[Review] Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls
This is a the story of a faraway land. 2000 years before the current era.
Avrul, god of creation made the Draguun, a race of beings bearing the bloodline of the dragon gods. They excelled in the mystic arts and built a prosperous civilization, ruling over the world for many years. However, the Draguun were also an arrogan people, and eventually fell to the powerful magics that they themselves created. After the disappearance of the Draguun, wars broke out amongst the remaining, uncontrolled racers until in the land of Athals, the empire of Darua united the peoples of their land.
Thus began the age of Athals.
In the 100th year of Athals, however, the emperor of Darua fell into madness; and in the wake of this, his empire quickly collapsed. The land was divided among three factions – the Kingdom of Diement, the Council of Qhotapi and the Haersant Federation. Working together, the three countries built a strong alliance, and created peace in Athals. The people found happiness in a world without conflict.
However, over time, monsters that were supposedly sealed away by the angels, long, long ago in the time of legends began to appear once more. And not only did monster and beast now roam, but demons know as the “Elder Ones” also turned their attention to Athals.
The sages say that “Something which had once sealed away the Elder Ones is losing its power.” and fortune tellers say that “The balance of the world has begun to collapse”. but not one could be truly sure of the reason for their return.
The people hold on to to their visions of peace, while living in fear of the unknown. But amongst them, some stepped forward to search for the artifacts left long ago by the Dragunn, while others pursued monsters to collect bounties. These men and women, with strength and skill a above that of regular folks, wielding the powers of magic and ancient martial arts, became known as “Adventurers.”
As the many adventurers travel over the lands of Athals, yet another dark shadow looms just over the horizon.
What is the first thing you’ll notice on your return trip to the Wizardry universe? The great art style chosen for this new adventure. It greatly complements the static, old school graphics that only have a blink animation for each member of your party AND the detailed images of all the monsters you’ll encounter in your adventure.
Your journey beings by creating a character to lead your party. You start by choosing from all the races at your disposal (with male and female versions available of each one) and picking between a neutral, good or evil alignment for them as well which in the end helps in deciding which classes are available and which ones are kept locked away. Also, Evil alignment units can’t be in the same party as good ones which brings an extra element of strategy to the table. You can create a party with up to six characters (leader included) to explore the two available dungeons, all in a first person presentation while moving on the grid-based floors, one step at a time.
Magic Torches (which light up the dungeon) and maps (which allow you to map out each floor) are a must and should be considered your best friend up until the point where one of your party members learns Arcane Map or one of the light spells. You DID bring someone with magical abilities, right? Remember, balance to the force is a MUST in order for the good guys to succeed! Also, auto-map isn’t just for keeping track of the current level layout, it also counts as a way of unlocking several trophies! You can tell which floor has been explored completely since they’ll have a little map with a star when checking the map screen. You COULD create all of your party members from scratch but that will just make it harder for you to restart the game so you can complete it with all the other races since the leader is picked from the creation screen and you can only add members from the guild which means you’ll eventually have to delete one or two characters to give them a chance at the front spot.
Fights are easy to understand but hard to master. You select all the commands for each one of your party members and it will all play out depending on the Agility, Strenght and Luck of you and your enemies. It is my advice that you always keep a close look of your Hit Points since 3-4 enemies ganging up on a single party member can spell doom with a capital D and an exclamation point and some 1s that got lost in the shuffle. Should you feel adventurous and completely trust in your party members and their abilities, you can hold the Left analog stick down and hit the X button to engage in Auto battle (which you can cancel if you want to) and see how far you can get.
Party members that have died are taken to the Temple and you must pay to place a prayer that will hopefully bring them back… but if that prayer fails they will turn into Ash which only leaves you with one last chance to pay to pray (at a higher price) to help them regenerate. What happens if you fail? That character is lost FOR GOOD and completely disappears from the game. While at the temple you can also use the Tithe option to donate some gold to the church in exchange for some much needed experience points which should bring you closer to the next level up opportunity. I used this extensively after finishing the game for the first time so I could create a new party leader, re-use 5 of my already leveled up (lvl 20+) party members and bring the new guy/girl up to speed with the rest of the gang so he/she wouldn’t die just by staring at the first monster it encountered. Gold is a commodity in Wizardry and should be spent wisely.
