In Wizard101, players become students of magic in the fictional world of Spiral. Built on RPG elements, Wizard101 offers a unique spin on combat by combining a collectible card game with a turn-based combat system.
|Publisher: KingsIsle Entertainment
Type: Card-based MMORPG
Release Date: September 2, 2008
Pros: +Unique combat system. +Large catalog of spells. +Kid-friendly.
Cons: -Major content locked behind pay-walls. -Known bugs. -Repetitive questing.
Wizard101 is an MMORPG that combines RPG elements and a collectible card game. Choose a school of magic, such as Death or Ice, to access a sphere of unique spells. Turn-based combat sees players draw cards from their deck of spells, selecting which to cast in a single turn. Spells are not limited to damage with the availability of a variety of status-effect spells that boost player's damage, reduce enemy defenses, and heal. Leveling unlocks new spells and new worlds. Twelve worlds split into several areas can be explored, but many are limited unless players purchase Crowns—the game's currency—or a membership. Wizard101 hosts a number of PvP tournaments and ladders as well as a number of hobbies such as training pets, fishing, crafting gear, and claiming your own castle.
Wizard101 Key Features:
- Unique Combat System – players draw cards in turn-based combat that determine what spells they can cast.
- Extensive Voice Acting – every NPC has a unique voice.
- Customize Your Abilities – choose spells from all seven schools of magic to develop your own playstyle.
- Extensive Hobbies – fish, craft, raise pets, and claim your own castle.
- Ranked PvP – fight against other players solo or compete as up to a group of four.
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Wizard101 Featured Video
By Sean Sullivan
I was skeptical of Wizards101—fearful it would be overwhelmingly childish— but at the insistence of a friend I installed the game. I became Quinn Wyrmwhisper. Oddly, you can’t pick your own name but must choose from predesignated names. There goes instilling fear into the hearts of millions as Mana Leak. After a quick questionnaire, the game suggested I become a member of the school of death. Algorithmic magic knows me well. After designing my character to look like a procurer, I entered the world of Spiral (tempted to say Spyro every time). Unexpectedly, I was pleasantly surprised by the kid-friendly world of Wizard101.
Now watch closely as I cast my first spell, “Skip Tutorial.” Normally I would, but I was informed that this game was unique. So I decided to pay attention and prepare to be astonished. Baby steps. Move with WASD. You can also hold left and right click to move forward. As you pan, your character moves first and the camera plays catch-up. I found it slightly annoying but not as annoying as my character's weak jump. He could leap barely an inch off the ground. He might be magical but he needs to work out his calves.
But movement is irrelevant to the focus of the game, combat. It’s a unique system that isn’t employed often enough. Squaring off against two Draconians and their stultified master Malistaire, I was ready to cast. Combat takes place on a Solomonic magic circle with eight available spaces—four for enemies and four for allies. You draw cards from a deck that indicate what spells you can use. On my first draw I received “Fire Cat” and “Troll.” I didn’t want to just win–I wanted to slobber all over my enemies as I claimed victory. I chose Troll.
The enemies summoned some amorphous blob and scorpion respectfully, dishing out 50 damage each. My health was waning. What kind of school is this place? A red snowglobe with your health sits in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen while a blue crystal ball indicates mana sat beside it. Spells aren’t limited to combat but offer a variety of status effects as well, for both you and your enemies. Of course, I had the Unicorn healing spell and quickly cast it to even the playing field.
Every spell has a unique animation that is both elegant and entertaining. One enemy summoned a phoenix; it hatched into a conflagration that consumed my character. I responded with droves of meteors raining down from some planar world, obliterating the robed reptiles. While entertaining, the intricate animation can become repetitive, especially when you’re forced to watch the same animation like an encore stuck in a loop. I only need to see a leprechaun sliding down a rainbow and chucking gold in my face so many times before I’m ready to check out. Nevertheless, they do give time to multitask, alt-tab, and work on something else. However, moves are timed and failure to choose a card will render your turn obsolete.
Once out of combat, you do not recover health and mana. Health and mana orbs can be found casually floating and quickly replenish you. Moving around and collecting them is fairly fluid. A few times I noticed some stuttering when using just my mouse to move, particularly when my character looked out my monitor towards me. It's a minor inconvenience that doesn't detract from the overall gameplay.
“Fight that, Collect this, I'm Going to Take a Nap.”
Picking up quests is obvious enough. Not trying to reinvent the wheel, quest-givers are marked with enticing exclamation marks above their heads. Run up to them and click or press “X” to open a dialogue with the NPC. Every NPC has unique voice-acting and it’s good. None of it sounds half-assed. They hired talented individuals that give depth to the characters. Of course as I played, I gradually stopped appreciating the effort and pressed “Okay” as soon as text popped on my screen. However, the younger demographic targeted by this game might appreciate the interactions more than myself.
