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.
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.
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.