Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls Review
Dungeon crawlers have a rich history, one that stretches back to the earliest days of gaming. They’re simply designed, elegant, inviting, and pretty brutal. I refer to this hallowed epoch because Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is still very much of that time. This is a PC port of a decade-old entry in a series that began back in 1981. This entry, like all the others, feels both ancient and modern. Yet, is this anachronistic nature a help or a hindrance? Maybe a little bit of both?
To sum up the Wizardry series best, one must look to the mechanics, rather than the narrative premise. You roll up a rag-tag bundle of fantasy archetypes, kit them out as best as your able, and enter the dungeon. You step carefully through a series of first-person screenshots, fight off images of monsters most foul, and get attacked by booby-trapped treasure chests. Death comes quickly, experience builds slowly, and there’s always another floor to explore. I thought my experience with the Etrian Odyssey franchise would help me out here. To be fair, it sort of did! Although the two worlds have less in common than you might think. For one thing, Wizardry is almost easier, sort of.
Death Around Every Corner
Hear me out! Though Labyrinth of Lost Souls is relentless in its efforts to crush you into dust, there are a couple of modern touches that ease your suffering immensely. You can save absolutely anywhere, mana recovery is free at the inn, and item drops are more frequent. I was pounded into the dirt on my first outing, but my second attempt went a lot better. Once you discover a rhythm that works for you, progress can be made, albeit slowly. Don’t ignore that saving power, though. To wit: resurrecting party members is both expensive and risky. There’s a chance that the temple’s resurrection spell backfires, turning party members into ash. Which you can’t revive! So be careful.
Also, it’s shockingly easy for battles to go badly. Enemies you’ve been steamrolling for hours can get a few good hits in without warning, leading to immediate death. I’ve gone from five alive to two in less than a minute on several separate occasions. All of this is both a cautionary tale and a ringing endorsement of the saving system. Don’t forget about it! Thankfully, every time I was forced to reload and/or retreat back to town, I usually discovered a massive cache of unidentified items in my inventory. A bit of juggling later, and you’re ready for the next round. Unless you turned evil during your last trip to the catacombs?
When creating your character, you can choose your alignment as well as your race, class, and gender. While I knew that only evil people can be ninjas, I did not know that people can turn evil after battles. Perhaps I chose to fight when it wasn’t warranted one too many times? Either way, evil characters have class restrictions to contend with. Also, they might be less compatible with good characters on dungeon trips. So far my party hasn’t killed each other, but I’m no longer ready to rule out the possibility.
Don’t Touch That Treasure Chest
If you’re looking for a powerful narrative, you might not find it here. Not to say there isn’t a story! There totally is, it’s just buried under a mountain of random battles and desperate scrambles to the inn. You’re slowly introduced to the world and its woes, through quests and conversations, over the course of the game. For the most part, the story is content to stay out of your way. If you’d rather just dungeon-dive, Wizardry is happy to oblige. Both the plot and your exploratory progress are pretty slow, which can be a good thing. If you’re looking for a meditative RPG experience, one that clears your head and soothes your soul, you’ll surely find it. Seekers of a dense, satisfying story may wish to wander elsewhere.
Modern RPGs have made incredible strides beyond their venerable predecessors. Things have gotten flashier, more intense, and much more complex. You’ll find none of that in a Wizardry game. Instead, players are treated to a finely-honed mechanical system and a simple interface. Backed by decades of rich history, the Wizardry series has influenced countless other games. Beyond Etrian Odyssey, scores of turn-based dungeon crawlers owe their existence to this series. Sure, the combat is simple, the progress is slow, and the difficulty is high. But if a measured, elegant, austere RPG is what you’re looking for, look no further. Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is a great escape for anyone invested in the genre’s illustrious past.
***A Steam code was provided by the publisher***
- Action is fast and fun
- Character builds are widely varied
- Some good modern touches included
- The grind is real slow, y’all
- Game is crazy hard
- Story is pretty barebones