I'll be honest. I'm not a huge Wizardry fan. The original was programmed at my alma mater Cornell, which merits it default cool points in my book. And I like Acquire, the developer behind Labyrinth of Lost Souls, very much.
Going into Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls, I had an open mind. I ended up very, very frustrated.
Labyrinth of Lost Souls was originally a PS3 title, and Acquire decided to bring it over to the iOS. "The title was at the right scope to be ported down," Acquire Creative Director Richie Casper told Kotaku, "and it also helps that our President is a big Apple fan to begin with."
In short, the game is a classic dungeon crawler and hardcore role-playing game. "Hardcore" has become shorthand for "hard". I don't mind difficult games that give me the necessary tools, but much of Labyrinth of Lost Souls felt like I had been shoved in the dark and given a flashlight, but that flashlight had no batteries, and I ended up spending much of my time repeatedly trying to switch the light on.
Granted, the game is on the long side. Acquire told Kotaku that it clocks in at around 20 to 30 hours, and longer for those who want to explore everything. The problem for me was that little things kept me from every wanting to do that. Little things that ending up being major things.
For one, the interface looks, sorry to be blunt, bad. Honestly, I don't need amazing graphics. Passable ones are fine, but basic things like readable font and instinctive menus can be implemented by pretty much any developer. There were moments when the text was difficult to read, because the colours of the words clashed with the background (blue on black — hello!). The boxes that I needed to select were small and fiddly, and the screen seemed cluttered.
Also, the menus sometimes did not make sense. They just didn't feel instinctive. I'd enter, say, a dungeon, and then getting out of said dungeon proved unnecessarily complex, with me pulling up menu after menu. Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm the one to blame. Maybe I'm not hardcore enough. But should a game make a player feel that?
I realise that Acquire brought the game over from the PS3 and that the developer didn't wand to "dumb down" the experience, but in doing so, they've created something that feels impenetrable to newcomers. There's no tutorial! You just... start. And you're given quests, and once I got into the combat, I liked it OK, but I found myself randomly tapping during it — as if to speed it up.
And sometimes while giving the game commands, I could feel it spinning and spinning, the wheels turning. No doubt, this is the result of Acquire stuffing a huge game into an iOS app. And honestly, good on them for trying.
There were a few bugs, such as the time I entered either the Inn or Item Shop (I forget), and the screen just went black, forcing me to restart. Stuff like that can, hopefully, be fixed with an update or too. Things like the basic interface, however, worried me more, and they actually stressed me out — just navigating it.
"Actually, we tried our best to make sure that we didn't have to drop any functionality despite the limitations of the platform," Casper said. "We wanted to offer the same experience to players on the iPhone that the PS3 players got."
And in the end, he continued, Acquire thinks it did just that, giving players the hardcore experience they wanted. I respect that. I wish Acquire was willing to bring newcomers along for the ride, too.
If you're into Wizardry or are eager to check out the game, there's a free version, as well as in-game purchases. More in the link below.
Wizardry Labyrinth of Lost Souls [iTunes]