After waiting for seems like an eternity, Wizardry: The Five Ordeals has finally arrived. Naturally, as America’s Most Important Wizardry fan, I snagged a copy.
The titular Five Ordeals in question are five different campaigns that follow the traditional Wizardry rules: create a party, go into a dungeon, solve the mystery of said dungeon, which always means kill the big bad guy at the end, then transfer that party to the next campaign and do it all over. In and of itself, The Five Ordeals is more than worth the cost of thirty big ones. But there’s even more. See, this is a rerelease of a 2006 Japan-only PC game. The selling point of the original game was a scenario editor, which allowed you to create your own Wizardry campaigns. Now, unfortunately, the scenario editor is not yet implemented in the Steam version, so I can’t mess around with that and see how good it is. But to tide everyone over until then, a large number of fan-made campaigns from the original have been included. 59 to be exact. You combine that with the five main ordeals, and that is a whopping 64 different stories to play through. Granted, a number of them remain in Japanese, but there are a handful in varying degrees of English.
Right. I should point out that, as an early access game, the localization is not complete. The UI and the combat are in English, but any story beats require you to be able to read Japanese for a majority of the campaigns, including the official ones. The game is still entirely playable, but you may feel like you’re missing out on some things.
So, as such, I have not been playing any of the official chapters. Rather, I’ve spent the past week messing around with a couple of fan scenarios, settling on “Fate of Accursed Beings.”
As a veteran of many fan-content driven games, I have to tread carefully through this minefield. There’s a lot of would-be designers that like to pump out absolute garbage; I’m still trying to forget the dark days of LittleBigPlanet. Given that the scenarios for Wizardry’s Steam port were hand-picked by the devs, that doesn’t seem to be much of an issue. And it is absolutely not an issue with Fate of Accursed Beings. If anything, these feel just as good, if not moreso, than many commercial releases of Wizardry.
Like any good Wizardry, Fate of Accursed Beings encourages you to take it slow. Make a bit of progress mapping out your environment, fight a couple monsters, run back to town to heal and buy/sell equipment, then go back in to make a little more progress. Each time, you get a little stronger, and you begin to recognize the layout of the dungeon. It’s clearing these small milestones that make Wizardry so rewarding. Yes, Wizardry can be difficult, if you run headfirst into everything with a level 1 party, expecting to clear each floor in a single trip. If you keep a cool head, and play cautiously, that level of challenge goes down more and more (it never fully goes away). Slowly chipping away at this wall until it comes crumbling down is half of what makes dungeon crawlers so good. The other half of course being in creating your party.
I’m currently on the fourth floor of the first dungeon (this scenario has two). Currently, there are a number of closed gates that I’m trying to find a switch for, to no avail. So I keep going down, further and further, to see if that switch can be found. Opening up these gates will allow me easier access to the elevator on the first floor, shortening the amount of time I spend on runs, until I can get to the wizard that’s causing all the problems down here.
Something about this game that I was worried would no be included, due to weird legal issues popping up earlier in the year, were the wireframe dungeons. There’s a weird fucking part of my brain that needs that extremely lo-fi visual aesthetic, and I’m glad it’s here. Not that the hand drawn environments are bad or anything, but I need wireframes. We also get the excellent monster designs from Jun Suemi, who is the best at creating a sense of wonder and majesty with her depictions of medieval fantasy.
She’s just a really fucking good artist:
The Five Ordeals is as worthy a successor to the Story of Llygamin crown as it can get. I get that same feeling playing this for a week than I have playing the Super Famicom compilation all these years. A perfect game to play, late at night, trudging your way through a black and white dungeon, watching numbers go up. All that’s left is to wait for that full localization and that editing tool. An editing tool that will bless the entire world with the gift of ENDLESS WIZARDRY.
If this takes off, I might have to add another recurring segment to the site where I play more fan-made scenarios. Another recurring segment that I will forget to do regularly after a few months, Laugh Out Loud.