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JPublic Will Play It - Summer 2011 - Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls

Posted 07-03-2011 at 11:27 AM by jpublic
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls
Developer: Acquire
Publisher: Xseed
Platform: PS3 (PSN)
Price: $15, Demo Available, $5 DLC that adds 5 levels to Dungeon of Trials

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Credit to Gamespot for the images.

As my readers and compatriots at CoG are aware, I have a particular soft spot for old-school party-based dungeon crawlers. That affection is the pain reason this month I left my comfy chair in front of my PC to sprawl on the couch with Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls.

Wizardry has an interesting history. In North America during the 1980s, it was one of the great lights in the genre of computer role-playing games. Many other famous games can trace aspects of their gameplay to Wizardry - Bard's Tale, Might and Magic, Ultima, and even JRPG greats such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Heck, even my much-loved Shin Megami Tensei games have strong influences from Wizardry. During the early 2000s, Sir-Tech, the main developers of Wizardry and original copyright holder, eventually died off (due to what is commonly believed to be horrible mismanagement).

One of the results of that was the Wizardry trademark, which had declined in popularity with Western gamers but was insanely popular in Japan, was sold off for essentially pennies. The current holder is a little-known company called IPM Inc. In Japan, the series and genre has never died. Since the original games (except 8) had been ported over, more than 20 different spin off games have been made under the Wizardry banner. Japan loves them their dungeon crawlers.

Wizardry: Labyrinth of the Lost is the first Wizardry release in North America since Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land (aka TOTFL) in the PS2 days a decade ago - developed by Racjin and published by Atlus, and released more or less at the same time as Wizardy 8 (with better graphics, so be honest). I'm fairly fond of Tale of the Forsaken Land.

LOLS, as I'm going to call it, is a PSN-only release, and was originally intended to be released during the PSN Hacking incident earlier this year. Due to said disaster, it was delayed until PSN returned around the start of June. It was developed by Acquire, as part of their Wizardry Renaissance Project. You may recognize them for developing such series as Tenchu, Way of the Samurai, Shinobido, What Did I Do To Deserve This, My Lord!? (aka Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman!), and most relevantly here, Class of Heroes.

Before I start my log, a warning/teaser: I have a couple things about this game that I'm really irritated about.

The first thing you'll notice upon loading LOLS is the Trophy Load. Every. Single. Time. Not cool, Acquire. Next, we get the video intro about the story behind the game. The quick summary: There was an ancient race called the Draguun who had an incredibly enlightened civilization and destroyed themselves out of arrogance. They were succeeded by the Empire of Athlas, which then fell, finally leaving Three Kingdoms in charge who more or less got along peacefully. Everything was fine until people started noticing that monsters and demons (Elder Ones), long thought banished forever, were making a comeback, leading to a rise in the adventuring profession.

Note: Because I care about you guys, I blew away my old save.

So, we start a new game, and are given a choice of main character, a choice between five races and both sexes. We can choose among Humans, Dwarfs, Elves, Gnomes, and Porklu (halflings). The big difference between each one is their base stats - Strength, Vitality, Piety, Intelligence, Luck, and Agility. Humans are average; Dwarfs are tough, strong and pious, but not so smart, agile, or lucky; Elves are pious and smart, but not so strong or tough; Gnomes are super smart, a bit pious, but weaker, more fragile, and clumsy; and Porklu have stupidly high agility and luck at the cost of everything else. I decide on a male dwarf, which for some odd reason is stupidly tall and has an awesome mustache.


The city of Aitox, from which all dungeon dives start.

At this point, I now roll for stats. Each character when created gets a random number of points to spend on stats - usually you get around 10 to start, but it's not hard to keep rerolling to get 20s. If you want to be really silly it's possible to persevere until you get 40 points plus.

The reason you need those is for class selection. There's 8 classes in LOLS. There's the default Fighter, Mage, Priest, and Thief and the prestige classes of Samurai (Fighter/Mage), Bishop (Mage/Priest), Lord (Fighter/Priest), and Ninja (Super Thief). While the defaults need a single statistic high, the prestige classes have much more strict requirements. The Bishop is the easiest to achieve using the base 10-ish points, the Samurai requires about 20 points on average, the Lord about 30, and the Ninja about 40!

