Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls has eight potential main characters, each with their own reasons to become an adventurer and enter the labyrinth. Some, like the human woman Odette and the elf woman Lind, want money. Others, like the gnome Dia, want to research. Then there are the somewhat strange stories, like the elf Verne that wants to learn more about plants. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. The goal is to explore as much of the Dungeon of Trials and Shiin Dungeon as possible without dying.
That’s right, there are only two dungeons in Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls. Don’t let that deter you though. These dungeons are difficult. I’ve spent 30 hours on the game (helpfully reminded by a trophy given for playing for that long) and I’ve only completely mapped through B4F of the Dungeon of Trials and part of B4F of Shiin Dungeon. That’s only around 30% of both dungeons. Trust me when I say that you will only need two dungeons. They’re both quite challenging and large. Plus, if you need more content, you can buy access to lower depths of the Dungeon of Trials with some DLC from the PlayStation Store. You should be fine with what’s there though, especially since you’ll be spending a lot of time level grinding.
So first, you jump in by picking one of the eight characters and starting their story. Each time you play Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls, you can go through any character’s scenario. The save file you create covers all of them. So if you want to try the male dwarf’s scenario, then switch to the human male’s after an hour or two, go for it. Just save, then go back to the title screen. The next time you load up, the character select screen will show all of the main characters’ stats and locations.
This is fantastic because the main characters can get up to 40 bonus points to allocate to their stats. It’s random, so I recommend selecting, unselecting and then reselecting characters until you see the number 40 next to the bonus. Don’t get too carried away though! I passed up a 40 bonus twice for the human male Chris because I was a tad overzealous. Anyways, with that kind of potential you can start with one of the advanced classes like a ninja or lord.
This is important, because depending on the main characters’ tendencies, they can join the parties of other main characters when you aren’t playing their scenario. In my case, I started with the female gnome Dia’s scenario and then was able to add a Samurai male elf Verne and Lord elf woman Lind to my party. This meant I’d get more advanced class characters in Dia’s party. It also meant I could get the other characters started off right by leveling them up as party members and giving them equipment found in the dungeon. Of course, if you want to play that other character’s scenario, you have to boot them from the party they’re currently in first.
So, once you’ve started the game and put together a party of six characters (three in front, three in back), you’re ready to hit the town and start exploring. There’s an Inn, where you can rest to recover MP or HP and collect DLC purchased from the PlayStation Store, an item shop where you can buy, sell, appraise and uncurse items, a temple where you can try and resurrect dead characters or pay a tithe to level up, a Guild where you can take on quests, adjust the party and trade items and a Palace where there’s royalty to talk to. It’s all fairly standard stuff, and you’ll likely spend an equal amount of time in all areas, except the palace, preparing for each journey into the labyrinths. For the most part, you’ll spend sojourns here having mages sleep in the stables for free to restore MP, selling items you don’t need, appraising items if you don’t have a bishop and resurrecting party members if you don’t have a priest or bishop. Sure, you’ll occasionally check for quests or item trades, but after a while you build up a routine that involves only the most basic stops.
From there, it’s into the dungeon. Like all Wizardry games, Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is a first person dungeon crawler. You wander around the paths, trying to find the stairs or elevator to the next floor. If you remembered to buy a map at the item shop for the levels you’re on, or have a mage with the right spell, pressing the square button will bring up the map to see where you are and where you’ve been. The map is automatically generated, and shows where switches, doors, elevators, warp points and traps are. If you’ve played Etrian Odyssey or Class of Heroes, you’ll know exactly what you’re doing. Though you may start to yearn for the Etrian Odyssey method of mapping, where it’s conveniently on the lower screen and you can add your own helpful notes.
The dungeons are a tad sadistic too. B3F of Shiin and it’s unexpected warp points resulted in the permadeath of a character I’d spent quite a bit of time leveling and building up, thank you very much. Plus there are random lightning traps just scattered on some floors. After walking on one unexpectedly, the next tile after it had a "sign" that asked something along the lines of, "Did it hurt?" Lovely. Not to mention the areas in some dungeon that are magic-free zone. You’ll usually realize this once you walk into a battle with some uber-beast, then realize your competent mages and bishops won’t be able to save the day. (Am I still bitter about losing that Samurai who had a Claymore equipped? Of course not!)
When battles pop up, you’re treated to incredibly detailed monster art. They’re static, but gorgeous. This is especially true if you have an HDTV. They’re arranged in rows, up to three. When your party attacks, melee attacks will only hit the enemy group in front. Only magic and ranged weapons can hit the other rows. Also, only the three characters in your party’s front line will be able to use melee attacks. The back have to use spells or ranged weapons if they want to hit. If one of your characters has a class specific ability, like the priest’s exorcise that can knock out all undead characters in a row in one hit, they can use it from any position. So, you have to think strategically when fighting.
