Review: Wizardry – Bane of the Cosmic Forge

564807_45796_front-5B1-5D

Here we have the sixth installment in the Wizardry series; Bane of the Cosmic Forge. This title is probably my second favorite in the Wizardry universe. It is the first entry in the series that was completely free from the influence of the original creators. This time, we are presented with a game created completely by David W. Bradley and Sir-Tech Software. This is very obvious due to the radical change in direction that is present in this game.

For the first time in the series, we are given a Wizardry title that focuses just as heavily on artwork as it does story. Color EGA graphics, which were top of the line at the time, transformed the Wizardry world into something never seen before. Also, gone are the days of keyboard only gameplay. Bane features a mouse driven interface, which was very inviting to new players at the time.

wiz61

Despite these changes, all of the staples of the series are still here. The traditional races and classes are all included, with new additions to both (Faeries, Lizardmen, etc – for races, and Alchemists, Bards and more for classes). New character skills and a revamp of the magic system are also integrated into the game. (Say goodbye to those cryptic magic words)

While the graphical and UI presentation of the game is first thing many veteran’s notice, the storyline of the game is equally immersing and probably the best in the series so far. The plot begins simple enough, your team of adventurers enter a long abandoned castle in hope of doing some serious treasure hunting. Little do they know they are about to become involved in what will be both a quest of supernatural and cosmic epic-ness. In the end, your party is given the opportunity to invoke one of the most powerful relics in the entire universe: The Cosmic Forge. A mystical pen that will turn anything written with it into reality.

The game features multiple endings and once the game is over, you are given the opportunity to save your game for import into the sequel. The ending achieved in this title has a big impact on how you begin the next game.

wiz62

Difficulty: Medium – For this first time we have a Wizardry that is accessible to the semi-casual player. Progress within the game can be saved and loaded at will. Which makes it easy to “ignore” bad choices and party wipes

Story: An amazingly in-depth story for those that take the time to read it. There are no cutscenes, and it’s possible to speed through all of the in-game dialogue.

Originality: There’s a lot of new ideas and style brought to the series in this title. But somehow, the developers also managed to stay true the legacy introduced in the original game.

Soundtrack: The game has no musical soundtrack but features sound effects for PCs equipped with a SoundBlaster compatible soundcard.

Fun: I enjoy this title quite a bit. I’ve never failed to have a wonderful time exploring the dungeons and the lands beyond.

Graphics: By today’s standards, the graphics leave a lot to be desired. However, they were pretty top-of-the-line in the day and age the game made it’s debut.

Playcontrol: For the first time in the series, the game is controlled by mouse. This provides a bit of a learning curve for modern gamers, but soon becomes second-nature.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Bane of the Cosmic Forge is prime example of a classic PC RPG. This game begins the second age of Wizardry and  it, along with the first title in the series, are on my list of games to play before you die.

Currently Available: GOG.com

Other Reviews In This Series:

III IIIIVVVIIVIIVIII

Forsaken Land – Labyrinth of Lost Souls – Wizardry Online

  1. Hi Chris hope you are doing well haven’t talked to ya in a while so I thought I’d give you a wall of text!
    *SPOILERS*
    I recently played through the translated Super Famicom port (it’s a shame we never got the excellent ports of 1-3 and 6). I really wanted to play the PC port for party transfers, but I couldn’t stand the clunky interface and gave up after about 10 hours. The translation for the SFC is a little unpolished, but definitely worth checking out if you ever come back to VI and you want to try something different.

    Can’t say I really agree with your praise for this one. I was super hyped going into the Dark Savant trilogy, but just getting through Bane took me nearly three years (although that’s partly because I moved out and started college so gaming time is much more limited 🙁 )

    What I’m struggling with is finding critique that doesn’t boil down to “This doesn’t feel like Wizardry!”

    What I Liked:
    -Story. I’m a sucker for pseudo-philosophical flavor text. I also loved how it was left to the player to piece together things and that you are given a couple of real roleplaying choices without being overly invasive in the lonely journey that a good dungeon crawl is.
    -I absolutely loved The Hall of the Dead portion of the game. Great encounters and a cool area to explore.
    -Boss battle. I chose to believe the queen so I fought Rebecca and Dracula. By far my favorite boss fight in the series. I loved having all my powerful characters reduced to fighting with wooden stakes, was a very stressful battle that my party was not well designed for so I had to re-strategize after 2 hours of failed attempts.
    -New classes/races/etc. One of Wizardry’s strengths has always been party building options, and Bane does not disappoint. I had a lot of fun planning out my party and dual-classing.

