Wizardry fans know what they expect, and pomp and circumstance arenít included. Wizardry: The Summoning is an admirable attempt to bring major, down-to-earth electronic role-playing to the Game Boy Advance. Whereas Wizardry 8 advertised itself on the back of the box as "A new Wizardry for a new generation," this is a new Wizardry for an old generation.
Thereís one dungeon, familiarly called the Labyrinth, and one town, where a king has taken deathly ill. Adventurers fight, explore, and get lost in the dungeon - and they heal, deal, and keep it real with their party members in town. There are no lengthy story sequences and no heartfelt voiceovers about being the daughter of a famous summoner. This game is lean meat, but thatís whatís good for ya.
Wizardry: The Summoning starts with some party managing. The playerís character has to be created. There are no details about physical appearance, but the player must make a choice from five races, nine classes, and three "alignments," in addition to having some additional bonus points that can be added to attributes. As a rule, there is a right way and a wrong way to making these choices. If one wanted to be a Priest, for instance, then choosing to be an Evil Dwarf isnít the way to go about it. The five races are Human, Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit, and Gnome, each with easily predictable qualities (except perhaps Gnomes and Humans, who are Jacks of All Trades, Gnomes having a slight spell casting bias.) These races are of course unchangeable once chosen. The alignments are Good, Neutral and Evil, but they can change according to a playerís actions, and serve little purpose other than fulfilling class requirements. The classes themselves are: Fighter, Thief, Priest, Mage, Bishop, Samurai, Lord, Ninja, and (okay, Wizardry veterans, you can start paying attention now) Summoner. It is this last that brings innovation into the world of Wizardry. Monsters the party fights can be somehow captured and then used for attack purposes.
As always, the focus is on the dungeon-crawling gameplay, not the presentation. The game makes good use of the GBAís colour capacities, but there is no animation to speak of. The enemies do not move in battle, and the town folk are represented by static portraits. None of these hurt the game terribly, but the throwback goes a bit too far when it comes to the dungeon scrolling. Or rather, the lack thereof. As the player walks through the dungeon, he or she does not see the walls moving away from him or her, as in any modern first-person corridor. Instead, the dungeon is "tiled", just like ancient Might and Magic games. The player "jumps" from one tile to the next, giving no sense of continuity to walking. It can also make things very confusing; players who arenít used to the system will be surprised to learn how much they relied on inclining the screen to see whatís around corners. Oh yeah, and the dungeonís randomly generated too, for extra fun.
It should be interesting to see how well this game fares, as this will reveal how hardcore the GBA audience is. Those who canít stand leveling up will despise this game, although they probably wonít end up enduring it long. The experience curve is brutal at the start of the game, where a real effort has to be made by the player to just survive. If one likes leveling up, however, then there is a good amount of time to be spent and fun to be had with this game. The summoning aspect is an added bonus, giving players the chance to collect lots of monsters. There are about 300 in all, but not to worry. Two RPGamers can exchange their items and monsters with a link cable.
Wizardry: The Summoning comes out on the third of February.