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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 Online is not an open world game, which also sets it apart from its rivals in the PVP niche. You unlock dungeons by doing quests, then talk to an NPC who teleports you to the dungeon of your choice. Once there, you kill monsters, die, look for traps, die, find hidden areas and solve puzzles, die, try to complete quests, die, talk to NPCs to gain more quests or hints, and die.

You will die from traps. You will die from exploding chests. You will even die from dying, in an odd way, as, when you are dead, your ghost is chased by dark spirits who try to keep you from reaching the scattered shrines which can (sometimes) resurrect you, and will send you back to your corpse (as well as lowering your chances of resurrection).

Unlike most MMOs, you don't get an instant auto-map of the dungeon. You have to find map fragments scattered here and there to get pieces of each map. This contributes to the puzzle-solving, and also to the dying.

All of the above is great. This is precisely what Wizardry Online advertises, this is the niche it has staked out for itself, and it delivers what it promises in that regard. The issues I have with Wizardry Online have nothing to do with the degree of difficulty, the risks of death, or the insane amount the blacksmith charges to repair my armor. I'm clearly putting his kids through Adventurer School.

Yet there are drawbacks to Wizardry Online. First, the interface is somewhat unintuitive, combining odd movement, tiny and indistinct inventory icons, and controls that do different things depending on if your weapon is drawn or not. Some conversations are painfully slow to display, but they convey vital information and can't be skipped. Preferences selected are sometimes not saved. These are all relatively minor, as you can get used to any interface in time, but given the plethora of MMOs on the market, many gamers won't take the time. If their first hour isn't fun, they have a hundred other games vying for their attention.

Second, it suffers from poor translation from the Japanese. Quests often contradict themselves, as different descriptive elements were clearly written by different people without coordination. (For example, in one quest, part of the text claims you're looking for a doll for an NPC's daughter; in other parts, it's the NPC's doll.) Generic text, such as "You hand over the important item," is very common. Placeholder text, use of incorrect synonyms, default strings, and so on are scattered throughout.

Third, it is seriously overrun with gold spammers and other repugnant creatures. Since there's a single town and the spammers are all standing there in plain sight, it ought to be trivial for an employee to simply delete their accounts permanently as soon as one pops up, but, they don't. There's not even a click-to-report mechanism.

 

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