Further than that, there's some other restrictions you'll have to deal with. Bishops and Priests can't be Neutral. Thieves can't be Good, while Samurai can't be Evil. At the extreme, Lords must be Good, and Ninjas must be Evil. Also, Good and Evil characters are not thrilled with the idea of working together, so be warned. There are some tricks to get around that, and it's really not hard to change alignment, so if you really want a Good Ninja, it can be done.

So after pulling a 19, we now have Pegma (the default name), a Good Samurai Dwarf.

We enter the city of Aitox, where the game centers, and Pegma complains about how there's no garden space here (really?), but admonishes himself and says he's here to open a store, not to garden, and better get to make some money.

Looking around the city, we first see an Inn, where we can rest (MP for free, HP costs), store items, and apparently use some PSN-related mailbox function I never managed to figure out. Most importantly, we can build a party, and there's some prebuilds here for us - a Level 2 Fighter and a Level 2 Priest, both of which we take, and Mage, Samurai, Fighter, and Thief we leave, the last two because they're Evil.

I head to the Guild to build the rest of my crew. The Guild is also the place to get quests, trade items, and if your characters meet the requirements for stats and alignment, change class. This last one becomes key for achieving classes like Lord and Ninja without playing silly buggers with the character generator. What happens is, as you level, you gain (or lose) points in your stats. So, you can eventually work up to a point where you can change to the class you want. It does get a bit tricky, because stats even out around 10 points above base, but some class/race combos just seem to be cursed to never happen.

I recruit another Samurai (whom I change to a Lord later) as a front-line fighter, a Thief (whom I replace with a Ninja via a trick later) for Lockpicking, and a Bishop, because I need someone to Appraise items.

I should note here that each main character can be played in parallel. By taking one character's party into a dungeon and then meeting him with another character's party, you can swap party members or even recruit mains into your party (at which point they become dormant until released). This was how I got a Evil Ninja in my Good party - the game doesn't care about alignment mismatch in dungeon parties.

Having built my party, I get a quest to do something about the Kobold population. I stop by the item shop to pick up some torches and a map. At the church, I read up about tithing (exchanging gold for XP) and the other services, like uncursing and raising/resurrecting - yes, if a raise fails, the character becomes ash, and if an ash-based resurrection fails, the character is GONE. I also admire the palace, where I can so nothing right now.


What it looks like in the dungeons, for the most part.

Ready to go, we enter the Dungeon of Trials. There's another place you can go, Shiin's Dungeon, where all the plot happens, but we'll avoid there for now.

Results of my first trip: Things went swimmingly until I ran into a team of Level 3 critters, got nearly wiped, and had to run to town.

On my second trip, I managed to gain a couple levels, and continued on until I ran into some signs warning me to turn back. Ignoring them, I found a square that had an odd spinning skull. Hmm, I wonder what that is...oh look, Level 12 Banshee!

So, yeah, that was my first experience with a party wipe.

Unlike all other times, I didn't reload a save, but instead went through the process. Pegma woke in the Temple, and had to first pay to get his companions corpses out of the dungeon (at 10 gold per level) and then pay to raise them (at 10 gold per level). We then went to the Inn, abused the free MP restore to heal up the party, and went back into the dungeon to carefully avoid that encounter and find the item drops I needed to finish that quest.

Back to the Guild to get my pocket change reward, and then I picked up two more quests. The first is to track down some Tonics (a common item drop), and the other to 'Research' the undead by getting a rare drop from them (Grim Circlets).

The first one was fairly easy, as I had already picked up most of the Tonics I needed, but the second would prove to be hell. When I mention Grim Circlets are a rare drop, I mean it. This quest and another to collect Reagents are a pair of repeatable quests that are just brutal to finish with any sort of frequency.

I finished exploring level 1 of the Dungeon of Trials, and moved on to level 2. I eventually ran into a 'Control Switch', which you can trigger to open locked gates in the dungeon (like in Class of Heroes), which often act as barriers to access the elevator shortcut and the stairs down.

We left the dungeon to turn in the Tonic quest, and then picked up a new one from the Innkeeper. Apparently a guest left their luggage, and she wants us to track them down in Shiin's Dungeon. Wow, we're moving up in the world, from gatherer to courier. A quick stop to upgrade some equipment, and into Shiin's place we go.

