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Review Forgotten Gems: Wizardry 8 Review

Diogo Ribeiro

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Tags: Sir-Tech; Wizardry 8

Today we look back at a forgotten gem of a game, Wizardry 8, developed by Sir-Tech. Here's a glimpse of our review.

The depth of the character system really allows for some good party design and this shows in combat. There are all sorts of combinations one can pull off that take advantage of the strengths of party members. You can focus on going for direct damage spells to quickly take out single targets or use status changing spells to reduce enemy resistances then send frontliners to clean them up. You can have spellcasters depend solely on spells at every turn or equip them with ranged weapons to cause some damage while saving spell points for more drastic situations. Or just have Bards play their instruments and Gadgeteers use their gadgets while spellcasters cast Stamina on them. Working with each character's skill levels is also important. For instance an Alchemist may create potions but if he is not skilled at throwing them he may fumble and drop it on the party instead. In which case a Ninja might be a better choice given his excellence with thrown items. Frontliners who have problems with our of reach enemies can invest in ranged weapons, bomb throwing, or protecting weaker members by taking blows directed at them. You can also hire RPCs which may benefit the party by bringing in skills no one else in the party has. Eight characters not enough? Open a can of Canned Elemental on your enemies too. Dozens and dozens of ways to handle combat are available. And honestly, how many other games allow you to play as a Faerie Ninja?​
 

Volourn

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I used to play and enjoy the Wizardry series. But, I got broed with them after awhile so I didn't play Wizardry 8 as far as I remember. I'll read your review though. :D
 

Naked_Lunch

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Very nicely done and I'd definitely enjoy seeing more of these retrospective articles. Perhaps maybe even some rougelike stuff? Eh? Eh? Ahh.......
 
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A nice, long and detailed review. I purchased the game a few days ago on the recommendation by fellow codexers, and much of your review matched my initial impressions of the game.

And yes, its a shame they don't make games like this anymore.
 

Voss

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Volourn said:
I used to play and enjoy the Wizardry series. But, I got broed with them after awhile so I didn't play Wizardry 8 as far as I remember. I'll read your review though. :D

But wizardry is DEAD! Dead!
 

Volourn

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But reviews NEVER are! R00fles!

P.S. This is about the review of Wizardry 8; not Volourn. :roll:
 

Psilon

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There’s the notion that this kind of game is a grimoire of nostalgic dungeon crawling and roleplaying that we may never see again.

Nice jab at Cleve there, RP. Overall a good review, but I question your use of the term "aging" to describe the engine. As far as I can recall, Wiz8 used a brand-new (if underpowered) engine, and Sir-Tech imploded before they could dump the code on someone else.

I'd also like to remark on the magic system. Despite spell names like "Nuclear Blast," it should be pointed out that the raw damage spells are usually pretty lame in this game. Sure, the Lightning Rod is an awfully useful item for the midgame, but in general being able to cast Terror, Insanity, or even Itching Skin far outweighs things like Whipping Rocks and Fireball. The variant power levels are a nice touch, though, and keep things from degenerating into D&D's [Empowered/Maximized] Cure Minor/Light/Moderate/Serious Wounds mess.
 

Jasede

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I can’t help but store my final game saves in the hope that someday a follow up to the series is released and one day I can return to it.

*sniffle*

Awesome, man. It was like my eighth birthday all over again. Good job! Ah, them memories.
 

Diogo Ribeiro

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Thanks! Glad everyone enjoyed it.

Psilon said:
but I question your use of the term "aging" to describe the engine. As far as I can recall, Wiz8 used a brand-new (if underpowered) engine, and Sir-Tech imploded before they could dump the code on someone else.

By aging I'm refering pretty much to that, an underdeveloped engine that while functional bears some peculiarities such as the distance fog that's in place outdoors has was there for the same reason that in Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, to keep high frame rates. Nowadays that technology may be used but most engines seem to have evolved beyond that.

I'd also like to remark on the magic system. Despite spell names like "Nuclear Blast," it should be pointed out that the raw damage spells are usually pretty lame in this game. Sure, the Lightning Rod is an awfully useful item for the midgame, but in general being able to cast Terror, Insanity, or even Itching Skin far outweighs things like Whipping Rocks and Fireball. The variant power levels are a nice touch, though, and keep things from degenerating into D&D's [Empowered/Maximized] Cure Minor/Light/Moderate/Serious Wounds mess.

