When I was a teenager and had all the time in the world to play RPGs, I really wanted to play Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land.
Back then, it was inexplicably hard to come by unless you bought it at launch, but I thought I had struck gold when I spotted a copy at a local car boot sale. Unfortunately the disc was heavily scratched, to the point where I was convinced that it wouldn’t work, but it was cheap so I bought it anyway. My suspicions were proved right when I inserted the disc into my PS2 and found that it simply wouldn’t load. Bummer.
Why do I mention this memory? Well, it came to the surface when I was reminded that Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls was finally being released on PC. It was another RPG that I failed to play upon its western release on PS3 in 2011, but I wasn’t going to let it get away from me again. After redeeming the code and downloading a breezy 700MB of content, I was ready to finally play a Wizardry game. And it went just about as I expected.
Now over ten years old, Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is understandably dated. This PC port of the game features improved graphics, both English and Japanese text alongside the original Japanese voice acting, and a brand new turbo mode to make adventuring through dungeons less time consuming. It also includes all of the game’s story DLC. But none of those things address the game’s major problem: it’s just not welcoming to newcomers at all.
When you start Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls, the game tells you nothing. You create a character and then get unceremoniously dumped into a world which you know nothing about. After a bit of clicking around, chances are you’ll figure out how to do things like assemble a party and take on quests, but the whole affair will still be be a little confusing. And then you’ll probably head out on your first adventure into the Dungeon of Trials, and quickly die.
You see, characters start out with the most basic equipment that doesn’t even play to their strengths, and you can’t afford to buy anything. Also, unless you somehow know that you’ve got to buy a map for the dungeon you’re heading into, you won’t be able to see where you are and where the exit is should you get into danger. Needless to say, your first few hours with Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls are likely to be very trying. Although your time is likely to be less trying than mine thanks to you now knowing that you should buy a dungeon’s map before venturing into it.
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is one of those games that you get more out of if you invest time into it. Initially it stonewalls you, which can be very off-putting. Get past the first hurdle and get your party into decent fighting attire, however, and things start falling into place. Like any good dungeon crawling RPG, there’s plenty of joy to be found in adventuring and developing your band of characters, completing quests to progress the story and further improve your capabilities.
Even once you’ve overcome the initial hurdle though, you might find some aspects of Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls a little irksome. Not being able to target specific enemies, for example, means that finer strategy is thrown out of the window; you’re merely issuing basic commands and hoping for the best. Also, and this is a minor one, but you can’t seem to select a character’s portrait. If you have two or more characters of the same gender and race in your party, they’ll unfortunately have the same appearance.
So, if you’re up for a challenge and enjoy putting together parties of warriors and sending them into dark dungeons full of danger, you might just get plenty hours of joy out of Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls. It’s dated, sure, but it’s a genre that hasn’t exactly come on leaps and bounds over years. And there’s still something about it that draws you back in for more.
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is available now on PC.