Review: Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls

By Philip Orona

I have recently found myself digging into Playstation Now’s back catalog for some quality gaming time and I came Across Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls.  Wizardry is a first person dungeon crawler RPG created by a pair of college nerds from Cornell University that has inspired many game series that followed such as Bard’s tale, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. The first Wizardry game in the series I encountered was Heart of the Maelstrom on Super Nintendo. While it wasn’t the first Dungeon Crawler I played (Eye of the Beholder) it was the first one I truly enjoyed. Phantasy Star for Sega Master System also used the dungeon crawler first person view when in labyrinth. These are a different animal from a J-RPG typically in story development and style. These first person dungeon crawlers seem to be far and few between in recent times.

Starting from the title screen, You are greeted with a character creator screen. The avatars are very anime in design. In traditional Dungeons & Dragon style, you must choose from a race such as human, dwarf, elf, porklu(hobbit) and gnome. The player must roll for skill points that can be added to each race’s base points to determine what jobs they can take. High strength players can be fighters, high piety makes for great priests and hobbits are great thieves typically. There is also alignment to consider. Between good, evil and neutral, good aligned characters cannot be partied up with an evil party member. Alignment can also play a role in the premier jobs. If given a high enough roll from the beginning to bless your character with extra skills, you can choose jobs like Ninja, Lord, Bishop and Samurai. Ninja can only be evil, Lord and Bishop can only be good and Samurai can be good and neutral. So you cannot have a party with both a Lord and Ninja. This matters because it plays into battle strategy when in a dungeon. With 6 party slots available, optimally you would want to have 3 fighters on the front line with 1 offensive spell caster, 1 healer and the last slot can be reserved for something like a thief. I highly recommend a thief in the party if you don’t have a ninja. Thieves can disarm traps on treasure chests that you will come across and pick locked doors in a dungeon. A ninja can do the same but usually at a lower success rate and unlike the ninja, a thief can be neutral. In a battle there are several planes of position for strategy. Your melee fighters can only fight enemies in front of them in the enemies first row. If a melee fighter equipped with a small to medium sword is placed in the players second row, they will not be able to attack unless equipped with a longer range weapon like a Claymore blade. Mages have low amounts of hit points but they can cast spells that can traverse all planes of combat. Placing them in the rear almost guarantees that melee enemies will not be able to reach your spell casters. Thieves and ninja placed in the rear will not be able to attack either unless equipped with a sling or bow however they do have a hide skill that allows them to slip into the shadows on their first turn and then backstab the enemy on their following turn, stealing money from the enemy in the process. These are strategies that are well known to veterans of the series that newbies may struggle with early on.

Once you have your party squared away, there are a few destinations to hit when in town. By town I mean the main hub menu outside of a dungeon. There is the Guild where quests can be taken, The Inn where adventurers can rest, Item shop is where weapons, armor and miscellaneous items can be sold and bought, The temple is where players can be resurrected or uncursed, the palace is where royal quests can be taken and finally the dungeon entrance. Once you head into the dungeon you aren’t given any direction other than an objective of collecting something if you take a quest. It’s just a dark first person dungeon with no way to see your location. You are supposed to either find a map from monster loot or purchase one in the item shop. Eventually your mage will also gain a map spell for the lower levels that purchasable maps do not cover. The menus are easy and intuitive. Battle is easy to learn once you understand how the positioning of rows work. In a battle your options are Fight, Defense, Item, Equipment, focus and run. Most are self explanatory. Focus commands your player to remain inactive in a meditative state until the next turn. Then attacking on the following turn will double the amount of damage dealt to the enemy. Some job types like ninja or thief have a hide\backstab command. However, it is all too easy to hit run instead of hide by accident since they are right next to each other. Also certain weapons add special attack commands to the wielder’s repertoire.

As your team explores the dungeon, you will encounter monsters such as goblins, skeletons and ghosts. As you descend further into the depths of the dungeon, more dastardly creatures lurk such as dragons, giants and ninjas. And with these creatures come a higher level of difficulty. The deeper floors have enemies that are just damn tough and impossible to run from. For example, unless you are at an insanely high level, encountering ninjas is almost guaranteed death as their attacks are nearly all critical hits that will down any of your characters in a single blow. There are also tricks and traps that exist in the dark hallways that are there to damage you, confuse you or teleport you to parts of the dungeon that you would not be able to otherwise reach. The main part of the game is to grind for experience and if you wish to survive past the 4th floor of Shiin’s Dungeon, grind you must. Leveling up means increased stats for all in the party and more spells and mana for your wizards and priests. At times you will find that spells will be your limiting factor in the dungeon. Luckily the dungeon has a not so convenient elevator. Each floor will have it locked in a room that can only be accessed once that floor has been explored and a switch is thrown to unlock its access.

The quests from the guild will have you doing specific tasks that reward you with good amounts of money, which is great because monster grinding is not overly lucrative at first and good equipment is not cheap. Weapon drops are also another good way to make money. Nearly every item you acquire from a drop needs to be appraised\identified before it can be sold. You can pay money to the item shop to do this however paying to do so costs as much as the item itself so it is a nearly useless service. Fortunately, priests can appraise items. Not everything will have a 100% appraise rate and may require several attempts which can negatively affect your priest.   Ultimately, your goal of the game is to make it to the final levels of the dungeon to find the artifacts of the Draguun. As you descend to the deeper difficulties, you will have to manage your health, spells, items and risk vs reward. Until your mage learns the Dungeon Exit spell, it really becomes a battle of attrition with the maze. Once your characters reach a certain level it is easy enough to cheese some of the deeper floors of the dungeon by saving, then taking some steps and seeing if you can survive the next encounter. If not, reload and try again to see if the next randomly generated encounter is survivable and if so, heal and save.

Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls does its legacy proud. All the trappings of a classic first person dungeon crawler are present and even without the balls to the wall story back beat of some of its predecessors, this is a very fun role playing game. You could easily spend hours generating your characters and tweaking your party to achieve the perfect team. The typical RPG grind can be tiresome but discovering what might be around the next corner and mapping each floor to find the elevator for easy access, keeps the dungeon descent from becoming a slog. If you need a break from the usual J-RPG or action RPG, the Wizardry series is a great palate cleanser.

Pros: 

Classic dungeon exploring

Excellent character design

Cons:

Steep learning Curve for newbies

Not enough guild quests

Recommended alternatives:

Moon shades: a Dungeon Crawler RPG  for Android

Shin Megami Tensei IV for Nintendo 3DS

Etrian Odyssey 5 for Nintendo 3DS

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