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Lora's CRPG Reviews: Wizardry 8

Wizardry 8 (Game release date: 2001)
If you want to recreate that classic six-character CRPG feel without the archaic graphics and interfaces, this is the game for you.

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Highlights: Old-school nostalgia, pleasant 3D interface, great character development, customizable party Lowlights: Basic plot, few puzzles, too much time spent on uninteresting combats

This game feels like a well-loved pair of slippers. There's nothing in it, really, that deviates from the classic six-character CRPG formula. On the other hand, it executes that formula admirably. The interface is wonderfully intuitive and eliminates many of the common inconveniences of even the most state-of-the-art CRPG's (things as simple as being able to navigate easily between all your characters' stat and inventory pages, even while shopping). There are a lot of character portraits and voices to choose from, and the voices actually convey personalities extremely well. And to top it off, the graphics are pretty. If you're looking to have your creativity stimulated or your intellect challenged, it is probably better to look elsewhere--I don't recall this game making me think hard even once--but if you're happy recreating the feel of those old "Wizardry"/"Bard's Tale"/"Might and Magic" games in a smoothly updated format, Wizardry 8 delivers on this promise with bells on.

Style: Wizardry 8 is a neo-classic CRPG with a first-person 3D interface. You control and develop a six-person party. The plot is a role-playing adventure and there are fantasy and science fiction themes. The game is untimed and requires no manual dexterity. Combat is effectively turn-based.

Series: Wizardry 8 is part of a long-running series of adventure CRPG's by game developer SirTech that started way back in 1981 (that's before I even had a computer--probably before some of you were born.) There wasn't any continuity to speak of in the series till Wizardry 6, though, and even that continuity is slight enough that most gamers won't feel the need to play them through in order. There is a general overarching plot over these last three games, but it is so simple and so general that you can play Wizardry 8 just as enjoyably without any of the backstory at all. Parties can be imported from each game to its sequel, and the choices you made in the endgame of each actually change some of your starting position in the next; however, you will still have to start over again at the appropriately low level. If you're interested in the Wizardry series, you can purchase the entire collection through Wizardry Gold on a single CD: Ultimate Wizardry Archive. The earliest Wizardry games are so primitive that even an abandonware groupie like me can't work up any enthusiasm for them--most of us could program stuff better than this ourselves these days--but Wizardry 7/Wizardry Gold makes a good play-through for any fan of classic CRPG's, and Wiz5 and Wiz6 are still fun for us die-harders. (-:

Finding Wizardry 8: Computer games don't have a very long shelf life; unless you have a specialty software store near you, you'll need to order this one online. is a reliable source for used computer games, or you can check Ebay for better deals.

Getting Wizardry 8 to Work: Wizardry 8 is a recent game and ought to be plug-and-play. There are a few bugs with the 3D environment which can occasionally occur, but saving frequently will protect you against this eventuality.

Hints For Wizardry 8: I have a page of Wizardry 8 hints up online, with a complete low-spoiler walkthrough for the game as well. If you need more, try some of these Wizardry 8 Links. You can also buy a Wizardry 8 Hint Book, if you prefer.

Pitfalls In Wizardry 8: There's nothing you need to be aware of before you start. If you want some spoiler-free party formation and general playing suggestions, click here.

Game Length: 60 hours or so, about standard for a quality CRPG.

Age-Appropriateness: This game is rated T (for 13 years old and up) due to one suggestive bare-breasted demoness near the end of the game, who I suspect of having been inserted for expressly that purpose.

Lora's Wizardry 8 Review: (Excellent)

Plot and Quests: The main plot is your basic save-the-world-from-the-evil-dude affair, but it does have an interesting twist at the end (especially for anyone who's played previous Wizardry games). The quests are good, including your choice of alliances to be made, but there aren't very many of them compared to the many hours spent fighting large packs of monsters.
Puzzles and Mental Challenges: This is not a particularly tricky game. There aren't many puzzles, and the ones there are are pretty easy. There are clever elements to some of the dungeons.
Characters: You get six PCs in this classic RPG format; all of them are customizable to your liking, including the ability to select a picture that was intended for a different race (a refreshing change) and your choice of 32 wonderfully expressive voicesets, which really bring the characters to life. You can also have two NPCs in your party, each of whom also has an original voiceset but no personal subplots or interactions with the rest of the party.
Gameworld: Wizardry 8 builds on the same game universe developed over the last 20 years or so of Wizardry games; basically a magical fantasy world cum space travel. These two elements are blended well enough, and in this installment your characters even have the option of being technologists ("gadgeteers") themselves. The races of this universe are unique to the series and well-developed. The downside of the gameworld is the towns, which have a pointless feel to them; except for questgivers, townspeople are filler with nothing useful or interesting to say whatsoever, and talking to them at all is usually an irritating waste of time.
Gameplay (Leveling, Spells, etc.): Wizardry 8 is skill-based, and with every new level, characters receive points to allot to various skills and to one of their original stats. This requires a certain amount of micromanagement, but it's the fun kind. Skills also improve automatically through practice, so if a character uses a skill or spell discipline frequently, he or she is likely to gain an additional skill point automatically. This means you can grow your skills to high levels simply by sitting around casting the same spell 850 times in a row, which is tedious beyond belief; however, if you resist this urge and simply specialize each of your six characters to use certain combat and spellcasting behaviors frequently, the automatically-enhanced character improvement can be not only effective but fun.
Interface (Movement, Inventory Management, etc.): This is one of the most intuitive and least intrusive interfaces I've seen in a fantasy CRPG. The actions are broken down into truly convenient components, and you can customize your keyboard and mouse commands to suit your play style. There are dozens of convenient little touches other games often lack, such as streamlined inventory management, easy switching back and forth between all screens, and the ability to examine your characters and try items on them while still talking to the shopkeepers. The only drawback is that combats are long and drawn-out affairs--since there are many of them, passing through a wilderness area to get to the next interesting plot point can take a annoyingly long time.
Ambience (Graphics, Sound, etc.): The graphics are 3D and look good (though the people all have that blocky computer-generated look). You can cut graphics to improve performance if you like (an option I always appreciate, since I personally get bored of pretty pictures long before I get bored of smooth gameplay.) This wasn't really a game with a mood or any emotion to instill in you, but it did look nice and effortlessly evoked memories of my gaming youth.

Lora's Recommendations: I recommend Wizardry 8 for any fan of the Wizardry series or of CRPGs in general; it's as good as any of the old classics, without any of the interface aggravations. This won't be a game that changes the way you think about anything, but it's a lot of fun. If you dislike the retro style and are looking for something more innovative, I recommend the groundbreaking Shadows of Amn or Planescape Torment instead.

If You Loved Wizardry 8: You could try Might and Magic IX, another neoclassic computer RPG by a storied franchise. I wasn't so fond of that game myself, but friends of mine liked it, and if you haven't played Might and Magic in a while, you may enjoy revisiting that universe. You could also buy one of the several collections of great classics available on the market now, notably the the Ultima Collection, Ultimate Wizardry Archive, and Might and Magic Platinum Edition. Or you may enjoy one of the great contemporary CRPG's like Shadows of Amn, Morrowind, or Planescape Torment.

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