Wizardry VI is a first-person RPG that acts as the first chapter of the "Savant Trilogy". After assembling their party of adventurers, the player will confront many challenges and puzzles as they attempt to find the Cosmic Forge, a quill pen said to be able to bend reality itself to whatever its author dares to write with it. It should not be confused with the Japanese version of the series which had long since spun off from the main franchise. It was published in October, 1992.
As in all other Wizardry games, Wizardry VI is played from a first person 3D perspective. However, it would be the first Wizardry to undergo an extreme overhaul in terms of its visuals. The 16-color EGA graphics and minimal sound effects make this game one of the less technologically advanced titles among the major RPGs releases of the early 1990s as well as the most technically advanced iteration of the series up to that point. Although the enemy sprites and animations are more advanced and detailed than the rest of the game's graphics, the in-game environments noticeably lack visual variety as a single tileset (grey stone walls) is used throughout the entire game. The various game environments are primarily distinguished from each other by (often quite verbose) text descriptions. Similarly, text messages and non-interactive dialogue sequences are used to advance the plot.
The relatively simple and clear interface is organized around a series of commands and actions listed at the bottom of the screen as well as a combined inventory and statistics screen. The original release of the game lacked mouse support but this was later added to subsequent versions.
Although it utilizes both elements of sci-fi and fantasy within its story, this is revealed only at the very end, an aspect of its gameplay that would see increasingly greater exposure in Wizardry VII and the final installment with Wizardry 8, an element that the game manages to balance against the backdrop of an epic quest that easily crosses between both genres due to its vast scope.
Because Wizardry VI represented a vastly updated engine and character development system compared to its previous five iterations, characters were unable to be imported from the older series. However, in keeping with its new storyline arc, characters could be later imported into Wizardry VII and from that, into Wizardry VIII. The game also featured a limited number of carry-over events depending on what the player decided to do, especially in concerning how the ending plays out.
Among the other features of the game were:
- Over 100 spells were available for casting
- 14 classes to choose from
- 11 races to create classes with
- Over 30 different skills to master
- Skill point based upgrades to skills and statistics
- Vastly updated graphics engine and character development system
One of the changes compared to Wizardry I - V is the comparatively stronger focus on the game's story, and Wizardry VI marks the beginning of a new trilogy based around a mysterious antagonist known as the Dark Savant, who later returns in Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant and Wizardry VIII. While the ability to transfer characters from this game to later titles (in the case first to Wizardry VII and then from Wizardry VII to Wizardry VIII) was already a well-established feature of the series by the time of Wizardry VI's release, it further reinforces the continuity introduced by the new storyline.
The story begins with the manual explaining the legend behind the Cosmic Forge. Nearly 120 years before the start of the game, a great castle was inhabited by a dreadful Lord and his Queen. It was said that they had conducted bizarre rituals at the heart of their home and that the King was obsessed over the mystic arts. He formed an alliance with another wizard whose evil matched his and together, the two sought to rule all of the evil planes of existence. They began a magical war and as they began to vanquish their enemies, they soon stumbled across knowledge of the Cosmic Forge.
A demonic arch-deity, brought low by their powers, listened to its pleas for mercy. In them, it told of a pen and its power to create events by merely writing them into existence. The King and his ally slew the demon regardless of the story (and not before they learned of its location) and took it for their own needs. They began to script things that no man should ever see, but shortly afterwards, jealously and suspicion grew in the hearts of these former friends. Eventually, both the King and the Wizard engaged in a terrible battle to decide the fate of the Cosmic Forge and that was the last that anyone had heard of them.
Enter the party. On learning of the legends surrounding the castle, they enter to challenge its dangers only to find themselves locked in. The vast castle, however, has allowed a number of inhabitants to live within its walls as if it were a small city. In the basement, a den of thieves along with pirates ply their trade. Beyond the castle itself in the mountains, giants and dwarves continue to work their mines. And it is there that they find the spirit of the Wizard, Xorphitus, the former ally of the King.