Correct. I was going to mention this so my apologies for this oversight, but you're right: status ailments are usually more important than spells that only cause raw damage. Enemies which suffer from Insanity, Paralysis, Nausea and other similar conditions are easier to hit. Plus, other spells such as Ring of Fire and Draining Cloud also drain some health per round.
 

Limorkil

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I have spent a lot of time this year playing Wizardry 8. I bought it a couple of years back but never really got into it until now.

I agree with the review. Wizardry 8 is a fantastic RPG by any standards. One thing about it is that even though it is an old game, it is not too dated that you would have a hard time playing it these days.

In my opinion the highlights are:

- It is old school design, i.e. it is not easy and it does not lead you by the nose. In fact, it is one of those games where you are never sure what you should do next. Like many old games, you do a lot of trial and error along the lines of "Let's see what's over the bridge ..... oh everyone died, I guess I will come back here later." The game also has "puzzles" in the tradition of old adventure games, something that you rarely see in RPGs these days. Example: The machine is on the fritz and won't accept your ID card. How do you fix it? Oh, look round the back, some of the wires are disconnected. I guess we have to reconnect the wires ....

- The races, classes and mechanics are all fresh. Actually, it is one of those games where you can easily agonize over your party choices for days. Tip: It doesn't really matter what you pick. If you pick strong race/class combinations then that game will be a lot easier, and more boring. Try making some non-standard choices.

- The combat is very tactical, turn-based. There is something called "continuous" combat which is pseudo-realtime but you want to turn that OFF. This is not realtime-with-pause. This game is almost all combat. (The excessive combat is probably the biggest downside. There is no fast travel until you get higher level spells. Some of the lower level spells help you avoid combat, but travelling from place to place is often a string of random encounter combats.)

- The story design and level design are absolutely fantastic. They put all modern games to shame, and most old ones too. There are a couple of factions to choose from, and it is not obvious that one is good and one is evil. You can try and play both sides but it is very hard to pull off for any length of time. You can go places and do tasks in any order. Depending on what you do, some of the world locations change. Most tasks are optional, but they are linked to the story in some way. Most tasks have more than one solution. I strongly advise that you stay clear of a walkthrough, because the game is way more fun if you figure it out on your own. Don't expect to be able to complete every map location, there are many places where you have to come back later or you have to find an alternate path to get to where you want to go.

- A honorable mention of the best lockpicking and trap detect/disarm implementations I have seen. Yes, they are "mini-games", but you can only succeed if you have the right skills.

I would say that Wizardry 8 was the last "old school" RPG, save for those produced by small independent developers. The extent to which the RPG world has been "dumbed down" since 2000 is made painfully evident when you play this game. This is the only real downside of the game - it makes modern RPG design look like shit.

(And Wizardry 7 is even better, although we are talking seriously old school graphics.)
 

Jasede

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Yes, what he said. How about reviews for Wizardry 6 and 7 next? In fact, I was itching to replay 6 for quite a while now, picking some non-standard classes and races.

And I agree, this was most certainly the last "old scool" RPG, and that's a crying shame, if you ask me. I would gladly sacrifice 69 virgins for a Wizardry 9, or something similar.

Just one thing: You consider 7 better than 8? Why? Sure, it had even more freedom, but it was more clunky and also /horribly/ difficult. The most difficult Wizardry of the three modern ones, by far.
 

obediah

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I'm chugging through NWN2 atm just so I can get back to the PS2 Wizardry game. To go from the cat-and-mouse game of getting from lvl 1 to lvl 3 in a wizardry game to the "you see an ant hill: lvl++" of NWN2 nearly broke my soul. Having a character die mere steps from the exit of the dungeon in Wizardry and having to sell all my new loot, plus some equipment I was using to ressurect him was quite a bit different from having my main NWN character do a face plant early on in most battles with no worries because the dwarf easily tanked through it.
 

Elwro

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A very interesting review, write more!

But...
I've read through War & Peace. (And liked it.)
I've lost hundreds of hours to obscure and incredibly dull early baroque music.
I even fucking endured through the "Horse Whisperer" film by the infamous R. Redford.
And still I stopped playing Wiz 8 because it was so horribly boring and slow. And scaling was ridiculous.

This probably shows that in spite of spending hours with the manual trying to create an interesting party I still managed to screw something up, but somehow I got more fun even out of Oblivion than from this game. I guess I'll have to try again some time, I'll ask for party recommendations then.
 

