By Joshua Temblett
When I first started downloading Wizard 101, I was very excited. Wizard 101 seemed to be brimming with style and charm as this MMORPG looked very different from all of the other titles on the market. Admittedly though, I was also very scared as when I first signed up for the beta I really didnt know what to expect. No screenshots or video footage were around at the time, and I feared for the worse that Wizard 101 would just be a bland point and click game, with bad controls uninspiring gameplay and with the school life being a total grind. This turned out to be not the case at all.
When I first entered the fantastic world of Wizard 101 I was surprised. The world was filled with colour and was incredibly appealing. I was also greeted with some very user-friendly keyboard controls and a wonderful music score to boot. Not only was the world beautifully coloured, but the world of Wizard 101 was easy to jump into, with a very fast download time for the game as the rest of the data (such as better textures etc) was downloaded in the background as I began to play. This MMO had already ticked one box and that box was that this game was easily accessible.
A host of cute animals welcomed me into their universe, each one with its own very special personality, who taught me the ropes of the game, during which I got to see the battle system. One of the bright, cuddly critters pointed me to a tower whereby I would have my first fight. This is it; its time to find out if this game lives up to expectations set before it or indeed falls flat on them, I thought to myself. I slowly opened the door to the tower, I was worried at this point as to what would meet me and shake my hand on the other side. Would the battle system be a lacklustre and uncreative? Or would it be something different? I pushed the door ever so slightly…and peeked in. Inside I saw one lone wood like puppet. It stood there waiting for something. I was told to walk up towards it, so I did just that. I approached the doll, and then all of a sudden, a circle shone on the floor and my character ran into position in the room. My character was on one side of the dark quarters and the enemy on the other. Oh yes, this battle system is turned based, and my god is it a good battle system. You see not only is it turned based but the battle system is card based which means that you use spell cards picked up on your journey throughout your adventure to summon creatures or just use simple wand magic to defeat your foes, creating a gotta catch them all collection scenario.
It doesnt stop there though as not only are the battles in Wizard 101 innovative and different for an MMO, they are unbelievably engaging and incredibly fun. I have never had this much fun in an online RPG before in my life for you see the fighting system is incredibly enjoyable to unspeakable extents and it also has a remarkable amount of depth in it to. So whether you are a casual or hardcore gamer, there is a lot to be delighted about here.
The storyline of Wizard 101 is played through simple yet entertaining quests, and it gives you enough leeway so that you can go off and do your own thing if you want to, but at the same time it gives you a definitive path to follow, which is good for those of you who want more direction on how to further advance in the storyline and your character. Whilst the quests and areas do repeat themselves to the extent that some gamers may be disappointed, I personally found that despite this negative point, the game still managed to retain its fun aspect.
An aspect that usually fails in most MMORPGs is (surprisingly) the community, however this games neighbourhood is not too bad in this wizard world. With the game being aimed at the tween and family friendly demographic, the chat system employed is a safe chat system, whereby players under the age 12 must use the safe chat system (unless their parents approve them for use of the normal chat system used by everyone else). This creates a good community as the game isnt saturated with l33t speak and nonsense spouting children who beg for equipment. Wizard 101 is also backed up with some the most amazing admins ever. The admins/game makers keep the players fully updated and you can tell there is a strong bond between player and maker, which potentially means a dream game could be made with players requests being fulfilled and bugs being easily tracked down and destroyed. Also admin activity is friendly and generally fun and it is also nice to find a group of game makers who seem to have a wonderful taste in humour.
Regarding where this game is going, no one can really comprehend. How the game makers intend to make money is unknown at this point with the various ways to get money being considered at this point in time. I for one would not like to see this game as a pay to play game, as it is obvious with the games target demographic that the game will not generate enough money with p2p and flop. I would suggest to the developers though about providing a cash shop with clothes and accessories and making the whole game available to everyone, as this method has been proved to earn more money on average than a monthly fee. It is suspected however that Wizard 101 will follow the Runescape model of payment, whereby around 40% of the game is available for free and that to access the rest of the game you have to pay. Whilst this method has been proved by Jagex as successful I think that due to Wizard 101 vast impending tween popularity the game is better off selling appearance changing (not stat changing) clothes as if a really cool piece of clothing was on sale for your teen mage, who in the world would not buy it?
Like I was when I first started playing, Im incredibly scared at where this game is going to end up. Wizard 101 has a lot of potential and I truly believe that this MMORPG will live up to the hype generated and that KingsIsles first title will blow minds, however how the developers intend to make money off this game is worrying as it could mean making the game inaccessible to a whole lot of players, which would be disgraceful considering that this MMO is set to be one of the best in the genre yet.