When D.W. Bradley, the architect behind Wizardry 5-7, left Sir-tech and formed his own company, Heuristic Park, the first thing he released was Wizards & Warriors, his preemptive response to the upcoming Wizardry 8.
Both games are very similar in many ways – strong, traditional class-based character building, an open world full of dungeons to explore, quests to perform, characters to interact with and phase-based combat. The differences are in the details, but those details are what make these games.
The game’s dungeons are excellent, some of the best ever and far better than any in Wizardry 8. There are so many memorable and cleverly designed areas, some favorites being the Serpent Temple, Shurugeon Castle and the Boogre Lair (I’ve always been a fan of prison breakouts). The combat, a mix of turn-based and real time, is a fantastic answer to Wizardry 8‘s unbearably cumbersome, fully turn-based phase system. For everyone who’s ever gotten frustrated with Wizardry‘s painfully slow battles, Wizards & Warriors will be a revelation.
The most frustrating quality of Wizards & Warriors, beyond its difficulty in getting it to run on modern computers, is its world structure. The game presents large, non-linear areas that the player is free to explore as they want – until you end up where the game doesn’t want you yet. Wizards & Warriors gates off huge areas until you’ve progressed far enough in the story to enter them, similar to how the Grand Theft Auto games play, a big step-back from Wizardry VII’s open world.
Wizards & Warriors is an enjoyable and interesting alternative to Wizardry 8 for those who have worn it out. With significantly better combat and level design, a satisfying class and character customization system (earn advanced classes by performing quests – why don’t more games do this?) and a compelling, sometimes whimsical world with charming characters, it’s at least as good as its nearest neighbor.
Don’t overlook Wizards & Warriors just because big brother Wizardry 8 gets all the attention – you may be surprised at how frequently Wizardry gets shown up! eric__s