Wizardry V: Big Maps

Some years before embarking on my current Wizardry run, I randomly found a nicely-bound quadrille-ruled notebook in a garage sale. It had just over 20 squares on the horizontal axis, so I declared it to be a perfect medium for 20×20 Wizardry maps, and tucked it away in anticipation of the day that I got back to the series. The satisfaction of having all my maps officially squared away together like this has been a significant part of my motivation for continuing to play the series over the last couple of months.

So imagine my dismay on discovering that Wizardry V breaks the bounds! Dungeon levels here are significantly lager than 20×20 — I don’t know what the maximum size is, and the shape of my maps so far doesn’t give me much of a hint. What’s more, the levels extend in all directions from the origin. In Wiz1-4, once you could find map coordinates with DUMAPCI, you could confidently place (0, 0) in the lower left corner of your paper. You can’t do that here. Or, well, you can, because it doesn’t really matter where you start; you’re probably going to go past the edge at some point no matter what you do. You just have to accept that your maps will be in multiple pieces and try to find good places to break them.

Despite my complaint, I do think this is an overall good thing for the game. For one thing, recall all the complaints I’ve made about how short the mapping and exploration phase of each level was relative to the amount of grinding needed to survive on the next. Making the exploration phase last longer is certainly one way to solve that. But I think the larger impact is simply the lack of any sense of finality. When you’ve seen every square of a 20×20 grid, you know you’re finished. When you don’t know how big the map is, there’s always a possibility that there’s more you haven’t discovered.

Indeed, I’ve already hit a couple of points where I thought I was probably done exploring dungeon level 1 (apart from a few locked doors that I don’t seem to be able to get through yet), then thought of something else to try, and was rewarded with new territory to explore. This is something that this game is doing a lot better than its predecessors, and it requires not just the map size but multiple ways of locking off content to enable it. Hence all the changes to how doors work.

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