Review: Wizardry IV – The Return of Werdna
Here we have what is probably the most obscure game in the Wizardry series, The Return of Werdna. Unlike the previous games, in this title you play as the evil wizard Werdna, the villain of Wizardry I.
This game has the reputation of being one of the most challenging computer games of all time. Players expecting to have any chance at all in beating the game will find that knowledge of the original Wizardry title is an absolute requirement. Many players who are unfamiliar with the series find themselves unable to even figure out how to leave the starting room.
This game begins with Werdna imprisoned at the bottom of the labyrinth and he must climb his way to the top where he will enter town and seek his revenge. Since only Werdna is a playable character in this game, the player must use pentagrams that can be found scattered throughout the maze to summon monsters for aid. The pentagrams also serve the purpose of restoring Werdna’s powers, thus effectively “leveling up” the character. Knowledge of the series’ monsters and their abilities is a must.
Completing the game and discovering its true ending really requires some out-of-the-box thinking. Today, it’s quite simple to look up a complete walk-through online. (I had even written one myself many years ago, and it can still be found floating around out there in the ether). However, at the time the game was released, it was not uncommon to hear of various computer clubs across the country teaming up to try to solve the riddles in the game.
I didn’t get to experience this game when it was first released and my first time playing it was with the release of the Ultimate Wizardry Archives collection. I consider myself to be a Master Wizardry player, but even I had to consult with others online when trying to figure out how to achieve the true ending on the game.
This game is tough one to recommend to anyone other than the most hardcore grid-based RPG fans. But the satisfaction I received from beating it was well worth the struggle.
Version Reviewed: PC
Difficulty: Extreme – This game really takes the challenge to a new level. It’s important to remember that this was very idea the developers had in mind. The goal was to create a game as difficult as possible without being completely unfair. As I stated earlier, advanced knowledge of the series is a must have if you wish to conquer this game without cheating.
Story: The concept of playing as Werdna is a very interesting twist. I found it to be refreshing, yet also a nice throw back to series origins. You ultimately get to do battle with many of the “sample heroes” seen in the original instruction manual. As wells as characters actually created by players. (A contest was held where the developers asked players to send in their completed scenario disks for Wizardry 1. The data was then imported into the game and their characters were added as adversaries. – How cool is that?!)
Originality: Despite being another basic maze crawler, there’s a lot of new things in this title. The play-as-a-villain concept was something unheard of before this game. The monster summoning and upward progression was a first for the series.
Soundtrack: The original Apple and PC version of the game has no soundtrack or sound effects (other then the occasional click or blip).
Fun: Despite is high level of difficulty, I always have a lot of fun when playing this game. It reminds me very much of the original scenario, and that’s always a good thing.
Graphics: The graphics are a small step up from the first three titles, but are still nothing worthy of mention.
Playcontrol: Navigation of the maze is handled with the arrow keys. Other commands are executed either using the number keys or various hot keys. All options are displayed on the screen at all times, so you’ll never forget. It’s definitely archaic by today’s standards. Luckily, the game is not fast-paced and you have plenty of time to make your decisions and figure things out.
Downloadable Content: N/A
Mature Content: N/A
Value: Finding legitimate copies of this game are difficult. Boxed copies of the Ultimate Wizardry Archives often go for close to $100. If you’re a fan, this is really not too bad considering you get a total of seven games. But it’s impossible to recommend paying these collector prices to anyone else.
Overall score (1-100): 70 – While I personally love this game, it’s very difficult to recommend it to anyone but a serious fan of the series. The extremely high level of difficulty and need to manually map the game will cause frustration from all but most battle-hardened maze dwellers.
Original System: Apple II, PC
Available today on: Currently not available – (Updated as of Spring 2022)
Best Experience: PC – (Updated as of Spring 2022)
Other Reviews In This Series:
I – II – III – IV – V – VII – VII– VIII
Gaiden I – Gaiden II – Gaiden III – Gaiden IV
Wizardry Empire – Wizardry: Dimguil – Wizardry Chronicle – Wizardry Summoner
Tale of the Forsaken Land – Tale of the Forsaken Land 0
Prisoners of the Battles – Absence of Misericordia – Five Ordeals
Wizardry Asterisk – Wizardry Xth
Prisoners of the Lost City – Labyrinth of Lost Souls
Pledge of Life – Heritage of Oblivion
When it comes to puzzles, Return of Werdna definitely is the most difficult CRPG I ever played. Although I did solve the majority of the puzzles on my own, I have to admit that I never would have guessed the solution to some of them by myself. Finding nearly all quest-related items at special locations, but one being a random drop by foes on a certain level of the dungeon? If not for the walkthrough found on the internet, I would have been searching an eternity for said item. And I still do not have a clue how someone would be able to find the starting point of the grand master ending. I neither did find a hint indicating the exact location you had to teleport to one level below the first and alleged lowest level of the dungeon, nor someone explaining how he found it. When I played the game, the only walkthroughs to be found on the internet had EXACTLY the same wording from beginning to end and had a feeling of “Official Wizardry IV Hint Book”.
My all-time favorite puzzle is how to pass the dead end wall near the top of the dungeon. Who would have thought that “HHGofAuntyOck” was the Holy Handgrenade of Antioch from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which you had to use to blast above-mentioned wall? It took me some time to make the connection, especially as I had seen the movie only in German before when I played the game.
Agreed. Some of the puzzles do seem almost impossible. But, I once spoke with Robert Woodhead (designer of the game) and he explained that he knew players would be working together on services like Compuserve to try to conquer the game. So perhaps, the difficulty was made with group-effort in mind.