Wizardry Online Closed Beta impressions

As you may or may not have known, the Closed Beta for Wizardry Online began on October 29th and will be ending tomorrow on December 13th. Since the NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) was lifted a week or so ago, I figured I would take this time to give my impressions of the game since I played from day 1 until about the end of November, exhausting all of the content the Closed Beta had to offer.

So, let’s get started with the first category!

Story: 2/5

Okay, so the game starts you off in this dungeon with a party of five, if I remember correctly. Two of them die pretty much instantly against this demon known as an ‘Ancient’, so you run away with two of the remaining party members. While you are running, the Ancient chases after you, but just as it is about to catch up, it is taken down by a mysterious adventurer named Zero in one swing. The adventurer walks away, then your party hears the sound of another Ancient, so you all decide to split up and meet in town.

There’s no telling if your other party members made it or not, but the game has lead me to believe they didn’t. When you arrive in town, you are approached by a woman asking if you wish to join the Adventurer’s Guild. After joining, a strange woman meets you in town later and says something like, “Your soul is different… You have a great purpose in this life.” After this, you are lead from dungeon to dungeon with different excuses such as, “You’re an adventurer, right? Go clear these monsters for us.” or “I need this item, but I can’t go that deep into the dungeon. You’ll go for me, right?”, so forth and so on.

The “story” seems sloppily thrown together because of this. There seems to be a mysterious girl traveling with a group that has been seen in dungeons, but if you see them… You will surely die! Yeah, the whole thing seems pretty lame to me. Then again, I don’t play online games for their story anyway.

Gameplay: 3/5

It seems a lot of people are quite worried about the permadeath feature in this game and it has turned quite a few of them away from even attempting to play it, despite it being free-to-play. Well, having experienced the permadeath feature first-hand, let me give you some advice. Be prepared for anything. When I mean anything, I mean absolutely ANYTHING.

The first thing that probably comes to mind is monsters, right? Well, that should be a given. However, there will also be other players that are running around in dungeons trying to kill players. These are known as ‘criminals’ and glow red if they have a major offense. They can also glow a yellow/gold color for a minor offense, which usually involves looting an item from a dead body or hitting an NPC.

A minor offense usually wears off in about 10-15 minutes or so, however… If you’re a criminal with a major offense, you better be prepared for hell to pay.  I’ll get to that in a moment. Back to the permadeath feature for now. So, on top of the monsters and criminals, what else do you have to watch out for?

The environment as well. That’s right. One false move and you can slip into a pool of acid or fall off a high ledge and meet your demise. Not only that, but you also have to watch out for traps. There are some floor traps which can instantly kill you as well as chests that have traps which can kill you in one hit as well. Depending on what kills you will mean you just die or immediately turn to ash.

Now, for those unfamiliar with Wizardry, if you die… You usually have two chances to revive your character. In this game, you will run to a revival statue (or a priest/monk if you’re in town) and be presented with a scale and a percentage of success. You can donate items and money to increase your odds (even at 99%, you are not guaranteed a revival as I found out the hard was and was turned to ash once!).

If you fail again after turning to ash, you will become Lost and that character will be gone for good. When you die, players can loot your body. Fortunately, they can’t tell what they’re looting (all they see is ? Sword, ? Greaves, ? Ring, etc.), but I would still advise you to pad your inventory with dummy gear. What I mean is, just move your good equipment around so it’s not so easy to find (like on the first slots, which is default). So, say you’re a Sword user… Just bring along five crappy swords as well, that way they may loot that one instead of your good one.

Anyway, when you die though, you will be in soul form. During this time, when you are running back to the revival statue, you may encounter something known as a ‘Walker’. They take the form of a Grim Reaper and if they catch you, they will reduce your revival success rate by 10%, if I remember correctly. Now, you do have the option of just clicking on your body in soul form to teleport back to the last revival statue you activated, but it will take 25% durability (or maybe it was 20%) from your gear and you will have to wait 30 seconds before you can click on the statue (this can be especially bad if someone is trying to loot you and you have to wait to revive to prevent them from getting anything off you!).