He tells them his story and reveals the truth behind the title of the game. Xorphitus wished to know everything that there was to know in the universe, but in doing so, the Cosmic Forge split him into two separate beings: the calm and seemingly benevolent spirit that greets them, and the madly violent physical form that appears before them later in the adventure. Xorphitus explains that the nature of man is divided and that to know all things was a breach of this natural law. As a result, he was split into two beings with both halves containing half of the universe's knowledge. This is the Bane of the Cosmic Forge. He explains that when the Forge is used outside of the Cosmic Circle, it would fulfill what was written but do so as a twisted and perverted form. While technically fulfilling what was written, the results will not be what the writer would ever expect.
Eventually, after many adventures, the party gain entrance to the River Styx which runs below the castle and discover the lost King, the Queen, and the King's lover, Rebecca. The King's Bane in using the Cosmic Forge was in becoming a bloodthirsty vampire when he had used it to give himself immortality. He can feel nothing and lacks any real emotions and upon seeing the party, attacks them and drains their blood. Afterwards, he leaves them weakened but alive.
The Queen is still present in the world but only as a spirit. She relates to them the story of how she was impregnated by a demon and gave birth to to the half-breed, Rebecca, whom the King then took as his lover and had the Queen killed. She wishes revenge and gives the party a silver cross to destroy both the King and Rebecca. But if the party later discovers that her story is false.
Rebecca had been left by a holy man and his betrothed, Annie, at the castle and the King took her in as his own. The relationship eventually developed into one of romance and the Queen, jealous for being tossed aside for Rebecca, used the Cosmic Forge to write in the death of who she considered the "witch". Unfortunately for her, the Cosmic Forge interpreted the "witch" as her, thus making it so that she would slip and fall on a knife as her Bane.
When the party finally meets Rebecca, she hypnotizes them and brings them to meet the King wherein lies one of the story branches of the game. If the party believes the Queen, the King burns himself on the cross but takes quick action to imprison the party. If the party does not, the King instead drinks his fill of blood and tosses them into prison regardless. But the choice at this point will carry over to the end of the game.
They also run into the physical form of Xorphitus and defeat him and then confront the King again. If the party had thrown away the cross, the King relates his story of a life without emotion to them and then finally ends his miserable existence with a holy stake to his own heart. Rebecca appears to the party later and then asks them to take care of the Cosmic Forge and to meet her half-brother, the dragon Bela, who was actually borne out of an affair between the Queen and the visiting Vicar.
If the party allies with the Queen, however, and still have the cross, they are forced to fight the King. After dying, he tells them of his struggles, and then disappears.
After dying, the Cosmic Forge is revealed and the party can decide whether or not they wish to take it. If they decide to secure the relic, a voice sounds out from nowhere as a cyborg named Aletheides appears. He takes the Cosmic Forge and the game ends after prompting the player to save.
If they do not take the Cosmic Forge and instead go on through past it, they find Bela. If they had believed the Queen and had killed the Queen (and, perhaps, Rebecca), he attacks the party out of revenge. If they did not, he is happy to see them and invites them to accompany him on a starship that he had constructed with the help of the Umpani, an alien race with which he has had contact with. If the party had killed Bela, they step into the craft and it takes off into the stars.
The way that the game ends will largely determine what happens to the party if veterans decide to import their characters into Wizardry VIII.
Wizardry VI is a tile or grid based movement, first-person RPG set on the world of Lost Guardia. The player must find the legendary relic, the Astral Dominae, before the Dark Savant does. But, in order to do, the party must also negotiate the many side quests and explore nearly every dungeon to find what they need as well as beat the other factions that also have their sights set on attaining the relic for their own needs.
Exploration of the dungeons and other locations in Wizardry VI proceeds in a fairly linear fashion. By solving puzzles and quests (which often involves locating the correct buttons to press, finding the appropriate key or tracking down a quest item demanded by one of the game's few friendly NPC) the player gains access to new areas which were previously off-limits. The lack of an automap (which had yet to become a standard feature of RPGs at the time of W6's release) means that the player is required to draw his or her own maps or otherwise rely on unofficial game guides and walkthroughs in order to navigate the mazelike multi-level dungeons of the game.
Saves could be made anywhere and at anytime in the game.
