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SirTech Canada has been around a long time, and has blessed the gaming community with 2 of the best series to ever come to the PC, specifically Jagged Alliance and Wizardry. But they have reached what they consider to be their twilight hours as a game company, and announced that this game, Wizardry 8, will be their last unless circumstances change.
Wizardry 8 was a struggle to get on the shelves. In development for more than 2 years, SirTech went from publisher to publisher, eventually signing a direct distribution deal with Electronics Boutique in order to get the game on the shelves. Even with their company floundering, the efforts made to get this game to the consumer have been heroic, to say the least. At any time, they could have cancelled development in order to save money, but their love for this game prevailed over cost-cutting. But did they manage to create a stellar game while all of this was going on? Read on to find out.
Well, without a publisher, they pretty much did what they had to do about packaging. The usual box holds the usual suspects: A cardboard insert, 3 CDs in white envelopes, and a nice, thick manual. One problem I noticed after installing the game (There are 3 size options, for those who like to control their hard drive usage) was that the game needed a CD in the drive to play: specifically the "PlayCD." The problem was that no CD is actually LABELED "PlayCD." The CDs are simply numbered 1 thru 3. Not exactly a major problem, but it is disorienting, since CD #3 was the third one I tried at that prompt.
The patches on SirTech's website are simple ZIP files which are extracted into the game's directory. It's low budget, but effective, and no one can blame them for trying to save a little bit of money, right? Still, I would have preferred that they were self-extracting ZIPs that default to the default installation directory.
Well, no one is EVER going to play an RPG that doesn't have a good plot. Well, this one has what I consider to be a GREAT plot. It spans space and planets, and includes elements of both fantasy and science fiction, blending both together very well. The best RPGs make you feel like you're reading a good book, and this one certainly does as well. I'm not going to comment on too many details of the plot, since I don't want to give anything away, but its well worth the reading. The story is an epic one concerning good and evil, and an attempt to achieve Ascension. It picks up where Wizardry 7 leaves off, but Wizardry 8 can completely stand alone without having to play any of the previous games (though you may want to after starting 8).
The story is also told through cutscene movies. These aren't the usual live-actors or 3D rendered graphics either...all of this stuff looks like hand drawn illustrations. They're excellent hand-drawn illustrations, too, and a nice departure from the norm. They're not quite to the point of cartoonish, as you can see below; they're more like the technology originally used to create South Park (drawings on paper cut out and moved around with other paper drawings).
This is heavy
reading. VERY heavy reading, actually. But it's also interesting, and easy
to understand. There are reference tables for spells, classes, and races,
as well as step-by-step help on creating characters, combat, and
everything else in the game. Good thing, too, since there's no built-in
tutorial mode or section of the game. You start off in hostile territory,
and stay in it for awhile. As a matter of fact, my first party lost a man
in its first combat, about 30 seconds into the game...on EASY mode no
less! Take your time with the manual and keep it handy, especially when
creating your party, since it's an invaluable reference.
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