    What I Didn’t Like:
    -Skill system. Wizardry did not need more grinding. It’s not awful, but certainly unwelcome complexity.
    -Miss rate. Feels like 99% of melee attacks miss. Not even sure how someone could survive the early game without a bard putting all the enemy groups to sleep.
    -Spell System. This is the most “I hate change” thing on my list, but I much prefer the spell slots in 1-5. I did like having choice in building spellbooks and new types of magic though.
    -Melee combat sucks. By the mountain area my non-spellcasters felt useless aside from a couple of highly resistant enemies. Even with skill level 100 in my equipped weapons I was missing often. This was very frustrating as I much prefer melee fighting style (all of my tabletop characters are primarily fighters, or hybrids like paladins. Which funnily enough Wizardry sparked my interest in tabletop!). This led to me having to constantly rest between battles since I had to rely on my spellcasters to handle essentially every encounter.
    -The first half of the game bored me to tears. I think the game hits it’s stride around the pyramid area, the mountain area in particular was my least favorite.
    -The weird shift to scifi at the end was lame to me. Kind of comes out of nowhere.
    -The suspense of exploring the dungeon is gone. Saving was a welcome, and necessary addition to the series, but with the resting and constant saving/reloading I never got that sense of dread I love when I play a Wizardry game.

    I definitely don’t consider VI to be a bad game. I certainly appreciate why VI-8 are considered some of the most important/great CRPGs ever made. That being said, I don’t know if it’s necessarily my cup of tea.
    I’ve put about 10 hours into VII and I’m already kind of tired of it. Not sure I am going to finish the trilogy, even though I kind of feel obligated to since this is my favorite RPG series. Did you find 8 to be very similar to VII? I might just try and get through VII so I can play 8, but if it is more of the same I’m not sure it is worth it. VII seems to have completely left it’s roots (other than difficulty) behind with the open world approach. VI is still very much a dungeon crawler at heart, kind of bridging the gap between old/new Wizardry, but VII feels very different.

    I really wanted to like this one as I was somewhat disappointed with V and how little innovation was happening in the series, compared to say what Ultima was doing. I just don’t like the new direction.

    I think my dream would be traditional Wizardry mechanics, but take a page from IV’s book and experiment with dungeon design and add some new puzzles (just puzzles that are less evil than IV!). Wizardry II is the closest the series gets to achieving this, and is still my favorite. It seems like most of the Japan exclusive games ignore 6-7-8 exist lol so I might start playing some of the fan translations.

    Did you instantly fall in love with the Savant trilogy when you played them back in the day, or did you also have reservations with the new direction as well?

    Sorry for the wall of text, you’re the only person I know that cares about Wizardry 🙂

    tl;dr: Wizardry needed to change, not sure this is the change I wanted, I’m too picky with my RPGs.

    • retrosensei says:

      Hey there! Good to hear from you.
      I certainly understand how a hardcore fan of the original Wizardry games might have a hard time getting Bane to digest.
      For me, my experience with Wizardry started with Proving Grounds and Knight of Diamonds. I played those two around 1989-1990. As bad as I wanted to, I was never able to get my hands on copies of the III-V until a few years later.
      I loved those two games beyond words. Then one day, I saw Bane of the Cosmic Forge in the local software store and picked it up.
      At the time, it was considered top of the line – and it blew me away.
      You have to understand, this was the first Wizardry game with such vibrant color and sound.
      To compare, it would be like moving from the original DOS-based DOOM to something like Skyrim.
      That being said, I too missed the silly names for spells and I felt the skill system was overly clunky as well.
      But coming from a 2nd edition D&D background, it wasn’t a foreign concept to me.
      Regardless, D.W. Bradley forever changed Wizardry once he got his hands on it.
      (The SCI FI shift, for example… a sad trend in RPGs at the time – but one that ultimately feels “fixed” in Wiz 8)

      One thing to keep in mind (and this is hard to explain), is that no matter what level of emulation you might use, the experience of playing Bane today is subpar to playing it on a legacy machine.
      I can’t speak for the SNES version. But for the PC version, even with DOS Box and slowing down your CPU, the game doesn’t feel “right”. There’s mouse lag, the copy protection scheme acts up, and other overall weirdness.
      If I were experiencing Bane today, for the first time, I don’t think I’d have been very enchanted by it.