Upon encountering neutral NPCs, the player could be introduced to their own story as to what they are up to leading to several pieces of valuable information. As for anything else that the player may want to know, they may have to work on getting them to trust them. The parser introduced and used for interaction would allow the player to phrase sentences similar to those used with interactive fiction.
When NPCs are softened up enough, they can share many tidbits such as who they are, what they are doing there, and perhaps what news they may have. A parser allows the player to communicate with them with simple phrases. This parser concept would be further refined in both Wizardry VII and Wizardry VIII.
Wizardry VI had quite a few puzzles to get through, but was notable for its maze-like dungeons with many random encounters thrown in for good measure. Wizardry Gold included an in-game hint system that would help the player figure out all of these if they chose to use it.
The inventory system was handled primarily on a character-by-character basis. Encumbrance was also another important issue to consider as it could adversely affect the performance of a character. The weight limit was indicated on a character's profile and was color coded to indicate just how close they were to their limit. Even if the character hadn't reached it, simply coming that close to it would weigh them down and affect how well they could fight in combat, replenish their stamina, etc.. A character could carry more than their weight limit, but at an even greater risk to how worse they would perform in battle.
Moving around the world was as easy as using the keyboard to move the party. The game was also filled with a variety of hot spots to interact with whether it was a lever or a locked chest that required a little lockpicking. Anything that wasn't nailed down could be added to the inventory of a character.
Picking Locks and Disarming Traps
Thieves and others with the ability to pick locks will first need to set a series of tumblers in place. As they turn in the lock, the player has to wait for a green line to highlight that the lock is in the right position to be opened and hitting the ENTER key would unlock it. This was dependent on the character's skulduggery skill. Locked doors could also be forced open with an appropriately strong character or a mage with the Knock Knock spell.
As for disarming traps, when one is suspected, the thief is presented with a jumbled word showing what kind of trap they believe it to be (depending on their skulduggery skill). For example, a POISON NEEDLE trap might come across as EISOLP OENNDE. However, in much more difficult cases, several letters may actually be missing from the phrase. With a higher skulduggery skill, the better were the chances in seeing all of the letters and in determining the kind of trap it was.
The letters were further color coded in order to give the player clues. Green letters are definitely part of the trap's name while red ones are questionable. Gaps presented the fact that there was more than one word in the name of the trap. Asterisks mean that a letter previously picked is not in the name of the trap. Once the player is certain of the trap's name, an attempt can be made to disarm it.
At that point, a list of traps known to Wizardry will come up and the player must choose which one they believe it to be and press enter. If they are correct, the trap is disarmed.
The player can opt to start with the batch of pre-made character provided for them by the game or create their own.
Characters can actually age in Wizardry VI if they rest too much. Resting replenishes a party's health and stamina, readying them for the road ahead, and eight hours pass for every time that this is uninterrupted. However, rest enough times, and a character will start to age. A symbol showing planets moving around the sun represents this passage of time shown in the character's portrait screen. But when they first start out in the game, they are at an extremely young age. Death by old age is hardly expected, but it is a possibility.
Wizardry VI kept track of a character's resurrections. Every time a character is brought back from the dead, they lose a point of vitality which would ultimately impact their resistance to damage. A number kept track of which life they are currently on.
The character classes belong to one of two categories; Base or Elite. Base classes (Fighter, Mage, Priest, Thief) are characterized by a few primary skills or abilities (such as Skulduggery and Ninjutsu for Thieves and various weapon skills for Fighters), whereas Elite classes (Lord, Samurai, Monk, Ninja, Alchemist, Psionic, Bishop, Bard) typically benefit from having significant proficiency in both weapon and magic skills (the specialized, magic-oriented classes Alchemist and Psionic are notable exceptions to this). The initial statistics requirements for Elite classes are noticably higher than for the Base classes, making the former much more difficult to create at the start of the game.
As with quite a few RPGs, Wizardry VI includes the option to change character class during the course of the game. The incentives to do so in W6 are comparatively strong, as many skills and abilities are retained from the original classes, and since characters who recently changed classes during mid-game can often gain levels rapidly (thus enabling the player to raise skill points and fill out spell books much faster than would otherwise have been possibly).