Questing does become rather monotonous. Most objectives involve revisiting the same area multiple times to complete objectives. You can’t quest stack and complete them all at once. Then again, if that was the case you would clear areas in a matter of minutes rather than 30. At times, it teetered into the ridiculous. I accepted a quest to put three dark faeries out of their misery. Two quests later, I was yet again wiping faerie blood off my robe. If it’s not killing a specified mob, you’re collecting items to return to a quest-giver. I did appreciate the guidance system. When you pick up a quest, an arrow indicates what direction to head in and how many feet (meters?) away it is. It allowed me to go on automatic mode and contemplate whether I would grace the son with my presence today.
My Favorite Part
When you acquire gear, it pops up as an icon on the left-side of your screen, which you can then click to instantly equip. No need to open your inventory and drag-and-drop. Its simple, clean, and accessible, and perhaps my favorite feature. Too many games force you to sort through cumbersome inventories to find that new piece of gear the developers expect you to equip immediately. The kid-targeted development ought to be utilized in more MMORPGs. Wizard101 is perhaps the most family-friendly MMORPG available. Talking in chat you have to spell words correctly or they don’t appear. Spelling a word wrong causes it to appear as elipses, “...”—so not only is your kid talking PG but he’s learning to spell out due to frustration.
Beating Up Wizards
I sent my death wizard to Unicorn Way to clear up some ghost shenanigans (partying too hard again). Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a Unicorn wielding a rapier. It was the famous, or infamous, duelmaster Diego Santiago Quariquez and I was itching for a fight. Unfortunately, the unicorn wasn't up for a match, but I did learn how to challenge other players.
In my first PvP, duel my opponent glitched or became invisible. His model didn’t render and I couldn’t target him with any of my spells. It was disappointing. I waited 5 minutes after resigning, only to be paired with Monica Rainbowdreamer—a suitable name for her destructive method, using leprechauns to throw gold at my face until it fell off. Her staff flowed with a fiery rage and I knew I was in trouble after her first attack took care of ⅕ of my health, and mine barely affected her's.
Magic Costs Money
I learned that she was using a Resplendent Staff, an item purchased using the in-game currency. That was when the full extent of paying for game features in Wizard101 became apparent to me. Not only are items, mounts, and card packs available for money but many areas of the game are locked off until players beg their parents for a credit card to buy the game's cash currency, “Crowns,” or membership. PvP tournaments and areas of worlds are locked off until you choose to pay. To compete in ranked PVP, you need to pay 80 crowns or you're stuck testing your might in practice PvP.
So it's not a true free-to-play game. Money has to be injected to experience Wizard101 completely. Without paying for the locked content, the game functions more like a demo. Not that it's a bad thing. I wish Early Access games would follow suit—offering a small taste to entice buyers into purchasing the product rather than taking money and possibly disappearing. But, it could be a little more upfront, considering every advertisement proclaims that Wizard101 is free-to-play.
Final Verdict - Good
Wizard101 is a bit dated. It was released in 2008, but the child-friendly presentation masks the dated graphics, adding a level of charm to a quirky universe. The battle system is entertaining and is my favorite part. It's a mix of Pokemon action animations and Hearthstone. With a wide variety of spells to cast, battles don't become overly monotonous. However, players are lured into the game not knowing some areas are locked behind a paywall. It's a bit misleading when the website state, "In this free-to-play online game." While that is true, it's a half-truth as much of the games content can only be accessed with money. Their business strategy is capitalizing on kids begging their parents and it seems to work considering the release of Pirate101. Overall, a good game that future iterations of turn-based RPGs ought to learn from.
Operating System: Windows operating system currently supported by Microsoft Vista Service Pack 2 or higher
CPU: 1GHz Intel Processor
RAM: 512 Megabytes
Video Card: GeForce 2 or equivalent
Hard Disk Space: 5 Gigabytes
Wizard101 is Mac OS X compatible
Wizard101 Additional Information
Developer(s): KingIsle Entertainment
Publisher(s): KingIsle Entertainment, ,
Director(s): J. Todd Coleman
Game Engine: Gamebryo
Open Beta Date: August 6, 2008
North American Release Date: September 2, 2008
European Release Date: March 3, 2009
Asia Release Date: March 3, 2009
Launch Date: September 2, 2008
Development History / Background:
Wizard101 was developed by Texas-based video game developer KingIsle Entertainment and launched on September 2, 2008 in North America. Development began in 2005 directed by game designer J. Todd Coleman (who announced the Kickstart-funded MMORPG Crowfall in January 2015). Since the game's launch it has seen increasing numbers of players each year; starting in August 2009 Wizard101 had 2 million players and as of Novemeber 2014 it has boasted 50 million players. On October 15, 2012, KingsIsle Entertainment released Pirate101, a pirate-based MMORPG taking place in the same universe of Wizard101 and won Player's Choice Award for Game of the Year for MMORPG's the same year. The development company is focused on producing kid-friendly games and has been awarded by the National Parenting Publication for its efforts.