Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

[Archive] Wizardry 8, ep. 1: A Samurai, a Valkyrie, and a Bishop Walk Into a Bar…

Posted by Rampant Coyote on June 24, 2015

Back in 2008, I did a playthrough of Wizardry 8, a game I’d missed the first time around. At the time, it was hard to acquire (yay for getting it brought back as a digital title!), and I felt (correctly!) that I’d missed out on a classic title. I blogged my efforts, but with the Great Blog Reboot we lost those articles. Since they’ve been requested, I’m re-posting them now. I hope that with the game now made available again via digital distribution, this may help other people discover this overlooked “final” game in the Sir-Tech series.

Wizardry_8_boxA samurai, a valkyrie, and a bishop walk into a bar…

That’s either the start of a really lame joke, or a regular play session of one of the definitely non-lame Wizardry games. Although the Valkyries didn’t appear until Wizardry 6. No matter…

Ye Olde Day (and Night) Job gave me Sunday off, so I managed to pour a few hours into playing my new acquisition, Wizardry 8. Yes, all this talk of new RPGs hitting the store shelves, and I’m thrilled about getting my hands on a seven-year-old game (Editorial note: Now it’s been almost as long since this was originally posted. Time flies!).

I am just a few hours into it, but I’m mighty pleased. Why?

#1 – The world and storyline are intriguing. I was never a huge fan of the mega-epic plot-line of the power to create and destroy the entire universe and all that from the previous two games, but I’m not minding it so much here. The game starts you out with a trite imperative (you are the sole survivors of a crashed space ship, and have to survive and save the universe), but the monastery section was focused and felt a little like unfolding a mystery, full of hints and clues to a bigger picture. I love that.

#2 – TACTICS! Holy cow, this game reminds me of how fun turn-based, party-based RPGs can be. Granted, Wizardry 8 probably takes it a little overboard, with party movement and positioning, party formations, and everything. But still, I’m having a great time with it. I got clobbered in a combat on the road to Arnika last night, and found myself considering all the things I could have done differently to have won. Too often, in RPGs these days, it really comes down to having been too unlucky, too slow on the healing-potion button, or not having saved during the middle of the battle often enough. Here, it was a case of me encountering a new monster type and underestimating their capabilities.

Wiz8_OpeningSpot#3 – The monastery – the first “dungeon” – was not a run-of-the-mill miniature bunny-slope dungeon. I spent three hours of playtime in there, and dealt with multiple “boss monsters” and lots of exploration. Maybe I’ll get sick of similar dungeons with the same graphics set in the future, and I did play through some of this in the demo, but for now, I enjoyed it. I’m really a dungeon-crawler at heart, I guess.

#4 – I’m also a sucker for first-person perspective RPGs. Chalk it over to being more “immersive” or whatever – I’ve always preferred it. Not that I don’t love other perspectives, too (Ultima VII remains, to this day, my favorite RPG), but I love seeing the world through the eyes of my character(s).

#5 – STATS! Lots of juicy, geeky numbers. This might be a detriment for many players, but I really like the customization opportunities and being able to numerically compare my characters and my improvements as I level. Seriously, I get bugged by RPGs that seem to say, “Don’t worry your pretty little head about these big, scary statistics… just look at the eye-candy and you can see your character get cooler special effects!” Give me crunchy numbers, please. As much as I get into story and roleplaying and all that jazz, I’ve got repressed power-gamer tendencies that need to be exercised.

I wish we would see more games like this (Editorial Note from 2015: Happily, they have made something of a comeback, so I guess my wish was granted!). But alas, the game was, from what I have heard, something of a failure. Sir-Tech, from what I understand, was in dire straits even before the game was completed, and I don’t remember the marketing being all that hot for it. It was kinda sandwiched between some much higher-profile releases.

I mean, I didn’t even get a copy when it was new. But I think it was because of a review that claimed the game was buggy. (Though I possibly got that confused with a review of Wizards & Warriors or Dungeon Lords. Those were designed by David W. Bradley, who worked on at least two previous Wizardry titles but – to my knowledge, had nothing to do with Wiz 8).

So I guess I was Part of the Problem. It’s all my fault! *SOB*.

And maybe it’s just the case that my tastes are now horribly divergent from that of the common gamer. I’m just a weirdo. Maybe there’s no market for the potential Wizardry 8s of the world anymore. If so, that’s truly a shame. But maybe there’s enough of a market left for indies to keep stepping up and filling the void. I can only hope.

Design Notes:

(Note – This section is all new from 2015. Most of the old articles had design note sections, but not all, and I’m making them more consistent. Besides, there’s a heck of a lot an RPG developer can learn from this game.)

Two things I’d like to note here. First of all, in spite of being an entirely new game engine and removed from the previous title in the series by a decade, they did a few things to make sure the game felt like a Wizardry title. The carry-over of class types (albeit changed), races, and factions and certain characters from Wizardry 7 are another. People play a sequel because they want more of the same, only different (you can quote me on that 🙂 ). When a game is very different from its predecessors – as this one was, for technological reasons if nothing else – there are still a number of things that can be done to tie it back in and make it feel familiar even if it’s a totally new game system. I’d played a lot of Wizardry 7 back in the day (yet still never finished it! That game was huge!), so this really did feel familiar in the right ways.

Wiz8_Dungeon1_SlimesSecondly – the monastery was one of the best dungeons in the game, straight up. In a way, I’m disappointed about this, because it wasn’t merely the baseline of quality. It set my expectations high, and didn’t always follow through. But there’s an adage in game development that you should develop your first level last, because you want to create your first impression at the height of your skill as designers for that particular game. They did that, they hooked me early, and convinced me to invest my time and attention into the game. I was hooked for many, many hours.

(Editorial Note from 2015:  Brenda Romero kindly corrected my confusion over reviews … without calling me a moron. She said, “W8 was published at the tail end of the grand era of solo RPGs. It wasn’t rushed out the door, though. In fact, it was released a lot later than some would have liked it. It was truly a labor of love for all the developers involved. It got a number of RPG of the year awards, in fact. As far as bugs, I do think you are confusing it with the other title which did have a good number of them if I recall it right.”)

Filed Under: Retro, Wizardry 8 - Comments: Read the First Comment

  • T2.0 said,

    Very pleasant to read 🙂

    Like you, I largely prefer the first person view when it comes to RPGs.
    Speaking of which, merging the whole team into one single body has a certain charm linked to nostalgia, but it isn’t very immersive to say the least (I could say the same thing about turn-based combats, by the way).
    Personally, I’d love to see my party members moving right before my eyes. My hope is to see one day a party-based first person RPG having this feature. One can always dream…