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Wizardry Online brings 1981 dungeon crawling into the MMO era

Ian Harac | March 25, 2013
An unusual mix of influences, ranging from its namesake Apple II game to console RPGs to early Ultima Online, Wizardry Online offers a decidedly different feel from most MMORPGs, but it needs polish and an improved play experience.

Wizardry I, on the Apple II, consumed a significant portion of my freshman year in college. Each game in the series has been painfully addictive, deep, and compelling. The earliest games had a well-deserved reputation for sadistic brutality towards players, with it being quite easy to lose weeks of work and start over, not due to bugs or crashes, but due to deliberately limited save features. If you died in the dungeon, you couldn't load a saved game. You had to begin anew.

Wizardry Online resurrects this concept, attempting to implement a feature considered to be suicide in a mass market produce: permadeath. Under some circumstances, if your Wizardry Online character dies, they are gone for good. To lessen the blow slightly, all of your characters share a "soul," which measures the player's total progress in the game, and the loss of a character doesn't reduce your "soul rank," which is one of the most important factors in determining the ability to equip weapons or access some game features.

Sadly, there is no 'kill 10 spamming gold sellers' quest yet in Wizardry Online. And you'll wish there were. Furthermore, all of your characters have access to a Cloak Room (what most MMOs call a 'shared bank') where items can be stored. And most important,Wizardry Online isn't "one strike and you're out." Multiple factors determine your chance of successful resurrection, and you can increase the odds with items purchased from the game's cash store. You can even conveniently buy such items right at the point where you see your odds of successfully being raised. There are few better inducements to shell out real-world cash than the prospect of losing a character you've invested weeks or months in.

Compounding this is the fact Wizardry Online is an open PVP game. You can be attacked anywhere, by anyone. Attacking someone who is not a criminal will flag you as a criminal, and you can then be attacked with impunity. (Or with a sword, if no one is wielding any impunity.) Healing criminals is also a crime, as is stealing from anyone.

However, unlike Darkfall or EVE Online, the primary gameplay model in Wizardry Online is not PVP. The bulk of the mechanics, game areas, etc., are classic dungeons, where you are expected to do the usual round of FedEx quests, genocidal assaults, and clicking on mounds of rotting sewage in the hopes of finding a key. So you have a game built primarily around "form a party and kill some monsters," with the added feature of "Oh, and by the way, the people in your party might be sociopaths who will gut you and take your stuff...and when they do, you might be dead forever. Have fun!"


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