The latest release from The Edge puts you in a very large Ultimate-style Dungeons and Dragons arcade adventure.
You step into the shoes of Drinn, a sorcerer's apprentice, who is facing the trials of the Loremaster in his Castle of Illusions. The idea is to find the Prime Elemental, naturally not the easiest of tasks, so you can expect to meet many foes, traps and puzzles.
The game is presented in a similar way to Ultimate's Knight Lore and Staff of Karnath - your man is viewed from a fly-on-the-wall position, showing him in his surroundings. The castle rooms scroll about you as you walk around them, but when you enter a new room the screen flicks to the next location.
When you start the game you have several types of specialized commands in the form of actions and spells under your control and they are selected from the keyboard. These can be used both to repel denizens and gain information. Other spells can be retrieved from the chests that are found in certain rooms. The basic commands are hold it, heal, fireball, sword, tell tale, and find it. Fireball and Hold it spells are best used on the foes which patrol the corridors and rooms. Fireball completely destroys them (although it usually takes more than one shot and hold it stops them in their tracks so they can't attack you. If they do attack you then you start to lose energy. This is shown in the format of a counter that starts at 99 and ticks down to a terminal zero. If your energy does get a little low then you can use a heal spell that takes your energy back to a healthy 99.
Find it reveals the location of any hidden chest when used in a room. The only trouble is that this spell has to be used with discretion since find its are very limited in number. Tell tale spells are used to gain clues to help you in the game. If you use a tell tale then an informative (if somewhat cryptic) clue will pop up in a box at the bottom of the screen.
Drinn, as well as being an apprentice, is also a warrior and therefore can engage in battle with any foe he meets. To do this either get a fireball spell or the sword action. To use a fireball spell effectively, you have to be pointing directly at the foe. To shoot the foe just press fire button and a fireball will be lobbed at it. Usually it takes two fireballs to kill a denizen. The sword action is slightly different to all the others. Once you've selected the sword mode, you have to go up to the foe, press fire button and wiggle the joystick in Decathlon fashion. It needs several hits to kill a foe and all the time you are anywhere near any enemy then your energy goes down, whether you're in sword mode or not. Therefore you have to be pretty swift in disposing of your challenger. When you fight, your hits and wounds totals come into action. These totals are shown numerically at the bottom of the screen. To succeed in combat you have to gain a certain amount of 'hits' before your opponent inflicts enough wounds to kill you.
There are other specialised spells which can be picked up when you search one of the many chests littered about the castle. These have to be used in certain situations and on the correct things (heads on walls or a minotaur for example). If they aren't, then the spell is wasted and you'll almost definitely have to start again.
There are heaps of rooms in the castle and even more problems to solve, many involving a backwards and forwards shuttle between rooms to collect the correct spells or to open new doors to allow you access to them.
The music during the game is not just a nice cosmetic feature but has a purpose. When you enter a room you can tell what sort of foe dwells within and (with a little practice) how to deal with it.
This program is initially extremely impressive with its pretty graphics and excellent music. The only trouble is that the game, in my opinion, is rather long-winded and lacks any exciting action. Many of the (rather obscure) problems require a tot of going backwards and forwards to the same rooms, holding up the adventuring aspect for long periods. The animation on most of the sprites is pretty poor, with only a few frames on most of them, although, to be fair, the backgrounds are extremely good. With a little more excitement and action the program would have been something really special, but as it stands it's not anything to give it The Edge over the others.
My initial expectations of Wizardry were high after seeing a couple of impressive screen shots and reading some interesting specifications. On actually playing the game any enthusiasm was dispelled and I felt somewhat disappointed with what was there - it seems that a brilliant idea has gone to waste. The graphics look very good... until they move. It's not as if the scrolling is that bad, it isn't, it's just that there's this inexcusable split-screen glitch that only makes the seismic effect of the scrolling worse. The distinct lack of nasties in the Castle made things uninteresting, with only one to each room. This is probably due to the fact that the programmer has used too many sprites on other things, leaving few for anything else. It also makes the game quite boring to play, since effectively there is little to do other than walk about, shoot a couple of spells or open chests. Sprites walking through each other is another common 'feature' of the game. I found it very amusing to see Drinn stand 'under' a chest that was supposedly resting on the floor! The idea of using music for clues and a film-like atmosphere is a good one, but I found the pieces soon became repetitive and ended up detracting rather than adding to the game. I found the graphics and sound to be the stronger elements of Wizardry, as the gameplay is very poor. The 'puzzles' posed are incredibly obscure and without the hints sheet the first 'level' would have been well nigh impossible to solve. The second level was just as awkward and unfortunately there aren't any further clues and I gave up in disgust after many weary hours play. If you're going to make an arcade adventure difficult, it should be through logistics not obscurity as this one is. My other gripe is the way that one has to use the keyboard to go through doors and select actions. Surely the joystick should have been used more effectively, as it is in Paradroid for example. It does become somewhat frustrating to have to keep reaching for the keyboard in a moment of panic while being frantically chased by a gruesome beasty, only to find yourself losing energy and dying in the process. This is a shame, as Wizardry had the potential of being something special, rather than just another arcade adventure as it stands.
Nice hints sheet for the first problem.
Nice backgrounds, but little sprite animation.
Jolly, if repetitive tunes and nine of them.
The hint sheet sends you on your way...
Value For Money 68%
Nothing particularly special.
Nice for your peepers and lugs but not much of a game.