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SummaryLike Wagner, great moments punctuating terrible half-hours.
The GoodThe coolest thing about the game is that you've got competition. Unlike other games, which say you've got to avoid the enemy or foil the bad guys, CODS/WizGold really means it. Like other cRPGs, you're on an epic quest to defeat the Dark Savant. You're off to save the girl and the magic ...well, you get the idea.
But, there's other folks out there trying to get the girl and the magic...Everyone's following the same clues and if you're resting too much after battles, you'll come to the special treasure chest...and find footprints in the dust letting you know you're a tad late.
Not to worry, you can track down your competitors, and in the tradition of the American Way, beat 'em or join 'em. (Generally speaking, they'll make an offer you'll want to refuse.)
Another cool thing about the game is that there are plenty of bosses ...and they're really challenging to defeat. But, you can find ways 'round 'em (or avoid battling 'em). To make it worthwhile, they'll drop a worthwhile pile of XP and GP and some special items not found anywhere else.
The puzzles, and there are plenty, are plenty challenging. Not for the faint of heart. It'll take a combination of skill, persistence, creativity, and the temptation of online walkthroughs to get to all the areas in the game, including locations of some crucial quest items. Many will get frustrated and give up. Don't. There's at least one way past every obstacle and usually 3-4, which makes the game even cooler.
Finally, the cast of characters, team members, races, classes and locations is imaginative, diverse, and just plain fun. It's cool beyond cool.
Brief note: CODS and Wizardry Gold are the same game, but for the interface. WizGold was SirTech's attempt to come into the modern age of computers (voice-acting, monster pixies, more than a few colors). CODS was the original; you'll almost certainly want to play the WizGold version on a modern PC rather than CODS.
However, note that CoDS has some distinct advantages over its prettier step-sister. Given that the voice acting in WizGold would make Keanu Reaves proud, you'll probably turn the sound off (it slows down the game). WizGold also has a sometimes tedious interface, intolerable in a windows game, but par-for-the-course in DOS.
The BadSigh. All that said, this could have been the best cRPG ever, but... Sigh.
The manual doesn't explain 5% of what you'll want to know before you start nor 5% of what you need to know to adventure...and yet it's one of the most extensive and comprehensive game manuals ever. So, you're more tempted than not to check out hint and guide books or websites...which spoils too much of the fun of the game.
If you get past the interface and the manual, you'll find that, like a lot of the classic AD&D computer games, you spend a lot of time wandering the wide outdoors...only to find there's not much going on. (Dungeons are much more interesting.) It's all too easy to get lost and miss the 2-3 interesting places you want to visit.
On the way to the interesting places, you'll encounter monsters randomly and in set locations (e.g. right in the one place you need to pass through). And unfortunately, there's an unreasonable randomness in the difficulty of your encounters: the XP you gain can vary by a factor of 10,000! (some particular places) and usually by a factor of around 100 -- which either means you're dying without a chance or bored while filleting small rats. Treasure from such battles is also randomized.
Worse, level ups result in random benefits. You're almost required to save/restore in order to have a fighting chance first time through...because level ups come far and few between after about L10.
The Bottom LineStill, if you get through the boring outdoors and the random battles/levelling...and can figure out the puzzles, it's one of the most fun cRPGs out there.
If you're a Wiz fan, you might like this game more than Wiz8...despite Wiz8's much more comfortable interface and modern graphics.
If you're a Might and Magic IV-V, you'll find the same kind of tongue-in-cheek and serious fun of Terra.
Silver and Gold Box AD&D Fans should love it. In my opinion, CODS has a much more interesting story and adventure and the dislikable things are about the same.
If you can't stand grid based games that require you to do your own mapping, stay away from CODS. Similarly, folks who don't have a lot of time to spare should avoid the seventh Wiz game.