      Another factor could very well have been a lack of distraction. When I played Bane and Savant the first time, I was 14 years old. I wasn’t driving, dating, going to college or anything else that provides stress or distraction. This is the type of game that requires focus to fully enjoy. These days, we’re so connected to our phones and social media it’s hard to focus on things with a slower pace (generally speaking).

      I’ll say this. Bane is a game best played with no guide or walkthrough. If you get stuck and must look for help, getting your hands on the original strategy guide is probably the best bet. It told you what you needed without holding your hand like a walkthrough.
      Play it late at night, in a dim room with no TV or radio in the background.
      If you can, get a copy from GOG.com. From my experience, this version of the game tends to work the best on modern systems.

      Finally, I’ll say this about Dark Savant – don’t bother with Wizardry Gold. It’s a terrible port and there are a number of bugs that break the game and ruin the experience.
      Play the real DOS version of Wizardry VII.
      Savant is a completely different game from Bane, despite being built off the same mechanics.
      There’s some parts of it I liked more than Bane. Some parts I liked less.

      Wizardry 6, 7, and 8 are good games in the end. But they do stray farther away from their roots than you, I and others would like.
      I personally feel like the Japanese ended up getting Wizardry right. Their exclusive titles managed to modernize the series while still keeping the bulk of what made the original games great.
      Sadly, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever get proper ports of them all.

      But, don’t lose hope. Fans inspired by the series are my age now. The age where you start to have more money than you need. So, maybe someone, somewhere will get off his nostalgic ass and craft a game that is everything we love with a modern twist. I’ll be waiting.

      In the meantime, take a look at “Shroud of the Avatar” this is a hybrid single player/MMO by Lord British, the creator of Ultima. I was a kickstarter backer for this title and it’s really doing some pretty interesting things.

      • That’s actually a really good point. I wonder if I would have had a different reaction to the game if I had played it at a time in my life where I had more time to devote to it. I’m not sure I would have had the patience to map Wizardry I on graph paper if I wasn’t 15 and just working part-time for the summer. There’s also a lot to be said for not experiencing it in the context of its time.

        The times I enjoyed Bane the most were when I was fully immersed with no distractions like you described. One session in particular I planned to do a little grinding and mapping for a couple hours before bed, but ended up playing til 5 am and ruining my sleep schedule lol.

        I ALMOST went with Gold for the automap, but I’ve heard so many things about how awful and broken it is I left it alone lol. I’ve found the Steam port for VII to be much more playable than VI. It’s still a little clunky (which is to be expected for an early 90s CRPG of course), but it doesn’t feel nearly as buggy as when I played VI and I have not had the game crash on me either.

        The fact that the JP devs have kind of dipped there toe back in with water with Wizrogue gives me a little bit of hope for more of the games coming this way. Plus it seems like non-mobile mainline games have kind of halted since the 30th Anniversary PS3 games so there really hasn’t been anything to port anyways (although I wish we had got the other two PSN games at least).

        I’ve been curious about the Shroud of the Avatar for a while now. Might get around to checking it out of I have the time when it leaves early access if my MacBook can handle running it lol. When I saw the kickstarter years ago it really seemed like Garriott had some cool ideas to do something new with RPGs. While I haven’t ever actually finished an Ultima, I loved how he mixed things up with games like IV, at a time when Wizardry was in many respects releasing the same game with the same engine for a decade.

        • retrosensei says:

          I’ll be doing a series-wide review of Ultima this spring, so stay tuned.
          As far as Wiz 7 goes, the GOG version again seems to work better than others I’ve tried.
          Since you’ve already purchased it once, if you need to give it a try, reach out to me through other channels and we’ll talk more.

          • I actually have it on GOG as well (the disease of collecting games spans beyond physical releases lol). I haven’t had any problems with the Steam port, but if I do I will fire up the GOG version and transfer my save.

            Be sure to hit me up when you start blogging through the Ultima games, I’d love to read that!

  2. Blueeyedcassie says:

    This has been an interesting exchange.
    I’ve liked these games ever since I was a little girl.
    And I agree with with a lot of what both of you are saying.
    I got Wizardry 6-8 last summer and I just finished number seven.
    I’m about to start 8.
    To pacpix: did you finish 7?
    If so, we should totally team up for 8 and compare notes.

Leave a Reply