Currently playing: Icewind Dale 2, Demonicum

March 30, 2012

Wizardry VII - Review

I´ve decided to pause my gameplay in Wizardry VII. I´ve played for around 25 hours or more and I think that is enough to give you my review of the game. The reasons for pausing is that it takes too much time as input and much too less progress and rewards as output for the time available for me right now. Besides the game is huge and I don´t see me finishing this until the beginning of summer.

So here is my review

Time played: Approximately 25 hours

Gameworld & Story
The story takes places directly after Wizardry 6. Multiple parties are looking for the artifact Astral Dominae that lies somewhere on the planet Guardia. The artifact holds power over life itself. The game begins with an introduction that tells the player this. The starting location differs depending on wether you imported previous characters or not. Other than that you are free to go anywhere you want. The game is quite non-linear in this way.

During the game it is only when you meet very special NPC:s that the story unfolds further. There are very few books, items or parchments that tells you anything above what you already know. The unique thing of the story and the gameplay is that other NPC parties actually could find the map pieces you need before you get there. I have to give some credits for this dynamic gameplay feature. But that increases the frustration of hunting down those NPC parties when you´ve already cleared out a dungeon or castle and find yourself being too late in the end.

So to summarise. The story itself is quite ok but the lack of enough story enhancing parts in the game makes the story quite useless in practical gameplay. 

Rating: 2


Economy
There are quite many items in the game, including special items and magical items. There are few places in which you can buy them though and most NPC:s have a limited stock of items. The balance between available items and the amount of gold you gather is quite good. I have not experienced that I´ve had all too few golds and yet not as much as to fully equip more than one character at a time. I am not sure if the stock items gets replenished or if new items might be added to the stock later on. You could meet NPC:s in the wilderness with whom you could trade but they are far and few inbetween.

It is very seldom you find good items in the game but when you do it is the more fun.

Rating: 3


NPC & Interactions
As is typical of games from this period, only major NPC:s have something to say. You are allowed to speak with them through an interpreter which is very limited. It means you have to type keywords to get something out of the NPCs. I´ve read somewhere that the interpreter in Ultima 3 is even better than in this game.

While meeting NPC:s you could sometimes trade with them. That is a nice feature since the shops available in the beginning are very few. You might also bribe or threaten the NPC:s but I have never used those options. The major NPC:s are wandering around the map and it is by pure chance you stumble into them.

There are a few places in the game in which you are put into situstions where you have to decide what to do like pulling a lever or using an item or whatever. It is very seldom but they do exist.

Wizardry VII handles NPC:s  at medium or possible above for what was common in this type of game in 1992-1993.

Rating: 2


Monsters & Tactics
There are a lot of monsters in this game. Many share the same kind of graphics. You don´t have the typical range of monsters as found in classical fantasy worlds like elves, dwarves, orcs and goblins. Here they have more unique names like Demented Munk or Rattkin Assassin and a lot of variations of them. Many have special abilities. It could be breathing acid, paralyzing you, terrify you or even to cast spells. 

Since you don´t fight out in any tactical layout like in the SSI Goldbox games, Demon's winter or Dark heart of Uukrul the tactics used are very limited. Monster could be attacking you in up to five different groups. Each containing a chunk of a specific monster type. Your tactic consists of choosing which group to attack (there are no different ranges to enemy groups, everyone could be reaced) and if you are to use a swing, bash, kick, thrust etc or if you want to cast a spell, dodge or run. In that respect, combat is much more like in Dragon Wars or Bards Tale III. It works quite well though. And if you speed up the Dosbox to at least 12.000 cycles you could quickly get the combats over with. If you where to play them through normal speed it would have been very tedious.

Rating: 2.5


Map design
The maps in the game are all irregular. They are of no fixed sizes like 16x16 or 32x32. This makes them more varied but much harder to map. The automap (supplied with the Journal Kit) is very bad. When you look at it you cannot scroll it to see parts of the map that don´t fit the window. That is a major drawback. I can live with the fact that I can´t make annotations though.

The overland map is huge with no loading parts. It just stretches hundreds of hundreds of squares in every direction. You could at least follow a paved road that leads to major locations on the map but other than that you either have to map out everything yourself or rely on your luck with the automap.

Dungeons and other places are quite well mapped out and there seems to be some logic to the design of maps.