Is a member low on health or under a bad status effect? They’ll be moved to the back row for you. Need to be veeeeery careful about that since your back-row characters will be pulled yo the front line and a badly equipped party member is soon a dead party member. Poison is your WORST enemy early on (and is still a pain near the end game) as it can easily wipe out your entire Hit Point bar without even knowing what hit you. Poison traps should be avoided at all cost and antidotes are a must in your inventory so be sure to do some shopping before heading out. Be sure to keep items (especially healing ones) on all party members at all times as the ones that are dead can’t use them and the ones still left alive will desperately need them during the thousands of enemy encounters you’ll witness in your quest. Status changes in your party are very dangerous… but you can also inflict them upon enemies. Poison is great since it chips away at their health and sleep gives you a free hit… but there’s nothing funnier than seeing a confused Dragon kill itself.
While traveling within each dungeon one of your party members might mention they’ve feeling something is odd here and there. When that happens… search! You might just find the secret door that will quickly lead you back to the exit or a shortcut to a treasure chest with some great and unique equipment that will save your life… or at least delay the cold embrace of death. There’s two dungeons to explore (huge ones, 10 floors each) during your adventure. The last 5 floors in one of them (Dungeon of Trials) are available as DLC for purchase (look for a review of the DLC soon!) and are only for those that have already finished the game and KNOW how it works since they feature some of the more powerful monster the game can throw at you. At least the spoils and riches are better as well!
What advice can I give to you, young adventurer? Bishops are one of the more diverse and handy characters you can (and SHOULD) have in your party. They can appraise unidentified items for free as long as their level is high enough which in turn allows said item to be equipped or sold for a fair price. Should they fail at appraising they will become frustrated and enter a Fear State, and you must then go to temple to remove this bad, bad status effect. Saving on appraise costs will, in the end, save you a LOT of money, money that can go into buying better gear for your party or the next map for the next set of dungeon floors.
As there are different types of chests (wood, iron, silver, etc.) you must always remember that the more expensive (and better) the base material, the better the prize you can get! As a complement to this, the better the material and the prize, the more dangerous the trap placed in said chest will be. You’ll need a high level Thief to be on the safe side most of the time… but there is the odd time here and there when even they will be killed by a chest that refused to mention it had a backup trap installed.
Even though spells have a set number of uses (no MP points in this game) DO NOT wait to use your attack or support spells! Use them ASAP to quickly end fights, collect EXP, gold, items and chests and as soon as you’re about to run out of spells GO BACK TO THE TOWN. Eventually you’ll get several types of warp and exit spells which soon become the best life insurance you can get.
Want another, super helpful and double-secret tip? Spoiler alert!
[spoiler intro=”No Wonder Horses Feel So Rested!”]
Want to recover HP in town for free? If someone in your party has a healing spell just use the Stable option at the Inn to help him/her recover MP, use the healing spell(s) to recover, stay at the Stable, lather, rinse, repeat. You’re welcome![/spoiler]
Gaining enough experience points for your first level up will prove to be hard but once you hit level 3 you will start to feel as if things are finally going your way (as long as everyone in your party is still alive and you’ve got the right, balanced line up – may I suggest a fighter, a samurai, a thief, a bishop and two mages?) to correct all wrongs. Something that will feel odd for some of you is how you can lose stats when you level up. The ONLY stat that is guaranteed to go up with every level is hit points, but the rest can be all over the place. A bit of luck is definitely involved since ending up with a Ninja will low agility and luck would screw up your master plan.
