Review: Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls (PS3)

Posted: July 10, 2011 in PS3, Reviews
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Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls review

Still Going Strong

It seems that most of the franchises that kickstarted the role-playing genre have faded into the mists of time. Ultima has been almost forgotten by many gamers. Might and Magic has been eighty-sixed in favor of spinoffs. Yet in Japan, Wizardry is alive and well. Wizardry is without question the most popular Western RPG franchise in Japan. Over there, the game has spawned numerous sequels, board games, and an anime. Even after Sir-Tech folded, entries continued to be made in the series overseas. And now, finally, Wizardry has returned.

The Wizardry Renaissance

Wizardry Labyrinth of Lost SoulsWizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls takes the RPG format back to its basics – you choose a character, roll up your stats, choose a class, and get dropped into your adventure. You can build a party of up to six other adventurers as you explore two dungeons – the Dungeon of Trials and Shiin’s Dungeon. The town offers a shop, a guild, a church, an inn, and a palace, all of which will be frequent stops on your adventures.

Like every Wizardry since the series’ inception, Labyrinth of Lost Souls takes place from a first-person perspective. The dungeons are all mapped out on 20×20 grids and include a variety of obstacles – doors you need to find switches for, trap tiles that electrocute or turn you around, and teleporters are all waiting in the dark.  In addition to obstacles, you deal with a variety of monsters – from lowly orcs and kobolds to dragons and archdemons. As is true of most RPGs, combat is the key to advancement. However, it’s not all purposeless dungeon crawling: you can pick up quests at the guild, which will provide you with some direction and story (and keep you on a floor long enough that you might not die when you descend to the next one), and Shiin’s Dungeon actually has quite a bit of intrigue and storyline in it, as it’s rumored the former King disappeared into the dungeon.

Each character you can roll as party leader has their own storyline to complete in addition to the main story that takes place in Shiin’s Dungeon.  You’re also free to roll up as many characters as you need (or hire on preexisting characters) at the Guild. While they lack a story, they’re an important part of yours. Your party will be a mix of whatever classes you please – including frontline Fighters and Samurai; spellcasting Bishops, Priests, and Mages; and finesse classes like Thieves and Ninjas. You can also change your class around at any time, provided you have the stats to change to that class (or the proper magic item). This can actually be a very strategic aspect of gameplay – changing from a magic-using class to any other class allows you to keep the spells you’ve learned.

While you’ll spend a considerable amount of time in town, the heart of the game is in its exploration and combat. You’ll set off into the dungeon with little more than a dagger and the clothes on your back (and if you planned ahead, maybe a map and a torch).  Naturally, you’ll want to improve your standing – therefore you’re gonna want to fight enemies to raise your level, arm yourself with sharper steel and thicker mail, and amass filthy lucre that would make Scrooge McDuck jealous. Staying true to its roots, what you get from an enemy drop is determined by a random number generator. Certain enemies drop certain items – it’s just that the good stuff is always a rare drop. And thus you wander the dungeons, hacking and casting your way through mountains of enemies, massing fortunes and leveling up, and maybe, just maybe, finding that Murakumo katana you’ve been looking for.

The dungeons themselves are wickedly designed, with plenty of traps and handicaps to keep you on your toes. Luckily, there are elevators and spells to get you out of a jam quickly, although if your low level party runs into a Gold Dragon, you may not live to get to the elevator. The game initially has five floors of the Dungeon of Trials and ten floors of Shiin’s Dungeon open as well as a $5 DLC to unlock five more floors of the Dungeon of Trials; if you’re going to get the game, you may as well get the DLC with it. I would have rather just paid a few more bucks to get it in the initial download, but this isn’t really a criticism of the game itself.

Labyrinth of Lost Souls reviewThe battle system is turn-based and menu-driven. Your team is divided into two rows – front row on the left and back row on the right. Each character has a variety of self-explanatory battle options available (with the exception of the Samurai’s untranslated Japanese special ability, which basically means “Attack Row”). Your agility(AGI) rating determines in what order your characters will attack – so if your back row character has the highest AGI, they’ll get the first swing.  Enemies show up with up to five in a row and three rows for up to fifteen enemies on screen (although some enemies, like chromatic dragons, only seem to appear one-to-a-row). While early on you’ll mostly face easy-to-kill mooks, as you descend you’ll come up against deadly enemies that aren’t afraid to attempt total party wipes (as I learned during a very premature encounter with a Banshee).

While your equipment makes a big difference later on, your stats are just as important in the equation. You may wish to spend some time rolling and re-rolling your characters to get more of a bonus to apportion out to your attributes. When you level up, you’ll notice that stats may go up OR down. As well, resurrecting a character takes a point from their Vitality(VIT) rating permanently, so it’s in your best interest to keep them alive.

The graphics are a mixed bag, with appealingly drawn sprites for characters and monsters and basic but functional 3D for the dungeons. It’s not particularly high-tech, but the game is focused on content rather than flash, and there are some nice spell effects. It also seems that the lower you descend in the dungeon the more interesting the environments get (with some areas including a sickly green cave, a bricked floor with archways, and a very lovely marble-walled area that screams Renaissance Italy).

Wizardry game review ps3The music is quite good – charming music for the town and inn, stately organ for the temple, and homey keyed fiddles in the Guild. For the most part, the dungeons are free of music, opting for ambient sounds of groaning monsters and dripping water (and occasionally what sounds like a cat). The sound in general  is pretty solid, although the voice acting is in the original Japanese. This didn’t bother me, as the only things anyone says are battle shouts and cries of pain when they’re wounded. Most of the characters are fairly distinct – the Dwarves having particularly memorable sounds, particularly the male’s hearty HA HA! when he lands a hit.

The Final Verdict

The game is definitely a bit of a niche title, with its audience primarily composed of people who enjoyed the old Wizardry games or those with an interest in what RPGs were like “back in the day”. With that said, I recommend it fully. It’s a welcome package of nostalgia for the old-timers like myself. And even to those who might not rememember the Wizardry series from back in the day, I recommend checking out the demo to see if you like it. It’s a look back to a time before the distinction between Eastern and Western RPGs – when they were just RPGs. I’m 45 hours in and have just reached the final boss and summarily had the floor wiped with my party; that should give you a hint as to the game’s longevity.

Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is available on the PlayStation Network and is published by XSEED Games.

BNBGAMING Mark of Excellence Award

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