Wizardry Online Impressions: No Magic, Just Disappointment
Skills liven things up, but not too much. There are two resources used for skills: Mana (MP), which is mana in the traditional sense, and vitality (OD), which is most akin to energy from Champions Online. MP is static, while OD is built up by standing around (up to a certain level) and attacking. OD is especially bad for two reasons. First, it builds exceptionally slow, which makes early-game combat for fighters incredibly tedious. Second, it drains way too fast. Skills use it up in spades, and sprinting may as well be pouring the bar down a sink, despite the sprint being not that much faster than your normal run.
As you level, you can earn some higher-end skills that supposedly give significant boosts to your character, but which require various items and quests to obtain. Ancient Magic and Racial Abilities are both classified as “Custom Skills,” and there are also the standard high-level, class-specific skills to go with them. I didn’t reach the point that these skills made a difference to my character, although the UI took every opportunity to remind me that they exist, so I can’t really comment on how effective they are. I certainly don’t feel inspired enough to continue playing just to get access to them.
The character classes are the standard four: Priest, Fighter, Thief, and Mage. Much like Wizardry Online, they are as generic as they come. Fighter hits things with swords, thief stabs things, priest heals or curses things, and mage blows stuff up. Each race is best fit to a specific class, so you have to take racial attributes and bonuses into consideration when creating your character. Dwarves, for example, are best as Fighters and Priests, where humans are okay at everything and great at nothing. I’m sure it makes a difference in high-level play, but the differences are negligible at the medium-to-low end of the spectrum, especially since you can still end up with great stats thanks to a lucky dice roll when leveling up.
Despite being the only way to advance in Wizardry Online, dungeons suffer from the same lack of interest and focus that the mechanics do. They aim to be similar to classic dungeon crawlers of the PC era like Ultima Underworld or Wizardry, but with other players running alongside you. Find X key items, fight a boss, continue. The problem is that the pacing is all wrong. Progress is essentially linear, with the player being shoved unceremoniously into featureless boxes to fight groups of enemies every time they reach a new section of the dungeon. It’s jarring and completely breaks the flow of a good crawl. It’s especially bad given that there are no shortcuts to the entrance until you’ve beaten the final boss, forcing you to run a gauntlet of stop-and-go nonsense just to leave.
Eventually, you will fall in combat. Your skills can’t protect you from the attrition of dungeons, after all. When you die, you are sent into ghost form and you must make your way back to a statue to revive. Along the way you can get caught by a reaper-style NPC who forces you back to your body. Once at the statue, you can revive, but there is a chance you will fail. If you fail, you are turned to “Ash” and get one more chance to revive. If you fail a second time, you die permanently. But don’t worry, you still retain your soul level (account level that dictates things like max character level) and any items/gold deposited in your bank.