To progress in this game you must go to the guild and accept the quests that are presented to you there from time to time. You’re first given a “trial” one to prove yourself worthy of being part of the guild and then quests just keep getting more and more difficult. The number of main quests needed to have a shot at completing the game isn’t very high BUT without completing the side quests and grinding for gold and experience you’ll hardly have a true chance to make it to the final boss. Even when you make your way towards the final floating skull (remember, floating skull is for Boss battle!) you might face one of two bosses depending on the choices made during your quest (defeating each one gets you a different trophy so you’ve got 10 chances to do so before you have to delete a created character and start over from scratch) which forces you to change your strategy as one uses several spells that can turn your party into corpses in two turns and the other has a high HP value and is fast and strong enough to one kill one or two party members per turn.
You can also decide to change classes to better balance your party or because you’ve finally hit the requirements to access a specific one. You do have to be careful with this since once you’ve changed into another class said action will bring the character back to level 1 therefore lowering all his/her stats which could in turn make your party a very dangerous place to be. You MIGHT find, if you’re lucky enough, special books that grant an instant change in class without having to meet the requirements which happened to me as I was lucky enough to find a Ninja Book that helped me get the final class I needed for that glorious “Ding!” sound.
Here’s a wonderful Wizardry Retrospective you HAVE to read to better understand all that has happened for us to be where we stand today:
[spoiler intro=”Wizardry Retrospective”]
As originally penned by Matthew Fleming, rabid Wizardry enthusiast
The best way to learn where we are now is to study where we’ve been – and Wizardry is a series with quite a long and illustrious history. Although now living on in the hands of Japanese developers like Acquire, the original creators of this venerable franchise designed eight numbered entries before the torch was passed, and these eight games served as an inspiration to countless game designers throughout the 80s, 90s, 00s and 10s, ultimately shaping the series – and the gaming landscape as a whole – in countless ways. In addition, each game served almost as a mirror, reflecting (and in many cases satirizing) the general state of fantasy sci-fi and tabletop gaming in the western world at the time of its creation. I invite you to learn more about these first eight games, in preparation for the Labyrinth of Lost Souls that awaits you…
Wizardry 1 – Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord
Platforms: (U.S.) Apple ][, Commodore 64, NES, MSX-2, TurboGrafx-CD, Super Famicom
Date Released: 1981
It all started in the city of Llylgamyn. See, there were these two people who weren’t fond of each other, Trebor (the Overlord – kinda like a president, but elected by a group of sages) and Werdna (evil wizard). Werdna stole Trebor’s magical amulet-thing and made a big underground maze, hiding said amulet at the bottom. Trebor tried to get it, but could only secure four floors. Having done that much, however, he put some traps of his own in those top four floors and offered up the underground maze as a proving ground. Find the hidden item, and Trebor’ll tell you about his shiny amulet and offer you a job as his personal guard.
Of course, it should come as no surprise to avid gamers who was still guarding the amulet at the bottom…
Wizardry 2 – The Knight of Diamonds
Platforms: Apple ][, Commodore 64, NES, NEC PC-9801
Date Released: 1982
After your team of intrepid adventurers laid out a proper beating and got the amulet, Trebor sent in the rest of his army to clean house, and set up guards to make sure Werdna would never, ever come back again. Unfortunately, by this time, Trebor had gone a bit over the edge (quite literally!), and took a long leap off a short spire. Things got pretty quiet after that.
Time passed, and there was this staff in the city that would keep away evil: If you wanted to be bad in the town, you literally couldn’t get in. But if you were born bad, there wasn’t much that could be done, now, was there? And Davalpus was that kind of guy. He learned all the bad stuff Werdna learned, got better at it, charged into the royal family’s castle and gave a demonstration as to why he was the main villain of this part of the tale.
Quick and easy solution to that, though: The prince of the royal family charged at Davalpus, there was a big flash of light, and boom – no prince, no Davalpus, but most notably, no staff. The god who claimed it, Gnilda, left a note saying she was quite fed up with all the hubbub, and that her protective staff had been placed, strangely enough, in a deep labyrinth under the temple. And so, it was time for your intrepid group of adventurers to get the staff and bring Llylgamyn back to safety.
