Nemesis: The Wizardry Adventure
DOS - 1996
Description of Nemesis: The Wizardry Adventure
You are a regular working man who is staying at the inn in Galacan. While in the countryside just outside Galican you are attacked by a shadow creature. Rian, the Sage of Galican witnesses the attack and brings you back to his chamber in Galican. The shadow monster reminds Rian of the Nitheran magic. He is very concerned that a disaster that happened in the past concerning Nitheran magic is linked to your attack by the shadow creature. For some reason Rian thinks you are the man to seek out connections to the Nitheran magic and do what ever has to be done to counter the threat.
So begins the story. Rian insists that you protect yourself with good magic first and so begins the first puzzle.
You take over control of your character after the opening video sequence involving the shadow attack and subsequent instruction from Rian. You have a first person perspective except in the frequent video sequences where you see your character portrayed as a reasonably good looking young man with long straggly hair, clearly a regular country lad with no pretensions to fame and glory.
You will visit many locations and as you progress you will understand more and more of what happened in the past concerning Nitheran magic and the extent of the current problem. You will also discover what is leading to the current shadow attacks. You will fight many monsters with daggers,. swords, crossbows and magic, and meet several NPCs. And as in any Adventure game you will solve many puzzles. As in any CRPG you character will gain experience, his statistics will increase and he will become a stronger fighter and magician.
CRPG or Adventure Game?
So is Wizardry: Nemesis a CRPG or an adventure game? I interpreted this game as an adventure game based on the SirTech marketing hype and press releases. However, as SirTech has a solid history of developing CRPGs under the Wizardry banner, expectation among some of the early players of Wizardry: Nemesis was for a CRPG.
As a result, ardent CRPGers may not take to Wizardry: Nemesis. It is an adventure game.
You control one specific character with fixed appearance. However, like a CRPG, your character has several abilities and skills which are assigned initial numeric values. These statistics increase as your character gains more experience.
The most visible of these character attributes are hit points and magical energy. Your character also acquires an inventory of weapons, armour and other useful equipment. Your character will develop more skills in the types of weapons he uses most. Different weapons also vary in effectiveness against different monsters.
The magic system, although restrictive compared with a classic CRPG, is sufficiently flexible so that, in theory, you can use strategy in how your character handles combat.
Wizardry: Nemesis has a strong story. To begin with you are completely mystified as to what is going on and why you are involved. As the game progresses, you uncover the history of the magical catastrophe and some intrigue. You find that not all is at it seems. I found the story complex and difficult to understand but I think in this case I perceive that as a good thing!
Because Wizardry: Nemesis is an adventure game it is primarily a series of puzzles. On the downside there are far more puzzles than a CRPGer will like. But Adventure gamers will be glad to hear that this game has logical puzzles, based on the information gathered from the characters you meet and the places you explore. Some puzzles just involve common sense.
SirTech supply a hint book with the game. This is enormous help initially, but the hints become subtler as the game progresses.
On-line, I found many people had got stuck at similar places to myself: Unfortunately, there are a couple of puzzles where you have to have exact timing and exact placement to trigger the solution. So many of us were doing the right thing but didn't know we were! This is infuriating and should have been designed better.
Combat is in real-time. You can either flee or stay and fight, but either way you need fast reactions. As previously explained, your character can use both magic and physical weapons in combat. Both methods are described in the manual as having more flexibility than I found in practice. In practice, physical combat consists of making sure you have an appropriate weapon equipped and readied before you can strike. Then you aim the cursor at the body of your opponent and click like crazy. I did find parts of a monsters body seemed more vulnerable than others but it was difficult to keep track of this. The user manual advises against clicking madly, as I did! Most monsters have the ability to dodge some of your blows, but it is not at all easy to track them as they dodge.
As for using magic offensively, there are a few reasons not to bother:
- The user interface is clumsy, either difficult to use or behaves unpredictably.
- The offensive spells have little effect compared with weapon strikes.
- Invoking magic is a slow process.
- If you have two weapons equipped you will actually be vulnerable to attack while you equip your magic amulet.
- One of the better swords you will find can only be used when your other hand is empty.
Combat with a weapon is controlled by clicking the left or right mouse button, according to whether you have a weapon in one or both hands, on the monster.
You are usually under attack by one monster at a time, although occasionally you will find one stabbing you in the back while you are striking at another in front of you. Even when you are in a crowd of monsters they can only attack two at a time maximum. By backing up against a wall you can be sure only one can attack at a time.
The magic system in Wizardry: Nemesis is weird! As stated before, the offensive spells are not very useful. There is also a set of defensive weapons but due to the difficulty in invoking any spell, the only spell I used extensively was Heal, and usually only in safe places.
The magic system works like this: There are eight spells that you acquire as the game progresses. Each spell has two natures: a defensive nature and an offensive nature. For instance, the defensive Heal spell is also the Fog spell. When you select the spell from the top of the screen you have not yet selected the nature of the spell. You select the nature of the spell, by, I think, clicking on the icon representing your character (for defensive nature) or the adventure screen (for offensive nature). It beats me if this works properly! I couldn't even heal myself consistently. I frequently ended up invoking the Fog spell instead!
