Wizardry Online Impressions: No Magic, Just Disappointment
This permadeath feature is the most touted part of Wizardry Online, but like the rest of the game it refuses to embrace itself wholly. Dying permanently is only dangerous to high-level characters, and you can simply sacrifice items or gold to weight the revival in your favor anyway. For a game that promotes having permanent character death as a main feature, characters sure have a lot of difficulty staying dead. Compare this to indie MMO Realm of the Mad God, where character death really is permanent. Pick and choose one, but don’t waffle between them. When I can die endlessly beyond the beginner protection and not care at all, something is wrong with the balance.
I can imagine the back and forth between the designers right now. Character permadeath is making early deaths too difficult for newbies? Make it so permadeath is an extremely low chance. Permadeath no longer has weight thanks to that change? Make it so characters die more often. Put insta-kill traps on chests dropped by low-level monsters. Make poison last for half a minute. Remove built-in character regen while making monsters hit far harder than they should. It’s artificially hard, and it’s that way simply to drive up your number of deaths so you have a higher chance of getting shafted into permadeath.
Besides permadeath, player interaction has been promoted a lot. Much like permadeath, it has no teeth. Players can commit crimes against each other in dungeons and loot the corpses of their fellow adventurers. Even towns aren’t safe, although guards will likely come to your rescue. But there’s no real reason to kill other players except to annoy them, and there is every reason to stay on the good side of the law (much better town services, for example). I’ve never been PKed and I’ve yet to kill any other player or NPC. Not for lack of trying, mind you! It was the mechanic I was most keen on trying.
It’s a shame. If it wasn’t so dead set on imitating better games, Wizardry Online could have left a better impression on me. The basics of player interaction are already there, after all. Alas, you can only run around in town and leave to do specific dungeons. No roaming through the wilderness, no player housing or player-made towns, no guilds to speak of. No depth of social interaction. If just one mechanic in this collection had been explored fully, it could have been something special. Instead, Wizardry Online pays lip service to emergent player behavior without committing.
And that’s really the best way to sum up the entire experience. Wizardry Online doesn’t commit. The combat attempts to be skill-based and action-oriented like Vindictus or Dark Souls, but then throws in massive, soul-crushing amounts of grind. Death attempts to make itself relevant, but waffles in the face of new players potentially being upset. Player interaction is acknowledged, but is actively discouraged through game mechanics such as the importance on the central town. Wizardry Online so desperately wants to be hardcore, but has no resolve to stick to its principles.
Do I have it all wrong? Have you been enjoying Wizardry Online? Does it get better at later levels? Let us know in the comments.