Tobold's Blog
Monday, September 01, 2008
Wizard101 Review

In KingsIsle's Wizard101 you play Harry Potter a young wizard student in the magical school of Hogwarts Ravenwood. Under the guidance of headmaster Dumbledore Merle Ambrose you help to defend the school against the evil plans of the dark wizard Voldemort Malistaire Drake. As you can see from the lore, the game is targeted at children, and has all the child-proof features you could wish for. And the graphics are suitable for children too, even the undead look cute! So why would I be talking about a game for children? Because the combat system is more intelligent than that of World of Warcraft or any similar game.

Combat in Wizard101 is based on trading cards. You put together a deck, of which you draw a random hand of 7 at the start of combat, and redraw new cards for every card you played. Cards have a cost from 0 to 4 "pips", and you gain one pip every round. So if you want to play higher cost cards, you need to either pass or play only 0 cost cards for some rounds to accumulate pips. Every card you play results in some animation, usually summoning something that attacks the enemy. The downside of that is that you can't turn off or speed up those animations, so every combat lasts even longer than in WAR.

Cards come in 7 different magic schools, fire, ice, myth, storms, life, death, and balance. You choose one of these schools at the start, but you also get "training points" during your career, which allow you to buy spells from other schools. But as you can only buy the higher level spells of other schools if you already have all the lower level spells of that same school, it is usually best to put all training points into the same secondary school. You have infinite copies of the spells you learned. In addition to that you can put golden "treasure" spell cards into your sideboard, which you can access by discarding cards in combat and pressing the draw button. These treasure cards are one use only, and you can get them as loot, or quest reward, or buy them for gold.

Besides cards you also collect gear, which has bonuses to your health and mana, or to the spell damage of some school, or to spell resistances. Some items even give you access to new spells. Health and mana does not regenerate after combat. You need to find red and blue wisps to recharge them, or teleport back to the city where you can play various puzzle games at the fairgrounds to replenish.

Gameplay is typical for an easy MMO: You get quests telling you to kill some monsters or to talk to somebody. Doing the quests and killing monsters gives you xp, which make your level go up, which gives you more health and mana, as well as access to more spells. The zones in Wizard City are streets, where (how educational) you are safe if you stick to the sidewalk, but can be attacked on the road. If you run into a monster, a magical circle opens up with you and that monster, where you exchange attacks until one of you dies. Other players can join that circle, but then other monsters can add to the combat too, so that up to 4 players can fight up to 4 monsters at the same time. Big advantage: If you fight in a group all the kills count for everyone, so if you have to kill X mobs it is often faster to join other player's fights than soloing everything. But you can't form fixed groups, and there aren't any guilds in the game either. You do have a friends list, and you can teleport to where your friends are. The quest line is rather linear, if you play Wizards101 a second time, you'll play exactly the same quests again, only with presumably different spells.

Wizard101 is in the last phase of the beta, the headstart phase in which characters won't be deleted any more for release. Once the game is released, you can still try it for free. Half of the first world, Wizard City, is accessible without paying, which means you can level up to about level 12 and decide whether you like the game. If you want to go on, there is a monthly subscription fee of $9.95. At some point in the future KingsIsle also wants to introduce a RMT system, where you can pay real dollars for a second virtual currency called crowns. Crowns can be exchanged against gold, or you can buy extra good gear with crowns, if you want to advance faster.

Wizard101 is a good game. It is remarkably stable and bug-free. It isn't as big as WoW or WAR, and more linear. But if you can overlook the child-suitable graphics and like more tactical combat than classic MMORPGs can offer, Wizard101 might be the game for you. And as you can try it for free, I can only suggest checking it out. Recommended!
Looks fun, I'll give it a try, and my son might like this too.
I second Tobold's recommendation. I've been playing the beta, and the game is surprisingly fun. It's not particularly deep (all there is to do is fight monsters), but the card game is a refreshing change from traditional WoW-style combat.
We have been playing the beta for months with our child. He has really enjoyed it. The rules are easy enough that we don't have to spend tons of time explaining intricacies to him, and the child protections built in seem to be working really well.

Since three of us play together, the biggest thing we had to work around was the lack of a grouping feature. We have to talk a lot to keep everyone moving in the same direction, but the "go to friend" teleportation feature helps a lot when one of us gets separated.

We limit playtime to 30-45 minutes per day, done as a family activity. Even with such relatively short daily time investments (as compared to the multiple hours often spent in adult MMOs), it is easily possible to advance your character and feel as if you accomplished something during your playtime.