Having denigrated the magic system of Wizardry: Nemesis, I may have minimized its importance. The magic abilities of your character are from time to time essential.
The monsters in Wizardry: Nemesis are extremely well graphically represented. This remark applies to not only monsters but NPCs and your own character. Monsters advance, retreat and dodge in real time combat very realistically. When nearby, the monsters hunt you down and you can see them approaching from the distance and going around corners, avoiding the same obstacles that you must also go around. They can also creep up behind you!
The monsters hit points are displayed when they are close enough to engage you in combat. This also enables you to see if your strikes are effective or not. Just like your character, when their hit points reach zero they are dead.
There are several different monsters of varying abilities and endurance. Each type of monster looks very different from the other types. Some monsters are male, some female and some too monstrous to tell.
There are only a few NPCs, but these are equally well represented, particularly a dragon that you meet about mid-way through the game. This character is the focus of a spectacular video sequence, probably the best of its kind I have seen.
The graphics in Wizardry: Nemesis are superb. The video sequences are extremely well integrated with the regular normal first person perspective scenes. The video sequences are superb subtly coloured fantasy computer animations. You often see your character animated in these video clips and his movements are completely natural.
The music and sound effects were fine. No glitches. Everything seemed in keeping with the setting so helped achieve the right mood.
Dialogue was spoken by live actors with optional sub-titles displayed. Your character often mutters to himself but there are no sub-titles for most of these mutterings. I kept the sub-titles displayed all the time as I could not always make out the dialogue due to static-like interference. I could find no fault with the acting abilities in the dialogue speeches but neither were they outstanding.
The default screen is the adventure screen. The scene before your character is displayed across the width of the video screen. Above the scene are eight visible icons which when clicked make one of the eight magic spells active. In the top right corner is the game options icon. This is only visible when you move the cursor to the top right corner.
The options are new game, save, load, exit, game settings and preferences.
There are eight possible save games and you can type in a specific name for each save. There is also a quick save game. This is created by hitting function key F1 or automatically when you quit. When you resume playing after dying (due to defeat in combat or poisoning) or on starting up Wizardry: Nemesis for a new session, you will be asked if you want to continue the quick save game. Otherwise you can load a specific save game.
The game setting allows you to toggle on/off sound, music, subtitles, the status bar, the step scale and slide turn. The step scale and slide turn make movement seem more realistic. I kept all settings on and noticed no performance problems.
Preferences allow you to adjust the volume sound and music separately and adjust the contract and brightness of the display.
Below the scene is the status bar. This contains several icons: compass, log book, sword, your character and your ready belt and its buckle.
The compass displays the direction, N, S, E or W that you are travelling in. If you click the compass icon, the screen display will change to the auto-map. In theory, the map displayed should only show you the progress you have made in a particular area. However, there is a bug here and sometimes the full map is displayed. This is a double edged bug! It makes it difficult to figure out what parts of an area you have explored and which you have not, but it also allows you to see secret areas that you had not discovered!
The auto-map feature is quite powerful. You can add your own legends in different coloured text if you chose. You can erase legends and display the other maps of areas you have visited. Some maps do not fit across the screen so you can move the map from side to side.
I didn't find I needed to use the legend feature but some players have and have found it irritating that the text is displayed so far from the yellow dot that marks the location. I did try making some legends so that I could comment on it here. I found it was difficult to avoid having the text overlap another legend that was close by as many locations of interest are very near each other on the map.
When you click on the log book icon, you will see that your character has been making notes! These notes are supposed to help you figure out what to do next by reminding you of the significant information gathered so far. Since I was using the hint book I did not make much use of the log book. Annoyingly on one occasion I had to make careful notes by hand, myself as this critical information was not recorded for me. However, late in the game it is critical to have some particular auto recorded notes.
Clicking on the sword readies your weapons (provided they are equipped) for combat. The scene now changes slightly to show the weapons in hand. Your characters current hit points are displayed as a bar graph on the left hand side of the scene. If a monster is close enough, their hit points bar graph will display on the right hand side.
The icon representing your character gives you an idea of his current equipment. By holding a desired piece of equipment (weapon or armour) when clicking on this icon you can equip quickly.
The ready belt icon gives you quick and easy access to only four pieces of inventory. Clicking on the belt buckle displays the inventory screen.
The inventory screen displays your character, his ready belt, his inventory and some statistics. You can click on the info button from here to list all your characters current attributes. You can equip your character from this screen by holding inventory items and clicking on the appropriate part of your character.
The inventory seems fairly large at first but you will run out of space and need to dump your excess inventory somewhere. Unfortunately you can not do anything useful with many of the items you find. (In a full CRPG you would be able to sell poor quality equipment and buy better stuff.) In this game it does not make sense to find and collect so many useless items. So perhaps the "pick up everything you find" adage is not true for Wizardry: Nemesis. I actually think the designers forgot that players of this game would find no use for these items.
It is easy to find items in the inventory. There are only two chunks of inventory (room for 50 items altogether) you have to look through. Most items are recognizable and a description of each item is displayed when you point to it. Inventory items also stay where they are put! Not true of all games.
