Wizardry is one of the very first computer RPGs. It was a hit in the early 1980s and spawned a trilogy, an infamously hard (and decidedly different) fourth title, a fifth that returned to the style of the original trilogy, and a final trilogy of fantasy/sci-fi hybrid games. They are:
Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (1981)
Wizardry II: The Knight of Diamonds (1982)
Wizardry III: Legacy of Llylgamyn (1983)
Wizardry IV: The Return of Werdna (1986)
Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom (1988)
Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge (1990)
Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant (1992)
Wizardry 8 (2001)
Wizardry Online (2013)
The titles, up to Wiz V (excluding Wiz IV), were immensely influential, and countless tropes established there are still common today. The remaining three games did away with the old engine, spell system and story, added a mix of sci-fi and insane gods to it, but retained the sense of wry humour, resulting in something with a different feel, but really enjoyable nevertheless.The series is Big in Japan, and Japan has made over 20 sequels and remakes of their own, most of them suffering No Export for You. Dragon Quest writer Yuji Horii states Wizardry was a big inspiration, and one of his earlier games "The PORTOPIA Serial Murder Case" had a direct shoutout in a maze section. There's even an AnimeOAV based on the first game although it's somewhat dated.The first three games are very hard. The Big Bad can deal 100 damage to your party with one spell, and your Squishy Wizard characters rarely get more than 60hp, so he can kill half your party in the first round of combat and the other half in the next. Random high level encounters can be similarly deadly. For instance, ninjas can kill party members instantly with a critical hit. Resurrection spells don't always work, and come a stat penalty when they do. Your mages have a limited supply of spells, especially early on, which can only be restored by returning to town at the top of the dungeon. Standard Status Effects are crippling and often deadly if you don't have the magic to cure them. The dungeons are confusing non-euclidean mazes with dark zones, antimagic zones, spinners, teleporters, and generally defy efforts to map out. And your characters can die of old age.Some of the most recent Japanese sequels have been greenlit for a release, most prominently Wizardry Labyrinth Of Lost Souls, which will be released in the US on the Playstation 3 now that the Playstation Network is no longer a molten pile of slag.A MMORPG has recently been announced, Wizardry Online, which saw an overseas release in January 30th, 2013. Notable for being the first MMORPG with permadeath as a central concept — Adaptation Decay will hopefully be averted; the team involved is the same team that created the very faithful Class Of Heroes and Wizardry Labyrinth Of Lost Souls, and have flat out stated they're mostly working on adding multiplayer to the existing games, with a stated goal of recapturing the early, lawless days of Everquest and Ultima Online — open PVP is also confirmed.
The "original trilogy" plus the fifth title in this game series provide examples of:
Awesome, but Impractical, in Wiz I especially. Haman is easily the strongest offensive spell in the game, giving you the option of picking one of three effects (chosen out of a potential five), or in the original Apple II version, simply picking one of the five possible effects at random. The spell effects (which are guaranteed not to fail, regardless of the enemy) include offensive boons such as destroying/teleporting away every single enemy in the fight (including the final boss) while giving the party all the exp and treasure, silencing all enemies, or completely nullifying all enemy magic defense (no more seeing Greater Demons resist your Tiltowait spells). There's also Mahaman, which acts like a Haman spell with two additional defensive effects in the list for a total of seven, the best of which revives all your dead party members (even if they've been reduced to ashes) and heals your party to full health! The downside? You have to be at level 13 or higher for either Haman or Mahaman to work and you lose a level every time you cast one of them successfully. In order to use these insanely powerful spells, you basically have to be prepared to grind like crazy as every level above 12 is essentially a spell charge for them.
Character Alignment, in-game; on the good/evil axis. As explained in the first game's manual, a good PC helps an old lady across the street, a neutral PC crosses the street and helps an old lady across while doing so, an evil PC helps an old lady across the street for a fee, and the evil they all oppose helps an old lady halfway across the street.
Class Change Level Reset: Partly true of the series, as explained here. When changing classes, your level and stats were reset to zero or the class/race minimum but you kept the skills and spells you had at your old class/level.
Contractual Boss Immunity: Averted. The final boss of Wizardry 1 can be killed instantly by a ninja's random instant-death critical attack.
Copy Protection: If you don't know the name of the spells, you can't cast them.
