Despite giving me a lot of trouble, I was very much into the first Wizardry game and a sequel to this hit RPG would follow the next year. And “sequel” is a word you can take very literally here. Knights of Diamonds is not just a follow-up to Proving Ground of the Mad Overlord, it was literally assumed players would import the characters from their previous adventure and continue on with this one.
It really was intended to be a second chapter to the Wizardry story. Later releases, including the port to consoles where an import feature wouldn’t be realistic, did allow players to start the adventure from scratch with a band of new heroes. The game was rebalanced for this, but you do still see traces of the original design philosophy.
Wizardry II appears more generous on the outset. The RNG for level-ups and character creation appears to be more skewed towards positive results, I noticed that enemies dropped more gold and were more inclined to drop items, and you even start with more cash on the outset, which made it possible to even kit out the fighters with some fine gear without trading money around.
However, the dungeons are still very much designed for returning veterans. Whereas the earlier floors of the last game offered some recognizable features to make navigation easier, Wizardry II goes wild with surprise teleporters, snaking hallways, secret doors, and rooms that all look eerily similar. A landmark in Wizardry I was a room with a dark wall that separated the two wings of floor 1. In Wizardry II, a landmark is a perfectly symmetrical sqaure room with 20 doors, some of which lead into teleporters, some of which lead down non-distinct hallways, some of which just lead straight into a wall.
And while the game’s combat difficulty has been scaled down, it’s very easy for a little early-game exploration to lead you into encounters you have literally no chance of defeating. Floor 1 features an easily found boss-monster with health regeneration higher than anything you can possibly output, as well as a ghost that might as well be impossible to hit. And past floor 1, encounters become wildly unbalanced. You might run into some tough knights that put up a good fight or monsters that throw the occasional spell. You might also run into a band of Smog Beasts, each of which can cast party-wide debuffs and area-of-effect spells that completely wipe out your support characters unless they really lucked out on their level-ups.
I get the impression that the rebalancing warranted a little more play-testing.
In terms of innovation, Wizardry II doesn’t add much to the franchise. Barring some tweaks, it’s pretty much the same game and you might very well end up with a party identical to the one you rolled with last time. If you are running an old home computer version that supports the character migration, then it might be very cool to use that and continue your adventure. Otherwise, it’s a title you can skip if you already played the original.