Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls Review

By Shawn Collier on July 21, 2011

When someone asks you about all the different types of RPGs available on video game consoles today, there are a few genres that come to mind "“ Western, Japanese, Real-Time-Strategy, Action, just to name a few. However, unbeknownst to most players outside Japan, and especially newcomers to gaming, is the Dungeon RPG genre. Outside of titles like Atlus' Etrian Odyssey series, the genre hasn't broken into the Western mainstream all that much. Given this, many were surprised when XSEED Games announced they had picked up Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls for Western release on PSN. Genre faithful will almost assuredly pick up this title, but does it appeal to gamers at large?

If you aren't an old-school Dungeons and Dragons veteran or haven't tried newer titles such as Etrian Odyssey, Dungeon RPGs are a single-player affair where the player creates a traditional six-player party of various adventurers, spanning numerous classes, to trek inside dungeons on quests and journey to find treasure. While one can have a party of all the same class, most players will usually choose the staples, such as the warrior, priest and mage. Wizardry also includes some other oddball classes, like ninjas and samurais, for those who are feeling adventurous. After creating their initial character, players find themselves in a town with a number of explorable areas, including an inn for resting, a temple for healing and trading gold for experience, a shop for buying and selling items, a guild for accepting quests, and so forth. After gearing up with all the necessary items players travel to one of two dungeons initially available to explore. This should all sound familiar if you know anything about Dungeon RPGs, and sure enough you'll be getting exactly what you expect in Wizardry.

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The dungeons of Wizardry hearken back to old-school games of yore, as you'll be moving through them via a first-person perspective. Pushing the directional pad forward moves you one step further and vice-versa for pushing backwards and moving side-to-side. This one-step-at-a-time method of exploring carries over into the game's mini-maps, which can be called up by pressing the Square button while in a dungeon. True to its old-school roots, Wizardry requires players to buy a map before entering the dungeon (although some of the maps for the lower floors can only be found via treasure chests), in order to have the game record your path, otherwise it'll be time to break out the graph paper, unless you have an innate sense of direction. Of course, not all areas of the dungeon "“ even on the first floor "“ are safe, but the game does do a good job of warning you to save before entering these "areas of no return" that litter the dungeons. So if you enter them carelessly and die, it's basically your fault.An RPG wouldn't be an RPG without battles, which Wizardry deals in spades. Just like the original NES Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games, battles take place in a simple and easy-to-understand turn-based system that features three characters on the front lines, and three characters in the back. You have the choice of attacking (or casting spells if your class is magically inclined), defending, using items or running away "“ all staples you'd expect from the genre. Of course at the beginning of the game the only equipment your characters will have on hand are basic daggers and armor, so even the petty Kobolds will be an issue. Furthermore, the first few hours will be incredibly grind-y as you'll have to go back and forth between the dungeons and the main town to build up your characters. Even so, the charm of this lies in the battle mechanics; they're simple and easy to understand, thus grinding goes by quickly. One can almost hear that voice in the back of their head telling them to go for just one more kill, or finish just one more quest, and then just one more after that, and so on. Sure you may die multiple times getting back and forth, but it's all part of the learning experience.

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Outside of this appeal however, Wizardry doesn't really do itself many favors in reaching out to non-hardcore Dungeon RPG fans. The dungeons themselves are almost too dark, and the lack of any variation among the countless walls you'll come across make things very disorienting if you get lost easily, even if it does fit the retro theme the game is going for. As well, of the anime-inspired character designs, many look out of place, especially the female warrior that dawns an outfit that really isn't suited for exploring a dungeon, if you follow. Thankfully the monsters of Wizardry fit much better with the game's tone, however they are entirely static in battle, and only flicker when attacked or deal attacks. Not to say that they should be completely animated, but some form of motion would have really helped here as the developers put noticeable effort into making animations for the HUD displays of your party members.

The audio, while fitting for the game, isn't really anything to write home about, and falls too close to the 8-bit era the genre hearkens from. The battle sounds fall under a similar fate as all you'll get are the classic grunts and sword strikes that have been featured in numerous other games. XSEED Games kept the Japanese voices from the original release, and they generally fit the mood, although some sound effects, like when you run into a wall, sound humorously out of place in that typical high pitched squeal anime is known for.

Final Thoughts

While most RPGs are trying to branch out into new horizons, Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls uncompromisingly sticks firmly to its guns. As such, Wizardry is a game that requires a fondness for the "good ol' days" from players, or to be someone who wants to travel back in time to play the games their parents use to play. It won't bring anyone new to the table but it does excel at what it does "“ and for those who are interested that is all that matters.

With over 100+ hours of gameplay you get your money's worth.
Being able to save anywhere in a dungeon is a lifesaver.
Tons of ways to tweak your character if you so wish.
Doesn't really appeal to anyone outside its hardcore base.
The graphics and audio are slightly dated in certain areas.
Some players might initially get overloaded with information in the beginning.
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