ZAM goes delving through dungeons in SOE's upcoming hardcore MMO
From the intense response to Wizardry Online (WO), not only are there a lot of rabid fans of the original Wizardry around, but there’s a definite desire in the MMO community for a game with a little more bite.
With the promise of engaging PvP, the chance to take your opponent’s loot from their mangled/electrified/flaming corpse and actual permadeath; WO has a number of elements which sets it apart from the crowd.
Recently I had the opportunity to play through the game accompanied by devs such as Todd Carson, Wizardry Online’s Senior Producer, to gauge just how hardcore it really is.
Meeting up with a gang of fearsome adventurers, I took my sword and board wielding fighter along as we headed into the mid-level dungeon, Golden Dragon Ruins. The first thing that struck me was the graphics. Frankly, the design is certainly very retro and is quite off-putting. The character models are reminiscent of those in Guild Wars and are undeniably dated.
The experience of journeying with a small group through the first dungeon was somewhat fun, however, with the usual hack and slash -- or zap and flambé --adventuring punctuated with puzzles. Being a shield bearer, I could use active blocking to soak up attacks -- a channeled ability that roots you while being very effective against oncoming damage -- and the mobs came thick and fast, providing ample experience and loot -- which is how you will be spending most of your time in game.
Though having non-combat content is a good idea, none of the puzzles seemed very engaging or inspired and the combat itself wasn't as fluid or varied as one expects from a modern MMO.
As I was informed while cutting down a particularly unpleasant fiend, you cannot level up while in a dungeon, instead after finishing your adventure you head back to town and rest in order to gain abilities from the XP you have earned. This is done by getting some down time in an inn, with the more expensive rooms giving you greater chances to gain levels. The need to grab a lot of coins in those dungeons becomes quickly apparent.
After you get back to town gold is also spent indentifying the mysterious items you picked up from dungeons, with a chance of getting something snazzy in your inventory.
It’s a system that harkens back to the original Dungeons and Dragons game and makes the town’s function as the game’s hub crucial. Though the local homestead isn’t just a place to take naps and buy items, there are some intriguing possibilities in the shadier parts of town, but more on that later.
Next we went to the town’s gates and spoke to the trusty guard in order to depart for Chikor’s Castle. Upon arrival we were greeted by a luminescent specter that held a quest to take into the dungeon’s depths. The quest system is very much what you would expect from an MMO: quest text, kill things, collect something and turn it in for gold and maybe an item reward.
Of course this isn’t an intrinsically bad thing, having a focus beyond the constant grinding for XP and loot from corpses is a necessary element, which is why it’s so prevalent in MMOs and will continue to be so. Just don’t expect anything too groundbreaking in regard to questing.