Strategy is also a big factor in party building and arranging. You want heavy melee damage dealers and tanks in front, keeping the more fragile thieves, priests and glass cannon mages and bishops in back. The first person in the back row should also be pretty substantial, as the first person in the front row to die will result in that character being moved to the front.
You also need to think ahead when picking character classes. Advanced classes (Bishop, Samurai, Lord, Ninja) almost always trump the introductory classes (Fighter, Mage, Priest, Thief). There are a few exceptions to this rule though. Priests are exceptionally handy on dungeon floors rife with undead enemies, since their unique exorcise skill can wipe out a whole line of enemies instantly. Thieves are also the only class pretty much guaranteed to always be able to determine a treasure chests’ trap and successfully remove it or open a locked door. Personally, my main party consists of two Lords, one Samurai, two Bishops and a Priest. Sure, it means there’s a good chance treasure chests won’t get disarmed, but I have enough support magic to cover any unfortunate accidents. You can change character classes at any time at the Guild, but you shouldn’t change all characters at once since their levels reset once they start as a new class.
Aside from going into the dungeons just because they’re there and you want those sweet trophies for mapping as much of it as possible, you head there to complete quests. Most of the quests you can take in the dungeon involve gathering items dropped by monsters you’ll face. Sounds simple and ordinary, but the drop rates in Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls are atrocious. I get that Acquire wanted to encourage level grinding, but it took me three days to get the five Grim Circlets from undead creatures to complete a level 3 task. Not to mention the game says said circlets can only be found on undead goblins in the Dungeon of Trials. It’s wrong. Its much easier to farm the undead creatures in B3F of Shiin Dungeon for them. It took me two days to get the five dirty daggers from kobolds for the first task, and I shudder to think how long it will take to get 10 reagants from Grave Mists. It’s been two days and I’m at five now.
Also, Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls has permadeath, but conveniently forgets to mention that anywhere. This is how I lost the first Grim Circlet I collected, as I accidentally equipped it on the stock Samurai character Ayane while exploring B3F of Shiin for the first time, not realizing it was cursed and would gradually kill her. Of course, that was a comedy of errors as I didn’t realize my mage and bishop both knew Emergency Exit and, by the time I discovered that tidbit, escaped and got to the Temple to revive her, she was turned to ash and then completely gone. And, since I didn’t know about the permadeath thing, I didn’t bother to remove her equipment or take her items before she died. I’ve since discovered that after level 10, characters are much more likely to turn to ash after the first resuscitation attempt. Whether or not they can be saved after that depends on how quick you get them to the Temple.
There’s another noticeable quirk you’ll notice early on. When you’re playing Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls, you may as well pretend your analog sticks aren’t there. They are useless in the game. You have to use the D-pad to move and make selections. I get that it’s probably more nostalgic that way, but the option to use either would have been nice. I guess the left analog stick isn’t totally useless, as you can make it change whether you see your party portraits at all time or not when dungeon crawling by pressing it. The in-game instruction manual also says you’re supposed to be able to trigger some kind of auto battle by pressing the left analog stick and the X button at the same time, but I never figured out how to get it to work.
Though it does have some minor quirks, I can honestly say Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls is pretty awesome. It’s difficult, but not so punishing that you’ll feel the urge to throw your controller at something. It’s also got just enough content to keep you busy for at least 30 hours, and that’s if you decide you only want to play one storyline. If you feel like mastering the game and completing each of the eight character’s quests, you’ll probably be set for a couple months.
Food for Thought:
- The character portraits blink at you. Creepy? Just a little.
- There’s some Japanese voice acting, though it’s mainly reserved for gasps of shock/pain/anger.
- Ramming the party into walls so you can hear those gasps of pain and see the character portraits react can be amusing.
- Always carry a map and try to have one Bishop character. You’ll have an instant magic powerhouse on your side and save appraisal fees.
- I’d recommend saving your characters’ gold for tithing, to level up new characters. Even though the drop rate is horrible, it’s easier and cheaper to just get new equipment from battling monsters. Plus, the Inn is so expensive that it’s easier to just have a priest or bishop in the party to do your healing, then rest in the stable for 0 gold to recover MP.
- Occasionally, you’ll come across monsters in the dungeon that won’t attack immediately. Your actions when this happens can determine a character’s alignment. Constantly attacking without provocation will eventually make your characters evil, while continually choosing to just leave will make them good.