Bringing Back the Classic
Gamepot Japan's Wizardry Online is a slightly clumsy love letter to the hardcore days of yore. If it was a real person, it would probably be a good-looking hipster that would be considerably more attractive without his eccentricities.
For those of you who don't know anything about the Wizardry franchise, here's a very important thing remember: it's old. The series is really, really, really old. It's old enough to have been a significant influence on role-playing games and influential enough to have inspired an entire bevy of successful (that's the operative word here, folks) clones. It's a franchise that a lot of people in the 80's, myself included, grew up with.
In other words, these are some big shoes that Gamepot Japan is attempting to fill. Do they succeed? Sorta. Kinda. Maybe. A lot of it is going to depend on whether or not you enjoy anime-inspired aesthetics, a less-than-aerodynamic UI, suspiciously familiar gameplay and gender-specific races.
It's also going to be reliant on how much you like perma-death.
Yes, folks. Perma-death is a thing here. If you fail at resurrecting your character, you will have to re-roll a new one. You will lose the equipment that you failed to store. You will, unless you have a major masochistic streak, curse and swear and revile the circumstances that led to your unfortunate demise.
(You may also squeal like a little girl at the prospect of a game that coerces you into dealing with unpleasant consequences.)
Fortunately, however, death is not instantaneous in Wizardry Online. If your head gets unceremoniously detached from your shoulders, you'll have the opportunity to run up a statue in order to get it re-equipped. Fair warning, however, someone may well make off with your property during this time. Incidentally, there's no guarantee that you will be able to get resurrected even if you do make it to the appropriate piece of masonry. You see, you only have a certain percentage of coming back to life. You can, however, offer up items to increase those chances but, at the end of the day, you will only get two opportunities to return to the land of the living. Fail, and it's time to start a new character.
(Given the fact that the game's level cap is 99, this can be an alarming prospect. Oh, and, if that wasn't bad enough, there's also a Grim Reaper that will stalk your soul in an attempt to reduce your chances even further.)
On a related note, criminal behavior is apparently completely okay here. The only caveat is that you must be willing to deal with the consequences of your action. Want to butcher that guy over there and run off with his goods? Sure. Go ahead. Be prepared to have guards stalk you, beat you over the head and dump you into a cellar somewhere. Be prepared to be an undesirable who can only survive in the slums. Heck, be prepared to get hit by your party members because certain spells just don't like bad people. Sure, the effects of your actions will eventually become forgotten (you'll stop glowing a malevolent red after a while) but, until then, you will be held accountable.
Sadly, the rest of Wizardry Online feels a lot less revolutionary and a lot more routine. Currently, the game boasts of the standard repertoire of fantasy tropes. There are five races to choose from: humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes and a weird pixie-like thing. Interestingly, in spite of how other companies have been subjected to criticism for doing the same, Wizardry Online will be released with two gender-specific races. The class system is a little bit more interesting, though not too much so. Asides from allowing you to play as one of the classic Dungeon & Dragons classes, you'll also be able to retain skills when you switch classes, thereafter allowing everything from a fighter that can heal himself to a mage with ample amounts of dodge.
I'm curious to see where Wizardry Online is going to go from here. Set beside titles like The Secret World and the upcoming Wild Star, it's definitely up for a challenge. We know that it will appeal to a certain sub-set of people (yours truly is included here) but will it be capable of retaining those players? It's an interesting thing to ponder and I'm certain we will eventually see the answers when the game enters open beta in the next few months.