Tales of the Rampant Coyote's Jay Barnson has conjured up a two-part retrospective (here and here) for what will most likely be Sir-tech's final Wizardry installment.
Now, if you've been following this blog for a while, you may remember how I complain about how games these days hold your hand and expect you to "brute force" your way through every encounter, never requiring you (or even allowing you) to considering alternatives that don't require killing everything in sight?
This ain't one of 'em.
The previous location, the monastery, had a lot going for it. It was full of interesting features (including computers and an elevator), clues as to the "big picture" of what was going on and as to the history - ancient and recent - of the order that dwelt there and the world itself. While it had its share of empty tunnels (I guess the contractors thought they could ad lib a bit and get paid extra for making long corridors that didn't really go anywhere), it was worthy of exploration. And while it had a couple of challenging encounters, it had nothing truly punishing. It was a solid, exciting intro dungeon with lots of promise for the rest of the game.
Arnika Road was something of a let-down after that. And not just because I had my kiester stomped on the second encounter. And the third. And the fourth. More on that in a minute. For now, let's talk about the kiester-stompage. That pretty much defined my experience on Arnika Road, and that part isn't all bad. It's just unfortunate that it was pretty much the most interesting part of the journey.
I tried to be far more tactical and clever after that first defeat, and started using tactical maneuvering on the third. What eventually worked was me "pulling" enemies (just as in an MMO) to a location where I could limit their ability to flank me, and then take them out well away from other enemies who could join them. I did that a couple of times, and then made a run for Arnika. Literally. I stayed to the edges of the canyon to avoid detection as long as possible, and then when combat was joined, I ran like the coward I am. It took me a couple of tries to even do that successfully.
But it worked, eventually. Which, all-in-all, represented a little under two hours of somewhat tedious play. The tedium was particularly pronounced when it came to waiting for massive groups of monsters to move, one-by-one, into position. I found myself thumbing through a book. When I talk about how cool turn-based RPGs are, this sort of thing undermines my arguments. I didn't mind it so much when I was fighting three or even four monsters at a time. But eight... twelve... twenty-seven... that took things to an annoying extreme.