Ah yes, another game review that will make me feel very, very old. The last Wizardry game I played was Wizardry IV: The Return of Werdna back in 1987 on my old Apple II. While I did like that game, it was quickly replaced when Ultima V and The Bard’s Tale III: The Thief of Fate were both released the following year. I was a bigger fan of both the Ultima and The Bard’s Tale series then I was of Wizardry, I had always felt that Wizardry was missing some key ingredients to make it a great game, especially during the golden age of rpgs.
So fast forward to 2020, and I am sitting down to write a review for Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls developed by Acquire and published by XSeed Games. This is the first Wizardry game that I have played in over 30 years and the first Wizardry game released in North America since 2013. Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls was originally released back in 2011 for the Playstation 2, and this is essentially just a PC port of that game that has been delayed due to IP issues. So, how does a 40 year old franchise and a 9 year old port hold up to 2020 standards? Let’s find out with our review.
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is set in the land of Athals, during the age of Athals. There was peace in the land, until dangerous creatures, that were once believed to have been locked away by angels, began to roam the land. These creatures also brought the “Elder Ones”, powerful demons that turned their attention to the land of Athals. The sages of the land began to tell stories of the prison that the “Elder Ones” were once constrained in has lost its power and that the balance in the world is beginning to collapse. Darkness continues to arise over the horizon, as adventurers begin to come forth to battle the rising tide of evil.
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls begins with a pretty heavy expository dump, which I pretty much summed up in the preceding paragraph. Ultimately, evil has come to the land and your party of adventurers needs to destroy the evil and bring peace to the land. It is fantasy story development 101 and as cliche as it could be. There isn’t anything major in terms of character development or story narrative, so if you are looking for a rich, deep story then I would point you elsewhere, like the Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale remake that came out a little bit ago.
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is a retro rpg through and through. You are going to do a lot of work for very little reward in this game, but if you love retro rpgs then this game is for you. You begin by creating your character, with very little in terms of information or tutorial. However, you can figure most of this out if you have played rpgs before. There are five races to choose from, and multiple classes for each race. Only one race, porklu, isn’t a generic fantasy race that you have seen before. Stats are pretty generic for the most part, however there isn’t any game terms on how these stats affect your character in terms of hit points, damage, or chance to hit. Once you finish your avatar, you are placed into the city of Aitox.
Aitox is represented by a static painting of a bustling city and a menu. You don’t get to explore the city at all, you just choose your destinations from the menu. While I can forgive the generic story setting and the unintuitive character creation, not allowing me to explore a city and experience it is strike one against Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls. The menu allows you to visit the Inn, Shop, Guild, Temple, or Dungeons. Most of these are self explanatory. You will need to recruit the rest of your party and outfit them with weapons and armor before heading into the Dungeons, so that should be your first step. You do need to watch the alignment of your party, which is interesting. For a while I could not figure out why I couldn’t have the Thief and the Cleric in my party at the same time, until I looked at their alignments. Good aligned party members will not travel with evil aligned members, or at least the Cleric wouldn’t.
Once you have gotten your party ready, then off to the Dungeons you go. You can select two Dungeons to explore, and are treated to some first person, 3D environments that look like they haven’t been touched since 2011. The dungeon looks repetitive and dull, and the monsters you fight are static 2D representations, like what you ran into in the city. You step one space at a time in the dungeon and will need to map your way through, just like the old days of PC rpgs. That is, unless you thought to buy a map at the Shop, then it will act as an automap. So you will need to decide to put in gold, which is scarce in the beginning, into either an upgraded weapon or armor, or to see where the hell you are going in the Dungeon. Tough choice….
The monsters you encounter are very interesting, which is very nice. There is a great variety from the fantasy mundane to the unique. Combat, however, is dull and repetitive. I had characters that could only defend most of the time since they did not have anything ranged to use and they were in the back line. Spells are great, but are limited use before they run out and you need to rest to regain them. I just found myself clicking the same buttons over and over, hoping that my armor and health would hold out while I did enough damage to kill my enemies.
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls has a solid game at its core, but it’s wrapped up in a dull and generic aesthetic, that doesn’t make the most sense sometimes. For instance, male dwarves are taller than male humans, but female dwarves are the height that you would expect. While I would never begrudge a developer to try something new that breaks fantasy stereotypes, dwarves are kinda supposed to be small, I mean it’s even implied in the name since they are “dwarfed” by other races.
As I said earlier, there is very little actually animated in Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls. Most of everything is a static painting, which all has a very generice, japanese anime look and feel to it. The actual graphics look like they weren’t updated from the 2011 Playstation 2 release, and the music sounds like it could almost be 8 bit. The music is as generic as the rest of the aesthetic in Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls.
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is a tough game to review. At its core, Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is great at replicating that vintage and classic rpg feel that used to be king during the 1980’s. However, we have come to expect much, much more from our games these days. While I am a member of the “graphics aren’t everything” camp, they do need to be updated and interesting. Making Aitox not explorable was also a huge misstep and made the game feel much, much smaller than it should have felt. Honestly, I just found myself wanting to play Legend of Grimrock while I was playing this game, and that shouldn’t happen. Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls just reminded me of other, better games that are available on the market today. However, for the $14.99 price tag on Steam, it’s worth the risk if you are looking for a retro rpg that you haven’t played before. Ultimately, it was generic and bland enough to be forgettable, but not offensive. Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is available now on Steam.