Jasede

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You might want that patch that speeds up combat by fifty times, Elwro. I didn't need it because I used the combat to read a book, or something, but it might feel 'faster' with it. I agree that fighting does get tedious if you have a less than optimal party, and even then, it's quite a time-sink. But then again, this is and old-school game. Combat IS the focus.
 

Limorkil

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Jasede said:
Just one thing: You consider 7 better than 8? Why? Sure, it had even more freedom, but it was more clunky and also /horribly/ difficult. The most difficult Wizardry of the three modern ones, by far.

I like it because it was more difficult. In a way, Wizardry 8 was "dumbed down" from Wizardry 7, although the graphics and gameplay are a lot better of course. I just thought Wizardry 7 had a more interesting story.


And Circuitbreaker mentioned Wizardry 8 mods. I found that Flamestryke's mod added a lot of good things to the game, but it also made Wizardry 8 too easy. It adds a crap load of items that regenerate health, magic and stamina. You will not notice this too much at the beginning, but your party quickly becomes uber. I find that a game that is 10x easier is not as much fun. The last 50% of the game gets totally boring because your party is just too powerful. (What I did was mod the mod using the Cosmic Forge editor, which is very easy to use. I totally nerfed the overpowered items and tweaked a lot of the loot/monster lists to be more interesting.)

There is another mod series for Wizardry 8 by "Deathstryke" (or similar). That mod is really for hardcore Wizardry 8 fans who have played the game through before. It just adds a ton of overpowered items and overpowered creatures, plus changes the recruitable NPCs quite a lot. I don't like it because it changes the game too much, but it is very well done.

Compared to many games, Wizardry 8 is one where you do not really need a mod to play it. In fact, I would recommend not using any mods if you have never played before, since the mods are really aimed at fans who want to replay.
 

suibhne

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@Elwro: I loved the game, but I had the same frustrations early on. I hate to admit it, but I fixed them by just switching the game to "Easy". :lol:

The world design was absolutely captivating, probably my second or third favorite of the last decade (Arcanum, Gothic...that's about it). The repetitive and aggressively-scaled combat was not. The hand-placed fights were great, but the randomly-generated combat was tedious; at least downgrading the difficulty enabled me to move through it more quickly.
 

Diogo Ribeiro

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Elwro said:
A very interesting review, write more!

My thanks. I am planning on getting more reviews done, though there are several games in queue. We'll see what comes up next.

And still I stopped playing Wiz 8 because it was so horribly boring and slow. And scaling was ridiculous.

The combat speed and animation speed sliders usually improve the flow of combat. However, I agree that the overall length of a combat coupled with a high encounter rate really isn't up to everyone's taste or patience. I found that coming up with a couple of battle routines early on really helped, a sort of sequence of combat actions that could aleviate the problems. Basically what I did was to decide what kind of orders I'd give so that when they were carried out in sequence they'd eliminate the most numer of enemies possible. This wasn't hard to do and it only required you just knew a bit about what each character in the party was capable of doing. I remember some of the earlier sequences involved status affecting/draining per round spells + raw area damage spells + bomb/weapon throwing/dracon breath + dual wielding characters (Lords, Samurai, Rogues) to the front. The exact details were up to you; by 'spells' I am talking of anything that is spell-like in nature such as a Bard's instrument or a Gadgeteer's gadget. Trying to get Haste potions or the spell as quickly as possible helps, too.

With that in place I breezed through most of the battles. There are exceptions though, such as the odd case where you manage to attract the unwanted attention of more than a group of hostiles and just get bogged down in a 40 or 50(!)+ enemy takedown. And there's that very annoying and time consuming encounter at the Rapax Away camp in the mountain clearing, but that's not mandatory.

As for scaling I believe it boils down to preference. I was taken by surprise at first but realized earlier on that the scaling only affected me because I wasn't ready. By the time I got around to boosting multiple skills (not necessarily levels) for my groups, it was much more manageable.

This probably shows that in spite of spending hours with the manual trying to create an interesting party I still managed to screw something up, but somehow I got more fun even out of Oblivion than from this game. I guess I'll have to try again some time, I'll ask for party recommendations then.

In a dungeon crawler a good party is often necessary but I can't stress this enough: developing an über party of characters isn't required. Just create characters you'll have fun with and go along increasing their best skills, then work in a group of skills that allows them to give various kinds of support in battle. Mythology seems unimportant but being able to spot what enemies are heading your way is winning half a battle.
 

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