Written by  :  Tennessee Ernie Ford (18)
Written on  :  Aug 31, 2003
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars4.33 Stars

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Top of the line traditional cRPG. Graphics/audio sufficient for the fan.

The Good

This is one of the top 5 cRPGs of all times. It's got adventure and loot and monsters, oh my! Like other Wizardry-series games, it's helpful to understand the stats and levelling system, but for a change, it's not absolutely necessary.

There's a huge world to play in and you'll find yourself spooked by insects in the swamp and without a place to hide in the desert. The atmosphere will keep you coming back for more.

Quests and puzzles are not as open-ended or numerous as in previous Wiz games, but that will please everyone but the die-hard fans. (Be careful: a few guide books and websites get some info wrong, based on the BETA.)

A fantastic new class, the Gadgeteer, adds to the bountiful set of team choices. While I don't recommend switching classes first time through the game, it's possible to play almost any combination and have a good time.

There are tons of battles (perhaps too many), but that seems to be a handicap of the genre for some reason. You can tweak the toughness of encounters (tied to your strongest character), but, alas, not the frequency. I like tweaking my RPG battles, so I really liked the phased combat system -- although battles with far-away or round-the-corner creatures aren't handled as well.

The variety of strategies, monsters, and environments keeps evolving as the game progresses -- like most of the Wiz series, there's some especially tough Bosses that you can avoid or try to take out.

Like the other Wiz games, you can join one or both of the main factions or go it alone.

The Bad

There's a few arbitrary restrictions on where NPCs can go, which makes planning your excursions less open-ended than I'd like (work-around: use NPCs as "extras" rather than key team members).

The monster AI is about the best for this genre, but it's still not up to shooter level.

And, just when you think you've gotten to the end of the game and released the final level...well, you're only about 3/4 through the game. The End Game lasts a long time.

(And, like other Wiz games, your PCs will get tired, run out of inventory space, and run out of mana sooner than you'd like -- but, if you have an open mind about this, you'll see it's probably a fair game balance.)

The Bottom Line

I won't describe the storyline in detail. Plenty of reviews on the net do that already. Instead, here are my thoughts on how different types of players will react to this game.

(I played this game on a 500 MHz laptop w/1 MB vRAM and 512 MB RAM. This was fine, although it played better on a 1.5 GHz machine w/separate v-card.)

Wizardry Fans: IMO, the best. It has all the fun of the first 7 games without all the click and get confused tedium. It has the only storyline of the 8 games that actually has a reasonable ending (although it's a let down, 8 games later).

Might & Magic Fans: If you're disappointed in MM9, this is your fix for a traditional dungeon crawling cRPG. You'll rate it one of your favorites.

TES Fans: not nearly as open ended and the 1st "team" (instead of 1st-person) perspective might trip you up, but you'll like if not love it. It might not make your top 5 list, but it will make your favorites list.

AD&D fans will be disappointed. Not nearly as much chance of role-playing. You'll complain about classes and 1st person perspective for a team. You'll dislike the levelling system. But, if you can get past that, you'll enjoy the story and adventure and have a good time.

Action-game players will also be disappointed. Limited graphics, unexciting sound.

Adventure-game players will probably like the game, unless they really enjoy high definition cut-scenes and well defined storylines. The game allows you to travel pretty much where you want when you want (except for the endgame areas...and keep in mind, some areas will be too tough to handle).

Bottom Line: a top game. Given how much they got right, it's too bad Sir-Tech is now out of business. If they teamed up (again!) with the Wizards & Warriors crowd, they'd have a unbeatable combination.