Friday, June 18, 2010
Wizard's Crown: Packing It In
I hope it's obvious by now that I hate to start a game and not finish it. Since I started this blog, the only games I haven't finished (that were "winnable") are Wizardry II and Wizardry III, and this had more to do with their rules about character creation and importing than it did with the games themselves.
But Wizard's Crown is simply no fun. It has some neat innovations, but these are wrapped in countless hours of rote combat and death. I was toying with quitting it during my last posting. Then I went to D.C. for a few days and slept on it. When I got back today, I played for a few hours, but I'm just not feelin' it. I'm going to give it a final ranking here with the understanding that I didn't finish the game so I may have missed some things.
1. Game world. There's an interesting setup in the game manual having to do with a golden age brought to a close by a theft and usurpation. I covered this in my first Wizard's Crown posting. There isn't much history or lore associated with the game, though. You encounter buildings and dungeons with intriguing names but no back story. There are a couple of quests, like clearing the town of thugs, that have some affect on the game world, but otherwise your presence isn't really felt. Final score: 2.
2. Character creation and development. It's not bad. Although I was confused during the creation process, the game is fairly unique in the way it gives you experience points to divide among different skills. I'm not sure I ever came up with a good strategy for it, and there were some skills that never seemed to be used, but kudos to the developers for including a character development system ahead of its time. Since you get experience from every battle and can spend it more-or-less immediately, character development is swift and constant. This is the first game to allow selection of your own icons (although from a limited pool), and it might be the first to allow multi-classing. On the other hand, the game offers the exact same experience no matter what your class. Final score: 5.
3. NPC Interaction. Virtually none. There's an old man in a park who tells you different stories, and a girl you can save from some thugs, but your interaction with them is limited to just listening what they say. You learn a few things about the game world from them, but there is no dialog or role-playing opportunities. Most of the game is combat. Final score: 1.
4. Encounters and foes. There are no real unique monster's in Wizard's Crown that I could see--just your standard D&D fare like goblins, orcs, and brigands. Such monsters are not described in the manual or the game itself, and they're distinguishable from each other only in their icons. There are no opportunities for role-playing in the encounters. There are a mix of random and fixed encounters in both dungeons and surface, which is nice. The surface constantly re-spawns (you never "clear" it), and there's an option to reset dungeon levels in case you want to play them again, which is nice. Final score: 3.
5. Magic and combat. Tactical combat, described in my last posting, is where Wizard's Crown really shines. There are almost too many options having do to with range and direction of attack, but it's hard to complain about the complexity when the game offers a "quick combat" option. You can theoretically role play during combat by having your characters behave in unique ways. The magic system is a little weak, offering a paltry selection of spells for mages (I did finally get these to work by pouring experience into spellcasting) and no offensive spells for priests. If your characters are knocked unconscious or killed during battle, you cannot heal them, which is a bit of a drag. My biggest problem with combat was that I could never do as well in the tactical combat as I did in the quick combat--you would think the reverse would be true. Final score: 5.
6. Equipment. Wizard's Crown offers a wide variety of weapons, armor, and accessories, and it's not too hard to figure out how the items compare to each other. These are generally randomized within the game world, and you even have the opportunity to "customize" items by paying to increase their enchantments. None of the items are described, however, and there are a lot of baffling accessories that either do nothing or I just couldn't figure it out. Final score: 5.
7. Economy. You get gold for killing monsters, but there's hardly anything to buy with it. You can buy a limited amount of training, but beyond that it's just about increasing item enchantment, which costs way more gold than I ever had. The good news is, because it's so expensive, you never find yourself with too much gold. Final score: 4.
8. Quests. There is a main quest in the game, but it's easy to forget because the game doesn't give you a lot of hints about how to proceed along it. There appears only one outcome to this quest, and no opportunities for role-playing. I counted two side quests, one of which I guess allowed some limited role-playing (I could have let a young woman get beaten by thugs). Final score: 3.
9. Graphics, sound, and inputs. The graphics are mediocre, especially on the character and dialog screens which are text-only. The only sound is the occasional combat effect. Keyboard commands are intuitive enough and easy to grasp, but constantly having to specify a point man when you leave camp is annoying. Final score: 2.
10. Gameplay. The world is so constraining, and it's so hard to avoid dying, that the game feels very linear. It offers no different experiences on replay, and I found that it varied between too easy and too hard: either I won combats in a snap or I was thoroughly trounced. Final score: 2.
Final score: 32. This puts it above some of the worst games on my list, but not as high as Wizardry or The Bard's Tale, which feels right.
Next up: The Bard's Tale II!