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Game Over Online ~ Wizards & Warriors

GameOver Game Reviews - Wizards & Warriors (c) Activision, Reviewed by - Adam Fleet

Game & Publisher Wizards & Warriors (c) Activision
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium II-233, 64MB Ram, 740MB HDD, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 59%
Date Published Friday, October 20th, 2000 at 08:23 PM

Divider Left By: Adam Fleet Divider Right

"Ah, the good old days. Back then everything was better, and now everything's worse. If only things now could be like things were then." If you've ever had thoughts like that about the state of computer RPG's, then Wizards & Warriors from Activision and the development team at Heuristic Park might just be the game for you. Sporting the name of D.W. Bradley, the driving force behind Wizardry's 5, 6, and 7, Wizards & Warriors is a throwback to another era. Back then, computer RPG's came on floppy disks, barely had graphics, and made funny little beeping sounds come out of your pc speaker. But while Wizards & Warriors comes on CD's instead of floppies, it doesn't take long before this game starts to show its age.

Wizards & Warriors hits you with a whole lot of story right from the get go. Fire up the game for the first time and you're treated to one of the now standard intro movies. In a pixilated dream sequence that bears an odd resemblance to a cubist painting (and not in a good way), you find out that some big-bad-evil-guy has risen once again and it's your job, as the chosen one, to stop him. Of course, big-bad-evil-guy can't be taken out with just any old weapon. Noooo, it's never that easy. You've got to get yourself the Mavin Sword, a blade crafted from twin metals; one cursed by evil (pronounced EeeeeVil in the local dialect), the other blessed by the divine. Well great, there goes the weekend. If it were up to me, I'd probably just go back to sleep and let the world sink into darkness. How bad could it be anyway? But being the save-the-world, hero-type that you are, you decide to lace up your boots, pick up some adventuring pals at the local inn, and set off to kick some butt.

Staying true to the tradition of the old Wizardry games, W&W offers a wide variety of choices for character creation. With six characters in a party, and the ability to create a stable of up to fifteen heroes, there's a lot of room to do your own thing. Races range from your standard humans, dwarves, and elves, to the more unusual gourks (think orcs, but with a 'g' and a 'u') and oomphaz (elephant men with a tendency toward deep thoughts), each with different attribute modifications and traits. Starting characters can only pick from one of the four basic classes of warrior, rogue, priest, or wizard, but can advance to elite roles, such as barbarian, paladin, monk, and ninja, through quests given out at the various guilds in town. Characters can go through any number of different classes, but once you move on to another class you can never go back. The guilds also offer quests that improve your standing, and you'd better get to work, because only high ranking members can learn anything but the most basic skills.

You may train and shop in town, but outside is where you earn your money. You walk the earth, like Cain in Kung-fu, with the help of a 3D engine and first person perspective reminiscent of recent Might and Magic games. What worked for M&M, though, doesn't quite do it for W&W. A simple combat system that allowed for a seamless switch between turn-based and real-time in M&M is replaced by a weird mishmash of styles, dubbed Adaptive Time-Phasing, which is anything but seamless. Monsters move around in real-time until they take an attack, after which they sit around, apparently contemplating the nature of the universe, while you're free to take your sweet time before returning the favor. Turn-based wackiness ensues from there. Ranged combat and moving fits into the system, somehow, usually allowing you to toast tough enemies at extreme range without retribution, but, all in all, the end result is not terribly successful. Throw in graphics that are, at best, adequate, and some shortcuts, like fog to limit range of vision and 2D backdrop fillers, taken to stop your processor from going on strike, ala Ultima IX, and what you've got isn't going to excite a lot of people. No-frills sound means no help there either.

But many an RPG has been saved from the scrap heap, despite lackluster graphics and sound, by strong role-playing elements. And that's exactly what this game is supposed to be about. When you stamp the name of D.W. Bradley on a game, talk about old Wizardry games, and throw around words like 'epic' and 'legendary', you're giving story and plot the hard sell. Most tragically, this is where W&W really falls short. The mainline plot is functional, in a do this, do that, kind of way, but it's nowhere near the kind of depth necessary to make up for so many technical problems. The real killer, though, is the interaction with NPC's, which consists of picking keywords from a list. Instead of a conversation, you get line after line of barely related canned monolog. To make sure you wring every last bit of information out of someone, you are forced to mindlessly go down the list of words and hit every one, many of which produce repetitive and redundant responses that frequently repeat themselves (you get the idea). The overall effect is a feeling of drudgery. Your actions don't have any real effect, serving only to advance the plot, just for the sake of advancing the plot. There are tons of mini-quests to do for the various guilds and NPC's, but almost all of them fall into the extremely generic categories of either "kill this" or "take this there". I enjoy a good bounty hunt as much as the next guy (Boba Fett is still my hero) and I've got nothing against being the fantasyland delivery boy on occasion, but enough is enough.

Wizards & Warriors is a game with one foot firmly entrenched in the past while the other stumbles blindly forward into the future. Like a bad game of Twister, W&W is wrapped up in itself and headed in too many different directions from the very start. I still have warm memories of old games like Bard's Tale, and Legacy of the Ancients, but come on. Reality check here, I played those games on a computer without a hard drive. W&W sports an engine that runs like a mixed up version of the one from Might and Magic 6, except M&M 6 came out five years ago and it still managed to play better. And as much as I want to say graphics don't matter, they do, and W&W just isn't very nice to look at. This puts W&W with a lot to overcome with story, character, and gameplay, and the problem is it just isn't there. I wanted to like this game, but every time I started to get into it, something else would pop up and frustrate me; be it cookie cutter quests, annoying NPC's, or, the kicker, a bug that prevented me from finishing a quest and forcing me to restart my game. If you're a really hardcore RPG fan, and you have a high pain tolerance (for all the times this game makes you bang your head against the wall), you will find some decent nuggets of RPG here. If you're anything but the hardest of the hardcore, my advice for you is run. Run from this game like you've never run before. It will taunt you with happy memories of the past and then it will break your heart. It certainly broke mine.

[ 28/50 ] Gameplay
[ 06/10 ] Video
[ 07/10 ] Audio
[ 04/10 ] Controls
[ 07/10 ] Plotline
[ 07/10 ] Bugs


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