Wizardy: Labyrinth of Lost Souls, or Wiz LOLS, is a dungeon crawler that takes a step back from the new age style of gaming for something a little more retro. Like, Windows 92 level retro. So join me as we take a look at this dungeon crawler.
The plot for Wiz LOLS is pretty simple, you arrive in a town housing a series of dungeons in an attempt to make a name for yourself. So off you go to the guild, getting teammates to join you so you can explore the depths of the dungeons. As you perform more quests for the townsfolk you get to learn more about the town, and the dungeons beneath them.
Let’s talk a bit about gameplay. Wiz LOLS is a very standard fare dungeon crawler. While not necessarily a bad choice, especially for newcomers to the genre, there is definitely a lot to be desired here. Essentially you get a party of up to six characters, of job classes and alignments of your choosing, within certain character stat restrictions, and you need to explore the dungeons. Dungeon exploration is done on a tile-by-tile movement in a grid-like dungeon floor. You must find the stairs, and generally a switch to open the door to the stairs, in order to progress down further levels.
There are also traps strewn throughout the dungeon, which the game promptly does not really explain. This also goes for character classes and spells as well. Any class that learns spells will learn up to four different spells per level, but spells are also earned as “per use” as opposed to a blunt “mana cost” that is normally used. The reason I mention this now is because the mage gets a spell that allows you to hover, rendering a lot of the traps useless, which is really nice, but I only know about it because of how many dungeon crawlers I’ve played before.
There is also very little in the way of scenery in the dungeons, as it’s almost entirely dark and the same walls and torches for a number of floors before it changes. Additionally, there is no music in the dungeons, just blowing wind sound effects, which drove me up the wall. When you have to spend a lot of time filling in a map by walking over the unseen tiles in order to find where the stairs down are, this gets really annoying really fast for anybody who relies on a solid soundtrack to keep them from going minorly insane. But apart from all this, the game isn’t really all that poorly constructed for the dungeon delving. While the game is pretty easy as long as you don’t get too far into a floor you probably shouldn’t be on, or head straight into the depths, it isn’t too bad. No, the real kick in the pants for me was how the majority of this game is dependant on luck, and I don’t mean the stat.
Like most games that deal with exp and levelling, you earn stat points on levelling, such as VIT, STR and INT. Similar to Fire Emblem, the stats you earn on levelling are random. As an example, the first level my warrior, who can’t learn magic, got was an increase in INT and PIE, which affect spells from the mage and priest class types. Not particularly useful. Thankfully you can save pretty much anywhere, and I implore you to do so to “save scum” in case you get a bad level.
Now, as most people who know me are aware, my luck is atrocious, but I still generally wouldn’t promote save scumming unless it’s intended or gets really bad. In this case though, I will, for the reason that you can lose stats. Oh yes, I’m serious. I got a level once that was quite literally the following notifications: Warrior levelled up! Lost STR. Gained INT. Gained PIE. Lost VIT. Lost AGI. WHAT AM I GONNA DO WITH THAT RUBBISH?!?
But I digress, well, mostly. Turnsout the resurrection skill has a chance to fail. Guess who turned their party member to ash on the first use? This guy right here. And don’t even get me started on the item drops for quests. The first one was collecting dirty daggers from goblins. Took me almost an hour. The second one for the circlets? Five hours later and I had zero. That’s right, none. I can’t even figure out if there was something missing or if my luck was just awful. Now that I think about it, I didn’t get any hat or glove gear drops either… Hmm. Well, that brings us to our next point: equipping yourself.
As you progress through the dungeon, you will encounter locked chests that can be opened and examined for traps, that also have a chance at having nothing in them, and either in those chests, or after battle, you may receive unidentified equipment. You may bring this back to the item shop guy to identify them for the same cost as it takes to sell them, but only after they’ve been identified. This makes it rather annoying if you know the price bracket you have won’t give you what you want, or need, but still need to identify them to get rid of them.
Now, I’ve played a lot of dungeon crawlers. Heck, I’m even playing one right now in my free time, and I can honestly say pretty much all of them are better. I’ve played titles that were based mostly on gimmicks, titles that kept more to the standard formula, titles that were tough as nails (I’m looking at you Touhou Labyrinth. Dying on the first random encounter my ass). Out of all of the dungeon crawlers I’ve played, WIZ LOLS has to be the one I was most disappointed with. Want a title where the map building is more engaging? Etrian Odyssey.
Want a challenge with some hints of puzzle design and an interesting gear acquisition system? Demon Gaze. A title that will make you cry about how unfair life is? Stranger in Sword City or Touhou Labyrinth. How about a title with a bunch of interesting gimmicks without being super overdone, as well as interesting character design and fairly solid dungeons? Mary Skelter. But if you want something bog standard and what is essentially a test of luck, Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is what you’re looking for, I suppose. Honestly, I’d much sooner suggest Operation Abyss, as it uses the exact same system, it just has more plot, better explanations, and actual music.