Rating: 3.5


Character generation
This part is one of the games strongest part. You have different races, each with their own characteristics like resistances and such things. You have the different attributes which are random but you have to go through the whole character process in order to "re-roll" them. You have different professions that decides which skills you get and which weapons and armours you can use. For spell-casting users it decides which of the several schools of magic you will have your spells in. Also, you get a random pool of skill points divided between weapons, physical and academia skills. All this together makes for a lot of different combinations. This is a very fun part. But as always, before playing the game for the first time, one never knows which attributes or skills are essential to start out high with.

Later on you will be able to - at any time- switch profession as long as your current character reach the required prerequisities for that profession. What happens then is that your characters attributes are reset to the  base requirement of that class but you will have all your skills to use from your former class and will rise quickly from level 1 and upwards. One should note though that you cannot use higher lever spells from a former class in a new class unless you reach high levels again.

 In any event,, character generation and variety is one of the strongest parts of this game.

Rating 4.5


Graphics, Sound & Interface
The graphics in the game uses standard 256-colors VGA. It is funtional but nothing to write home about. The framerate are horrible in standard settings in Dosbox and the animations are so few so everything moves very blocky. Increase the CPU cycles in Dosbox and the gameplay gets much more smooth and enjoyable. 

The character screens was hard for me in the beginning to understand. It took awhile until I knew how to look at each members skills or experience points or even to understand that each spell school had its own pool of mana. You could burn out your spell points in the fire department but still have a lot to use for water-based spells for example.

The overland graphics looks the same no matter where I´ve been so far and the dungeons as well. The starter dungeon had the same graphics as the Orkogre castle dungeon. The cities look the same also. Only the monsters differs.

The sound is almost non-existent. I´ve not heard anything better than what you get from built-in pc-speakers. As you understand you would do the best to turn it off altogether. The speed during combat increases with that too.

The interface is clumsy but funtional and you soon learn how to use it. It could have been done much more smoother. Casting spells requres you to select the spellbook, then the character to cast the spell, then select the spell school, pick your spell and powerlevel, cast it and select a target character. There is no such thing as readied spells or any shortcuts to use if you want to repeat the same spell again.

To use the auto-map requires several unneccessary clicks. The combat interface works ok though, but when finding items you can only take one item at a time and for every item you have to select which character to receive it. You cannot leave the items behind easily either without first selecting each item and click on the leave button. 

When trading the interface is even worse. If you speak with a NPC you have to select the Trade command. When there you could buy, sell or pool your gold for the active character but you cannot switch trading character or buy/sell items for other characters. You then have to leave the negotiation and then enter it by another character. This takes time and is just an idiotic way of handling trades. 

It is the interface that drags this game down a step. Even in 1992 other games was much smoother in this department. Graphics and sound aren´t that important for a game like this afterall.

Rating: 2

Manual
The manual to this game is thick and excellent. It is easy to read and try to convey all information you need. All races, professions, skills and spells are listed and described. That includes combat, lock-picking, negotiations and magic. It even tries to explain the differences for gamers coming directly from Wizardry VI. I can only give this kind of manual a high grade. Take a look at the manual for Wizardry Gold (not complete with statistical tables that could be found in the original manual but still good).

Rating: 4


Gameplay
So then we are down to the most important aspect, the gameplay. It started out well, as most games do in the beginning. Everything was new and my group levelled up quickly. I´ve said it before. Wizardry VII is a game that requires a lot of time and dedication. You cannot rely on the automap so you have to map out parts of the game yourself. If you have the patience and time for that the game will be rewarding but in my opinion it might be a little too big and long without much variation between places.

There are no side-quests that I´ve found after 25 hours of gameplay and I think there is a lack of direction. You might go where you want but you don´t really know why. The only thing you could do is to explore new territories on your own. Sure, I did get back to Orkogre castle which seems to be meant as the first stop. But after that I had no clear goal for my group and no way to easily and fast travel between already visited places. Things would have been much easier if you would have the help of teleportations places or spells. Now I only found a teleporter from New City to the T'rang city which is good but not enough for this large game. 

The spells seems varied at the beginning but after awhile you have a few that you use over and over again without bothering to try out new ones. That goes for most games though. Combat is relatively fun though. You have many types of approaches and the ability to summon creatures to help you out is very good. You could quite easily reload from combats if you tire to walking into random fights with huge groups of monsters. That´s how I moved quickly in the wilderness.

The atmosphere below ground is much better conveyed with descriptions for many of the rooms or places you discover in the dungeons. The cities above are quite boring frankly. You have to walk around the whole city and try to open every door. The character level increases is really the highlight of the game. You could really see how they improve over each level by gaining more attacks and making more damage.

