Oct 24, 201110Hardcore dungeon crawlers form the backbone of my massive RPG collection, spanning 30 years of gaming and continuing a pedigree of pencil-and-paper RPGs that reaches back even further. From Dungeons of Daggorath on the TRS-80 to Demon's Souls on the PS3, dungeon crawlers traditionally focus on challenging combat, exploration of labyrinthian environments, and deep stat building. For most modern, mainstream gamers, these elements may feel tedious or boring, but for those of us who grew up in the wireframe halls of PC RPGs, it often serves as a cathartic and thought-provoking experience unlike any other. Hardcore dungeon crawling was born with games like Wizardry, The Bard's Tale, and Dungeon Master, but Western development has largely abandoned the subgenre for open-world action RPGs like Oblivion. Since the mid-90s, Japanese development has kept the genre alive with popular series like King's Field, eventually leading to more recent classics like Etrian Odyssey and The Dark Spire (both on DS, which has largely served as the champion console of modern dungeon crawling). Even Wizardry, which began life as a tongue-in-cheek parody of D&D-style role-playing, saw a dark transformation as it shifted to Japanese development, as most of its jokes and puns were lost in translation. Now, Wizardry is considered one of the most (if not THE most) hardcore RPG franchises in existence, spawning dozens of spin-offs and sequels in the last couple decades and currently being forged into an MMORPG of unparalleled, masochistic difficulty. Yet, unlike most franchises to endure the last 30 years of gaming through constant evolution and design changes, Wizardry has barely touched its original formula, leaving the game's party structure and tile-based exploration almost untouched while simply making updates to graphical presentation. Many of the Wizardry games have become collector's items worth $100-$200 each, both amongst their Japanese players and international importers. Aside from the recent release of Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls on PSN, the franchise has not been seen stateside since 2001, when we saw the PS2 release of Busin ~Wizardry Alternative~, which Atlus renamed in its English localization, under the title Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land. Despite being developer Racjin's first attempt at a Wizardry title, the game retained all of the franchise's best elements while adding some fresh 3D visuals into the mix. With an outstanding soundtrack and some of the best 2D character art the series had ever seen, Tale of the Forsaken Land became an instant classic for Wizardry fans. This is one of the few PS2 games that I revisit on a regular basis. Along with gems like Persona 3 and Shadow of the Colossus, Wizardry: TotFL remains a favorite even when compared to Seventh Gen juggernauts. But that being said, don't be misled into thinking that it compares to the graphical or gameplay styles of today's mainstream gaming. It is still a plodding, dismal adventure that focuses on stats and strategies, and it delivers its story through subtlety and text-based interaction, not the lengthy exposition and cinematic flair we've grown accustomed to in Final Fantasy or Dragon Age. The bottom line is, if you enjoy the mechanics of a classic dungeon crawler, have a great imagination to fill in the gaps as you would with a fantasy novel, and don't mind a seriously unapologetic challenge, Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land could be worth seeking for your retro-collection. It will no doubt evoke some nostalgia from those who played the genre in the 80s. Fortunately, the gaming industry has seen a resurgence of classic design, as evidenced by 3D Dot Game Heroes, Demon's Souls / Dark Souls, Elminage (Japan only), the Etrian Odyssey trilogy, and the upcoming Legend of Grimrock on iOS. Fighting game franchises like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are returning to their 2D roots, thus placing them back in direct competition with newer 2D powerhouses like BlazBlue and Persona 4: The Ultimate in Mayonaka Arena. PSN and Xbox Live Marketplace continue to drive the popularity of smaller independent titles, many of which fall back on tried-and-true retro styling. VanillaWare titles Odin Sphere, Muramasa, and the upcoming Dragon's Crown mix RPG elements with old-school arcade, side-scrolling beat 'em up action. This is the time to revisit your gaming roots, and for me, Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land remains atop the mile-high pinnacle of retro-RPG greatness.… Collapse
ViciousVoleMar 14, 20028I feel like I stepped back in time. I have been waiting for just this type of RPG for ages, and am very glad to see it. This game is an old fashioned dungeon crawl, that may not appeal to everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed the gradually unfolding storyline and the play mechanics.