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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.

Due to a really poor design decision, items bought from the item shop can be sold to other players. The subhuman sleazes who run gold-selling businesses a) Buy such items, mostly using stolen credit cards, b) Offer such items for sale for in-game gold, and, c) Sell in-game gold players then use to buy the items. So long as what the spammers sell gold for allows players to buy the items for less than the cost of buying them on the item store, the criminals profit.

This wouldn't work if they had to legitimately buy the store items, of course, but since they are criminals who are using stolen money and then laundering it via this process, it works just great for them. Sony could gut their business by simply setting a flag so that items purchased from the store can't be sold or traded, but are bound to the purchasing account. Why don't they?

Fourth, there are still significant balance, design, and polish issues to resolve. Many of the game's mechanics, such as disarming chests, or carefully edging around traps, encourage careful movement or take time-- but the respawn rates on monsters are so high that you literally cannot stand still in many places without being swamped. Often, monsters spawn faster than you can kill them. (Fortunately, they tend not to chase you far.) Quests are sometimes unclear as to what you're supposed to kill. Sometimes, searching will produce an item which is purposeless until you get the quest (this is good, you don't have to then go back and search the same spot), but, sometimes, searching will not produce an item unless you have the quest, so you never know if a place you searched had nothing because there was nothing, or if it had nothing because you didn't have the quest that made it active. The aforementioned map fragments try to look hand-drawn,, but this makes them somewhat difficult to use. I love the fact you have to earn your maps; I dislike that, once earned, they're less helpful than they could be.

Bottom line: This game is not for people with a low tolerance for frustration, or who expect glowing neon arrows leading them from quest to quest, or who want a lot of bright colors and shiny effects. Wizardry Online is gritty, difficult, and brutally unforgiving. The history of MMORPGs strongly hints it will become much less so over time, so, if you want bragging rights of having played when it was tough, start now.

Of course, Wizardry Online might buck historical trends and get harder over time, not easier. But I wouldn't bet on it.


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