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SummaryYou finally have a chance to finish off the evil Dark Savant!
The GoodWhen I heard that Sir-Tech was making this game, I couldn't wait to play it. Over a decade ago, Bane of the Cosmic Forge and Crusaders of the Dark Savant enthralled me with their turn-based combat systems, truly different, imaginative and intelligent monsters and a captivating, original story of good versus evil. The ending in Crusaders left you wondering what the Dark Savant would do next ... what would become of the world now that he had taken off with the Astral Dominae? Yes, Wizardry 8 concludes the story ... and does it very well!
To help tie the old to the new, the introduction is presented to you in shades of brown and ivory as still pictures slide across the screen during the narrative. Choosing characters for your party comes next (in full color) .. and they are a diverse group with a good variety of faces and talents. Veterans to the series will notice several new classes and races in male as well as female. Choose the ready-made "sample party" or create up to 6 of your own from scratch. The designers made an intuitive and helpful character creation interface - a right-click answers all your questions about every aspect of it.
In between performing your "hack and slash" functions, an intricate, evolving story is told. Your main objective is to retrieve a trinity of objects (including the Astral Dominae) and then take them to Ascension Peak where, as legend has it, someone will ascend and become "Cosmic" Lords. Numerous sub quests are incidental to securing those items, but, of course, give you essential experience points.
You'll meet two opposing factions who, although both want to destroy the Dark Savant as much as you do, are convinced that the other is their enemy. With a little forethought, you can form an alliance with both factions and, in the end, bring about a truce and have them join together with you against your common enemy.
Character dialogs (both of your party members and NPCs) are the best part of this game, and I must say the same for the people who voice-acted them. Your party members will randomly make comments about the quest at hand, the city or place, the people and more. Each person has his/her own way of telling you that they are hurt or sick, are out of ammo and to confirm your orders. In battle, each one also has a unique "Heave Ho!" .. and they even exclaim differently when they've done well. (When my Ranger has an exceptional "kill", she cries out "I remain dominant!", while my Lord says simply, "Excellent!") And .. NPCs have changing dialog and can be asked about a large variety of topics on which they will answer. You can set the dialog to an "automatic" type mode so that key words, people, places are added as "topics" to ask about. Plus you can add your own words and phrases! Makes it mighty interesting!
In my opinion, the character animations and battle actions are "a cut above", making the fight sequences really fun to watch. The graphics of the world around you is pretty darned good and drawn very well. Another reviewer mentioned "monsters partly in walls" ... well, yes, that happened occasionally, but usually it was a crab with sharp claws coming through the walls of a grass hut! Now that's realistic!
And speaking of battles, the fight interface is really good. Right-click your mouse or touch a key (or combination thereof) to select an action (i.e. M to cast a magic spell, U to use an item, L to repeat the last command). I chose to play in the turn-based "phased" manner for the whole game rather than "continuous" because I like the most control. Casting a magical spell is as easy as using a potion. Even low-level spells can still be effective with later game monsters since their intensity gets higher as you get stronger.
The "creatures" seem to be pretty smart and dexterous too, dodging, moving about the screen, and casting spells on their own. And there are hundreds of them, some familiar and some brand new, to keep you mighty busy -- all with unique animations and sounds for their species. If you have a ranger in your party, you can select him/her and right click on a monster to see its unique strengths, weaknesses, type of attack and immunities, and then plan your attacks accordingly. If your foe is 100% immune to Fire, for instance, you'll have no effect whatsoever with a Fireball spell! And just when you've become used to casting magic all the time, you'll enter a "no magic" zone ... or you'll find yourself under water where no fire magic works! That's where the numerous potions, powders and bombs come in handy!
Other things I liked:
- Multi-layered area "auto" maps on which you add notes
- Unlocking doors, chests with an unusual (and challenging) "lock-pick" technique
- Much more for your Bard and Thief (2 professions often ignored in other games)
- Varied landscapes and locations
- Unlimited Save Game slots with 3 Quick Save and Auto-Save functions
- Decisions made during gameplay can change your ending
- Teleport over long distances using "Set Portal" and "Return to Portal" magic spells (for characters high enough in magic) plus 2 permanent ones
- So many magical spells that you may never see all of them
- A well-written, truly useful manual
- Radar screen that shows locations of collectible items and monster locations
- Good value for the buck ... it takes a -very- long time to finish
In addition, there are 4 different endings! One depends upon whether an important quest was finished, while the other 3 are based upon a decision you make during the "end game" portion.
The BadMy complaints are few. I loved Wizardry 8 so much that, even with these quirks, I wanted desperately to finish it!
- The minimum system requirements aren't enough! While the game will install and run on a Pentium II 233Mhz machine, attempting to perform even the smallest of functions (like moving the mouse cursor on the screen) is literally painful. The game crawled on my PII 400MMX (even with 256Ram), but it flies on my Pentium III 1000Mhz laptop. BTW, no "recommended" system requirements are contained in any of the written material.
- Evidently the first release of the game was produced on inferior CDs and they can wear out! (This according to a message on the Sir Tech forums). Because files on my CD#3 refused to load (the game hung up as soon as it was inserted), I had to buy the game again. My second copy is the "Game of the Year Edition" which seems to be much better. Because of the copyright protection, I failed in all attempts making a personal backup copy.
- I got tired of the battle music, but after awhile I "tuned it out" and really didn't notice it. Each locale does have unique music but none of those tracks were really exciting.
The Bottom LineThis game has been added to my "Top 10 RPG Favorites" !
Wizardry 8 is simply marvelous! It has all of the elements you'll want in a Role Playing Game: turn-based combat - easy to use, intuitive interface - complex, interesting story - loads of characters and monsters with personalities all their own - plus user customizations for keyboard shortcuts - and so much more!