So here I am, thinking this place isn't so hard, until I run into level 8 critters. Yeah, we ran.

Let's try that again, shall we? This time we're a little more cautious, and eventually run into a beautiful female ghost, who is lamenting something she did, and claims she shouldn't exist. Pegma admonishes her that existence is not a crime, and she disappears, causing him to wonder is that was the Lady Shiin of Aitox. He decides to check at the guild, and is warned she could be dangerous.

Hmm.

Well, we still need to deliver this luggage, so back we go. In surprisingly encounter-free run, we find the first piece of equipment with "plusses", which (again, like in Class of Heroes) add damage to weapons, or armor to defensive items. "Negatives", as you would expect, do the reverse.


Combat. Shades of CoH.

Eventually, we run into... a really creepy masked guy with overly ornate armor and his own music. Wow, this isn't ominous at all.

He introduces himself as Alahawi (?!) asks if we're looking for the Book of Dreams, and item which can make anything written in it reality.

Oh look, the Cosmic Forge is back!

Anyway, he tells us it's in the dungeon, and then wanders off.

We move on to level 2 of Shiin's, and cut a swathe through the hordes of undead here. My Priest really made her mark here, as her ability to Exorcise undead made her absolutely deadly. We again ran into Lady Shiin, who apologized for doing something bad.

What did she do, anyway?

A bit further on, we ran into Klaus, who was wearing one hell of an awesome tuxedo. We gave him his luggage, and carried on until my Samurai died, and fled back to town.

Back in town, I had an event where someone in a carriage dropped an envelope for Pegma, telling him about some magic item called the Honor Gloves somewhere deep in Shiin's Dungeon. Hmm. Next bit of Pegma's story, I guess.

We revived the Samurai, bought a Sling for my Priest (which was a waste), and then trudged off back to the Dungeon of Trials. We eventually made it to something called a 'Trap Testing Area', where I, knowing Acquire, decided to cast Levitate before moving on. Yep, shocky floors.

Level 3 of the Dungeon of Trials was a grid of rooms with a lot of signs taunting you, which got really annoying really quickly.

Okay, that's enough of this log. I played LOLS a lot more, but haven't managed to clear Pegma's story yet.
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jpublic's Avatar
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I warned you all about my rant, and this is where it's going to be.

First, let me say that Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is a decent dungeon crawler if you're a fan of the genre. The mechanics are easy to deal with, the game is hard, sometimes even brutal, but if you're careful about what you're going you'll survive. There's enough story in the game to not overwhelm you (see Tale of the Forsaken Land) and while there isn't a ton of enemies, there's enough that you will not get too bored with them. There is some grind in the game, as difficulty occasionally ramps sharply, and some of the collection quests are tedious. The sounds are fair, with appropriate ambience, acceptable voice acting, but all in all nothing special. The graphics, of what they did, are fairly good, with well drawn sprites and solid 3D visuals in the dungeon delving.

The problem with LOLS is both with what it is and it's what it isn't. If you look at the last console Wizardry seen in North America, Tale of the Forsaken Land, had superior visuals (and it was a PS2 game!), a more complex system, more interesting maps, and was, in my opinion, the superior game. LOLS, from start to end, feels much closer to Class of Heroes than it does to anything else - they use similar tricks, traps, even similar graphics in combat (all sprites).

It's fairly galling that a game released 10 years later seems to be such a step back from the last game we've seen, and much closer to a portable title, especially since there is definitely a market for the genre – as I said earlier, Japan loves this stuff, and for Western audiences all you need to do is look at the decent sales on Dark Spire, Class of Heroes, and even SMT Strange Journey to see that if done right, we like them too.

I enjoy LOLS. Among dungeon crawlers, it's a decent title that won't give you anything extraordinarily good or bad. But it could have been, and should have been, so much more.


1) The JPublic Fun Rating: 3 out of 5

2) The JPublic Irritation Rating: 5 out of 5 (But that's expected.)

3) The JPublic Value Point: $11 with DLC




Note that the next edition of JPWPI will be in September, as I'm moving in a couple weeks.

Discussion thread here.
Posted 07-03-2011 at 11:27 AM by jpublic jpublic is online now
 

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