Written by Remko Molenaar (Proxzor) OnRPG Journalist
Wizardy Online, at its core, is certainly more than just an MMO featuring wizards and mages. Wizardry recently launched a couple of months ago and though not well received by most, introduced a wider range of horror style gameplay options combined with the fear of permadeath to create a more intense gaming experience than the watered down rivals in the genre. This hardcore fantasy MMO is published by the well-known Sony Online Entertainment, yet again showing they’re willing to take risks on innovative new ideas. I decided last week to see if what’s being said about Wizardry Online is true or just mob mentality.
Before you are set to follow the adventure of your first character you are able to choose between four races. And no worries, nothing is gender locked unless you get technical when dealing with the dwarves and gnomes. When you have chosen a race you will automatically roll the dice to get bonus skill points. There’s a cap on how many points you can add to a single stat, so for most it likely isn’t worth it to spend hours trying to get one of the 20+ bonus stat rolls, but if you intend to max out multiple classes on one character, you might need to take your time.
Your adventure begins rather abruptly; you are met up with strangers in a labyrinth and are fleeing from a fearful monster that you just witnessed tear one of your party members into four pieces. Luckily you are saved by one of the kingdom’s well known heroes, and split up to escape to safety. This is where you will start with your newly created character. You will get shown the ropes and shown the locals in the town. At first glance I couldn’t help but see Final Fantasy influence around every corner. From the textures to models, everything looks like it can take place in a Final Fantasy game. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, and in fact I must admit that I really like it but on the other hand I would often begin to mix up their backstories in my mind and forget I wasn’t in the same world. Just to be the anarchist here, I also decided to play a Dwarf Fighter; the intelligent humans and elves would soon witness their limitations to raw power and well forged weapons. Interactions with your environment are more varied than most MMORPGs in the fantasy realm. You can open doors to enter houses and other rooms, pick chests, examine objects, and solve puzzles to progress.
Nothing says anarchist like jumping aimlessly around the front of a local shop
Dying is no stranger to me in MMOs. Let’s just say I have an alt + tab addiction and ADD when it comes to web browsing, and it can get you in a bit of trouble. But this habit of mine quickly revealed one of the most important features for differentiating Wizardry, the permadeath system. When you die in Wizardy Online you will spawn as a soul, no you will not be on your way to heaven you can actually return to your body through various revival points. Your body remains at your death location in the meantime, while you wonder if a fog with spooky sound effects and eerie lighting effects. Of course no one will be able to hear you speak in all chat or see you in this form, at least from how I understand it.
Now this is where it gets fun; adventurers are able to steal your belongings or money from your corpse. This of course makes you want to hurry back to the guardian statue to revive as soon as possible. But if you warp there immediately, you’ll take a hit to your gear’s endurance. If you choose to run back in spirit form, you might run into grim reapers and other fowl creatures that will delay you and lower your chance of a successful revival. Even once you get back to the guardian statue, if you’re not feeling lucky you need to sacrifice items to boost your chance of a successful revival. Two unsuccessful revival rolls or not reviving before your death timer runs out and it’s game over for your character forever.
What Wizardry Online promoted is that the game itself is the hardest MMO ever. Having played many MMORPGs, I personally found this a bold statement. What makes a MMORPG the hardest MMO made ever? Well I agree the permanent death adds new spice and challenge, but overall its purpose is more to add to the fear of playing rather than making the title more of a ‘challenge.’ There is no auto-regeneration, and no auto-leveling (you have to return to the Inn after the novice levels to properly level up and regain stamina for stat bonuses). Even though they market these things as added challenge, they’re more just hindrances. Neither makes the game harder and instead just prolong the time it takes to complete content. Luckily they have brought back the classical MMO experience with solving puzzles, and traps you will have to disarm that do more for the overall challenge than most anything else present.
What is hard? Well trying out the Player versus Player in Wizardry Online is hard. The fact that after your soul level (an account bound level that allows you to continue progressing the strength of all your characters through passive stat boosts) reaches level 2 you can be attacked anywhere, even inside town, and the paranoia factor starts to build. Combined with the death feature being enabled even from PK and having your hard earned gear stolen while you’re reviving, and this game starts to mess with your head. The Server-Wide PvP and main town being split into a criminal and law abiding section adds a sense of bounty hunters versus crooks feeling instead of an official faction split. I highly suggest taking your lowbie character to the darkside of town to witness the PvP action that goes on there as it's pretty awesome seeing the titans of the server clash.
And speaking of bounty hunting, you can send bounty hunters or other mercenaries after people to make them disappear from the world for good through an official bounty board system. Together with a crime system that ups your death penalty but mostly doesn’t hinder your power makes for some interesting Roleplay opportunities. Just be prepared that NPC guards will attack you on sight if you show up on main street with a record to your name.
When a game involves PvP, I am always the first in line wanting to try it out. Having played Wizardry Online, I can appreciate the level of challenge forced on you from an early level. First I'll say Wizardry Online might not be the hardest MMORPG I've ever played, but it could be the most punishing for mistakes. A common complaint against the game is people get mad from getting killed due to their speed being too slow and the controls/camera being too clunky. And while this is fair, I think it was necessary to make skillful PvP viable by slowing things down to the point that ping wouldn’t offer an unfair advantage. It also adds to that fear factor when a fire trap is about to explode under you, or a giant four armed bull demon is about to throw you against a wall, and you realize you’re too slow to dodge out of the way in time. The game is really open in the sense that you are able to choose what kind of persona you wish to build. Do you want to be the good guy that helps everyone and saves people, or do you perhaps fancy being the bounty hunter killing people for money or even just slaughtering every living being that crosses your path? Will you build up a mafia or militia or be a lone wolf that relies on sense and logic to survive? That combined with the ability to switch your class and master skills from two separate classes on one character makes for some intense high stakes end-game PvP. The choice is yours and the game fully enables this freedom. As you can imagine, this game isn’t for everyone. Be sure to have a clear mind, steady hand, and pack of friends each time you leave the city gates as it could be your final journey.