I’ve mentioned Wizardry 7 a few times on this site – it’s a turn-based RPG from the early 90s which has consumed huge amounts of my life. It’s full of tough fights, right from the start when you find your pathetic newbies swarmed by rat-men. You’ll spend an awful lot of time either dying, or hitting the “sod this, abandon game” button and reloading to try again.
Yet one boss is, amongst all the defeats and beatings, particularly memorable. Where by memorable I mean, my hatred for it will forever be etched into my mind like words carved into a granite cliff. It is an awful, howling, infuriating abomination of a monster. I cannot recall how many attempts it first took me to get past it.
Let’s start with talking about how difficult it is just to land a solid hit on the Guardian. Its standard physical attack sometimes causes paralysis – so the character it afflicts does nothing for several turns of combat. It can cast a scream that causes fear, which means that each character has a chance of cowering uselessly instead of following the orders they were given. Also it can Blink, disappearing for a portion of each turn, which means some characters won’t get a chance to take any actions.
In other words, your team is either slumped on the ground motioneless, backing into a corner softly whimpering, or just firing spells into thin air. None of this is doing any damage to the Guardian, as it grins away at you from its spooky, skeletal, ghostly, face. Now let’s talk about what it does in return to your futile efforts.
There’s the Lifesteal spell, which I’m fairly sure is broken as it announces “678 points damage” when your average character has, at this point in the game, maybe 40 hit points. So that’s instant death and he gets some healing in return. Then he has Asphyxiate, which is actually meant to be instant-death as it doesn’t do numerical damage, just either outright succeeds or fails to make a character drop dead . Thankfully the latter occurs, sometimes, but when it works that can mean multiple characters dead in one shot. Maybe the entire team. Game over man, game over.
So let’s sum up – your guys are worthless, he is floating around blinking in and out until he decides to just casually destroy you. I should point out countermeasures to some of these effects do exist, but at this (fairly early) stage in the game, your characters won’t have access to all of them, at least not in strong or plentiful enough forms. Cure Paralysis potions are pricy. A level 2 (out of 7) Magic Screen spell isn’t going to help a vast amount.
That’s not all! There’s another layer of awfulness to this guy. See, normally in an RPG like this, if a monster is kicking your ass you can leave it for a while and go quest and fight stuff elsewhere. Gain some experience points, level the team and get them some better swords. Then come back and have another go.
In this case, though, once you pass into the section of dungeon containing the Shadow Guardian, there’s no way out except past it. You can, if you wish, grind away killing monsters in area immediately before it. But that could mean hours upon hours of killing the same damn giant bugs and lizards over and over and over, and there’s no chance of upgraded gear. It’s a dismal position to be in if you’re seriously under-levelled for the fight.
So then, a golden rule of old RPGs – keep multiple savegames. Always have one at least an hour’s play before your current location. But still, screw you, Shadow Guardian.