Now Playing: Wizardry Online

In the “Now Playing” series I’ll be taking a look at other MMORPGs every now and then. As you might remember, WoW has always been a temporary solution in my quest to find a worthy replacement for Ultima Online, so I’m always trying new games that look promising.

Wizardry is one of the oldest RPG series today, and probably the oldest still alive. The online game was released a while ago in Japan, where the series is still very popular and I tried to play it. I had the client, registered an account on my japanese eMail adress and even used a japanese proxy to connect to the game, but to no avail. The publisher was quite crafty and managed to lock me out of the game no matter what I did. At some point they announced an US/EU release of the game for some time in 2012, but as the year came to an end my hopes of ever playing Wizardry Online waned.

Until a couple of days ago, when suddenly, the open beta for the game started. Joy! I’ve spent a couple of hours in the game and talk a little bit about its supposed features and my newbie experience.

Here’s a trailer for the game: Wizardry Online

And here you can register for the open beta. You can download the client immediately and start playing: Wizardry Online Oh, and it’s free to play!

Character creation

The game didn’t let me change resolution or AA settings until I’ve made a new character…or I just missed the option before 😉

Okay, enough of that, how does the game play and how is it different from titles like World of Warcraft?

How is Wizardry Online different? It’s hardcore oldschool! What does that mean?

  • Grinding
  • Hard encounters
  • active combat
  • No hand holding
  • traps and puzzles in dungeons
  • figuring the game out for yourself
  • you can attack or steal from other players at all times (and have the same happen to you)
  • Permadeath (that’s right!) …but it’s not as harsh as you might think!

I’ve played the game for a couple of hours so far. In World of Warcraft I’d probably be lvl10+ and finished the first zone already.

Here? I have just begun exploring the beginning of the very first newbie dungeon and I’ve already died several times. What killed me?

  • got overwhelmed by enemies
  • ran carelessly into a trap and died
  • ran into my own thief trap and died
  • ventured too deep in the dungeon and didn’t have the resources to get back safely
  • and many more

Permadeath isn’t a big deal in the beginning. Here’s how it works: You die and your ghost stands on top of your corpse. Now you have a certain amount of time to get to a resurrection stone in the dungeon you activated before. There you can resurrect. If you’re a new player you can resurrect with 100% chance. If you have already achieved a certain level, your chance is lower and you might lose your character. You have several options to increase that chance. You could offer gold, use special items or get stuff from the real money store that helps you with the process.

Resurrection...

There aren’t really any tutorials in the game, except for a few interface and control tips and an overview of the general features. When you’ve finished the very short “tutorial” phase, you are on your own. The first dungeon available to new players should offer gameplay for several days if you’re on your first character.

Combat is also different from World of Warcraft. You can actively dodge enemy attacks, you have to actively block enemy attacks and that already makes the game more engaging. Getting basic gear upgrades already requires some farming inside the first dungeon.

Regaining health isn’t trivial. Resting at an inn costs gold, free rest only replenished 50% health.

You can try all content solo or in a group, it’s completely up to you. Going solo will result in a much higher challenge and slow your progress down significantly, but all content should be available to anyone regardless of their playing style.

Healing in a dungeon

The developers implemented something nice that works hand in hand with the permadeath feature. When you die, you don’t lose everything. You actually have two levels. Your soul level, which is basically your account level, and your body level, which is the level of the current character. Higher soul levels unlock new features like crafting, stat boosts, higher body level caps, xp boost on lower levels, price discounts etc.

You also get to keep some gear when your character dies permanently, inherit skills and levels from the dead character after reaching certain soul levels and probably other things I haven’t figured out yet. So permadeath isn’t an “you lose everything, start over”-deal. It’s still harsh and should be avoided at all cost, but you can still make progress even when constantly starting a new character.

The game also offers talent trees to further customize your character. Character development doesn’t seem very broad or deep so far, the main motivation comes from the very challenging gameplay. Leveling up works like in early Wizardry games. In WoW you just instantly level up, refill your health and get stat boosts etc. In Wizardry Online you have to visit a local tavern and rest before you can actually activate the level up. So if you’re deep inside a dungeon you might have collected 1-2 level ups already, but returning to town would mean fighting all the way through that dungeon again. But staying inside the dungeon would mean to stay at your current level’s power and not being able to take advantage of the additional strength from a level up.

Enemy respawn is also pretty quick, so you have to look out for your healing potions and other resources and always check if you could make it back to town safely. You can teleport out of a dungeon once every 12 hours, so don’t rely on that. Getting safely out of a dungeon is a big deal. You don’t want to be low on health and resources, die on the way back to safety and fail at resurrection.

And after you’ve outgrown the early newbie levels you also have to watch out for other players who could easily steal your gear or even kill you. Of course you can kill them as well if they’re flagged criminal.

*ding*

At certain points your progress in a dungeon is blocked and you have to complete puzzles and clear special instanced areas to unlock the rest of a dungeon. Normal content is NOT instanced. Those aren’t WoW dungeons with a group of five…those are dungeons in the game world with loads of other players running around. If it gets too crowded, the server opens another instance for that area, but there will always be other players in there.

My plan for the next couple of days in Wizardry:

  • somehow manage to collect 4000 gold to buy a new set of weapons and armor (enemies often don’t drop any gold, sometimes 1-10 pieces and quests give about 250 gold in the beginning)
  • fully explore the dungeon I’m currently in and finish the story quest I got for it
  • finish the repeatable quests for that dungeon at least one time each…there are about 5 quests and I’ve done one. The other quests require me to kill enemies in that dungeon I haven’t even encountered yet!
  • level my character so I can easily clear the dungeon, then see where else I can go
  • staying alive

I guess this game will require a lot of patience, but so far I really like it. It’s a very welcome change in difficulty from WoW. I won’t post about this game every day, I’ve got a lot of WoW stories to cover, but I really wanted to tell you about this fine game and when I reached the goals listed above, I’ll probably make another posting.

In the meantime, try the game for yourself. It’s free, the system requirements are pretty low and it’s a nice change of pace for anyone sick and tired of the lack of challenge in WoW.