Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 11/14/01 | Genre: RPG
I was on the fence about whether or not to tackle this game. Wizardry 8 is yet another PC sequel (would somebody like to do something original that doesn't suck for the PC please) and yet another Role Playing Game. But I really like a good RPG and I remember playing one of the Wizardry games from the Dark Ages. You know, way back before the Internet taught us the joys of community gaming. So is this journey into the past something you should spend your hard-earned dollars on?
Wizardry 8 is exclusively old school. It is a classic role-playing game in every sense of the phrase. You lead a small band of warriors on an adventure to uncover the mysteries of someone called the Dark Savant. The game requires total micromanagement of every member in the party as well keen attention to details in the environment. In essence, all the skills one might have picked up playing pen-and-paper RPG's will serve you well.
The graphics for Wizardry 8 are adequate. The environment is realistic enough to help in the immersion process. The characters you'll encounter look a little blocky to me, but its not something that detracts from the experience. The sky changes with time as the moon crawls across the evening sky. I did find that some textures, like fire or splintered chairs, look like crap. But hey, it's not like you spend all your time running around looking for campfires and wood chips anyway.
The sound quality is much better than the graphics. The sounds of the environment are better than I expected. You can tell by sound when you're near a stream or walking toward the sea. The voices of the characters are distinct and suit the experience nicely. The music finds a way to grow on you. I didn't care for the tunes in the early going but after a while I found them blending nicely with the scenery and action on the screen.
There are plenty of things about the gameplay to brag on. I particularly liked how easy it was to move items between characters. There is also a party inventory feature that is nice. It allows you to equip characters only with the items that you plan for them to use. You won't have to worry about making one character a "pack mule" to carry the heavier items you find along the way.
I loved the magic system as well. There are different categories of magic (divine, water, fire, etc) and your characters are not confined to any one realm. If you'd like to be more proficient with fire spells you just add proficiency points to that skill when you level up. Or you can try using the fire spells more often and (very) gradually you'll get better with them. In fact, the same can be said of any skill available to your character. The more you use a sword or an axe, the better skilled you'll become with one. I found it refreshing to come across such a customizable skill system in an RPG. It allows you to truly grow your characters as you wish them to be played.
There wasn't much I didn't like about Wizardry 8. However I have a feeling not all who play the game will feel such affection for it. The battle process can be painfully slow. The battles themselves can be unconscionably difficult as you get ambushed by two or three groups of enemies at once.
For many the details will drive you insane. When you find new weapons or armor you have to cast identify to make sure it's not cursed. When picking a lock your thief will have to manipulate the individual tumblers, sometimes repeatedly, until the lock yields. When speaking to an NPC you have to go through an entire list of subjects, of which the character may only be willing to discuss a handful.
In the end, Wizardry 8 delivers an engrossing role-playing experience. The player is required to think beyond what has become the norm in RPG's. With puzzles that are not so obvious and a plot that doesn't reach out to the player, few gamers outside of RPG fanatics will ever take time to finish Wizardry 8. Nevertheless, if you consider yourself a fan of "old-school" RPG's, get a copy of Wizardry 8 soon. You will be rewarded with a game that probably would have been considered an instant classic ten years ago. But times have changed. I'll call this a C+ game. But bump that up a full grade if you're a member of the target audience.