‘Wizardry Online’ First Impressions & Gameplay Video

Jan 31, 2013 by  

At E3 2012, we had the chance to get get hands-on with the in-development free-to-play MMORPG known as Wizardry Online, the latest installment in the old school Wizardry series that began back in 1981. Keeping true to its roots, Wizardry Online proved very challenging, but at the same time what we saw wasn’t visually pretty and most of the gameplay looked like standard fantasy MMO fare, from the user interface and combat to the level designs and loot.

Wizardry Online is developed by Japanese studio Gamepot, Inc., and Sony Online Entertainment released the game in North America and Europe yesterday, but it hasn’t been a smooth ride.

Like Diablo 3 and loads of other online-only games in the past, Wizardry Online has been burdened with server issues from the moment of launch yesterday, and practically every interested player has met the infamous “Connect” screen which for us, took over 20 minutes on all instances to get into the game. Today, the same issues remain present but SOE has acknowledged the problem and is working hard on rectifying. At peak, there were four times as many players yesterday as there were during the open beta and SOE simply was not prepared.

Wizardry Online Wallpaper

Unfortunately for the game, the connection errors are only problem number one, and likely won’t be the reason many curious players will quickly be turned away by Wizardry Online.

On its surface, Wizardry Online appears like other standard fantasy MMORPG, infused with Japanese game design tropes and aesthetics, and in most ways it is when it comes to progression and gameplay, but with a few critical differences that make Wizardry a hardcore niche game. And make no mistake, SOE and the devs have been promoting the word “hardcore” since the beginning.

The big selling point is the permadeath system where players can die, take soul form and attempt to resurrect themselves in several different ways, but as players progress, it’s more difficult and expensive to do so, adding a legitimate fear of dying. Add in factors like weapon degradation, frequent traps and the open world PvP element where anyone can attack and loot anyone else (at the cost of being marked for their “crime”), and there’s no fooling around.

Death generates a penalty, but it was uncommon in the beta for players to actually “permanently’ die as they do get multiple chances. If you do die, your soul maintains story progression and is transferred to another character. The higher level the player is the more difficult and expensive it is to resurrect. It’ll cost more items and even items that boost the percentage chance of a successful revive. It’s not an issue for low-level characters, but when nearing 20 and above, the game is dubbed “hardcore” for a reason.

Wizardry Online Female Human Fighter

There are five races and four classes to choose from. The character customization is extremely shallow with only a handful of pre-defined faces and hairstyles to choose from. Players looking to play the game solo need to avoid the Thief and Mage classes – according to Senior Producer Todd Carson - as they’ll have a much tougher time progressing without grouping up with others to survive. Playing in a party is critical to finding some enjoyment and being able to heal and Gamespot strongly encourages playing with friends.

Needless to say, the level of difficulty of the game and production values will turn people away, but for those who stick with it, there’s quite a bit of a learning curve. The game is ugly first and foremost, and is mainly comprised of dungeons. The opening three hours from our experience last night were not fun, and a lot of it has to do with the gameplay centering around old MMO tropes disguised as something different when it’s really not.

Aside from the loading times – where players cannot turn off the music or change the resolution settings – the introduction of the game’s story is cheap and forgettable. When players get into the town without tutorial, the opening “missions” that teach the player the basics probably couldn’t get any worse and are a good indicator of quest design as whole. The hotbar is by default loaded with random and needless options that only add to the confusion, from role-playing actions like clapping to game menus which shouldn’t be in there. This isn’t for inexperienced MMO gamers.

In the gameplay videos up top and below, viewers can get a sense of the core design flaws that hindered our own “first look” gameplay from late last night which we recorded for fun, and when we do finally get trekking into the first large dungeon (after the tutorial dungeon), the overly simple and repetitive fetch-and-receive quests combined with quickly-respawning enemies (thanks to the dungeons being public) presented an unenjoyable and unrewarding experience. There are another two hours of recorded gameplay after this, but the first hour is what all players must experience and is very telling. Here’s another 30 minutes recorded over an hour later when we got into it a little more:

Objectives involve finding something and bringing it somewhere else, made difficult due to the maze-like nature of the illogically designed dungeons. Repetitive traps and repetitive combat scenarios add to the issue of lacking variety. The combat mechanics and controls are poor and the game makes it very expensive and time-consuming to heal up (and level up at inns and fountains). The story isn’t there, nor is the gameplay or quests, and the features that had us excited aren’t implemented well. Add to that a dreary aesthetic, and “niche” is definitely an appropriate term, although the “hardcore” label does not make up for the game’s problems.

If Wizardry Online does interest you, and there is a dedicated community enjoying the game, it may be a few days for the server loads to cool down. Otherwise, try out some of the other free-to-play MMOs, including SOE’s own 14-year-old EverQuest which is better than this. Needless to say, our first impressions were less than stellar and the game failed to provide any reason to continue since the “hardcore PvP” which can be enjoyed later in the game is overshadowed by other weaker elements.