I should note, there is in fact a way to become Lost just from fighting a monster. Some monsters have a skill called, ‘Energy Drain’. It will take your experience points away from you. If your exp bar goes all the way down to zero because of this, you will instantly die. No chance for revival at all. That’s it. You’re just Lost.

Now, back to criminals! As a criminal, you will not longer have access to the main town. You will reside in an area known as the “slums” which is a lawless zone. Now, that’s not to say you can’t go back into town anyway, but… If a guard sees you, you’ll get caught and sent to jail in an instant. I’ve never seen a character survive a guard in the game. At one point, we even had a couple of GMs join and they were both criminals, but the guards still did over 50,000 points of damage to them, knocked them unconscious, and sent them to jail, heh.

It’s really hard to dig yourself out of this hole though. Once you become a criminal, you have to wait, at minimum, 12 hours in game time without doing any more bad deeds to return back to normal. The bad part about this is… When you’re traveling dungeons, just trying to complete quests, there may be some people that notice you and want to kill you. Since you are a criminal, they won’t suffer a penalty for killing you, however… You will only add to your sentence if you hit them or kill them in defense.

Towards the end of my time in the Closed Beta, I became a criminal on accident because this guy started attacking some of my friends in the Slums, which were criminals, so I poked him three times with my spear and because of this, I started glowing red. I had to sit in a jail for 12 hours until the sentence had finally worn off, so the punishment is quite cruel! To make matters worse, you can accidentally become one in other ways too.

For example, if you have a criminal in your party and you heal them or buff them, you will add to your criminal status. You will only get a minor offense at first, but if you keep doing it, you will begin glowing red and become a criminal as well. Other than that, I found the combat to be rather basic, which is neither good or bad. I just wasn’t exactly blown away by it… Plus there were little bugs here and there which I encountered and reported, which will hopefully be fixed once the full game officially releases.

Here is a rather lengthy gameplay video showing the English gameplay from the Closed Beta for those that may be interested in seeing how it plays.

Sound: 4/5

Now, the BGM in the game is something I doubt I’d ever complain about, honestly. I thought the game could use some better voice work (or voice work period, really, since all you hear is the occasional grunt or scream), but aside from that… I was rather pleased with the music in this game. All of the other sounds, such as hitting an enemy, sheathing your weapon, etc. are what you’d expect from an RPG, but the music really stuck out for me the most.

You can check below to hear some samples from the OST which released earlier last month.

Graphics: 3/5

A lot of people will tell you the game isn’t much to look at and that may be true, but if you’re familiar with Wizardry, you will understand that graphics have never been the primary focus, so the outdated look was not much of a surprise to me when I began playing Wizardry Online. There will be a lot of people that will turn away from this game simply because the graphics look like they belong to a game that was released in the wrong time period, but I just hope that you put aside your superficial thoughts for a moment and give it a chance to see what lies underneath its rough exterior.

The only thing, in terms of graphics, that I’d like to see is additional customization options for faces and hair. They were a bit lazy with those, but we are able to buy avatar items from the cash shop, so I guess that sort of makes up for it. Regardless, don’t turn the game down for its sub-par graphics. It’s free-to-play. What have you got to lose?

On that note, I give the game a final rating of:

3 out of 5

It may be a little rough around the edges, but I think underneath that rough exterior is a game that will shine for months to come, even a year. Granted, they may not seem like much now, but considering how short of a lifespan a lot of games seem to have these days, I’d say that’s a lot. We’ve got a lot of content to look forward to (the Japanese version just got their 15th dungeon last month), so there will be plenty to keep you hooked for sure.

Personally, I can’t wait for the full release. Not just as a fan of the game because of my experience in the Closed Beta, but also as a fan of Wizardry that has been following the franchise for over a decade.