- Fighter - High hit points and experts at using any weapon and piece of armor, they also have the ability to go berserk and deal double damage while leaving themselves vulnerable to attack. A grounded class that can dish out the damage as well as take it. They also boast improved stamina regeneration so as to avoid getting too tired in combat.
- Lord - Skilled as a fighter as well as being pious enough to cast a few spells, they are likened to paladins and crusader knights. They start learning priestly spells around the fifth level of experience and can heal wounds over time without the need for magic.
- Valkyrie - Only for women, Valkyries are first rate warriors and experts with a lance allowing them to deal damage over a decent range. Also around fifth level, they start learning Priest spells. Occasionally, upon dying, they may even cheat death and return to life immediately afterwards.
- Ranger - An expert at ranged weapons and in sniffing out the hidden, these are decent fighters who also boast of the ability to kill enemies with one shot once they become expert enough in their field. At fifth level, they may even learn a few Alchemy tricks.
- Samurai - A true swordsman, their speed and accuracy give them multiple attacks in combat. They never succumb to fear, magic or otherwise, and have the ability to seek out the weakness of an enemy for a critical strike that can kill them in an instant.
- Ninja - An assassin and a rogue, they can kill with weapons or their bare hands, sometimes sending a shuriken at an enemy and killing them in an instant. As they become more experienced, they also begin dabbling in Alchemy.
- Monk - A spiritual warrior, they fight best with little to no armor and with only their bare hands. Their martial arts skills allow them to critically hit opponents when the opportunity presents itself and their armor class is determined by their sheer will.
- Rogue - No party is complete without a thief who can pick locks and disarm traps. While they aren't the greatest of fighters, they rely on their sneakiness to backstab their enemies.
- Bard - A decent fighter, their true strength is in the magic of their music as it blesses the party with beneficial effects and their enemies with even worse ones.
- Priest - Long known as skilled healers, their talents are important for any party heading out into danger. They can also dispel the undead.
- Alchemist - They use their knowledge to mix up potions and invent mixes on the fly. As a result, they are unaffected by troublesome silencing spells and learn the skills of their craft much faster than others.
- Bishop - Like a Priest, they are able to heal their friends and dispel the undead. They are also able to uncurse items that become permanently stuck to a character, freeing them. They can also learn any spell from any of the other schools. The downside is that their learning rate is also a bit slower, so the selection of spells that they may have will take more time to develop. But with their uncurse ability, they're nigh indispensible.
- Psionic - Focused on the power of mind, they are the experts in illusion, fear, and in burning the brain of anyone that dares to challenge their power. They learn mental spells faster than anyone else.
- Mage - The classic wizard. Their long exposure to magic has given them some resistance to the same and their focused study ensures that as they become more powerful, their spellbooks will continue to add many new pages filled with deadly spells.
The races include familiar fantasy characters such as the Elf, the Dwarf, the Gnome and the Hobbit but the game also features original ones such as the Felpurr (a strong and agile feline species well-suited as Samurais or a number of other Elite classes), the Dracon (part human, part dragon) and the Rawulf (wolf-like creatures who make excellent priests). These unique races return in both Wizardy VII and Wizardry VIII, with some modifications.
- Humans - Balanced without any serious flaws, a good, even keeled race that can belong and excel at any profession.
- Elf - They excel at the intellectual classes, such as Alchemists, Psionics, Mages, or Bishops. Keenly interested in study.
- Dwarf - Gruff, short in stature, but tough and reliable, dwarves make excellent Fighters while their piety can also find them a career as a Priest
- Gnomes - Found underground and often overlooked by the larger races, their quiet and studious nature make them ideal as Mages or Alchemists
- Hobbit - Friendly, nimble, and otherwise unassuming, they make surprisingly decent Ninja, Samurai, or Rogues.
- Faerie - Tiny and delicate, their magical nature, high intelligence, and fast reflexes make them tremendous Mages, Alchemists, or Psionics. However, it also isn't unusual to see a few as Ninja or Monks, either.
