Honestly, I would've picked VII, but he had already played it, and it wouldn't be the easiest RPG to get into anyway (If you hadn't imported data from the previous game, you're left to fend for yourself with a level one party in a world full of of monsters ready to tear your shit up). But Wizardry 8, as blasphemous as it may sound, it something I'd probably rather play then VII anyway.
Wizardry 8 is a direct continuation of VII-- depending on the ending you got in that, your game gets a different into, and you start in a different location on the world map. There's also a starting location if you're just starting a new game, which honestly is something 99% of people probably had to do, because I think it only lets you import data from the Windows version of Wiz VII, which wasn't all that common.
Wizardry 8 (and the rest of the Dark Savant trilogy) has fantastic character customization. Most of the classes and races have been heavily rebalanced in 8, and the game no longer has randomized stats, which reduces the frustrating re-rolls you'd have to make in VII. Another very welcome addition is the fact that the game allows any race to be pretty much any class. While some combinations are still pretty useless, Fairy Ninjas are always cool to play. Several classes have also been made worthwhile in 8, like Lords, Alchemists, most of the magic-melee hybrids.
The skill system is largely the same as VII, which is fantastic. In this system, every level gets you a small HP/Endurance/MP bonus, and a couple skill picks (And a magic pick if you're playing a magic user). These skill picks can be invested in either improving your combat effectiveness, or learning nifty miscellaneous skills like pickpocketing or trap disarming. These skills also level up naturally with use, and there is a point where you're no longer able to spend skill picks on them (I think that point is around 75 points out of the max of 100). It's great, because it allows your characters to be pretty flexible, though sometimes it's weird to just be walking along and suddenly half your party skills up in Mythology or something.
Another kinda cool part about character customization is the totally frivolous aspect of it. Each character gets a user-selected portrait, which fully animates on the game screen. You also select a voice for your character from a pretty decently sized voice bank, and your character instantly gets some (albeit ghetto) personality. The voice acting is actually somewhat helpful, because your characters will inform you verbally about something you may not have noticed, like secret items or if you're about to be ambushed. They also say snarky things when your teammates die.
Gameplay is pretty simple. Like most computer RPGs (or RPGs in general, I guess), you run around the map levelling and collecting crap. And beating up a fuckton of monsters. Combat in Wizardry 8 can be set to real time or the more traditional turn based. My experience with the real time combat wasn't exactly the most fun I've had, but I'm the kind of player who likes the plan out moves. It's also a little unwieldy to control up to 8 characters in real time.
Anyway, in combat (the turn-based combat), you give your characters a command to follow, whether it be whack a crab with your sword, cast a spell, or some other pretty conventional commands. You can also chose to give up your initiative and act last, but get a chance to move your party. This becomes very important, because as this game is full-3d instead of the old grid-based Dungeon Masteresque maps, many bastard monsters try to move around to your party and munch on your weak characters. It's no longer acceptable to just dump your spellcasters in the back row and have them near-invulnerable.
Wizardry 8, like the rest of the trilogy, is pretty long. I've never actually beat the whole thing without resorting to cheating, to be honest. The difficulty is frustratingly uneven for big chunks of the game-- you can be walking down a forest road totally raping everything in sight, until the game spawns a party of Pit Demons twice your party's level. Certain maps definitely seem more guilty of this then others, and the swamp that spawns shit that delevels your party permanently was a test of how many times I could quickload an RPG.
All in all, Wizardry 8 is a great game if you're ever nostalgic for old dungeon crawling RPGS, or if you like a game with a pretty robust set of character creation. It's definitely not perfect-- sometimes it can be a little frustrating to know what to do next, especially if you hadn't imported data from VII. Also, without a manual, some commands aren't the most intuitive. However, it's still one of my favorite RPGs of all time, it's totally worth picking up if you ever find a copy. However, actually scoring a decent copy is pretty rough-- I'm still playing a burned copy (My ex wouldn't let me keep his copy, the bastard) because I can't see myself spending 40 bucks on a disc only copy of a game.