I’ve written before about some of the monsters in Wizardry: Crusaders of the Dark Savant. Today I’m providing a handy guide to the planet of Guardia, on which Crusaders takes place. This is the fantasy world in which I spent far too much of my time in my mid-teens.

I’m not going to give screenshots for each location because A: I don’t have them and B: the game is pretty samey-looking anyway, being based on very square designs and made entirely out of just four different tile-sets. Features like furniture aren’t even drawn on screen. The world is brought to life through the characters you meet, the monsters you fight, and the narrative text which provides evocative descriptions and occasional philosophical musings. You also have to use your imagination a lot, to embellish the spartan graphics into your own mental picture of the world around you.

Here’s a city!

Single-storey yellow stone buildings are very popular on Guardia.

Here’s some forest!

A Phoot in the Forest. Bash it!


Okay, that’s what half of what the game looks like. Let’s continue!

New City
This is the first city you reach, and serves as a hub for adventures and exploration of the wider world. It’s stocked with several shops and services for your party, as well as many NPCs to encounter. This is all quite normal for cRPGs.

However because this is Wizardry, it’s also full of monsters and bad guys who will try to murder you every 12 paces. Random encounters happen in cities just as much as in wildernesses or dungeons. I don’t just mean the bad end of town. every step you take, and every attempt to sleep, has a chance of spawning an attack in any location. This includes the peaceful abbey, a room in the tavern and the shed where the old sailor guy is trying to build a boat.

The eerie android servants of the Dark Savant are supposed to be keeping this place on lockdown, but they’re clearly doing a lousy job. Fortunately once your party reaches level 10 or so, you’re strong enough to overpower most enemies here quite easily.

We never learn who originally built the jungle city of Ukpyr. It’s currently occupied by the Umpani, a spacefaring race of Rhino-like people who have come to Guardia searching for the Astral Dominae. If you come here you can join their army as a kind of auxiliary scout. You can carry out a few missions for them, earn some hold, and learn how to use firearms.

The Umpani seem like a fairly benevolent bunch especially compared to their main rivals, the spiderlike T’Rang and the Dark Savant himself. They welcome you into their base, as long as you don’t go into restricted areas. Random battles with Umpani are rare, and usually involve their criminal element.

Ukpyr still has its dangers though. You will often encounter angry undead spirits, swirling out of thin air and howling at you as they attack. You’d expect this if wondering some spooky crypt, but not a military barracks. No explanation is provided as to why the restless dead are roaming the city, which just makes the situation a bit more weird and creepy. What exactly happened here? Some sort of massacre? Are the Umpani responsible or were the ghosts already present when they moved in?

The mighty tower of the Dane, a race of powerful wizards. Well, it’s a tower according to the text. Crusaders’ graphics are basically intended for building dungeons. Tiles representing sections of floor, wall and ceiling are arranged to fake a 3D view of the world. It’s the same sort of system as used in Eye of the Beholder or Dungeon Master.

These graphics can handle forests and cities of single-storey buildings also; you just take off the ceiling. Anything with a vertical component is impossible, however. Everything stops about ten feet above the ground. So when the narration states that you’re seeing a tower in the distance, you have to just go along with it. A short while later you encounter an abstract singles-story stone structure and that, apparently, is the tower’s base.

Fortunately the interior is made of separate maps anyway. Once inside you can ascend through the levels of the tower, each posing increasingly difficult challenges, sometimes with an element of puzzle solving. There’s a room entirely in inky blackness. On another level pits in the floor block yourr way, and stepping on each floor tile opens and closes pits, so you must figure out what sequences of movements gives a clear route out. Another level, kind of similar, has doorways disappearing into smooth walls, and opening again, depending on where you tread.

A Dane overseer presents all of this as a series of trails you must pass in order to join the ranks of their mystic order. He also extorts money out of you every step of the way. I’d say screw that guy, but you probably will end up killing his leader and emptying the tower of loot anyway.

Orkogre castle
Here’s the easier way to fake a massive structure like a castle; put it all underground. All you see of mighty Orkogre, before you enter, is a ladder sticking out of the ground.

Your first major expedition after New City will probably be here. You’ll test your strength against Gorn lancers and rangers, possibly get slaughtered by the elite Ashigaru, and hopefully gain some new weapons and armour to upgrade your crummy starting gear.

Then you reach King Ulgar, for whom you have an important message. Before you can deliver it to him, though, Ulgar launches into a protracted monologue about civil war, treachery and his fractured kingdom. This goes on for several minutes, while you wait patiently. I guess he has a lot on his mind, and no-one else to talk to. Although he will then promptly attack you if you don’t give him the correct message.

Meanwhile in a lower level lurks the Shadow Guardian. I hate you, Shadow Guardian. If we all have our gaming Nemesis, that undead monster was mine. The abominable thing just toys with you for several turns, then casually wipes you out with an Asphyxiate spell.

City of Skies
Home of the Helazoid, buxom young women on rocket bikes. They’re basically a race made up entirely of scifi pinup girls. Hardly the worst example of sexism in gaming, but still a bit ridiculous.

Anyway for some bizarre reason, their city is filled with invisible walls. These don’t even show up on the in-game map. So your only option is to get properly old-school here; break out your squared paper and make your own maps. No justification within the game is made for this frustrating civic feature. I suppose it could be intended to thwart invaders, but, to even reach this damn city you have to kill a colossal sea monster, then fight your way through dragon-infested caves. I think they would already be a pretty difficult target.

It’s worth coming to the City of Skies anyway, and diligently making your map, since you can get one of the most powerful swords in the game here. Which is basically a light sabre.