The Wizardry series is a long running hard core dungeon crawling franchise. Saying the word Wizardry can bring back great memories of hundreds of hours of gaming to long time PC gamers. The last proper release in the series was Wizardry 8, way back in 2001. Since then the Wizardry franchise has been on somewhat of a hiatus in the US. Xseed has seen fit to change that with their PSN exclusive release of Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls. But, is this the full blown Wizardry sequel that long time fans have been waiting 10 years for, or is it something less than that?
Only the Hardcore Need Apply
First and foremost if you have never played a Wizardry game before or a dungeon crawling RPG for that matter, then you need to know that this game isn’t for the casual RPG fan. Wizardry is traditionally a game all about creating your own party from scratch and then slowly and methodically mapping (or crawling) your way through a dungeon. The difficulty level is much higher than your average RPG and you can expect to die a lot, forcing you to make constant trips back to town in order to save and heal up. Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is no different and is actually more of a throwback to the first couple of Wizardry games, much more so than the later Wizardry 7 and 8. The game offers up just two dungeons to explore. One acts as the main dungeon where the storyline plays out and the other is aptly named “Trials” which serves more of an exploration and leveling function.
As with other dungeon crawling games there is a paper thin plot here. The game centers itself in a city with a Labyrinth that is inhabited by ghosts and is of course hiding powerful items. The local royalty decides it’s necessary for someone to explore the labyrinth. Don’t expect a whole lot more from the story than that. Aside from the main storyline there are dozens of side quests which you can accept and perform as you wonder your way through the labyrinth. These side quests offer up more insight into the game world as well as helpful weapons, armor, and items.
BYOP (Bring Your Own Party)
As an explorer you are tasked with creating a guild and recruiting members into your guild to fill out your adventuring party. There are eight classes to choose from at the start, each offering up their own abilities and skill sets. Tanks, DPSers, Healers, Thieves, Ninjas, they’re all here and necessary throughout the game. You can have up to six characters in your active party at any given time. Finding the right party balance is part of the challenge.
Dungeon crawlers usually have a steep learning curve and this game is no different. The developers have included an in game manual, but it doesn’t really help all that much. But if you are at all familiar with the genre then you shouldn’t have too hard of a time figuring out what to do in the game. Newcomers to the genre will definitely want to tread lightly. Like I said earlier, the level of difficulty here is higher than your average turn based RPG, but veterans of the series won’t find the game overly difficult either. Taking your time, making sure you are properly equipped, complete with torches for light and making timely trips back to town is a necessity for survival
Map Making Addiction
Making a complete map of every floor of the dungeon, before you move on to the next floor is also a key for survival, as it will help you level up and obtain weapons or armor that you otherwise may have missed. Map completion also adds to the addictive nature of the game. When you have properly unveiled 100% of a map, an icon will pop up on the map screen letting you know that it is safe to move on to the next level. The completionist in me had to complete every floor before moving on the next.
Everything is not all roses with the title though. For one thing the graphics are less than stellar. Since most of the game time will be spent in the labyrinth it would have been nice if the levels were at least detailed. Instead you are treated to brick wall after brick wall, with no details thrown in. Sure some floors feature cave walls, and others have larger brick, but overall the levels are extremely plain and boring looking. This is a game that could have easily been released on the PSP with very minor graphical changes.
The game also doesn’t offer up a whole lot of content in comparison to newer dungeon crawlers. Take Etrian Odyssey III for the DS for example. That game has a massive dungeon that actually looks interesting, a massive ocean to explore, a storyline that is a bit more interesting, group special attacks, and much more interesting boss characters. Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls offers up very little in comparison and is instead stuck in an early 1990’s style gaming mold.
Despite the throw back nature of the game I still enjoyed my time with Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls. For just $9.99 you get to explore 10 levels in the main dungeon, plus another 5 levels in the trials dungeon. On top of that Xseed has released an additional 5 levels for the trials dungeon which can be bought on the PSN for just $4.99. In all, a gamer could spend well over 40 hours with Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls.
Gamers new to the genre probably won’t find much to like here and should look to games like the Etrian Odyssey series if they want to stick their foot in the Dungeon Crawling waters. But long time fans of the genre like me will definitely get their $15 worth. A word to the wise though, the first hour or two of the game are brutal and if you can make it past that you will start to understand how the game works and you will really be able to decide if you like the game at that point.