Nemesis: The Wizardry Adventure
For many people, the name Wizardry summons up images of green Apple II monitors and classic gaming. It is arguably the granddaddy of the computer role-playing game (RPG) and the entire Wizardry series continues to have its own following. Over time, the game has taken many turns and advanced in terms of both gameplay and interface. However, for the last few years, little has been heard from Sirtech, makers of the famed series. What have they been up to?
In a word, Nemesis. No, not Zork: Nemesis, Wizardry: Nemesis. Not only does this game cast a new light on the computer RPG, it does so as an adventure game. To the uninitiated newbie, there might not be much of a difference between the two, but to the dedicated fan, the two are entirely separate. How does it make the transition? Rather well, I must say.
If you install Wizardry: Nemesis under Windows 95, you'll notice that it asks you to reboot to play. Why? Since this game has been under development for three years now, it was started before Win 95 was out and runs best on its own. However, the time spent in the development shows in the many details. The graphics are crisp and in high resolution, the sounds are absorbing, and the story line has the kind of immersive quality that I have not felt since the old RPG classic, The Bard's Tale.
In this game, you do not play the role of a famous hero or a powerful sorcerer. In fact, as the game begins, you are a simple peasant accosted by an evil force while on the road. Just as you are about to be overtaken by this powerful shade, a wizard comes to your aid, saving your life and taking you into his custody. He takes you into his tutelage as a student of the arcane arts, and then sends you out to discover your potential and uncover the mystery. It seems that an ancient evil has come back to life, and is trying to escape from its bonds. Even while held, its power can be seen in the evil spirits, haunted crypts, and desolate towns that dot the area. Your potential has been foreseen by your ancestors, and they have prepared for such a time that the power of Nithera would once again threaten mankind. Your only hope -- the Nitherin talismans, which have the power to unleash this horror. But can they overcome it?
The interface is both standard and original. You view the world from a first-person perspective, and like most adventure games (especially since this one is computer pre-rendered), it is not free-moving. In other words, the movement is more like the original Wizardry series than Zork: Nemesis (no, as far as I know, the two titles are not related). The actual "look-grab-use" mouse interface will be familiar to most, but there are a few items that have been added. At the top of the screen, there are eight disks. Each one represents a certain kind of elemental magic, and each magic has both a defensive and an offensive spell, depending on whether you cast it on yourself or someone else. At the bottom of your screen, there is a display of your armor class, health, mana, and items, both held and worn. In addition, there is an equipment screen that lets you equip your character, showing the character in detail. (One of my favorite things about this game is that if your character wears studded leather and carries a two-handed sword, with his long hair and sharp features, he looks exactly like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Try it and see!)
As you continue your quest to solve the mystery and defeat this evil, you find yourself traveling through swamps, castles, crypts, dungeons, forests, and (of course) caverns in your search for both magical power and the source of the darkness. All of these are beautifully detailed, and all monsters are rendered in excellent quality. In addition, since it is also a RPG, character progression is more realistic than in many other games. As you make each level, you do not find yourself growing to incredible levels of destructive power. Instead, you find yourself growing in wisdom, skill, speed, and strengths, at (sometimes frustratingly) realistic pace. I found that even towards the end, many of the monsters I had faced in the beginning were still rather challenging. I hope that this is an element that will be integrated into similar games in the future, depicting the progress of a mortal from apprentice to adept, not Conan the Barbarian. In keeping with this, your skills increase with use, so if you always employ physical weapons and brute force, you will find your strength growing over time, while if you use magic as often as possible, your magical level and manna will increase accordingly. There are many other "good idea" features incorporated into the game, and the thought that went into the game is evident in this factor.
Being an adventure game, there are significant amounts of tricks, traps, and puzzles involved, and the entire game takes 5 CDs. Fortunately, you only need to swap CDs when moving from one entire area of the game to another, so there is not much of a hassle involved. Full-motion video is integrated well into beautiful dynamic backgrounds to good effect. As you trudge through the sewers, water drips and oozes as expected, and monsters do not simply appear standing on the water. In water, creatures act as you would expect -- they either hang from the ceiling (snakes), or wade in the water just like you. Secret passageways are all evident in some way, although hidden. Some will be cracked or discolored, while others will be pointed out by another feature in the room. Overall, the graphics and sounds combine to draw you into the game, and add an element missing from most RPGs -- detail.
There are many optional items and tasks, and the plot is nonlinear. Although there are times when a certain object is needed for a certain task, for the most part, you often have several choices as to where to go next. There is an auto map feature that keeps track of where you have been, and you can use different colors and text to mark areas, hints, monsters, puzzles, or whatever you wish. In addition, your character keeps his own logbook of the journey, and will often notice small subtleties or make connections that you may miss. This helps you understand who someone is when you first see them, as well as providing background and subtle hints. Finally, a "Tour Guide" manual is provided, which includes a walk-through for the first couple of areas and encounters, as well as ample hints for later quests and puzzles. I found that most of the latter were challenging, and the format of the hint book, which slowly takes you from subtle hints to blatant cheating, allows the user to get exactly the amount of help that he or she needs. There has certainly been a lot of thought put into the user experience, and I hope that many of these features continue in future products.
Required: 486/66, 8 MB RAM, 2X CD-ROM drive, DOS 5.0 or higher, mouse, VESA 1.2 compatible video card, sound card for music, sound effects, and speech
Recommended: Pentium, 16 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive
In playing Wizardry: Nemesis, I felt that there was only one problem: it is good as an RPG and as an adventure game, but is not stunning as either. In addition, the adventure-game element takes away from the replay potential. Once you have finished it, you may play it for nostalgia or because of the beautiful graphics, but you already know the story and have seen the bells and whistles. However, it fully meets its advertised title of "The only adventure worthy of the Wizardry name." It is a fun game, and does a good job of integrating two interesting genres. As time goes on and hardware improves, I hope that more RPGs will provide the detail and depth of adventure games, and adventure games will allow the length of gameplay, character advancement, and action of an RPG. This game does an excellent job of doing so, and I hope that the next title in the series can have even more of the strengths of both game styles. Few games possess the quality, vision, and risk-taking necessary to create a new game style, but this game does well trying, and could succeed at doing just that. If you enjoy both RPGs and adventure games, this game is worth checking out.
Download Nemesis: The Wizardry Adventure
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP