Before I take a look at this game there are a couple of important points that I would like to make. Both points relate to the box cover so they are as good a place as any to start, and, quite coincidentally, one warns you to take note of messages on the cover whilst the other suggests you ignore them.
Firstly, then, read the back of the box cover carefully. Wizardry Gold is not a new game, it's a revamp of Crusaders of the Dark Savant plus lots of bells and whistles. More about this later.
Secondly, ignore the cover graphic. The game is nowhere near as tacky as it suggests. You will briefly meet the under-dressed woman warrior on the cover (who must surely be feeling the cold), as well as other female 'monsters' clad in next to nothing. Nevertheless, Wizardry Gold is not an empty, voyeuristic romp it's a very good and complex roleplaying game with lots of character interaction and a story that will likely keep you entertained. Still, I wonder why women warriors don't need armour (or clothing) except for the fig leaf variety -- I guess it must be something to do with the game designers recognising our invulnerability :-)
Having got that off my chest, which is well as truly covered because it's winter here at the moment, I must confess that this is one of my all time favourite roleplaying games. I played it several years ago and it took months -- I only wish I had a few months up my sleeve right now so I could play it through to the end again, and maybe take a different route this time.
That's right, depending on your actions and decisions as you progress, and depending on whether or not you import your characters from Wizardry VI or VII, there are multiple paths through this game. This makes Wizardry Gold (or Crusaders of the Dark Savant) eminently re-playable and worth buying even if you have played it before. But I am getting ahead of myself here, so back to the beginning.
Before you start playing Wizardry Gold read the couple of pages at the beginning of the manual to learn something of the adventure you are about to enter. When you begin, a brief introduction deposits you in the story -- in a dungeon where you are searching for treasure. Destiny calls. Alas, the planet of Lost Guardia, which has always been hidden away in the heavens out of harm's way, has lost its magical protection. It is now visible once more. Stowed away on Guardia is the Astral Dominae which houses the terrible truth of the great Phoonzang's last discovery thus the whole cosmos is in imminent danger. The Dark Savant, no less, has knowledge of these ill tidings and he is out to claim all for himself. You must go to Guardia to find the Astral Dominae and protect it till Destiny returns.
Simple? Well not exactly. Guardia is a big place and it's now populated by many different creatures including the T'Rang and the Umpani who are traders, the mystical Dane, plus a hoard of devious monsters. As you progress in the game you will become involved in the politics of the secret planet, you must prove your worth and make various alliances to get where you want to go. It's not just a matter of hacking and slashing all the way through, many characters you meet are open to negotiation. You might, for instance, initiate a truce; you might join forces (or do favours) to learn secrets; as well indulge in a spot of judicious trading.
One of the first problems you will face is to find the password to get into the New City. This will be followed by numerous other problems as the inhabitants of this realm are a suspicious lot and they won't let just anyone do anything. Sooner or later you will want to access the old city and learn its secrets, find a seaworthy craft and search the seas, free a wretched prisoner, or go gathering flowers in the wilderness ... the list is endless. The various dungeons in this game come complete with multiple levels, and levers and buttons, and they provide a range of other puzzles to occupy the advenurer.
Also there are all the chests to find and locked doors to open -- if your thief is skilful enough. Opening the chests I found to be great fun although I never did find the manual particularly helpful here. Trial and error did the trick for me, but maybe you will have more luck.
As for the manual, read it, carefully. A quick glance will tell you that this is a game that requires some dedication -- it's not one for players who just want a sword and sorcery Doom. Wizardry Gold is a game for players who like to immerse themselves in their characters and in the story, and are happy to manipulate quite a lot of statistics. In choosing your characters you have a choice of 11 races of either gender and, if you are anything like me, you can take literally days studying the stats and honing your party -- selecting their profession, allocating their weaponry skills, their physical skills such as swimming, scouting, skulduggery, etc., and their academic skills which include the various magical arts and talents like mapping, diplomacy or monster recognition.
Combat is turn based so you must work out a strategy to overcome your opponents. You can take your time here, reflexes are unimportant. However, I did find the fanfare that preceded and succeeded every confrontation excruciatingly painful. You can cut it short by reaching for the Esc button, or turn it off altogether, but it would have been nice to have some other less flamboyant signal to define confrontations.
As is usual your party's stats will increase with experience and each time the level of a character increases you have the opportunity to distribute points between their numerous skills. Thus you can intricately craft and mould your characters. You can even change their portrait, name or profession during the course of play, though there is a price to pay for some of this fiddling.
Wizardry Gold (or this updated version of Dark Savant) comes with improved graphics (though I wouldn't say incredibly improved) and an improved sound track with voices throughout. Fortunately the text has been retained. It is released for the Mac as well as for Win 95, Win 3.1 and NT and there is now an on-line manual which is very, very useful, along with on-line hints and maps of the various cities and dungeons.
It isn't the newest roleplaying game but, for me at least, it's still very enjoyable. There are so many things going on in the story, lots of things to do and many, many items to collect. Unfortunately, except for locked chests, items strewn around the game world are not represented on screen by a graphic, you have to 'look' and wait for an audio/text acknowledgment to learn that something is nearby. A little antiquated by today's standards, but forgivable taking the rest of the game into consideration.
Also, occasionally it might be a little s-l-o-w, especially in the combat department, but then I didn't have the hard disk space -- 510 megabytes! -- for full installation. I played it with the 'Normal' installation, 17.6 megabytes, and it also has a 'Medium' installation, 23.5 megabytes. The interface hasn't changed as far as I could see, it is mouse driven with the character portraits arranged on each side of the screen. Just select the portraits to access inventories where items are represented by graphics. In the Windows version you can save as many games as you like.
If you like role playing games with a healthy amount of statistics, a turn based combat system that allows you to manipulate your combat strategy, a huge game environment and an involving story then this one is worth trying. Bear in mind, however, that you will need plenty of time to get through it. Wizardry Gold has three difficulty levels and the story dictates that it has some sci-fi elements although, for the most part it feels like a traditional fantasy adventure.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1996.
All rights reserved.
486/33 (486/66 or higher recommended), 2xDC-ROM (Quad speed recommended), SGVA, mouse, Win 95, 3.1 or NT.