All in all, I'm not sure if I'd let my child play completely alone, but as I said we have had quite a bit of fun playing together as a family.
Wizard101 may be for "kids", but I dropped LOTRO for it. It's a very fun and casual game. And the card game combat is pretty darn awesome. :D
Might be fun as a kids game... but card games, no thanks!
Interesting, a card-based combat system that is NOT being charged under the CCG pricing model. Still, I have a fair degree of distrust for any model that goes hybrid between subscription and microtransactions. Especially in a game that markets to kids. Seems like it'll be a big headache to tell little Timmy that no, he can't have $100 a month on top of his subscription fee to finance all his various in-game needs.
I have an awful feeling they got their marketing very wrong on this one.

I signed up for the Beta of this thinking it might interest my nine year old daughter, a veteran of Club Penguin and Buildabearville.

It held her attention for all of ten minutes. She has no interest in the combat or levelling side of the game and it didn't seem to offer the fun dress up stuff that the other games have.

I stuck with the game a bit longer than she did and I have to admit it seems extremely polished. I just amn't sure it will appeal to its target audience of kids.
Are the aesthetics and other features appealing enough to satisfy someone who might otherwise enjoy the mechanics of a game like Magic Online? I played Magic briefly but didn't have the sort of social network that Magic Online could in principle provide to really get into the game. I doubt the card mechanics in Wizard are as deep but can anyone who has played both give some insight?
Aesthetically Wizard101 beats Magic the Gathering Online 3.0 by several lengths. But in depth Magic wins by far. Wizard101 has less than 100 different cards, Magic has thousands, with for more complex interactions.
Actually there are now a couple hundred cards in the game (check the Library for a huge amount). A Dev posted that early in Alpha, they hit the "101" ceiling (as in Wizard 101) and decided to do away with the 101 card limit.
My daughter (12), my mom (59), and I (38) have been playing all Summer. The fact that this game can hold the interest of all three of us is testament to how fun it is.

It was the perfect "next step" for my daughter who has become a little too old for club penguine and webkinz. It was the perfect introduction to MMO's for my mom who has always enjoyed pogo minigames, but never played a persistent world online game before. Finally, it was a perfect diversion from "serious" MMO's for me, and I've enjoyed playing this in stead of Eve Online because it's so much the opposite.

If they add a bunch more cards and I'm sure they they will, the game will only get better. The question of whether this game will sink or swim financially really depends on how quickly they can expand the game. They need more dress-up options, and more cards obviously. They have already stated that player housing is coming in a future update, as well as some kind of crafting. The mini-games seem too rudimentary right now, but those would be easy to improve if they want to, and I'm guessing that's in the works too.

I give this game a big double thumbs up, because they seem to have done a great job of producing EXACTLY the type of game they intended. They just need to expand on what they already have, and flesh out the content a little at a time. Since the game is stable and polished to a triple A standard at launch, they should have little trouble going on from here.
Don't bother... the game is a great idea that fills a great niche... unfortunatly they have decided to charge $10 a month for a game that can be played a couple hours a day for 3 days a week and be finished in 2 months max. Add to that the item mall where you are asked to pay $25 to get enough in game "crowns" to purchase special equipment... it is a family game that would cost $30 a month for a family to enjoy.
Beta Testers almost across the board have refused to continue their subscriptions, and 24 hours in, the servers were almost empty.
It is sad... but understandable. KingsIsle doesn't have anything else... Wizard101 is it.. and after so much development it is time to pay all the bills that have stacked up. Unfortuantly, they are placing themselves on the same pay rate as established games like WoW, Toon Town, Warhammer. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they feel the burn and drop their price.
Finished the game in one month, completely. The game is totally not worth it and if you spend a lot of time online you will eventually be banned for a few days every month, I suspect to off set band width and server costs. I'm sure its only a matter of time before a certain author decides to sue them anyway.
thats not true, it starts to slow like crud on my computer. i hate that part, and whats ur charachter
This is an extremely polished game compared to others. It concentrates on doing a few things well rather than trying to do a little of everything. Well worth trying out. There's no time limit on the trial, but you won't be able to access certain areas and quests without the subscription. You have plenty of time to think about it though and play around in the areas you can access.

The combat system is new, different, and brilliant. I'd love to see an adult oriented game like this that uses this combat model.

It is not that deep a game. Quests are repetitive and linear. But there is a lot of content and the next card you're going to get keeps you playing just to add it to your deck and try it out.

An excellent game for kids. Reading is required. There is animated violence and some "spooky" aspects. The max chat filter keeps them from really talking much if you have it turned on. There is a better chat option but still filters any type of language that may be offensive.
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