- Lizardman - Tough, reptilian, and not very smart, they often make tough Fighters
- Dracon - They resemble humanoid dragons and have a number of unique abilities such as being able to hurl a breath weapon at their enemies. They make excellent Fighters.
- Felpurr - Catlike humanoids that are both fast and nimble, their inherent abilities make them ideal for being Ninja or Samurai
- Rawulf - They are devout and hearty creatures resembling humanoid dogs. Their strong vitality, keen senses, and unwavering piety make them ideal Priests, Lords, or Valkyries.
- Mook - Magical creatures resembling hairy sasquatches with wise faces, their intelligence makes them formidable Psionics and fine Rangers
Attribute scores ranged from 0 - 100 and determined a variety of effects and class eligibility requirements. Many of these attributes were particularly important across many classes across a variety of skills. Characters can improve their attributes thanks to the investment of points earned with every level.
When an attribute hits 100, it bestows an additional bonus skill that can also be improved during the course the game, such as a skill that can improve a character's ability to empower their spells with additional strength making them even deadlier in battle.
- Strength - Determines how much damage a character can lay into a monster as well as how much weight they can carry around with them. It also affects certain weapon skills and plays into stamina
- Intelligence - Important for spellcasters and affects skills such as artifacts, mythology, music, and even a character's skill with picking locks and disarming traps. Ranged combat, close combat, and even engineering are also affected by intelligence as they are often derived from complex actions requiring a keen mind as well as a strong arm.
- Piety - This is important for a character's ability to concentrate on the task at hand. It also affects how many spells a character may be able to learn and their effectiveness with them.
- Vitality - Very important for hit points, the chance for resurrection, the ability to resist damage and disease, and general health.
- Dexterity - Being nimble and quick is an important attribute to have in combat as it can also determine how many attacks a character can make per round. The ability to dual wield without cutting off a leg, picking locks, and disarming traps so as not to poison everyone in the party is also largely determined by this attribute.
- Speed - Initiative, the number of swings that a character can hurl at an enemy, and some combat skills. Being particularly quick can also affect armor class (defense).
- Senses - Awareness of everything around them; important for detecting monsters
Upon finishing the process, the player had several options to toy with.
- Portrait - Depending on the sex and race of the character, several animated portraits were available for the player to pick from. These would be visible from within the onscreen interface when they had something to say, or when something nasty would happen to them...such as death.
- Name - Characters actually had two names: their full, impressive sounding one, and the nickname which acts as the shorthand display for who they are in the interface.
As with many RPGs, character development was driven by experience points which translated into levels. When a character gains a level:
- attribute points may increase (they can decrease as well
- additional bonus points are earned for skill development
- Spellcasters may be able to learn a new spell
- Depending on their statistics, a character may even change their class
- Hit points and stamina may improve
Wizardry VI's skill system allowed the player to customize each character's strengths depending on how they wanted them to develop. Skill points earned allowed the player to distribute them as they saw fit. There were also unique skills that belonged to specific classes and would have considerable bonuses to their starting condition because of that, but for the most part, it was up to the player to decide what they should specialize in. If the player wanted to invest points in another skill other than Dual Weapons for their Samurai, they were free to do so.
Skills reached a maximum of 100 points and were divided into several groupings:
Weapon handling as defined by each skill also defined how well a character was able to use that skill to destroy their enemies while avoiding killing themselves in the process.
- Sword - determines a character's ability with, well, a sword
- Axe - chopping skill useful in combat
- Pole and Staff - Determines a character's ability to hit and penetrate with a pole or a staff such as a halberd or a staff
- Mace & Flail - Determines the character's ability to hit anything with a mace and flail type weapon
- Wand & Dagger - Determines the character's ability to bash baddies with a staff or a dagger
- Shield - Improves a character's shield handling ability
- Bow - Determines the character's ability to use a bow in combat
- Throwing - Affects a character's ability to throw objects.
- Sling - Affects the character's ability in using a sling to annoy bad monsters
- Hands & Feet - Affects a character's ability to punch and kick their opponents into submission without looking like an idiot.
