Learn a Spell or Two with Wizard101
by Mitch Baylosis-Benesa (Syllica)
Wizard101 is a browser-based game chockfull of magical surprises. First off, this game did not scrimp on presentation with its vivid introductory trailer upon clicking new wizard at the start. It tells the story of their wizarding world Spiral and the evil magic casters and his evil forces have started to use magic for bad deeds. Nothing original, but it helps that the plot is not the complicated since this game is intended for the young ones. What captured my interest further is the voice over since very few developers add this factor to browser-based games.
Say My Name
In the beginning, your choice of a name is rather limited since you can only choose from among what is presented to you. However, this is quite fun as the random name can provide you some of the cool-sounding combinations from the list. They will then give you a short series of test to determine your type of magic: Fire, Ice, Storm, Myth, Life, Death and Balance. Each school of magic has a particular strength. Pyromancers are adept with Fire, Thaurmaturges use Ice, Diviners call forth the power of Storm, Conjurers summons their allies to aid them in battle, Theurgists practice healing magic, Necromancers use Death Magic while Sorcerers have begun using the balanced type of magic ideal for PvP. This is pretty unique, I must say; some lets you summon, some are elemental, while others are a mix. If you didn't like the results, you can change it to your preferred school later on. All of these are still consistently done with some 3D videos and voice overs.
Throw the Gauntlet Not
With kids in mind as players, the game will give a mini battle tutorial before launching you into the game. Fighting monsters in Wizard101 is much like old school console RPGs, save for the random encounters. Duels, as they call it, is turn-based and each spell you cast has an appropriate combat animation. You choose your spells from your deck of cards. Spells are not primarily limited to what your school of magic is. Even if you are, for example, under the Myth School of Magic, you may also have other spell types from Storm or Ice for a cost of Training Points. Training Points are earned every other 4-5 levels until you reach 50. The difference is that all spells under your school of magic is free of training cost, while other magic will cost you points. If you happen to notice that you wrongly allocated some points, you can have it reset by an NPC for an in-game currency cost (Crowns). If you find yourself lacking the points you need for other spells, some quests are available that will reward you with additional training points.
Questing is fun. The map is peppered with details of the important NPCs and location of buildings. If you tire some solo questing, Wizard101 also offer instances or dungeons and I can imagine this as a cool family adventure. Great rewards can be received from this, of course, but for an even greater challenge, you can try out the Gauntlet. It is another type of dungeon that is more unforgiving than regular instances since if you have unfortunately died during the battle or accidentally exited from the location, you have to redo the whole Gauntlet quest even if you are almost done with it. You need to trigger or find the appropriate quest for this to be available to you.
As you progress into the game, the animation may get tiring and you may just want to move on from the fight, but don't fret; there is an option to turn it off. However, do note that it may get interesting once again when you get a new card. And building decks is part of the fun (and frustration?) in Wizard101. Understanding the best combinations of schools of magic could be one of the great challenges that Wizard101 has to offer. I'll take something difficult to master over a no-brainer skill rotation any other day.
The activities within Wizard101 may be a good training ground for kids to learn about being professional. The game is also with other sorts of activities like pet training, Crafting and Gardening. Pets give you additional stats like additional health or mana, and you can start training pet bloodline if you want. Crafting allows you to create valuable objects that you can either use for yourself or for your house. You can also vend some. Taking up Gardening will yield you the some of the reagents you need for Crafting. To start these activities, you need to find the appropriate person to train you. It is bound to be costly and needs your attention-from preparing a land, getting seedlings, and harvesting what you have sown. Ranked and rated PvP is also available in the game from solo to 4vs4, although like much of the online games that are not purely PvP in orientation, the game is still in the process of tweaking and balancing classes.
Wizard101 has a lot of useful tips to guide you along the way-from accessible noted tutorials, to voice overs of characters who guide you as a newbie. Earning gold and healing oneself is also interesting. You can go to the Fairground, play the minigames, and get health or mana rewards, as well as the in-game currency.
Overall, I have to say that Wizard101 is somewhat refreshing. Sure, most of the elements that it has employed has been used already (and quite often at that). However, it's all about the game's presentation and fantastic soundtrack that did the trick. They infused it with humor that could appeal to both the kids and the parents (and quarter-aged players like me). Wizard101 is like Jimmy Neutron in a very lighthearted Harry Potter world: all 3D cartoony from character designs to fonts, but it still surrounds you with that epic magical feeling of being a dignified spellcaster. One will no doubt have a swell time building a deck of spells a la Magic the Gathering.
- It is as kid-friendly as intended
- Fantastic voiceover and soundtrack
- PvP is still weak
- Deck building may seem to be a tad bit difficult for kids to fully understand