There's probably no better way to sum up Wizardry Online than with the phrase, "Be careful what you wish for." If you've been yearning for a game with permadeath, you have reason to celebrate. At this year's SOE Live, the Wizardry Online team showed off the game, and it's every bit as hardcore as promised. If you're looking for an old-school challenge, you'll want to check out the highlights below.
The team began by looking back at the history of the Wizardry franchise, which spans over three decades. In the process of reviving it, the developers wanted to preserve the hardcore elements of the game. The game emphasizes dungeon crawling, hardcore gameplay, and a focus on stats and customizing your character. There is no carebear gameplay and no hand-holding. In short, you will die, and you will love it at the same time.
There are a variety of races to choose from: Human, Elv, Porkul (an Asian-style race), Dwarf (male-only), and Gnome (female-only). The game also features four classes: the Fighter, Priest, Mage, and Thief. Any race can choose any class, but you need high enough attributes to be able to select that class. Attribute points are awarded based on die rolls, and then the player can spread them out to create his class. Also, certain races are stronger in particular attributes, so they're more aligned with certain classes.
As you level up, you'll be able to access hybrid classes and customize your skill tree. In addition, you can use crafting to enchant weapons with gems and improve the stats. Meanwhile, players will be able to customize their avatars and choose the gear appearance they want visible. Players will want to always have the best gear possible because of the stiff penalty for dying.
Wizardry Online emphasizes dungeon crawling, and players will need to go through a dungeon multiple times, not only to get the storyline but also to get loot drops. Dungeons have platforms, traps, chests, and lots of puzzles that need to be solved so that you can progress to the next area. But the emphasis is on combat, and it's real-time and responsive. You can aim a missile at an NPC, but if she moves in time, she can dodge it. Combat takes into account things like blocking and ducking, so it's fast-paced and based on movement.
Next, the team laid out exactly what dying in Wizardry Online means. Yes, there is permadeath, but it's not as cruel as it sounds. There are actually soul ranks, which can be used for up to five different characters. As you complete quests dungeons, you unlock bonuses and levels, which are saved to the soul rank so that you don't have to start from scratch. There's also a shared item box to store extra gear and items, likewise saved to the soul rank. But you lose your gear and coin on death, and if another player is nearby, he can actually loot it off of your corpse. When you die, you will come back as a ghost, but you do have a chance to rez your corpse. Resurrection offers only a chance of success, but you can improve it by sacrificing items, and the more items you offer up, the greater the chance of success. If you don't succeed the first time, you have another chance, but after that you're out of luck.
Switching gears, the team showed off one of the dungeons and explained that they aren't actually instanced; they're shared by others and segmented off, so you can't proceed to the next area unless you solve certain puzzles first. This reduces the chance of a player running trains of mobs out from the deeper areas of the dungeon. The devs showed off an outdoor dungeon but added that many are underground and have a much more somber feel to them.
If you want to survive in Wizardry Online, friends are very important. The game has PvP, and it's not something you can opt out of. Players attack each other both in the open world and in dungeons, and everything players wear is lootable except for items purchased with real money. The permadeath rules apply to PvP, but the more you kill other players, the greater your chance of earning special titles and eventually being labeled as a criminal. Meanwhile, players can set bounties on other players, so actions do have consequences.
The gameplay walkthrough highlighted the fast-paced combat and had an arcade-style feel similar to Vindictus. Ranged attacks seemed to work for pulling mobs, but it was much harder to land long-range attacks on moving mobs. Meanwhile, we saw the Thief dish out much more damage based on where he was in relation to the mob. As you'd expect, if the mob's back was turned, it took a lot more damage. When the player reached a glowing barrier, he had to select the correct answer from a series of questions. When he chose the wrong one, he had to redo the test until he got it right. Later, we saw group play, and it looked as if the groupmates had a few break-out battles with each other between pulls. If you're a lousy group member, you might be in for a rough time!
The Wizardry Online beta begins on October 29th and is expected to launch next year. For a look at what to expect, you can check out the trailer below!