encounters. In the previous games, fleeing is nearly always futile — I think the chance of failure rises with the number of enemies you face, which means that the encounters where you really need to flee, the ones where you’re completely outnumbered, are exactly the ones you can’t. And when you fail to flee, you just don’t get to do anything for a combat round. It’s all set up to punish you for trying.

Whereas Wizardry IV is more set up to punish you for standing your ground. Recall that there’s no XP, that Werdna’s power, and the power of his monsters, is bound to your upward progress through the dungeon. This means it’s impossible to grind until you’re ahead of the game. Indeed, you spend the first part of each level behind it, when you haven’t found a pentagram yet. At that point, not only are you underpowered for the level, you also have no way or replenishing your spells, short of backtracking. You just have to try to explore while rationing your spell slots and dodging adventurers. Maybe this is why it’s considered to be the hardest of the early series. You can’t simply overpower it. But on the bright side, adventurers are a lot easier to escape than monsters — perhaps because you never meet more than six at a time.

In fact, each level seems to have only two or three full parties on it. The vast majority of adventurers are running solo, which is absurd, especially for fighters. And the full teams have some peculiar traits. First, they all have team names, like “Sorriman’s Sorcerers” or “Gomez’s Gorillas”, to make them more recognizable. Second, sometimes some of them will be already slain. In fact, if you fight them, kill some, and retreat, the ones you kill will still be dead when you meet the team again. But sometimes there are casualties even the first time. As far as I can tell, I’m the only thing in the dungeon capable of killing adventurers. Maybe the dead ones are ones I encountered and slew separately from the party? I haven’t really been keeping track of names.

Thirdly, sometimes you’ll meet the same party repeatedly in the same area. In particular, if you walk through a door, meet a party, flee, and walk through the door again, there’s a good chance you’ll meet the same party again. I haven’t noticed this happening with solitary individuals, but then, I tend to flee from them less often. Is the game actually tracking the adventurers’ positions, moving them through the maze? This is highly contrary to habit; wandering monsters have been mere stochastic events from D&D onward. But it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility. There’s one non-combat encounter that you can actually see wandering the maze: the Oracle of Mron, who roams every level of the dungeon, dispensing puzzle hints for a fee. The Oracle is visible as the same sort of nonspecific mark on the floor as every other special dungeon feature or event, but is the only special event that changes position from turn to turn. The point is, the game clearly has a movement algorithm for this, and could well be applying it to things that aren’t visibly marked as well. But on the other hand, it’s more likely just applying a few special cases to encourage the illusion.

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