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superhobo avatar 9:24 AM on 02.18.2009  (server time)
My Week in Wizard 101: Day One

The other day, while listening to either Rebel FM or ListenUP (I forget which), the guys were talking about a lot of "free" MMORPGs which rely on microtransactions to survive. Having never played any of these games, and having tried but not liked Guild Wars, I decided I should jump in to one of these for a week and see how I got on.

As far as picking which of these games to play, there wasn't any real science involved: I simply liked the sound of the name of Wizard 101, and seeing as it was the first one I downloaded, it's the one I'll stick with. There is one important point to bear in mind when talking about this game and that is that it's heavily centred towards kids. The whole look of the game is cartoony, the censor all lude language and you will be repeatedly informed that if you are under, you will need your parents supervision. The whole image of the game can turn anyone over the age of 18 off, but behind all of that I discovered that there was actually solid and intriguing gameplay.

Anyway, after downloading and installing the game (an extremely quick operation, minutes only) it asks you to create a character for yourself. This takes the form of a questionnaire which basically asks what type of player you are, as in loner, team player, aggressive, helper etc. It then takes these answers and decides what type of Wizard you are within the world. This is followed by your standard character customization screen where you choose what colour hair, robes etc you have. Again all pretty painless.

Soon after, I was met by the Headmaster of the Wizarding School, a rather cartoonish version of Dumbledore crossed with Merlin who introduced me to the world, as well as his arch enemy, an evil wizard who was the old Professor of Death magic. Parallels to Voldemort and Snape abound. This is all fine and then you are plunged into the game world itself.

Can I just say that I was shocked by how good the graphics in this game were, for a free to play game, it looks as good as Warcraft at times. I suppose cartoony and colourful is easier to pull of than realistic, but still, it's impressive. The only problem I had with the presentation of the game was their insistence on the use of the Comic Sans MS font. I mean, come on people, in this day and age that's unacceptable no matter who or what your target demographic is.

One of the most interesting, and positive aspects of this game is the battle system. It's really good. Like, really good. As in, too good for a game made for kids. It's equal parts Final Fantasy (turn based, summon monsters) and Yu-Gi-Oh (decks of cards) and it's all the better for it. The monster/summon animations are great and the whole thing flows very well. Perhaps the most important thing introduced by this battle system is the fact that you can join these battles while they are in progress. It's hard to explain, in a world where one can easily join a battle in Warcraft, but it's not like that. Think of it more like joining a battle mid-way in FFVII. It's pretty cool, and most importantly seamless.

Anyway, that's enough to talk about for day one. More tomorrow. Oh, and just before I go, I think it's worth mentioning that I've been playing for over three hours and have yet to be confronted with needing to pay for something. Woot!

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