And so it went. Always a crazy maze, always an item to find at the bottom, and always an evil to vanquish…
Wizardry 3 – Legacy of Llylgamyn
Platforms: Apple ][, Commodore 64, NES, NEC PC-9801
Date released: 1983
Though Llylgamyn prospered, that peace was eventually broken not by man, but by nature itself. Earthquakes, changes in climate, thundering storms… Things got turbulent, but people were able to ignore it until it started hitting Llylgamyn proper. A quake cracked Gnilda’s temple, and nearby volcanoes started belching ash and fire. The sages and wizards and soothsayers consulted their magic, and the signs were clear: the end of the world was at hand. While some panicked, others knew that there was one artifact that could reveal the source of all this craziness: a magic orb owned by the dragon, L’kbreth. This dragon was pretty smart, and hid it in a place that was guarded by the powers of both good and evil. And since quite a bit of time had passed since the last dungeon quest, it was left up to the descendents of our previous heroes to step up and save Llylgamyn.
Wizardry 4 – The Return of Werdna
Platforms: Apple ][, DOS, NEC PC-9801
Date Released: 1987
Meanwhile, remember our old buddy Werdna? Yeah, he came back – or so they said. Clawed his way all the way up the ten levels of his dungeon and everything. But of course, that was all just rumor… or was it?
Wizardry 5 – Heart of the Maelstrom
Platforms: Apple ][, Commodore 64, SNES, Satellaview, PC, NEC PC-9801
Date Released: 1988
With L’kbreth’s orb safely in hand, the kingdom’s sages and wizards learned quite a bit about life and magic, and Llylgamyn returned to its former peace… for a time. Like all things, though, this magically-augmented tranquility eventually broke down as well. Some grand creator must’ve really had it in for the place, too, as this time it seemed like the very fabric of reality itself had been torn asunder. Chaos was literally leaking out, most prominently in a series of maze-like caverns (the Maelstrom) under the temple of the sages (called the Brotherhood). This was all pretty grim, but the sages knew what to do – or rather, they knew who would know what to do: a demigod called the Gatekeeper, who was well-versed in this sort of stuff. After some scrying, they found out that he had been captured, and was being held in the heart of the Maelstrom.
Further investigation also revealed a mysterious lady known as “The Sorn” — a renegade from the Brotherhood who wanted to end all order in the universe. And she’d had a three-year head start on achieving this goal, so time was short! Some heroes had to step up fast, talk to the high priest of the Brotherhood to find out what to do, then charge into the Maelstrom, save the Gatekeeper, and stop The Sorn.
Wizardry 6 – Bane of the Cosmic Forge
Platforms: Amiga, DOS, SNES, Macintosh
Date Released: 1990
More time passed. After the Maelstrom had been conquered, a new king was born in the royal family. Everyone liked him, so eventually he was given control over all of Llylgamyn. Unsurprisingly, however, this turned out to be a bad idea.
It was said that the queen was fond of torturing the helpless, and the king’s advisor was a shady wizard who started warring on other planes of existence. During one of his excursions, he found a powerful artifact called the “Cosmic Forge.” It was a pen that would bring into reality whatever it wrote. This turned the king and the wizard against each other in a climactic battle that nobody got to see (as it took place entirely in the royal castle). Neither were ever seen again, and as you might imagine, this didn’t help Llylgamyn at all – with the king gone, the local government crumbled and everyone simply abandoned the land. Stories of the Cosmic Forge persisted, however, and some adventurers decided to try their luck finding this mighty pen.