Wizardry Online is now available for PC. Play free here.

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Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.

Source: SOE

11 Comments

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  1. Tried it on launch day played through intro then uninstalled it. I agreed with everything you said. This game has way too many flaws for me to even bother trying to stick with it. Not to mention my dwarf was fat…

  2. That just looks flat out horrible.

  3. I almost never say any game is completely awful but this game is unplayable

  4. I was totally frustrated with the game when I first played the game until I figured out some very important aspects.

    You need to level yourself to 4th level by doing the beatle quest. This will also get you lots of loot that drops off the creatures. The most important thing is armor. You will also make enough money identifying and selling to go to the market area and buy a weapon that does way more damage.

    I suggest with only 2 players you make one of them a priest with high luck for opening chests and healing.

    You should also buy from Donkey, the merchant right outside of the dungeon camp stones. These allow you to heal up mana and health in the dungeons and only cost 20 gold.

    Keep your eye out for shrines and make sure you click them or you will have to go all the way back to the entrance to rez. There are also shrines for praying and if you spend the money, 40-100 gold you can rest up and level at that location in the dungeon.

    Repair is a problem so you should always carry a 2nd weapon as I don’t know of a way to repair in dungeons. You have to go to blacksmiths outside of the dungeon.

    With these tips you can do quite well in the game. I also noticed you missed the 2 map pieces right in the beginning, that would help you find your way around. You should make sure you always click on the glowing stars.

    Chris

  5. I have no idea why this was given such a bad review. Yes, there are server issues, glitches, the navigation and interface is confusing. I’m guessing most of you aren’t old enough to remember when RPGs were glitchy and confusing. I thought the look was interesting and original, and harkens to the days of the classic RPG.

    • A lot of that is true, but no matter, the game’s actual gameplay and level designs, not to mention the quests, are really, really poor.

      The hardcore elements and glitches didn’t break the experience. The game did. At least for us. But as we said, it is a niche game.

  6. I have only had a chance to play this game one time due to the various issues with connecting and such that are making it difficult. That being said, in the one time I did play I seemed to be able to figure out and do more than I saw you guys doing in the videos I watched. Such as actually having access to a map, knowing that if you have your weapon out space is a quick dodge. You can’t jump unless your weapon is away. The purpose of ‘taking forever’ is to break away from the constantly in motion and running around of games now days. It annoys me how simple things are when you can get in a fight and use no permanent resources and, once done, wait around and your health starts to come back as well as mana. Some games even do away with that and you just use cooldowns continually because there is no resource. It’s great for people who just want to sit down and go go go go go go. If you like the idea that every hit you take is going to slow you down, fight you enter could put you down hard and fast, and if you like the elements of a dungeon crawl then I think Wizardry is darn near the only game that even remotely has that.

    It was interesting to watch you guys though, kudos to that.

    • I wish so much it controlled like an actual good third-person combat game, then it could get away with the lack of health and resources, and the additional challenge, but sadly, it plays like an old and date MMO in that regard and therefore fails to offer what it’s trying to.

  7. No offense guys but after watching you in “Final Battle” … you have no clue about the game mechanics. Maybe it is because I’m a “bit” older and have played one of the old Wizardry pieces (before giving up from dying hehe – but still appreciating its complexity). You ignore the shrines, you ignore the items that are labeled even in some cases, you try shooting a “Gas Cloud” with a fire ball (Really?) and run blindly forward despite knowing there are gas traps instead of showing a bit of care and tactics to avoid them …
    It is ok in my books to say a game doesn’t suit your playstyle. But writing some piece like that with videos showing your kind of approach to some game that explicitely say “hardcore” … not impressive. I’m glad you took the videos though because while the text is “convincing” the videos relativize it quite some.

    • The gas clouds did little to no damage, so there’s no point in slowing down the already drainingly slow gameplay. We just wanted to move on because none of that are was fun. In video two, that was three hours in when we crossed the point of “when can we stop now?”

      Most aspects of this game are poorly designed – call it niche – but it’s not a game that’s earning much praise if you check around the few previews and YouTube “let’s play” sessions.

      We also made it abundantly clear in both that we never played this game or series before, hence “first look.” We went into it intentionally as new players who game all the time and this is what happened as a result of the game’s design which we feel is very poor and dated.

      Check out last week’s video on Path of Exile, we went into that entirely as newbs and enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s free-to-play as well.

  8. You guys appear to not have a clue what you are doing. You don’t show anything about the game really. You skip just about everything….how can you get a “feel” for the game and you have barely played it? Sorry, but your review is poor. Plain and simple. Saying EverQuest is better is purely opinion. I have played EQ 1 since launch and just about every other Mmorpg out there, and this is by far better. Your review is straight out bad. It’s not a “niche” game. The game is JUST coming live, so to complain about its “problems” is laughable. Of course there are issues, every single game has them when launched. Anyone reading this, I will ask you to ignore this horrible review and actually try the game. Nothing here makes any sense.

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