I must admit to a bit of a mental disconnect when I think of Wizardry Online, a new game that SOE will be publishing this year.
For me, Wizardry brings this image to mind.
Wizardry on an Apple ][+ in 1983
And, well… not this.
Asian influence anybody?
The first Wizardry, Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, was one of the first games I acquired for my Apple back in 1983. This, along with Ultima III, was one of the first games I really played to death. I still have hand drawn and annotated graph paper maps of the whole dungeon sitting in a drawer in my office. They look something like this, though not as neat.
The first level
And the game itself, on the Apple II… here it is full resolution.
A game image stolen from the internet
Not a lot of pixels on an Apple ][ screen. That was back when we measured screens by the numbers rows and columns they could display, 24 rows and 80 columns being the standard, though the Apple ][+ only did 40 by default. I did not get 80 columns until I upgraded to an Apple //e a year or so later.
The game, which appears on Gamasutra’s 20 Essential RPGs to Study list, is a dungeon crawl in almost the purest form. It taught you to map, advance cautiously, and to be patient. After many a death in the dungeon, with whole parties being lost and unrecoverable, you learned to build up your strength and return to town frequently.
It also taught party structure, as only the first few characters in your party could come to grips directly with the enemy, while those behind were left to defense or support roles. Hints of the holy trinity were visible more than 20 years before WoW.
And, of course, it taught me the phrase, “Cheap Apostates! Out!” You got that message when you were short of money for healing or reviving at the monastery. I got that message a lot early on.
As I said, I played the hell out the game, finished it, and pretty much moved on. I think I may have purchased the next game in the series, Knight of Diamonds, but I don’t think I ever got into it. I certainly never went beyond that, and the series went out to Wizardry 8, which came out just a decade back.
Instead I went on with Ultima IV, Bard’s Tale, and Wasteland for RPGs. And then online gaming showed up and became a focus of mine.
So my memories of Wizardry are of the first game alone, causing me make a nearly 30 year mental jump to get caught up to what is being proposed now for Wizardry Online and what it has to offer. And the web site helpfully offers up three great reasons to play.
Well, three allegedly great reason, though I would argue that the first two are not well stated. I would have written the list as:
- An MMORPG designed for hardcore players!
- Permadeath puts an edge on your decisions!
- Amazing graphics!
Oddly, the first two are totally in line with my memories of the original game. Wizardry was hardcore, with no maps, no easy travel, and corpse retrievals if your whole party was wiped out. And you could fail to revive, thus lose characters permanently.
The third, well… I am not sure ~I~ would emphasize the anime influence of the graphical style. I am not opposed to it myself, but it does tend to be one of those polarizing issues.
But there it is, Wizardry Online. You can sign up for beta if you are impatient. Otherwise SOE is pegging it for a 2012 release, and it will surely be “Free To Play – Your Way” as is the SOE norm, which generally means “Cheap Apostates must be hounded ceaselessly until they subscribe!”
Having missed the entire middle of the Wizardry saga, I will be interested to see exactly where this title lands. Massively looked at the title over a year ago at E3, but who knows what has changed since then.
If it is really true to the original, a hardcore (whatever that really means these days), party based, dungeon crawler, it could be something interesting to try out.