Wizardry Online – Beta Test Opinion

I’ve been putting off this article for some time. If you’ve been following the blog, you may remember my excitement for the upcoming North American release of Wizardry Online. Being a lifelong fan of the Wizardry games, I was extremely excited to finally get a chance to play this long awaited MMO.

Several years ago, I hosted a fan-page dedicated to the Wizardry series. It was one of the few on the net at the time and quickly became one of the biggest Wiz sites out there. I prided myself on being such a big player in the community, that I decided to launch a podcast in preparation for the English release of Wizardry Online. So, in July 2012, the Gilgamesh’s Tavern podcast was born.

To help lend some credibility to the cast, I launched the first episode by interviewing one of the founders of the series itself; Robert Woodhead. As the podcast progressed, I spent some time discussing all of the various games in the series, both western and Japanese titles. Finally, as the details regarding the game started trickling in, things got hectic.

I was accepted in the closed beta, and around the same time I was contacted by SOE and provided with several beta keys to distribute. Suddenly, my podcast subscriptions went from single digits to triple digits overnight. It was everything an aspiring podcaster could ask for. There was just one problem… My experience with the closed beta was… well… awful.

Being under NDA, I couldn’t express my concerns publicly. Several localization issues about the game irked me and the user interface and game controls boggled my mind, and I was not alone. Many users in the beta forums echoed my sentiments. Other aspects of the game seemed severely flawed as well. I was left to wonder, was the current Japanese version of the game so… crappy? Or was SOE giving us some type of modification of the original vanilla JP release?

With the end of the closed beta, and the launch of the open test. The game received a much needed patch. Several of my complaints seemed to have been addressed. But, something about the game still felt… broken. It’s very hard for me to get into specifics because, I can’t really place my finger on it. There are many things about Wizardry Online that are indeed very “Wizardry-like”. However, there are so many other aspects that seem completely out of place. The things in the game that do seem to honor the roots of the series, such as randomly assigned skill points at character creation, seem out of place for an MMO. While, things from the old series that would thrive, such as advanced classes (Samurai, Lord, Ninja, Bishop) are absent.

Needless to say, I was disappointed to the point where I could no longer offer my support for the game by hosting a community podcast. Rather than make a big scene about it, I just quietly retired the podcast and vanished into the night, as some might say.

Many of my real-life friends who were also jazzed for the game have also expressed their discontent of the title. I am very sad to have to admit it, but my disappointment with the title has been vast.

Now, I realize the game is still in beta. But I would be extremely (and pleasantly) surprised if the title receives enough polish between now and release to win me back.

On a side note, before ending this rant. I do want to point out that one thing the game really seems to get right is ATMOSPHERE. The dungeons and even the town create a very good sense of adventure and danger. However, the combat mechanics, user interface, and clunky controls just overshadow everything else.

Being a Free-to-Play title, I certainly have no plans of uninstalling the game and I do expect to give an honest chance upon release. But I’d be lying if I said that I don’t think this is going to be a very profitable title for SOE. The worst thing about that is, if this game fails, the chances of any other JP Wizardry titles being brought to the US drop significantly.

A Look Back: Final Fantasy XIV (Original Release)

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I’m going to really shake things up with something straight out of left field. As you might have surmised, I tend to review games in order because I enjoy watching franchises mature, etc. This time, due to an interesting set of circumstances, I’m going to break form and discuss the latest entry in the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy XIV.

Now this is not a review, but more like a discussion. I’m doing this for two reasons. First, FFXIV is an online title. Thus, it is a never-ending game. If I waited until the game was “finished”, under normal circumstances, I’d be waiting forever. However, in this case, the game did end (at least temporarily). Second, since the game has ended, this allows the perfect opportunity to look back on it.

If you’ve been following this blog a while, you’ll know that I’m a HUGE fan of both the Final Fantasy series as a whole, but especially the online games. In fact, the first real MMO that I put any time into was Final Fantasy XI. I spent several years playing that game and I had many wonderful experiences with it. Needless to say, when Final Fantasy XIV was announced, I was more than excited.

XIV holds an interesting place in the world of online games. It was one of the biggest failures in MMO history. The game was released way before it was ready and its reputation suffered greatly as a result. The game was plagued by everything from lack of content, to a laggy and unresponsive user interface. In fact, the game was so poorly received, that Square Enix suspended the monthly billing for the game for close to a year.

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During that time, most of the original development team was fired and a new producer took over the helm. Upon completing his assessment, he deemed that in order to make the game successful, it would need to be completely re-designed from the ground up. At which time, SE began the unheard of task of both fixing and supporting the current game, while rewriting a entirely new version.

I’m happy to say that over time, the game did improve. Vastly so. In fact, I found it to be quite enjoyable for the last year or so. To keep players hooked and to help preserve the storyline, SE announced an special in-game event for this transition period. A live story that would carry players over from version 1 to version 2.

Everything finally came to a dramatic conclusion on 11/11 with a giant meteor descending from heaven and a great cataclysm. As I write this, FFXIV is currently offline and testing for the alpha version of 2.0 is underway. Expected to be released sometime next year, loyal followers such as myself eagerly await to see what is in store for us…

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As I mentioned on this site before, I have kept an in-character blog of my time in FFXIV. For those reader interested in what they may have missed during the original release, I urge to check it out: