Originally released in Japan under the watchful eye of GamePot, Sony Online Entertainment have brought Wizardry Online to western shores. Currently in a closed beta testing period Wizardry Online offers players an attractive set of hardcore style features, blended together with common MMORPG mechanics. Blaine Smith of XMMORPG takes a dive into Wizardry Online and provides his opinion on this latest MMO project from SOE.
Wizardry Online has the foundations to be a great MMORPG. Based on the popular Wizardry table-top franchise, with roots as far back as the early 1980s, Gamepot have attempted to merge the old with the new in Wizardry Online, but do mechanics and ideas from yesteryear have a place in today's cut-throat industry?
When I first launched the Wizardry Online client I was immediately introduced to one of the games bigger drawbacks, the graphics. Despite the fact I was playing on the top settings the graphics did feel very dated, in fact I'd go as far to say I'd compare them with popular Playstation 2 games. Although the surrounding environments were designed well, with plenty of attention to detail, the textures and overall look of the game world didn't feel as it should for a game releasing in 2012 but sadly that's quite often the case with games imported from Japan. Looking at my character model, as my sword and shield floated several inches from my body, I immediately felt as though I was in your bog-standard MMORPG, not usually words I would have associated with the high-quality MMO titles linked to SOE.
Once I was over the shock of the poor graphics I dived into the character creation to create my main soul. The character creation process was a little confusing at first. You create a character, which becomes your main soul, and you can then create characters on that same soul, basically a jazzy way of making a new account system. There's 6 races to choose from, each with male and female options as well as a limited selection of hair and face types. You can also choose your alignment during character creation, which does have an impact on which class you can choose and what stats you begin with. The classes follow typical MMORPG archetypes with the only main difference being the alignment restrictions. So far all I had seen was the introduction cinematic and character creation but I wasn't exactly excited about exploring the game further.
Once I entered the game world I was introduced to your typical text-based MMORPG tutorial, although to my surprise it was actually really well done. You're introduced to the basic features of the game such as gathering quests and purchasing items but you're also given information on character backgrounds and the story of the game. Although I felt the text for each conversation displayed way too slowly, a small child could read at that pace, the dialogue was actually really well written. It almost returned me to my Playstation days enjoying old school RPG's such as Legend of Legaia and Final Fantasy. I couldn't really put my finger on it but I did enjoy the story at the beginning of the game and it definitely helped lift my mood after a rather rough starting experience.
That pretty much sets the tone for the entire game. At first glance, nothing really seems that special, but the more time I spent in the game the more I found myself becoming attached to it. The basic premise is dungeon crawling. You grab simple quests from outside the dungeon and then head in to an instanced area to complete those quests. The dungeons are shared, meaning other players are free to come and go as they please, but the quest objects are player specific so you don't run around for 30 minutes missing something because it hasn't spawned. The few dungeons I did explore were great, the design was fluid and a good variety of enemies halted my progress. There's also a good variety of traps and puzzles, features which most MMO games seem to avoid. I didn't feel like I was mindlessly chasing quest goals, I actually felt as if I was exploring a dangerous dungeon.
With a game that centers around dungeons, PvE and PvP engagements, the combat has to offer something special. Sadly it felt extremely lacking with the limited abilities I had access to. The animations were too fast to really enjoy any quality and the defending mechanics such as block and dodge seemed to be more of an afterthought than a necessity. Despite the fact I was thoroughly enjoying solving the puzzles, meeting other players and progressing with the quests, I found myself avoiding the combat whenever I could. Not something you want to have to do in a dungeon crawler.
Wizardry Online does boast some really intricate systems such as the unique perma-death mechanics but I fear the games first impressions may be bad enough to turn people away before they're introduced to the better parts of the game. Overall Wizardry Online definitely has some strong selling points, but I'm not sure they're strong enough to combat the judgement people are going to make early on. After all, you can add as many intricate systems as you want but if the core mechanics of the game don't meet the industry standard, those features may go unnoticed.
- Immersive story
- Intricate perma-death mechanics
- Ability combos
- Poor graphics
- Combat feels dated
Wizardry Online does have something a little special, I just couldn't figure out what it was.