Micro-Review Series in Waiting: Wizard 101

Posted by | August 23, 2008

Table of contents for Wizard 101: Introduction Review

  1. Micro-Review Series in Waiting: Wizard 101

Wizard 101 from publisher KingsIsle Entertainment is a quirky MMO that not only tugs at the heartstrings but brings back fond memories of what a game should be like: strange, lighthearted, epic, and vast. The game world is cartoony, the characters are caricatures, and the scenarios are right out of the Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The environments are colorful and pleasing to the eyes and rendered with the cartoon fantasy that other worthwhile games have approached worldbuilding, they don’t try too hard to be realistic, but they also don’t bend over into the surreal or absurd either.

In short: the game play combined with the visuals make for a wonderful experience.

The major caveats that I have about the game world is the deliberate pandering to children and overzealous parents. But unlike games like the Disney MMO the pandering doesn’t cause it to fail entirely to be fun-instead, it makes it difficult to communicate. Yes, it’s called Filtered Chat. A mechanism that checks every word against a surprisingly short white list with some interesting decisions made into its inclusion (such as the word “vocabulary” isn’t included.) In the words of one of my friends, “Censorship makes children stupid.” And in fact, I have to agree, at least in part. It makes those kids stupid who wouldn’t otherwise develop ingenious ways to circumvent it.

Moral quandaries aside about the civil responsibility of games and the bad nature of the gaming world to assume that all video games should be for children and therefore shoulder out the aging more adult population who play…there are so amazing things about this game to be had.

Firstly is the combat system is not a complex mishmash of buttons, stats, timing, and things of that nature: it’s a collectable card game. That’s right. Characters are given a deck of cards that represent their spells and abilities. They play them out in a game with pretty simple rules against enemies who duel them with their own decks. The dueling game only makes its debut during the combat phases and there’s no crafting or diplomacy to speak of, but at least as a turn based combat mechanism they could do worse.

The game begins with a variously styled personality quiz designed to give first timers a chance to be selected into one of the schools of magic. Anyone with enough time on their hands and analytical skills can determine what selections will create what, but anyone coming into the game off the cuff who just wants to jump into the action can simply choose what comes up from their answers to the questions.

We came out as an ice wizard and went with it.

Each school of magic has its own properties, abilities, strengths and weaknesses. They are-Ice, Fire, Life, Death, Storm, Balance, Myth.

All of the schools live together in harmony in a place called Wizard City… Well, all of them except for Death, which mysteriously vanished to locations unknown-campus and all, leaving a gaping hole. The Death school is taught by a lone student who attempts to carry on the tradition in the absence of his school. It’s apparently part of the plot to understand why the Death school has run away and possibly where to. It makes the game a little more interesting for those students.

Popular culture references are rife in this game where the names of NPCs and missions bring back memories of well known music and movies-with quests like “Saving Private O’Ryan” and “Fairies Wear Boots” it seems acutely obvious parts of this game were not designed merely for the 10-16 year old generation. At least one of those references is older than us voces.

This series will continue with an examination of various other elements of game play in depth, the different schools, and possibly some dialogue about the impact of the plot.


1 Comment so far
  1. Kazz
    August 27, 2008 1:21 am

    Sounds fun! Maybe I’ll see you there. :)

    I’m not sure if I’ll be able to deal with the downside though, assuming they don’t change the filter rules. I don’t take censorship well.

    Really, if they think they *have* to have a filter, they should just have it filter kids’ chat and at least let teenagers and adults turn it off, or give them an unfiltered team chat or other private chat system.

    Mandatory white-list filtering of all chat is just completely ridiculous.

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