Thursday, August 7, 2008

Time to get schooled.

Wizard 101 came to my attention a few months back and I kind of just let it slip by without paying much attention. It's billed as an MMO for teens and that pretty much limited my interest right away. That goes to show you how good my instincts are. While the game MAY be targeted to that audience it certainly isn't limited to said demographic. It turns out the game is very deep, has great production values and most of all, is pretty damn fun.

You start out as a young student brought into a school for magic ala the Harry Potter stories. In fact, the game has obviously drawn a lot of inspiration from those books as well as World of Warcraft. By answering a few questions reminiscent of the old school Ultima days, your wizard type is given to you. These include Fire, Life, Storm, Death and many other types of magic. Then it is off to see your school master to get acclimated to your new environs. Movement is very much like the standard MMO fare using either the WASD classic set up or the arrow keys. You gain quests by talking to various NPCs throughout the starting city. It sounds rather run of the mill so far, but stay with me.

Combat is decidedly different than other MMOs. It consists of "duels" in the center of a fixed combat area that comes up when you encounter an enemy. The player earns spells by gaining cards they can add to their spellbook, and their deck of cards can be customized at any time. New cards and spells are acquired via combat, exploration and quest solving. The battle plays out sort of like a Pokemon meets Magic the Gathering contest as you strategically use your cards against the enemy. You can summon monsters which have great animations, cast spells directly on foes, friends, or yourself, and use one time use adventure cards. The strategy comes in to play when developing your spellbook and your wizard type. Different types of wizards have access to different spells. The school of magic you specialize in is the most powerful, but you can have a secondary school to focus on too.

The combinations of schools are huge. On top of all that customization, you can gain loot and items to equip on your character that help him in battle and look really cool to boot. I only got to play up to about 4th level before I went to bed, but the initial outlook for this game looks really good. It is something different and unique. It also has a great style and appeal that speaks to gamers of all ages. The game is in open beta right now so if you want to give it a try, click here.

Edit: I forgot about the mini games! When your character is low on mana and health you can go back to the city and play mini games to earn it back quicker (you can also find health and mana wisps by exploring). These mini games are re imagined from well know games like Dig Dug, Bejewled and Castle Defense. They all fit nicely into the theme of the game and are a blast to play. So what are you waiting for? Give it a shot. The game client downloads really fast and the game runs nicely on a wide range of computers.

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