During the SOE Live event in Las Vegas this past weekend, a lot of interest was generated for GamePot's Wizardry Online. Sony Online made sure that the team was on hand to talk about this game that has been described as "thirty years in the making". With players having experienced the Wizardry series of games for that length of time, the development team is left with some mighty big shoes to fill and a boatload of expectations to meet.
We had the opportunity to chat with Senior Producer Todd Carson and other members of his team about Wizardry Online and, honestly, I have to start with my favorite line of the day:
"With permadeath, sometimes you're just dead."
Wizardry Online has the potential to be a hardcore player versus player fantatic's dream game with the edginess that permadeath brings. The emphasis in WO is combat. In fact, Todd said that there is a HUGE emphasis on combat.
"It's all in real time. You can miss if the mosters move or if you move. Combat takes into account blocking, movement, getting out of the way and more. There is NO carebear game play in Wizardry Online. Players will not auto-regenerate life or mana so you either need potions of a priest. It will be difficult and expensive to play solo." Todd said.
The no carebear game play thing is a fact in Wizardry Online. PvP is always on and there is no option to turn it off. Players will see a dialog box asking if they're sure they want to attack another player but there is no "permission" to attack nor is there an option to decline an offer of attack. It's simply there.
But there is a caveat to those players who wantonly run around attacking any and all others: Notoriety. Rampant PvP killing of others will see players earn the 'criminal' title and city guards will attack those players on site, forcing them into the less-reputable parts of town when they need a break or to sell things.
"The higher your level, the greater the chance at permadeath."
That's pretty scary sounding but permadeath is not quite always permanent from the standpoint that a player will be able to attempt to bring a character back from death. There is a big statistical chance that this will not happen, however, and players are only given two chances to do so before a character is gone for good. The bright side of this is that all dungeons unlocked, all finished quests, storyline elements, etc. are part of what the developers call 'soul rank' and will move on to other characters owned by the player. Phew.
In addition, the bounty system will curb the enthusiasm for out-of-control killing. Any player can put a bounty on any other player. Any player can accept that bounty and try their hand at bringing down the criminal. According to Todd, the higher the bounty, the better the chances are that the criminal will be taken out.
While PvP is an integral and important part of Wizardry Online, it's not the whole package. WO also places a high value on dungeon crawling. It's a hardcore game about stats and customization.
"You're going to love it and hate it at the same time. It's similar to Dark Souls, if you've played that." Todd told us.
A love hate relationship? Neato!
There are five races in Wizardry Online: Human, elf, dwarf (only male), gnome (only female) and, as Todd said, "the cute Japanese anime character" that lots of players love. Players pick a class alignment but no race is locked into any specific alignment. The only requirement is having enough attribute points to make it a viable choice. Players can customize their character's skill tree and select how their characters progress.
We were told, "It's all about the numbers."
Players will need to band together when setting off on a dungeon crawl. Groups will start off in a city hub that is the jumping off point for dungeoneering. There is no traversing continents to get to combat. You get to the action right away. Again, we were told, the emphasis is on combat, not 'adventure'. Beware the dungeons though. They are open and anyone can join them. They are open world areas that can hold a lot of players before another one spawns.
"Bring your friends, or run away." Todd simply stated. After watching the demo, it seems like sound advice.
Wizardry Online has a mature rating for its dark and somber environments. There is evidence everywhere of decapitations, blood, dead bodies and more that requires a 'Mature' rating. I would have said that the stress of permadeath would lead to a Mature rating but whatever.
Wizardry Online seems like the type of game that will appeal to a very specific, very hardcore, very niche group of MMO players. With the constant threat of permadeath, with PvP always turned on, players will have to be on guard at all times.
What about you? Does the style of gaming that Wizardry Online is bringing to the MMO-space appeal to you or not? Let us know in the comments!