The New Hardcore - Hands-on with Wizardry Online

Posted Wed, Nov 28, 2012 by Shayalyn

We’ve heard this battle cry from old school gamers for years: “The bad decisions you make while playing an MMO should be punished.” It seems that for every 3 or so people who whine about overly harsh mechanics, there’s one who wants to go back to the good old days of gaming where teamwork was everything and mistakes were costly.

If you believe the PR, Wizardry Online, the upcoming hardcore title from Gamepot and Sony Online Entertainment, promises to do just that. It boasts “insane difficulty,” with "complex mazes, unrelenting mobs, and traps around every turn." And its primary hook is permadeath. That’s right, kiddies--if you don’t play smart, and you’re unlucky enough to fail two random attempts to appease the gods, you could lose your character, all his items, and most of his progress...permanently. Although true permadeath for the well-prepared player should be relatively rare, it can happen.

I had the privilege of delving into some dungeons with Todd Carson, Wizardry Online’s Senior Producer, as he led a tour through the game. I’ll share my experiences, and then let you form your own opinions about whether Wizardry Online is the answer to your gaming prayers or the kind of nightmare you’ll want to avoid.

Wizardry Online preview

It's a long way down. Dungeons in Wizardry Online have multiple levels...all of them brown.

Maybe first impressions aren’t everything, but the first thing I noticed entering Wizardry Online was that the game just plain looks dated. If you’re a graphics aficionado, this could prove to be an instant buzz-kill. Although Wizardry Online embraces an anime art style, which plenty of gamers appreciate, it’s delivered in a rather bland, old school way. I suppose you might call it 50 Shades of Brown. (Yeah. Had to. Sorry.)

Of course, for many people it’s fun that makes the game, not graphics. Their biggest question is: How is the game play?

First off, Wizardry Online is based on the Wizardry RPG, a game old timers might remember playing on their Apple II or Commodore 64. Given that, you’ll find elements of D&D-style game play embedded throughout. In fact, even character creation begins with a random roll for stats. And, although it’s not uncommon to encounter lone players wandering the world, you’re likely to find that traditional party-based dungeon crawling sets the tone for this game.

I was handed a level 20 sword-and-board human Fighter to adventure with. Other classes include the archetypical Priest, Mage and Thief, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a shortage of customization. Between random rolls for stats and other player choices, including multi-classing, there could be significant differences between one Fighter and the next. Races are linked to stats, so you’ll also have different bonuses depending on whether you roll a Human, Elf, Porkul, Gnome or Dwarf.

Health regeneration is not a given in Wizardry Online, so my Fighter was equipped with a good stash of health potions. Of course, running with a Priest in your group is probably the most efficient way to fly. You can also return to town to rest, or carry portable camps, which allow you to rest up while you’re out in the world. In the absence of any of these things--priests, potions or camps--you’ll find that your health won’t regenerate between fights at all, so if you end one fight at death’s door, you’re going to begin the next at a significant disadvantage.

Wizardry Online preview

The NPC at the town gate will send you off on a dungeon adventure.

We set off from a town hub, where an NPC ushers players into their choice of 10 dungeons. Although there are quests to pick up as you adventure, with 20 main quest lines, my cursory look at the quest dialog didn’t reveal much in the way of story; Wizardry Online seems to be all about the dungeon crawling. And, if that’s your thing, you just might find the experience worthy of your time.

As we made our way through the first dungeon, we encountered a swarm of trash mobs followed by a mini-boss. Taking them out, at least on my Fighter’s part, involved a combination of melee attack and shield defense. Attacking is pretty straight forward: you click the center mouse button to unsheathe your weapon, and then hack away by repeatedly clicking your left mouse button and triggering various hotbar skills with your number keys. You can raise your shield to block with a press of the shift key. Because our dev hosts were dropping heals on us, and our pre-made characters were fairly well equipped, it was difficult to get a feel for exactly how much damage we were taking, but we were told that we were holding our own fairly well.

This game seemed to have some promise when I first heard about it. I wouldn't mind a return to some hardcore mechanics at all. But, after testing it, I had to pass. It's crap right from character customization (ugly character models much?) and just gets worse as you go. And the griefers were out in force when I was playing, so...yeah. Griefer's paradise. Not much more to it.

Oh, and calling the graphics "dated" is an understatement.

The game was designed and produced in Japan first off so it will have an asian mmo feel and look to it as it does. What the first poster is talking about is low lvl area griefing. Something that was not mentioned in the review is when pvp starts. As a new player you character has not only levels but also soul levels, the latter gives you increases to gear which go off a soul level not a experience level and access to different npc merchants and other little things. For your character to be attackable you have to have reached soul level 2 now you can take your character all the way to experience level 7 before you increase your soul level. The trick is to hold off raising it till 7 which will give you more hp and also give you more abilities to help with pvp attacks when you do unlock.

In beta the griefing was very rampant on low level areas which i think had a lot to do with higher level people hitting the dungeon cap and getting bored. My personal opion is that we wont see it that bad in release because people will be more worried with leveling then cruising low level areas to harass people.

From reading what the first poster stated i don't think he leveled out of the first few level, once you hit around 13 the areas you are in have very few if any criminals to attack you.

The main thing about this mmo is that it was designed in japan and has been up there for awhile. The aspects of the game have all the markers of an eastern mmo, anime styled environment and 1 player race of course that is anime styled :) and the mechanics of operation also have an asian feel to it.

There will be a learning curve to it, it doesn't have the same feel to it as a western mmo but its not a bad thing, the dungeons are something we are not ust to puzzle wise, i hear later on that monsters actually take items off you and experience from you if you are killed and there is an insane respawn rate for monsters. The reviewer stated there isnt a story line really which he is wrong, having been gifted a level 20 character he bypassed all the story line which is pretty good from what i have seen to the cap so far.

The review stated there is no regen, you have to use camps, which are 1 time use items that regen health and mana. Also inventory is very limited so you have to manage your items in your inventory very carefully also the items that you are wearing take up inventory slots so there again you need to watch what you carry and make sure you take what is important. With later quests you will get back packs as rewards which will help but its nothing like we are ust to in other mmo's. Also once you reach soul level 5 you are able to mix your class with another like a fighter/priest/mage combination.

To sum it up, the game isnt so hardcore to me but to a generation that has been rasied on wow and wow copies i dont see it appealing to them. The game will involve a learning curve to get ust to, the dungeons are very imporant to this game also you will NEED a paper and pencil to take notes to complete them, there is no open grinding areas like in other mmo's, you have a town hub that leads to dungeons and thats pretty much it so far anyway. All and all its not bad for a f2p game so if you are a fan of the older genre of games that dont hold you by the hand you should give this a shot.

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