You’re gonna die. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you will die, and horribly. When you do, will anyone care? No!
But maybe, if you accomplish heroic deeds… and buy enough low, low priced digital microtransactions, bards will sing epic tales of your adventures. At least, that’s the premise of Wizardry Online, Sony Online Entertainment’s new free-to-play MMO—with permadeath, open PvP, and player corpse looting.
‘Tis an interesting concept. Unfortunately, the premise is let down by clunky controls, forced multiplayer, and graphics that might have been good at the turn of the century.
A fine pedigree
Before we get into that, though, Wizardry Online has a fine pedigree as the latest in a series of pioneering RPGs. Launched in 1981, Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord was the first Dungeons and Dragons-style cRPG. I think we have a picture here…
Yeah, look at that—old skool. Wizardry had a huge influence on the genre, including later classics like Final Fantasy and Neverwinter Nights. In 2001, Wizardry 8 released to critical acclaim, cited as one of the top RPGs that year.
Wizardry Online shows this pedigree in the classic RPG elements present. Your character stats increase randomly every level, and might even go backwards. Dungeons are filled with traps, and trap disarming has a real point—you don’t want to risk permadeath by simply running through a trap. Character races, genders, and alignments matter, with a chaotic female human thief playing very different to a neutral elf male thief.
There is no strafe
Unfortunately, much of that charm vanishes when you try and play the damn thing. Sideways strafe is mysteriously absent, so your character can only ever run in a straight line. This is a problem, for combat is done in real time. Blocking and backwards dodging are critical to avoiding incoming attacks, yet you’ll have little movement control.
This makes combat like chess. While a fighter doesn’t do much damage, they do lock the target in place for a rogue to backstab. In turn, the rogue has precious few tools to flank without fighter support. Captain Obvious, Patrick: it’s standard MMO grouping. The difference in Wizardry Online is that this is the entire game.
This makes sense when you consider that Wizardry has always been about parties. It just doesn’t work that well here when you don’t have friends. Combine with the ever-present threats of PvP, permadeath, and player looting, and Wizardry Online gives “forced grouping” a whole new meaning. The whole game requires you to play with others. There is barely any content that won’t have you tearing your hair out solo.
But you can die!
Wizardry Online’s entire hook for bringing players into the game is its hardcoreness: the random stats, the permadeath, PvP, and need to band up. Just like EVE Online!
Sure, but like most F2P games designed for Asian markets, the hard gameplay mechanics are mostly just incentive to buy more power from the item shop. They also mask some technical problems—the graphics are so rough that everything’s been hidden by enough fuzzy bloom to make you think you’re walking down the beach in a bad online dating commercial. You just won’t notice when you’re struggling with the camera that often puts your target offscreen, behind you.
For those of us who just want to play a fun game, the MMO market is now saturated with high quality F2P games. Compared to Guild Wars 2, The Secret World, and Star Wars: The Old Republic, Wizardry Online feels dated. Wizardry Online may have some interesting concepts, but the harsh reality is that there are simply better MMOs to play.
- Has classic RPG elements not often seen in MMOs
- Real time combat that could be tolerable with an organised group
- Entirely unsuited to solo play
- Clunky character movement and camera controls
- Holy bloom, Batman
- Unpolished compared to other F2P games
Find out more about Wizardry Online at the official site.