Critical Hit Class: The samurai, ninja, and monk classes are very reliant on critical hits and instant kills.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: Your characters are assigned a random number of stat points at creation, from 6 to 60. It's heavily weighted towards lower numbers. Many, many players over the decades have accidentally canceled the screen (rerolling the numbers) right before consciously realizing they had a character with 30, 40 bonus points or more.
Deader Than Dead: The "lost" status, given to characters that have failed Resurrection twice, or have ended up in some situation they can never recover from, such as teleporting into solid bedrock.
Level Grinding: lots of it. It's made worse by the presence of the extremely useful Haman and Mahaman spells, both of which drain a level permanently as part of the price of casting them.
The Maze: The entire game is one very large 3D maze, devoid of landmarks or even non-repeating textures, and is filled with plenty of nasty devices designed to make mapping the maze impossible like darkness, spinning tiles, teleporters, chutes and ladders, deathtraps, etc.
The Bard, especially the later games, is an hybrid rogue / caster. His gimmick are the various instruments, which he can use to casts various buffs and debuffs, at no mana cost (using stamina instead). With status effects being very dangerous in those games, it makes the bard a valuable asset.
Nintendo Hard: though Wizardry predates Nintendo games by a few years.
Old Save Bonus, notable in that 2 and 3 are practically impossible if you *don't* import a party that successfully completed the previous game.
At least some of the older computer versions required imported characters. On the other hand, some of the later releases allowed player to create new characters. Probably every version developed after Famicom/NES versions has this option. While Japanese releases of Famicom/NES versions support both created and imported (through additional peripheral released in Japan) characters, the import function was left out when NES versions were released in the West.
Purely Aesthetic Gender: The above description of character alignments adds that Wizardry is "an equal-opportunity universe where female adventurers are not only common, but have been known to help old men across the street!"
And this little gem in the first manual, after noting that it uses male pronouns by default when referring to characters: "Wizardry is not a sexist game. English however is a sexist language."
Standard Status Effects: Possibly a Trope Maker and also unusual in that these are really, really bad - if your party leader gets poisoned or something, you're not standing right next to the dungeon exit, and you don't have a powerful priest handy to cure him, your leader is toast.
Equally unusual is that the Wizard's Standard Status Effects inducing spells are far more useful than most of their damage inflicting spells.
Total Party Kill: the dreaded Tiltowait and (to a lesser extent) Malikto spells. A number of enemies with magic resistance (like Greater Demons and the final boss in the first game) can resist these, though.
Some monsters later on have magic resistance out the wazoo and will ignore uber-nuke spells like Tiltowait, but a few debuff spells like Morlis/Mamorlis bypass magic resistance and make nasties like Greater Demons a whole lot easier. You won't see many other console games where you're ever better off bypassing the Big Damn Nuke in favor of a fear spell.
Wizardry IV is in an entirely separate class from the four other games. You play as the villain, and the rules are turned upside down, as you now must rely on summoned monsters to escort you *up* through the dungeon, while being constantly assaulted by powerful parties of heroes.This game is so hard it makes the first three look easy. At least in those, you could Level Grind to improve your odds of surviving. Not here - the evil wizard Werdna is your only character, and you only level up at 9 specific plot points throughout the game. Your only allies are the monsters you summon, who cannot be directly controlled, never level up, and are gone forever when killed in battle. As a mage, Werdna has little HP, so if you run out of monsters, one hit can kill him. (Fortunately, you can summon replacement monsters for free at any pentagram, so your mini-horde of monsters essentially doubles as your HP.)Your magical abilities are quite powerful at the highest level, but each of your 9 circles of power may only be used nine times, and no more - you must treat each spell as if it were one of your 9 last drops of water in a desert that goes on forever.Since you're a villain, your adversaries are heroes - the same variety of heroes who slaughtered hordes of monsters in the first three games - the same variety of monsters that are your only allies now. Ninja heroes will still kill you instantly on a critical hit, mages will destroy your whole team with one powerful spell, fighters will hit 16 times per round, each strike enough to kill you once, thieves will steal your items you need to finish the game, and when you've killed them, clerics will bring them back to life. And since there are no experience points, there's no reward for defeating these heroes. In a nutshell, to play Wizardry IV is to play as a party of generic random encounter monsters against the party of heroes.