Moving & Interacting
Moving around in Wizardry: Nemesis is very easy and intuitive making use of the arrow keys and or clicking on the movement cursor on screen. Also picking up items and performing actions is very intuitive.
When you pick up an inventory item and move it into the main window of the scene you can toggle though several options depending on the environment: Use, Give, Drop, Throw. I have only one complaint. When using an item it is very important to notice when the Use text changes colour. This is subtle but the text must be yellow (and not beige) for the action to work. I think the colour change should have been more obvious. I honestly didn't notice this was happening until somebody told me to look for it. But this is documented in the manual.
Installation & Performance
There are three installation sizes possible. I selected the maximum size. Installation was quite straightforward.
The sound set up was a bit awkward as it did not auto-detect my sound card and its settings. I had to enter my sound card addresses explicitly. Even with the maximum installation, there is an enormous amount of disk swapping required and this can slow down play. Two or three of the five CD set suffer considerable delays before being recognized when put in the CD drive. This is in the order of minutes, not seconds! I also had considerable problems booting my system when a Wizardry:Nemesis CD was in the drive.
There were no other performance issues. One design feature can lead to another sort of delay which I took advantage of! Your character recovers hit points and energy as real time goes by. If I wanted to save health potions and energy for critical use I would find a safe monster-free area and leave the game running while I performed some real life household chores. This became particularly useful later in the game when my character had a large number of hit points.
I was impressed by the robustness of Wizardry: Nemesis.
The documentation recommends against running this game in a DOS box under Windows 95. I found that it would run in a DOS box provided I had No Sound configured in the sound setup options. Otherwise it could not locate its sound drivers and exited immediately.
It ran successfully in DOS mode. I came across no fatal errors.
The magic system is either reacting inconsistently or is extremely difficult to use.
The auto-map display did not consistently remember to display only the areas explored, not the entire area.
I'm not sure this is a bug, but I can't help pointing out again that combat and magic did not seem to be playable as described in the manual.
I did go to the SirTech web site to see if there were any patches for Wizardry: Nemesis. At the time of writing (January, 1997) there is only one patch. This patch helps the CD be recognized in more manufacturers' CD drives. I did apply this patch but it did not correct the slow CD recognition problem.
There are three pieces of documentation: A user manual, a hint book and a sheet of paper describing the magic spells. The documentation package impressed me. It is compact and yet contains more support for the player than usual.
The user manual fits in the CD box. It is well written, contains most if not all the information you need to install and interact with the game, including several monochrome screen shots. Information on how to contact SirTech for technical support by various methods in also included
I suppose it is possible that my problems with the magic system are because the manual did not describe the required interaction correctly. But I suspect the user manual describes how the magic system should have worked and it is the game design that is incorrect.
The hint book is called the Tour Guide. It is larger than the user manual and contains colour screen shots.
Step by step instructions are given initially. These become vaguer later. This can be frustrating as I know some players became dependent on the explicit hints. I believe SirTech wanted to make sure that inexperienced Adventure gamers would be able to get into Wizardry: Nemesis easily. They were not aiming to supply a walkthrough. The Tour Guide does ensure one visits the different locations in the most efficient order. So it is still a powerful cheat tool!
The Tour Guide also has a description of some Nitheran history better read after completing the game.
The magic spells description may have been needed because SirTech forgot to put this information in the user manual or Tour Guide. But it is attractively presented on beige, thick quality paper, with scroll-like text. A neat addition to a swords and sorcery fantasy game. It is also a clue to the first puzzle.
I found no typos or any other quality problems with the hard copy documentation.
The closing sequences of Wizardry: Nemesis are no different than most other games - woefully inadequate! The scene after our hero wins the final confrontation is short and sweet. It is another great short video but all I can think of is what the developers could have done. They do in fact have one of the NPCs present at the victory. They should have had every NPC - there are only a few - greet our hero as he returns to Galican. They then should have flashed through familiar scenes and shown how the evil magic and nasty infestations were now cleared away. Then time lapsed into the future to show ordinary people returning to Galican and the town returning to bustling normality. All the great graphics and videos of this game raised expectations. Why couldn't they have made a few more great videos and finished this game properly? I would have loved another scene of the beautiful dragon.
Wizardry: Nemesis is a superbly presented game. The graphics are splendid, the user interface is generally sound and well designed and the documentation is also well presented. This game has polish. In certain areas it is state of the art.
The story is also quite good, but I did not find myself quite as drawn in and interested as I have with many good adventure games. Perhaps because I cheated, perhaps because of the CRPG overtones but I believe mainly because the goal is not clear to begin with and there is a lot of information to absorb and put together. I kept thinking there was more depth than I had grasped. This is true even after finishing the game!
Wizardry: Nemesis falls down badly in more than one area: the magic system, real-time combat , CD swapping and the poor dialogue sound quality. I don't understand how the testing phase did not catch at least the magic system issue.
All this being said, there is enough impressive about this game, I enjoyed playing it and I do recommend it to other fantasy adventure gamers. I think CRPG players may not like this game or . . . it might help introduce them to the joys of puzzle solving!
Review By GamesDomain
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