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SummaryFantastic finale which leaves us hungry for more.
The Good(Some minor spoilers)
Wizardry 8, the final addition to this 20+ year old series does everything that made the classic games a success, while adding so much more.
For the first time, we are treated to free flowing movement, 3d graphics (DirectX and OpenGL both supported), an entirely new combat system, and characters with real personality.
Fans of the older games should not be put off by the free flowing movement. Step by step tile based movement was the norm with the previous games, and more than a few Wizardry lovers were skeptical about the change to movement, worried that the traditional gameplay would be thrown off, perhaps resulting in a game that resembles more modern RPGs than the Wizardry series. I can say for certain that this isn't the case. The developers did an excellent job of revolutionizing movement all the while staying true to the classic feel. While the graphics are not as good as other first person games of the time, they are way, way above standard for Wizardry games. Besides, it was never graphics that made the series a success, so the 3d is just gravy. Not to mention, it runs very smoothy on relatively older systems. I for one would rather have average graphics that run awesome, rather than awesome graphics that run slow.
The combat system is new to the series, and quite unique. With six members in your party, you have the option of strategical placement of each member. Fighters and melee up front, casters and ranged attackers in the middle or back. Should monsters end up behind you though, your melee classes will be out of range and your more delicate characters will be subject to melee attack. Nevertheless good placement is key to keeping characters alive.
As far as the fighting goes, there are many options for various characters. Melee, ranged attack, use of items, spells, defense (allowing you to recover stamina by passing on an action in combat, useful if you're character is about to go unconscious during battle), even protection of other party members are all individual actions each member can take. A party member is close to death? Have a couple of members offer to defend them until your healer can cast a spell. Lots of strategies and various play styles are allowed giving the player a sense of individuality in their tactics. Good stuff.
There is no real wrong way to build a party. Just about any combination of characters can win. I've even read about hardcore players that could solo the entire game with one party member. This isn't to say that the game is easy, far from it. All party configurations will be put to the test.
Creating characters is fun, and not too daunting. While there are a load of stats, the interface serves to make creation friendly and simple. You can also assign personalities and voices to your characters. This is great fun, as various statements made by your characters throughout the game will correspond with their personality. What's more, if you get tired of a particular voice or personality, you can change it at any time during the game. In traditional Wizardry fashion, you may also import characters from the previous scenario (Wizardry 7).
The story is excellent, and while it continues on eventually giving conclusion to the Dark Savant saga, new players would not need to play the previous versions.
The mix of fantasy and technology began with DW Bradley in Wizardry V, and in Wizardry 8 it's more apparent than ever. I enjoy fighting with swords, bows, and spell casting all the while being blocked by force fields controlled by computers. It's a nice touch that lends yet more uniqueness to the series. That's not to say that no other game or series has incorporated technology with fantasy, but Wizardry does it best.
In addition to your party members, you're also able to take some people along with you at certain times. They have their own personalities and skills. NPC interaction is also good, as diplomacy returns, along with the ability to pickpocket, shoplift, do quests for and align yourself with various NPCs.
There is plenty to do in the game, and you do not have to complete every little side quest or explore every single area.
Also, there are some nice twists such as a party member being eaten by a monster and you have to kill the monster to get your member back. On one occasion, a party member got kidnapped and I had to rescue him. All good stuff.
I really could go on and on about this game, but honestly I feel that words cannot describe the atmosphere and level of immersion this game has. You can't be told what Wizardry is, you must experience it for yourself (kinda like the matrix).
The BadThere are some flaws with this game, and I believe that the level of complexity in comparison to other Wizardry installments is what brings this about.
There are too many fights, and often the combat lasts way too long. Even when fighting relatively easy enemies that you're going to annihilate, it may take a couple of minutes to hack and slash through them. Boo. I had a fight against three groups of monsters totaling around 20 opponents, but they were all little bugs that would die in one hit. The majority of the time was spent waiting on the computer to move the bugs around into position. I timed it and it took 8 minutes to finish combat without a scratch. After it was finished, I immediately got into another fight with monsters that wanted to fight at range, and when closing the distance they'd run. That took another 6 minutes or so to kill low level monsters. After that, I got in a fight with what was an even match. That took about 5 minutes, but I had to camp in order to restore my characters. While camping, I was interrupted and had another fight that lasted 3 minutes. Then I finished camping. In total, I spent about 22 minutes walking about 10 feet. Ugh.
There are quite a few bugs. While there is a patch available, it is supposedly only for discs that don't have 1.2.4 printed on them. The older discs will wear out requiring a replacement, and the newer discs while not needing the patch, still have bugs. Sometimes NPCs that join the party become buggy or invisible. Having done quite a bit of research online however, there are almost always work-arounds for these bugs, so if you have a problem google is your friend.
The worst part about this game isn't about the game itself, but the fact that this is certainly the final wizardry. Sir-Tech is out of business, and if we did see some other company endeavor to continue the series I would bet dollars to cents that the new company wouldn't be able to give the series a proper revival when considering the same company designed these games for 20 years.