The fourth game has examples of:
Guide Dang It. Big time. Most players won't make it out of the first room without help.
Level Grinding averted as you now only level up at specific plot points. There are no experience points or any other tangible reward for winning battles against heroes.
Nintendo Hard doesn't do this justice. You face ninjas who can kill you instantly, mages who happily blow away your entire army with a single spell, thieves who will steal Plot Coupon items and disappear with them forever, and have little for defense but a small Mook army (the same Mooks that are expendable in the other games) and a finite book of spells.
All while being chased by an evil spectre through confusing and unmappable non-euclidean mazes and having to solve fiendishly hard puzzles that render the game Unwinnable if you make the slightest mistake. While being killed by heroes. Did we mention that said spectre can walk through walls, stalks you relentlessly, and kills you instantly and automatically if it catches up to you? Also, you can save anywhere, which sounds great... but loading a save causes every hero group on the level to respawn. Generally, between you and the magic circle you need to heal and resummon monsters. Which means that the game can easily become unwinnable as a result of you saving your game.
True Neutral: Werdna becomes this in the best ending. The other endings have him either become a great force for good or evil. In the grandmaster ending he realizes that the Amulet is a trick and frees himself from alignment, and is free to live his own life.
The Dark Savant Trilogy (VI, VII, 8) has notable examples of:
Anticlimax Boss: The Dark Savant is a deeply underwhelming final battle for the trilogy.
Author Existence Failure: Sir-Tech did not survive to see Wizardry 8 published; the Sir-Tech that released Wizardry 8 renamed themselves to that name for the sole purpose of getting Sir-Tech's name on the box before release.
Bag of Spilling, explained with long space voyages and crashing spaceships. Or the greediness of your hosts.
Captain Ersatz: Umpani are spacefaring militaristic rhino men — rough, reliable and loving uniforms and primitive firearms... similar to the hippo-like Giff.
Cat Folk: The Felpurr race, with excellent stats across the board, make particularly good thief classes.
The Chosen One: The party in 8 is revealed to be the "Third Messengers", which are the ones who will recover the Destinae Dominus from Marten's Tomb. All knowledge is contained in the Destinae Dominus, but it requires the helm of serenity to safely wield, lest the party learn all there is to know too soon go insane. The first and second messengers are the Dark Savant and the Mook, which wield the Astral Dominae and the Chaos Moliri, respectively. All three macguffins are needed to win the game.
The Trynnie believe they are chosen to inherit the planet when the Ascension happens and the Higardi believe they were destined to ascend and become "Cosmic Lords" (gods) themselves... which really just means they get to go the the Cosmic Circle and write in the book of destiny.
Five Finger Discount: Used by name to describe the Trynnie's thieving skills in 8. One of them steals a tracking module from a spaceport that is needed to solve a optional puzzle later on in the game, and another sells stolen merchandise in an abandoned monastery.
Game-Favored Gender: Female characters get -2 Strength, +1 Personality and Karma: worse for melee, but better for psionics and divine magic. Interestingly, females get access to a number of useful pieces of armor and accessories that males do not, and have access to the gender-specific Valkyrie class. The only advantage males have is having a slightly easier time rolling stats for some of the classes, and that advantage pretty much disappears after a class change, or when playing Wizardry 8.
Women still get plenty of unique equipment in Wizardry 8.
God Is Evil: The deified Phoonzang and the Dark Savant turn out to be one and the same.
Griefer: Brutally defied in Wizardry Online. Say, you're Bribing Your Way to Victory and kills dozens of players. Those players then puts Bounty on your head. You laugh, thinking that even if someone actually does kill you, you can just re-buy all your dropped gears with mommy's credit cards. Well, not so fast bucko: when you die with more than 5 Bounties in your head, you're sent to the Jail and must pay ALL the accumulated Bounties, lest you can't play ANY of your characters, not just the one that's behind bars. If all those players you killed put Bounty on your head, the fine will be far beyond what you can pay even if you farm for months. Kiss your account bye-bye, hope you learned something from the lessons.
Hidden Elf Village: The City of Sky in 7. Slightly subverted in that they're there to protect an artifact, and go chasing after the Big Bad when he steals said artifact.
King Mook: Several of them, most notably the king crab and gregor in the monastery. The former is a giant crab and the latter is a giant roach; smaller versions of each creature infest the monastery.
