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I love Wizardry. I always have. Sir-Tech's long running series has always been one of the best out for each of the systems that it's been on. I don't think that you young gamers even have a clue as to how long Wizardry has been out. The first one was released in 1980 for the Apple II+. It cost $80.00 and was one of the first games to put the Apple computer on the map. The other big game back then was Galaxian (another ancient game). But Wizardy was different. It had a full layout screen, with a window in the top left hand corner, that displayed a "3D" dungeon of sorts. It had six lines that would make up the tunnel, and when you bumped into a group of bad guys, a small picture would pop up, showing you what you were fighting. Since your party consisted of up to six characters, you would enter each one's moves in and the computer would do the rest. It was turn based and a huge amount of fun. There are seven Wizardry games in all and now the new graphic adventure - Wizardry Nemesis.
Sir Tech, the company that has put out the series all of these years seems to be caught in a bind. It is one of the few companies that has not been bought out by the one of the major players, such as EA, and looks to be now in a stage where it's old Wizardry system will no longer attract anyone but the hard-core (or old-time gamer such as myself) fantasy player. While the graphics of the games had improved with each one, the basic turn-based system remained. Games such as DaggerFall and the soon to be released Hexen II are offering cutting edge technology, with real time graphics and reaction times. Of course, Sir Tech is one of the few companies that prided itself on story and game play over graphics, and it had paid off. However, we've been waiting for more than three years for the new Wizardy to come out, and it's anyone's guess as to what it'll be like. Will it be turn based again? Or real time 3D? Who knows?
However, the reason why I think that Sir-Tech is in a transitional stage is because of the release of Wizardry Nemesis. Nemesis is a graphic-based adventure that follows the style of Myst. So what does it have to do with the Wizardry series? Nothing-except for marketing. I guess by using the marquee name, they are trying to get a wider market for Nemesis. Good business decision, but it's risky. If the game is horrible, the plan backfires, and the Wizardry name becomes tarnished. If successful then it improves. So what's the verdict? Well, Nemesis is a good game, and although it has nothing to do with Wizardry (except the name of the cover) it stands on its own. I got the impression that Sir Tech is desperately looking for another cash-cow vehicle to carry them on for the next ten years. I wish them luck as it's going to be difficult.
You start off as a simple woodsman, who gets attacked by a "shadow creature". The creature grabs you with its talons, and begins to fly away, dragging you who knows where. Fortunately, there is a druid (named Rian) nearby who witnesses the attack. Using his magical powers, he strikes at the creature, and is successful in freeing you from it's clutches. The next thing you know, you have woken up in the Rian's chambers in a village called Galican. From there on, you are on your own.
Graphically speaking I thought this game was extremely well done. The graphics were beautifully rendered in 3D, and were very crisp. A great deal of attention was given to detail, and it shows. Galican, actually felt like a medieval village, and with a place of worship, and naturally, a blacksmith's shop. And what a blacksmith! Rowrrrr!
Each character was also modeled in 3D, no simple feat, and even more impressive was the fact that there were many non-human characters in the game, from the typical monster to be killed, to a "Hargani" a tree like creature. The blacksmith was a beautiful blonde named Tala. Very nice indeed, with a British accent to boot! The kids in the graphics department certainly were busy. The only problem was that most of the character's movements were jerky and lacked smoothness. This applied particularly to Rian the Sage. His hands sometimes looked as if they were bending at impossible angles. Some work was still needed in the animation department.
The characters weren't the only impressive things. All of the environment's were richly detailed. Among many locales, there are dungeons, forests, sewers, and marshes to name but a few. These well done areas served to give the game its own special mood and feel, something that many games today lack. While I am not particularly fond of the style of the overall look, I have to be honest and say that they were very well done, and reflect a great deal of effort.
The game essentially consisted of puzzle-solving with a slight new twist - a version of real time combat of sorts. Every now and then a monster would come lumbering along, and you would either have to fight it or run away. The combat system was a little rough and could have used more work. Once the monster was within a space, you could "go into combat mode" and through the use of weapons or spells, fight it. The movements were very basic and rigid. So rigid in fact that you could not turn around in combat mode. If the monster moved off to the right, you had to "exit combat mode", turn, then re-enter it. It became tiresome after a while. The magic system was also difficult to use. It consisted of spells that would be learned as the game progressed. The problem lay in the fact that it was hard to chose the spell you wanted, and how much force it should have. The interface was poorly done and not very intuitive and needs a little more work.
However, I do want to point out, that at least it was an attempt at introducing some action into an essentially stale and lifeless genre. While the combat wasn't the best, and could sometimes even be a pain, it added to the whole "mood". I also felt that it once again, Sir-Tech was trying new things out to see what works and what doesn't.
The sound and music in the game were well done. Almost all of the voices in the game had British accents, a new but odd twist. I don't understand why all RPG's want to have some link to England. Perhaps the producers feel it gives a bit of a medieval touch. In any case, they were well done. Most of the game did not have music playing in the background. Instead, the creators opted for environmental sounds - sounds that play in the background, and give the impression of "being there". For instance, when the player is in the dungeon, he hears slithering noises (from who knows what), dripping water, and so on. The effect came off well, and wasn't annoying as some games are. In terms of overall story, there isn't much new to be found here. I don't think gamers will ever really find anything outside of the "oppressed people \ kill the unholy evil guy \ save the universe" plot. So why bother? Well, the games can offer great stories and sub-plots around the old theme. And Nemesis gave us a little of that. During the game you find old notes lying around that hint at "the overall picture". Naturally, as you solve the puzzles and see more areas, more of the story is revealed to you. Essentially, many years ago, in a now long-dead city called Nithera, powerful mages detected a new and limitless source of magical energy. In order to tap into this energy, seven talismans were created. As each one was crafted, the mages' power grew. In finding that they could possibly become even more powerful, they decided to combine all of the talismans into one. What they did not know, however, was that a being lived in the energy source. There were signs that something alive was within yet with the exception of one, all of the mages ignored the signs. This solitary mage crafted an eighth talisman in order to subdue the entity. Once the talismans were all completed, they were joined one by one. Five were joined successfully, but when the sixth was added, the power was too much for the mages to contain. A huge explosion ensued, and the entire city of Nithera was destroyed. As the main player in this game, it is up to you to find the talismans, find the ruins of Nithera and seek out the being, known as Nemesis (and presumably crush him under the might of your fist!).
There seemed to be one bug in the game that was incredibly irritating. In certain areas, if you saved the game and then re-loaded from there, your character would die within a second of the reload. Perhaps Sir-Tech will put a patch out to fix this up.
Written by Anil Chhabra
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