If you can spare the time needed this is a solid game but not if you are a casual gamer who wan´t something to play for a few weeks.

Rating: 3


Total rating: 26.5

15 comments:

  1. Good review! From what I've heard (from you and others, and just general light research online), Wizardry 8 improves on quite a bit of this game's shortcomings. Too bad it was the last game in the series. But then again, there were these spin-offs that came out later, of which I know almost nothing about.

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  2. "I´ve read somewhere that the interpreter in Ultima 3 is even better than in this game."

    Unless that's a typo, someone gave you inaccurate information. :) Ultima III NPCs just had a brief static comment whenever spoken to -- Ultima IV was the first in the series to have a conversation tree/interpreter. (I haven't played Wizardry VII before, so I have no idea how they compare, though.)

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    1. You might be right about it being Ultima 4. The point meant was that Ultima 4 was released in 1985. 7 years before Wizardry VII.

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    2. Stop. Wizardry Vii has a very competent interpreter, and I have no idea where you got that information. It is way ahead of Ultima 4. Link to the information, or else realize that that is false information.
      Sorry if I sound harsh, but that's nonsense.

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    3. I don´t remember where I got that information from since I myself have never played any of the early Ultima games.

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  3. Completely understandable. Although I do want to see it finished by somebody sometime, it's just a major time sink that may have questionable payoff. I hope the next one is a bit more exciting for you.

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  4. I just completed this game myself.

    I have embivalent feelings about it.

    There is an insane amount of combat, and while the combat is quick and fun, there is too little enemy variation IMO and hardly any good loot.

    The game starts quite easy, especially if you use imported characters, but it gets very difficult in Orkogre Castle and Munkharama. After clearing these two areas the rest of the game is relatively easy combat-wise, although there are some extremely tough optional combats.

    The most frustrating part of the game is the puzzles. The Fun House felt more like an Adventure game than a CRPG. And you need to write down or screen cap just about every piece of text in the game to avoid missing vital information that will be useful when you have forgotten all about that particular info.

    There is a distinct lack of really good weapons. When I finished the game I still had the same weapons that I started with: The Avenger for my Lord, Hands&Feet for my Monk, Bushido Blade for my Ninja, Maenad's Lance for my Valkyrie and Spear of Death for my Ranger. The only new weapon was the Ninja's secondary weapon: Yummu's Paw that stone enemies.

    Incidentally the Monk turned out to be my best character. He had the most kills (2298) and ended up with the highest level (42).

    I salute anyone who can finish this game without imported characters and not using any hint books or walkthroughs for the puzzles!

    For a mapping enthusiast like me this game has one of the all time best dungeons near the end of the game, that brough back good memories from mapping Chaos Strikes Back and Bard's Tale 2.

    Overall it was a good game, but too long, too much combat and too illogical puzzles. Bane of the Cosmic Forge was better IMO. The NPCs and competing factions was a good idea and it worked to a degree, but sadly it fizzled out halfway in the game with most of the NPCs ending up dead and the rest becoming inactive and (with one exception) playing no part in the story anymore.

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    1. Congratulations! And thanks for sharing your experience with it. What´s next on your list ?

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    2. Next up is Star Control 2. Not excactly a CRPG, but I loved the Starflight games, so I have high hopes for this one.

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    3. I quickly gave up on Star Control 2, due to the arcade like space combat.

      Moving on to Might and Magic: World of Xeen instead.

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    4. I´ve never played that part. I might do a revisit sometime. Goodluck with your choice!

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    5. sit by the sea wondering what a mysteriours world i got into

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  5. Dear Saintus,

    Thank you for your review. This was a favorite back in the day and I still play it as I am always finding something new in it. I agree Wizardry 7 does have problmems with goofiness and exhausting combats. I really appreciate your attention to manuals. I still have the wizardry manual it is a great resource. It has blank pages in the back so you can make your own notes, though this can alter your game play in future games.

    I am unable to find time or a computer to play modern games, but I still play wizardry 6 and 7. I cannot comment on the other games you have played but I still enjoy reading. You have a good style.

    Thank you again.

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    1. Thanks! I appreciate your comment

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  6. World of xeen is one of my all time favorites. It,s more friendly than wizardry 7, but still have nice riddles and puzzles ( not very dificult). I think it´s a very underrated crpg

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