Recently, my aunt found a stack of old NES games at a co-worker’s house that they didn’t want anymore. She sent me pics and asked if I wanted any of them. Most I already had, but one did catch my eye. Dungeons and Dragons: Hillsfar was a title I didn’t have yet, so I graciously had her send it my way. The board was in a bit of rough shape, but after some cleaning, repair, and testing, it worked pretty darn well. I’d been curious to see how older RPG’s I’d never really checked out before held up in the modern age (I’ve always been a Final Fantasy and Ys kind of guy). It took about five minutes before I was completely lost and had no idea what to do, and was yearning for a strategy guide, an adventurer’s handbook, or even an instruction manual. The 8-bit era truly was a different time. The Wizardry series is no exception and is notorious for being both astoundingly challenging and devoid of any sort of hand-holding. It was so influential in its heyday it’s been said to have been the influence for other RPGs such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is the most recent entry in the long-running series initially developed by Sir Tech for the Apple II computer in 1981. Though the last mainline entry Sir Tech developed was Wizardry 8, which released in 2001, the series has been kept alive by spin-offs made by other developers. Labyrinth of Lost Souls was developed by Acquire (the team behind the Tenchu series), and released for the Playstation 3 back in 2011. The game was also available on iOS devices but is no longer available on the Apple Store as the developers did not have the resources to keep it up to date on newer devices. XSEED picked up publishing duties for Labyrinth of Lost Souls, and as of January 15th, 2020, brought it to PC. How does the title hold up today? Let’s take a look and find out!
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls has a robust character creation toolset. How you want to play is up to you!
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is, at its core, a Dungeon Crawler RPG. Meaning you make a character, make a party, and explore a maze-like dungeon in search of treasure, encountering monsters and traps along the way. A good modern comparison would be the Etrian Odyssey series. A robust character creation system means you can adjust a character essentially to your liking. Labyrinth of Lost Souls has a plethora of classes to choose from. Aside from your standard fighter, priest, and mage classes for melee and spell casting abilities, you have thieves who can detect and disarm traps. There are also hybrid classes like bishops and ninja if you don’t want to make a single-skill based character. There are also five different races to choose from – human, elf, gnome, dwarf, and porklu (essentially halflings), both male and female as well, so there are a lot of options on tap to make just the character you want.
After creating your character, you are thrust into the world of Aitox. The narrative is surprisingly light here, with a brief introduction serving to establish you and your party’s motivations for exploring. Essentially, the story boils down to an ancient, powerful race almost destroying the land and being sealed away. Two thousand years later, the world is becoming unbalanced, and the ancient seal holding said race back is almost broken. It’s up to you and your party to explore and find artifacts explaining the reason for this unbalance, or search for treasure if you’d rather do that. There isn’t much to your characters aside from entering the town and getting set on exploring some dungeons.
“I love the smell of Adventure in the morning.”
“Oh wait…is that adventure? Smells more like corned beef and cabbage…ew.”
Your next stop is making a party. You can either make your own or pick from some preset party members. Making a well-balanced party can mean all the difference between a successful dungeon run or getting wiped out and having to start all over. Synergy is vital in Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls and one of the irritating things about it is the game really doesn’t tell you about the most important aspect surrounding said synergy. Much like Dungeons and Dragons, alignment plays a key role in how your characters get along. Each character can be good, neutral, or evil and they all play together differently – or not at all. Neutral characters can be recruited by anyone, and good and evil characters can’t be recruited by the opposite alignment. Your alignment can change by the actions you take while exploring as well. For instance, if you come across a mob of monsters that don’t want to attack you, but you fight them anyways, you can change your alignment from good or neutral to evil. If you have good characters with you, they will not want to be in your party any longer. The lack of tutorials and hand-holding may be a turnoff, depending on how used to Dungeon Crawlers you are.
“Well, at least it’s not an F.O.E!”
Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls’ dungeons are home to a host of nasty creatures. I hope you set up your party well!
After you have a party adequately established, it’s time to go crawling. The adventurer’s guild and its bulletin board serve as your primary hub for exploring the underworld, and there are other locations such as temples, item shops, and inns to peruse as well. When you hit the dungeons, they should instantly feel familiar to you if you’ve played a Dungeon Crawler before. You explore the dungeons one step at a time, with each step being a square on your grid-like map. You map the dungeon as you explore to help you from getting lost, and there are gimmicks such as switches that open up shortcuts and magic circles that can warp you to other parts of the map. Enemy encounters down here can vary wildly as well. Sometimes you may encounter a single enemy, or over a dozen enemies can attack you at once. Combined with traps you come across in the labyrinths, It bears repeating that proper party setup is essential to not meeting your end over and over again. If your party leader is wiped out, the game is over as well, so keeping them in tip-top shape is paramount as well.
As far as the PC user experience goes, Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is serviceable, but does show its age (though that is arguably part of the charm). The character and monster art is very nicely illustrated and full of detail, but that’s essentially all they are – illustrations. The only sort of 3D or substantial animation in the game is present while dungeon exploring. Fortunately, this means the game is very light on hardware requirements and should be able to run unhindered on most any modern setup. There is also a multitude of high definition, widescreen resolutions available to choose from, and mouse/keyboard support has been added for that classic control feel. Native Xbox, Playstation, and Switch controller support and even button prompts are available and customizable to your liking. As has become commonplace with their PC ports, XSEED has also added in a turbo button that speeds up the exploration process a bit.
Your Mileage May Vary
All in all, Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is a decently constructed title that continues the classic series’ traditions very well. However, the real value lies in how big of a fan of the series you are, or how much you enjoy other Dungeon Crawling RPG’s in general. Compared to other games in the genre, Wizardry may be lacking in overall difficulty, design, and narrative. If you’re new to the genre, you will more than likely still find yourself overwhelmed by the lack of guidance and end up stumbling around trying to figure out the game’s inner workings. Still, for $14.99, it’s pretty worth the price, I’d say. If you have a dungeon-crawling itch that needs to be scratched, this should serve as a low cost of entry.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PC (reviewed), Playstation 3 (PSN only); Publisher: XSEED Games; Developer: Acquire; Players: 1; Released: January 15th, 2020 (PC), June 1st, 2011 (PS3) ; ESRB: Not Rated (PC), T for Teen (PS3) ; MSRP: $14.99 (PC), $9.99 (PS3)
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PC review copy of Wizardy: Labyrinth of Lost Souls given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.