So, Wizardry 7 in a world where I’ve played Might and Magic. I’m not enjoying Wiz 7 quite as much as I enjoyed 6–which is as much situational as anything else–but I guess the best way to explain this is by going to the map. Here’s the result of a couple of hours of mapping:
This is a forest. Roughly south is another, similar forest area which contains an entrance to the Gorn Castle I mentioned last time; to the east appears to be the area belonging to the Rattkin who look exactly how you’d picture them to, and to the west is a city inhabited by these buglike aliens called the T’Rang. In the middle, if you squint and see the phrase “sacred grove” is something, but when I approach a bunch of high-level encounters kick my ass.
The rest of this area is completely empty. There’s maybe four squares where anything happens.
The two S’s you see here are at the top and bottom represent the edges of this particular square–I think I’ve mentioned that Might and Magic’s overworld is composed of 20 16×16 squares. To give you an idea of what you can do in this square, on the left, behind the shiny tape is a dude who gives you a quest: Climb all of the trees in his grove and come back to him. The green arrowish things north of that, concentrated on the left sthird of the square, are all the different trees–when you land in a square, you have the option to climb up, and there are some brief encounters–mostly combats, but a couple of treasures or spots where you fall down and take some damage–that might be based on some stats, I’m not sure. On the right side of the screen, definitely where I’ve marked off Xs are a series of fixed battles. (There are random encounters in the game, and plenty of them, of course, surprisingly fewer than you’d expect.) You basically fall into a pit and have a fight. In the top of the middle section, labeled “cave” is one of the more famous dungeons in the game–it’s called the Cave of Square Magic, and the walls, once mapped out, form a magic square that you need to solve in order to get some treasure.
A final point about the scale of these two maps–I used 8 1/2X11 inch paper for the Might and Magic maps and used four squares of graph paper for each “step”; Wizardry 7 is scaled larger, so I’m using 11X17 piece of graph paper and using one graph paper per step. In terms of filled-in area–because nearly all of that whitespace in the Wiz 7 map is going to remain whitespace while every single square in Might and Magic is filled up–this Might and Magic square–which is representative of any square in the game–takes up about a third of the space of that Wizardry map. And compared to it, it’s positively crammed with stuff to do. And varied stuff–this was a battle-heavy square, but others contain mazes, trivia challenges, environmental hazards…and Might and Magic came out about 5 years before Wiz7.
There is a beauty to the shape of Wizardry 7’s maps that isn’t quite there in Might and Magic–as regular and as mathematically pleasant as Might and Magic is, there’s something that’s really nice to Wizardry 7’s undulations. I mean look at that forest. That is a sexy fucking forest. There is a physicality to its maps, and a palpable difference in the construction of each area–the way it expands in a sprawling forest, or contracts in a dense city, or squares off in a dungeon. And all of Might and Magic’s maps feel different, yes, but they all do have the same shape.
But in terms of play, there’s something extraordinarily satisfying about Might and Magic. I guess its’ because your mapping goal is clear from the start in terms of the overworld: You know exactly how large everything, and you know immediately if you’re missing something secret. There’s a neatness and a completeness to Might and Magic–there’s a feeling of solving the map when you complete it–a feeling of locking everything into place. Might and Magic is a puzzle, and one of the most well-constructed puzzles I’ve ever seen in a videogame. Of course, Wizardry 7 is a little more like a world.
I just wish it was a bit less empty.