Well I have been having a great time the last two weeks playing Wizardry. What started as a way to waste a few minutes here and there while on vacation turned into a full quest after I got hooked in its claws again. As I discussed in the last post, the game is just really easy for me to get into right now because the turn based nature of the game fits well into my tiny windows of free time. I can play during lunch at work, fight a few battles while my wife is cooking dinner, or just map a few squares when I have a moment during the day. Hopefully things will settle down in the next week so that I can play some bastion, but it won’t be until I finish Wizardry 6: Bane of the Cosmic Forge.
The Wizardry series is about as “old school CRPG” as you can get. It is a contemporary of the original Ultima as well as other well known titles and has a huge legacy that has taken some strange turns. Originally designed as a series of campaigns using the same first person wire frame dungeon for 5 games, Wizardry finally decided to keep up with the graphics arms race and retool its engine in 1990. Unfortunately, it still looks pretty poor compared to other titles coming out at the same time. All of the tiles are represented by the same ugly grey stone hallway texture. (Even areas described as forests, swamps, or pyramids.) Fortunately, the descriptions are very good at spurring the imagination to fill in the gaps and give the player some sense of place.
[This is supposed to be a worm in a swamp. It looks like a castle, though.]
In addition to the simplicity of the graphics, the inherent “old school-ness” of the game is staggering. The game world consists of an ancient castle that not only has swamps and mountains around it, but was also apparently built over the River Styx. The mountain area has a dwarven mine, a pyramid with a pharaoh in the basement and an amazon queen at the top, and, evidently, a volcano right beside the pyramid with its own god that the amazons worship. A mishmash to say the least. What is endearing about the setting is that it represents a time when games were designed by small teams with nothing to limit them but their imaginations and coding skills. Even though I enjoy a good, solid story every once in a while, the mechanics are what really run the show. Building characters is a delight with the option to change classes as long as stats allow building different skills in all the characters. Right now I have a fighter turned samurai who can cast spells, a bard with excellent scouting and alchemy skills, and a mage who has dabbled in ninjitsu enough to blend with the shadows at will. It’s really incredible and offers a HUGE variety of game play styles making almost any strategy viable.
I am currently about 85% through the game and will be done soon. I am looking forward to playing Wizardry 7: Crusaders of the Dark Savant in the future, but the fact that I thought I could mainline the whole series when I was depressed is insane. It is just way too much to take in and too much time to invest. No wonder I was so frustrated. I’ll give it a few months before I try the next one, but I am looking forward to importing my current party and continuing their journey. It’s also pretty cool because I remember PURCHASING Wizardry 7 (on two 3.5” floppies) in fifth grade and getting completely lost. It will be nice to finally finish it.
Wizardry’s Current Legacy
One of the most interesting things about the Wizardry series is how it has developed globally. Originally an American series, the games have become an RPG staple in Japan. I’m not sure if it’s the “spreadsheet” nature of the mechanics or whether they just like the games, but the Wizardry series has seen more iteration and games in Japan than in the country of its origin! Many of these went unreleased in the US including a SNES port of Wizardry 6 that looks quite good.
I, myself, purchased the PS3 Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls and sunk about ten hours into it. I originally got frustrated with its difficulty curve, but now that I understand class switching and character building I may fare better. It also has a very ‘anime’ design with skimpy clothing and cutesy sounds I don’t particularly like, but the mechanics are identical to Wizardry 1 so you know it’s got to be good. I’ll have to wait on that for a little while, too.
Bastion is still on my plate and I enjoyed what I have played of it. I look forward to digging into it a little more once I have time. Thanks for sticking with me.