Knight Templar: Subverted somewhat 8. While there are literal templar rapax in the game, there is no serious indication that they think they are serving the cause of righteousness, only that they are serving the will of their goddess Al-Sedexus.
Large Ham: The voice actor for The Dark Savant in 8.
Mana Potion: Magicfood effect — in VII, it's Golden Apples (1), Moser's Mojo Tea (2), Bottle of Old Jake's (4), Mana Stone (6), Milk of Magmanasia (6) and Stave of 12 Stars (level 6, x12 charges).
Mechanically Unusual Class: Wizardry 8 adds the Gadgeteer, a rogue / ranged combatant whose gimmick includes the crafting of gadgets (who function like bard instruments, only needing prior assembly) and the Omnigun, a gun that they upgrade with each level up, granting it new abilities and the ability to fire a wider range of Abnormal Ammo.
Monogender Monsters: All Dane, Munk, Gorn, and Rattkin (until Wizardry 8) you meet are male, while the Helazoid are a specifically all-female race thanks to advanced technology.
And all the Higardi raiders/bandits/cutthroats/etc in 8.
Although the Higardi roustabouts look a bit different from the other rogues.
Mooks (There are multiple enemy types that increase in power and abilities of their members as you advance through the games)
Nonhumans Lack Attributes: Surprisingly averted. Sprites appear as entirely naked flying women with butterfly wings, a demoness fights your party while topless and carrying a whip, and a recruitable female character (Private Sparkle) wears nothing but a pair of pants. It should be noted that in this last case, Sparkle can be given more clothes and there isn't much to see on her chest, due to her white fur. The fact that she sounds like a saccharine seven year old while wielding a small hand axe and spouting semi-fascist military slogans (duty! power! victory!) while having a propensity for petty thievery (a common trait among her species in the game) is a bit disconcerting.
Noob Cave: The first level of the Bane Castle in 6 and Monastery in 8. 7 goes one better and only refers to its example as "The Starter Dungeon".
Offing the Offspring: If someone in the party slept with Al-Sedexus in Wizardry 8, their pissed-off demonic daughter shows up at Ascension Peak with the Rapax Prince to attack.
Homosexual Reproduction: The above happens even if you had an all-female party, and so Al-Sedexus took a woman instead.
Old Save Bonus, characters could be imported from any of the previous games non-bad endings to the next one, keeping some really useful items and alliances. (Although Bag of Spilling was used harshly between seven and eight, it was averted for items between six and seven: you could begin Crusaders with the Muramasa Blade and multiple Rod of Sprites.) You could save even at the end of 8, although a sequel is highly unlikely and the characters are gods
The Maze, the 3D labyrinth Hall of Past in seven certainly qualifies. Also the Rattkin Funhouse, Rapax Castle (especially the King's Apartments), and pretty much every other dungeon area in all three games.
The Smurfette Principle: Private Sparkle is the only female Trynnie in Wizardry 8, and she isn't even found living with the rest of her kind, as she left Trynton to get help from the Umpani. Strongly averted with the many female Higardi and Rapax.
The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The Temple of Ramm in 6 and Isle of Crypts in 7. 8 oddly doesn't really have one, with Ascension Peak standing in for a final dungeon.
Temple of Doom: The Isle of Crypts. Justified in that it was designed to protect the object resting at the bottom.
Treetop Town: Rattkin Ruins in Wizardry VII; Trynton in Wizardry 8
Trick Boss, you might notice something is wrong, as there are two of him if you play on Expert.
Under the Sea: Wizardry 8 finally takes the party beneath the waves with Umpani-issue scuba gear. Watch out for sea monsters.
Unusable Enemy Equipment, you have probably fought at least a hundred Rattkin Leaders with Vorpal blades until you actually find one. And then it is a letdown.
Useless Useful Spell, averted again, every spell is useful if you know where to use it. For example the hardest monsters could be killed by critical hits easily if you cast one of the seemingly less useful spell at them a couple of times.
World of Buxom: Pretty much all of the females in Wizardry 8, including Vi Domina and just about all other human women (including the purple-robed cultists), Al-Sedexus, the female Rapax, the female Trynnie Sparkle (large for her small size, at least), and many statues of humanoid females. Even the giant breeder rats technically count as this.