Wizardry 7 – Crusaders of the Dark Savant/Wizardry Gold
Platforms: MS-DOS, Windows 95, PlayStation, Macintosh
Date Released: 1992
The pen was held by the Cosmic Lords, who were helpless to work their magic on the worlds without it. They had lost it when a king and wizard picked it up and promptly disappeared. However, a spot of luck managed to reveal a previously unknown planet which was rumored to contain the secret to create (or destroy) worlds. With this secret presenting far too much of a temptation, it was only a matter of time before various groups (including otherworldly beings) began seeking it out, in hopes of attaining ultimate power. Among these interstellar visitors were the Dark Savant (one of the most powerful beings there ever was), the Umpani (reliable, fair traders), the T’Rang (spider-like creatures who would do anything whatsoever for money) and a fierce woman warrior named Vi Domina (a descendant of the man who made the new world). Of course, a group of intrepid adventurers would also be joining this unlikely cast of characters, and a deadly game of extraterrestrial cat and mouse would begin.
Platforms: Windows PC
Date Released: 2001
Ah, but nothing is ever quite so easy. The chase sent the adventurers to another planet where the final stand took place. Prophecies were fulfilled, the fate of worlds was resolved, and the planets just kept on turnin’…
* * *
Of course, there’s a lot more to each of these games than just these few paragraphs (including massive amounts of tongue-in-cheek humor), but in the interest of trying to be as spoiler-free as possible, these brief summaries should suffice to give you a taste of the rich lore for which this series is celebrated.
In short, the original Wizardry games developed by Sir-Tech are very special – both for their content and for their historical significance. Unlike most other RPGs of the era, the initial series received seven proper sequels, all of which were translated to Japanese. Having found unprecedented success in the east, Japan was eventually passed the torch, and the series continued under the guiding hands of countless enthusiastic developers.
One of the things that made the Wizardry series so magical was its sheer depth. In its earlier days, Wizardry had a lot in common with its more famous cousin, The Bard’s Tale. Grid-based dungeons, first-person viewpoint, player-generated party… That was the bread and butter of those games.
Wizardry also followed some of its tabletop gaming compatriots in having advanced classes that required higher stats, and these advanced classes blended eastern and western flavor in careful balance.
Alignment was always a major focal point, as well – good and evil characters simply never worked well together; and although later games adopted other systems in place of alignment (karma in Wizardry 7, for example), the simple elegance of good, neutral and evil alignment became a recognizable trait of the series, and served as an inspiration for countless other game developers.
Game mechanics also became more intense with time. The player could customize specific characters with stats and skills from specific classes to make that character hit 6+ times per round, or kill an enemy with one hit from the shadows. Magic, too, became more complex with each outing, with status effects ranging from petrification to “itching.”
Even a concept as basic as skill usage was given some additional depth, particularly in the later games – once a character’s stats were at max (along with other criteria, depending on the game), special skills would unlock to further enhance his/her abilities.
While the story of the Wizardry series was never its primary focus, each game featured a mystery to unravel and numerous well-written character interactions that afforded the player a chance to really connect with his/her characters and become immersed within the game world. Later games even featured multiple endings depending on the faction to which you’d fostered the closest ties, and each of these factions always had its own flavor and character.
Bringing one of the new-wave Japanese Wizardry games to North America offers old fans an opportunity to see how the same seeds sprouted different fruit, and gives new fans a chance to discover this long and storied series for the first time.
This is the Wizardry Renaissance. And for as much as the series has changed over the years… it’s still largely the same as it always has been.
Just as it should be.[/spoiler]
Fans of the series won’t have any complaints and those that have yet to play a Wizardry game should definitely give this one a try. The content is there, the price is really great, it’s a very fun but hard game that brings back one of the best series in the genre and it helps teach new players to learn to love games that punish you for not planning things before rushing into an adventure.
[review pros=”Great way to revive the Wizardry series
Only $14.99 AND it has a platinum trophy!” cons=”We want the sequel as well!” score=92]
Published by XSEED Games
Developed by Acquire
Cost – $14.99
– A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for this review.
– Game was completed before writing this review (6 times)
– Total amount of time played: 147 hours (and counting!).
This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls provided by XSEED Games.