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Platform: PC

Developer: Sir-Tech Canada

Publisher: Sir-Tech Canada

Format: 3 CDs

 

Sys RQ: Pentium II or equiv. 233MHz, 64MB RAM, 3D accelerator, 1GB HD Space

 

Reviewer's Machine: AMD Athlon 1.3GHz, 384MB RAM, 64MB GeForce3

 

Cheats and Hints

Screenshots

Walkthroughs: 1, 2

 

Behind the development door for five years...

It's been nearly five years since Wizardry 8 was first conceived. It matured from rudimentary 2D adventure into a 3D voyage. It's journey to completion was nothing short of an epic. The game first saw the light of day in the Sir Tech USA offices. Due to the disappointing sales of Jagged Alliance 2 and the costly development of Wizardry 8, Sir Tech USA went bankrupt. After a long hiatus, whatever was completed of the game was transferred to Sir Tech Canada, the company's main HQ. It wasn't smooth sailing from there either. After scrapping the old engine in favor of an updated version, the costs once again began to rise. Fortunately, most of the game was completed here, thanks to the hard work of Sir Tech employees. Even Ian and Linda Currie, the game's creators, developed the game right in their own home and using their own pocket money to finish their vision. After several years of hardship and hindrances, the smoke has cleared and the finished product has emerged. Wizardry 8 is the eighth installment of a long running series of CRPGs. When we say long running, we mean long running. This game was sailing the CRPG seas with the Ultima series back in the late 80's.

Wizardry 8 continues the progress of the Dark Savant and his ever present desire to control the universe. There is no "main character" in this game. You get to create six or less party members in which you will tread the world of Dominus with. You are given a wealth of diversity when it comes to character creation. You can choose from 15 different classes, ranging from Bishops to Valkyries. There is also a wide range of races that you can choose from, you can choose to be anything from a Human to a Lizardman. Is that broad or what? The story begins with you and your party crash landing on the planet Dominus, a location that's prominently featured in many of the Wizardry games. You find out that the Dark Savant has been spotted around Dominus and set up a tower with enough explosive to destroy the planet. Your posse must then follow the Savant's tracks and foil his evil plans. The story is well presented and coherent. You follow a straightforward path to victory. From the prominent city of Arnika to the venerable Ascension Peak.

The game is presented with a clean and easy interface powered by a capable, but aged graphics engine. The 3D engine was under development since 1997, so don't expect anything that'll blow you away. The game does offer very crisp and smooth textures. The engine is also very stable and fast. I played the game with 4x Anti-Aliasing and 8-Tap Anisotropic Filtering and I noticed no hiccups. The game never crashed on me either and it is also Alt-Tab friendly. While all of this is well and good, the graphics didn't wow me. Low polygon counts on every object and the lighting could have been better. It didn't feel like nighttime when it was nighttime in the game. What did impress me is the little details, such as progressive pain skins on enemies and little fish in the water. The game offers mediocre sound, but acceptable voice acting. All your characters interact with each other and the environment. For example, when my arrogant fighter scored an Instant Kill, he proudly said, "A magnificent kill, if I do say so myself." And they also react to ailments with their fellow sick mates.

Gameplay is very addicting, but also frustrating. Combat is played out in Turn-based fashion or in Continuous Combat mode. The Continuous Combat mode is useless, to say the least. I first thought it was supposed to switch combat to real time, but instead it just eliminated the need to press the End Turn button. The only use for it is if your party is in for a long battle and you've got to use the bathroom, so you can't press the End Turn button. In Turn-based, you can command your characters to attack certain creatures or cast spells, similar to the Pause feature in the Baldur's Gate games. What makes the system addicting is the fact that there's almost a million combinations of things you can do in a battle. You can just destroy your enemies with spells, or you can let your fearless warriors pound them into dust, you can even wait for that lucky critical hit and land an instant kill instead. The only problem with Wizardry 8's combat system is that there is no limit to how many monsters can attack you at one time. I had an instance where 20 monsters bum rushed me and the whole ordeal took almost 15 minutes to complete. Unlike in other turn-based combat systems like in the Final Fantasy series, where you can fight only a maximum of 4 or 5 creatures a battle, you've got your hands full. This gets particularly annoying near the second half of the game where long winded battles are commonplace. The game is also a bit difficult. The "dungeon master" generates monsters that are around your Level, so you'll never be too strong for the world. This may be too harsh on newbies, so I wouldn't recommend this game for someone who's just discovering RPGs.

Character development is Wizardry's stronger points. The game has statistics galore. Mastery of attributes such as Strength or Speed to lead to "Super Skills", such as Power Cast or Power Strike. These super skills grant amazing abilities to your characters. For example, Power Strike enables a character to do more damage than his regular attack. The game also focuses on optimum skill point allocation. A spellcaster cannot cast higher level spells until he or she has enough skill in a certain magic school. Choosing a casting power level too high for you to use will usually result in a failure or a backfire, both of which can determine the outcome of some battles. Unlike most RPGs, your characters' skills progress as you USE them. This is one of my favorite features in any RPG. It makes a ton of sense to progress in something if you work at it right? Leaving this feature out will produce a game that seems much like my English class. The teacher teaches, but nobody learns.

While the first half was pure fun and excitement, the second was nothing but frustration. There's little to no side quests in this game at all. This is a big problem, because I value side quests and other endeavors to attend to when it comes to RPGs. I found myself running back and forth through towns doing nothing but work. All work and no play makes Toma a dull boy. But even with all of it's shortcomings, it is a thoroughly enjoyable RPG. There's always something to do. Most of the quests are simple and straight forward. Was it worth the wait? It may be a bit behind the times, but all in all, it was worth all five years.


Highs: Addicting gameplay, great story, lots of core play hours, statistics aplenty

Lows: Battles can get long winded and VERY annoying, dated graphics engine,

Verdict: 85%

Bottom Line: It was worth the wait and no CRPG fan should miss it.

                                                                                             - Toma