Fans of Sir-Tech’s previous Wizardry games will have undoubtedly made up their mindsalready as to whether Wizardry: Nemesis succeeds or fails in continuing the legacy begun many years ago. Many of the elements in this game, their latest release, are logical progressions from their previous offerings. Among the improvements are better sound, a more complex and involved storyline, and, the most noticeable aspect, improved graphics blending detailed backdrops and rendered animations into a highly appealing whole.

Those who are unfamiliar with the previous Wizardry games lack the emotional attachment to the other Wizardry games and this is both a good and a bad thing. Wizardry: Nemesis is mechanically different compared to its predecessors and its method of storytelling is likewise very different. Those who like the older games may find the transition a difficult one, something newcomers don’t have to contend with. At the same time, newcomers may find it difficult to get involved in the game, preferring the more familiar games that have come out recently that are more easily categorized as roleplaying adventures, first-person action games or exploration and problem-solving interactive stories.

The Story

Wizardry: Nemesis has more in common with recently released interactive fiction than withmore traditional roleplaying adventures where the goals are usually confined tocharacter improvement and the collection riches and fame.

As you progress, you will find parts of a complex story that explains the background story and gives you the clues you need to successfully complete your quest. Initially, I was not strongly drawn to the background laid out in the game’s printed material. As I began to play, the written material became ancillary to the story unfolding on thescreen, combining with it in a fairly complex story.

If I was going to point to one thing in the game that particularly bothered me from an aesthetic standpoint, it would be the fact that I never felt like I was part of the world. Starting as a peasant nobody, you are abducted by a fearsome winged creature known as a Shadow. Saved by a wizard, you are set upon the quest to discover the reason behind your abduction and to rid the world of the evil that has arisen. The willing suspension of disbelief that’s necessary is not well-established at the beginning and you’re already casting spells and warring with the minions of darkness without even the hint of why you’re suddenly manifesting these miraculous powers and confronting evils capable of threatening the entire world. Sure you’ve got this strange amulet that’s of some significance and the first couple of people you run into suggest there’s some sort of aura about you that’s unusual and powerful. But that’s about it and that’s a flimsy hook to hang as weighty a tale as that told in Wizardry: Nemesis.

Game Play

As promised, it’s obvious a great deal of car and time went into the creation of the world you explore. I thought the people you encounter act like they have seizures when they’re talking to you. That’s an unfortunate result of overdoing the animation and gee-whiz factor, but not concentrating on the subtleties that make individuals come alive. Sir-Tech is to be commended, however, for their avoidance of clunky videos that seem to be the unfortunate trend these days. Even the use of video in games would not be so condemnable if the acting was even up to the standards of bad television drama. Fortunately, that’s not an issue here.

The backgrounds are nice to look at and I enjoyed searching for the signs of secret doors and hidden objects. It’s things like these that create the feel of a real world and immerse you in the environment. Take a look at things up close (or look at some of the screenshots out on the web) and you’ll see what I mean.

The sound has been expanded beyond previous games. Bane of the Cosmic Forge‘s distant rattles and incidental noises have been vastly expanded and improved so that things make noise and it’s dependent on location.

The one thing that may distract you from the story, the scenery and the wonderful environment are the mechanics of getting from point A to point B and defeating the obstacles in your path. Certain puzzles require certain items to get past, which can be frustrating. The most irritating factor are some of the ways the interface works. Movement is not in straight lines, but at right angles. A door in your field of view may require you to turn several times (or sidestep) to get lined up with it before you can advance forward and through it. While the multi-nodal approach allows you to explore more of your environment, the difficulties in maneuvering may find you grinding your teeth. This is exacerbated in combat because, once you have drawn your weapons or readied for combat, you can’t move. At all. You become rooted to the ground until combat is over or you put away your weapons.

The combat system also has some other problems that may cut into the enjoyment of the game. For one thing, it involves timing your attacks to swing at your opponent before they sidestep or launch an attack of their own. I didn’t have many problems, but it has the potential to make strategists and those used to turn-based combat (as in the older Wizardry titles) quickly become fed-up with trying to respond to the rapid flow of action. I did find it particularly stupid to get backed into a corner by a creature and to be unable to run around it and flee. There’s a couple of places where that became a problem, but more because of the previously mentioned way in which movement is structured.

One of the things that I regret about this game is the decision to make it a DOS-based game. It’s unusually difficult to run under Windows 95 and just didn’t seem that solid to begin with. Once you get rolling, regardless of your platform, it should be pretty much of a non-issue, but it made the game feel clumsy and antiquated.

In the end, Wizardry: Nemesis depends on whether you’re able to be drawn into it’srichly textured and detailed world. The elements are mostly there and it’s one of the better efforts to come out in the past couple of years. If you enjoy the curious hybrid of first-person action games and real-time combat combined with an interactive story, this is certainly the game for you. If not, I would recommend something else.