Wizardry IV: Back Below

This is playing more and more like an adventure game — specifically, an old-school one with obscure puzzles that are easy to get stuck on, separated by enough geography that it makes sense to keep multiple saves at different locations to facilitate trying out ideas. Today, I gave up on the Cube for a while and spent some time in the floors below, exploring the last remaining bits of the map. It was fairly productive.

On the fifth floor, I found an oxygen mask. It turned out to be pretty close to the stairs up, but when I found those stairs initially, I just stopped exploring the fifth floor. As an experienced Wizardry player, I understood the significance: the KATINO/MAKANITO/LAKANITO family of spells are all described in the Wizardry I manual as operating by changing the air around the target. KATINO isn’t much of a problem — only very low-level enemies seem to ever use it — and MAKANITO simply doesn’t affect you once you’re past level 8 or so, but LAKANITO was a frequent source of frustration in the Cube, as it gave sufficiently-powerful casters a chance of just killing Werdna instantly. Well, no more. I wish I had found this mask sooner.

Down in the minefield of the third floor, I took advantage of those winged boots I had found. Even when you’re flying, you’re notified when you’re above a mine, allowing me to really complete my map. Moreover, I found a chunk of amber in the shape of a dragon, and immediately knew what to do with it: at the top of the ziggurat, there’s an altar to the Dreampainter, with three holes just waiting to receive gemstones in three colors. This is a place where the game trolls the player. Shortly before you reach the amber, there’s a pyrite deposit, which, unlike the amber, is reasonably visible to and reachable by someone who isn’t flying. Like the amber, it’s yellow, so it’s natural to try it in the altar, but I suppose the Dreampainter doesn’t appreciate being called a fool, because it results in immediate death. The game is fond of this sort of monkey business. Another example: When you equip items, the game asks you if you want to invoke their special powers. When you put on the winged boots, for example, you have to invoke them to fly. Now, the UI doesn’t support just equipping one item; you have to choose everything at once, and then it prompts you about each invokable item. If you’re carrying the winged boots but not equipping them, it asks if you want to invoke them just so they can fly away without you if you say yes. As far as I know, this is the only item in the game that you can invoke while it’s unequipped, and this special case was made just for the sake of a practical joke on the player.

Finally, while in the ziggurat area, I went and did what I consider to be the most unfair puzzle in the game: getting inside a doorless chamber by abusing the already-abused paradigm of the level even further. I actually had to get some help from online for this, even though I half-remembered the solution, because the solution only works from a specific location, and the only indication of this is a too-cryptic hint from the Wandering Oracle. I know that I said before that the game isn’t as hard as it’s cracked up to be and I didn’t have that much trouble with it the first time around, but now that I see this again, I remember having to consult hints about it then too. I wonder where I got them? Not off the Web; that didn’t exist yet.

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