Updated Mon, Dec 21, 2009 by Ralsu
A Splash of Color and a Whole Lot of Style
Ravenwood is a colorful place, but some of the dungeons are dark and ominous.
Wizard101 uses what developers love to call “stylized” graphics, which means that items and bodies look like the real things with a touch of style added to emphasize certain features. For instance, body parts may not be exactly proportional (heads tend to be a little large). The world is vibrant in all the right places but uses dull color palettes when appropriate to add mood. Gear comes in a variety of styles and colors to make your wizard look unique. Unfortunately, you can’t control which style of hat randomly will have that +5% to mana that you wanted.
Spells are a lot of fun to watch for the first few weeks. Summoning a giant fire cat to do your bidding is a thrill until you have seen it from yourself, your enemies, and other wizards dozens of times. With each school of magic employing less than two dozen spells for all level ranges, you’ll see the same basic spells over and over…and over. Sadly, there is no way to skip or speed up the animation despite my requesting such a feature during beta. The summons can take fifteen seconds apiece, so battles can take a while even though we’re not talking Final Fantasy VII Knights of the Round long (try one minute and fifteen seconds to cast a single spell!).
Stick with What You Know
Nothing about the quests in Wizard101 breaks new ground, but they are not all lazy fetch and kill quests either (see a sample quest here). Early quests introduce you to characters from The Wizard of Oz, and you’ll learn that some of the trouble on one street was caused by an innocent old lady whose library book spawned monsters. The dialogue is witty at times, and even adult gamers will find themselves surprised at some of the outcomes.
Combat takes place in a ring, and players can join you at any time.
If I have a bone to pick with the quest system it has to be how linear it makes the game feel. For instance, you have to defeat the golem at the top of the tower before you can move on to the next area. This setup means your character’s progress grinds to a halt on occasion. It is also possible to “beat” the game in about two months. Players take part in the same story line regardless of their school affiliation, so rolling alts does not solve this problem.
The good news is that Wizard101 has a slew of fun minigames to break the monotony. From a Dig-Dug clone to a Tetris-like puzzle games, these games are fun. Leader boards let you brag about your prowess in a minigame, and higher scores unlock prizes while filling up your mana.
Groups don’t really exist as any player can join you in battle at any time. When another player joins in, another monster comes, too. This results in more experience gained but can also be used to grief; just join a player’s battle when he is nearly dead and the monster that joins might kill him.
It is important to understand that you can only play Wizard101 free for about a month unless you only log in to play the minigames. Subscriptions are cheap, but the game is short in its present form. The best thing about it is its accessibility to children and the measure used to safeguard young players. Even casual players will “finish” the game with a six-month subscription ($49.95), but Kingsisle is sure to produce more content soon. For sure, Wizard101 is worth a try for any gamer, and it is a perfect example of a game produced with care and commitment from the development team.
(4 / 5 Hammers)