These generally affect a character's ability to do things that require the talents of body or voice. For example, a character skilled in Scout will be able to detect a strange piece of straw in a haystack while another without the skill will walk on by without noticing the secret door that it unlocks.
- Skulduggery - The ability to successfully detect and disarm traps as well as pick through locks without getting a face full of death sprayed into it
- Ninjutsu - A character's ability to conceal themselves in combat making them harder to hit
- Music - The ability to play enchanted instruments and coax them into unleashing their powers upon unsuspecting enemies
- Legerdemain - Determines how easy a character can give themselves a five fingered discount either in the store or from a random victim (i.e. NPC). Beware, a poor thief caught in the act will usually get a dose of street justice along with their friends.
- Scout - Largely used to detect hidden items and secret doors.
- Swimming - Affects a character's ability to not drown while crossing bodies of water. Those with fewer than 10 skill points in this skill may sink like a rock.
- Climbing - The knack of being able to take falls or scale walls
- Oratory - The vocal discipline required to properly recite a spell during combat without interruption, or accident.
These are the intellectual skills that help characters understand not only the world around them, but their own craft as well. These are particularly important for spellcasters in expanding their repertoire of magical abilities.
- Kirijutsu - The knowledge of seeing a vital weakness in an enemy and then exploiting it, killing them in an instant.
- Artifacts - Determines a character's ability to identify on the fly what something is as opposed to relying on a spell for the answer
- Mythology - The higher this score, the better able a character can be in identifying a particular monster and gauging what their weaknesses and strengths are
- Thaumaturgy - Affects the learning and casting of Mage spells and those from the individual realms, such as Fire or Water, to a lesser extent
- Theology - Affects how easily Priest spells are learned and cast as well as contributing spell points to every other discipline
- Alchemy - Determines the ease of learning new Alchemy spells, the use of the skill, and the success of casting them as well as contribute spell points to every realm
- Mapping - The ability to transcribe an accurate record of the party's adventures. The higher this skill, the more detail is available on the automap.
- Diplomacy - The art of negotiation and creation of mutual pacts and trust between the party and another group. Important for breaking the ice between the party and a batch of NPCs that may or may not want to be friends.
These skills can be discovered on Lost Guardia and attained by the characters.
- Power Strike - Using any close combat weapon, this determines the ability to deliver a powerful blow that negates any chance of blocking or reducing its damage
- Iron Will - A strengthened will allowing the character to absorb and deflect magical damage allowing them to emerge relatively unscathed. Has no affect on physical attacks, though.
- Eagle Eye - The ability to target a creature with a spell or weapon and strike with incredible accuracy
- Reflextion - Increases a character's armor class by moving so quickly, enemies see two of them at the same time.
- Snakespeed - Allows a character to move as fast as lightning, improving their initiative in combat
- Mind Control - Adepts are able to master their own minds, fortifying them against sleep and Psionic spells that may intrude on their mental space
Combat in Wizardry VI was a turn based affair with random encounters providing the cannon fodder that would feed the party's thirst for experience points. When enemies encountered the party, or when negotiations broke down into armed conflict, this mode would start. Often, only a list of enemies along with a picture showing what they were onscreen would appear with little information depending on how advanced any character's mythology skill may be.
Similar to other RPGs of the era, its strict turn-based system halts the passage of time until the player performs an action (such as moving around or casting spells). In combat, the order in which characters act is determined primarily by their speed statistics, although the player issues orders to every character in the party before commencing a turn. Besides using melee and/or ranged weapons and casting spells, characters with the appropriate skills can hide (which means enemies cannot hurt them), use items in their inventory, equip new weapons or items or try to run away from battle which, if successful, results in the entire party fleeing from the enemies. It is not possible to save the game or restore a saved game while in combat mode, but there are no other restrictions on when and where the player can save the game.
In each round of combat, everyone makes their selection of actions as the game calculates who will have initiative and then executing their orders. When several groups of monsters are encountered, the player is able to pick out who the targets are from the generated list shown onscreen. Enemies may also run away if they are hurt too badly. The "Fight" option, however, is only available to those groups of enemies that are within melee range. For other monsters that may be behind them, ranged attacks are required to hit.