Review: Wizardry – Labyrinth of Lost Souls

Frequent readers of my site know that when it comes to reviewing games, I have a method to my madness. The overall goal of this site has always been twofold; to share the nostalgia that I feel for the games of my youth while also tackling my enormous backlog. More often than not, I play and review games chronologically. I believe this is a great way to see how the industry has evolved over time. Sometimes, however, I feel compelled to break this rule. Recently, I made a post about the newly remastered version of Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. As I mentioned in that post, the Wizardry series is one of my all-time favorite RPG franchises. Playing that new Wizardry release really put me back into the dungeon crawling mood. So, I decided to switch things up and play through one of the more modern games in the series now, instead of waiting for it come up naturally. The game in question is Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls.

This entry in the Wizardry series is not exactly new. It was originally released in 2009 for the PS3 in Japan. It was later published in the west in 2011 as a PSN exclusive. The original release had several additional DLC chapters that could be purchased separately. This downloadable content came in the form of additional levels and an entirely new maze to explore. The PSN version also included an option to purchase “growth fruit”, a consumable DLC item that would boost stats during character creation… (lame). My first experience with the game was during that original western release. But, in 2020 a new version was made available on the PC. This PC release included the base game and all of the optional DLC. For this review I played the PC release. I suppose I should mention that a direct sequel to this game, Wizardry: Prisoners of the Lost City, was released in Japan. But, as of this writing, it has not been released in the west.

Up to this point, a number of Japanese-exclusive games bearing the “Wizardry” branding had been released. These games started out strictly following to the formula laid out by the original western series. But as time went on, new games in the series slowly started to deviate from what made Wizardry popular in the first place. Labyrinth of Lost Souls starts an entirely new chapter in the Wizardry series. In Japan, it is part of what is known as the “Wizardry Renaissance” – a push to bring the Wizardry series back to its roots. Here, we see a number of things reminiscent to the first five titles in the original Wizardry series. For starters, the game is played in a grid-based dungeon with a six-person party. I’m not going to go into great detail and outline everything about this game that lines up with the classic titles, because for the most part, it’s all there. What I will do instead, is mention the differences. The first difference old-school Wizardry fans are likely to notice is the art direction. Labyrinth of Lost Souls has a heavy anime influence. All of the character portraits are drawn in an anime style and the voice acting is completely in Japanese. Second, The games offers a number of pre-created characters, each with their own backstory.

When starting this game for the first time, you are presented with a roster of available characters. You must pick one of these characters to start your party with. There’s a male and female option for every playable race in the game. All of the classic Wizardry races are present with one exception, the Hobbit. Due to trademark issues from the Tolkien estate, the term “Hobbit” is considered an intellectual property. So in this game, Hobbits have been replace with a new species; the Porkul. (In reality, Porkuls are essentially that same thing as Hobbits, the name change is just a technicality.). After selecting a main character, the game begins and you are introduced to that character’s story. In my opinion, having a backstory for each character is a nice touch. These backstories are very basic. They essentially just give the character a reason for visiting the the kingdom where the game itself takes place. But, there is also a character specific quest to appears during the course of the game (more on this later). The first thing that most players are likely to do after picking a main character is create additional characters to fill in the rest of the party. Of course, nothing is stopping you from bringing the rest of the main characters in and forming a full party out of them instead.

After learning about the main character’s background story, you find yourself in the middle of town and the game actually begins. All of the classic Wizardry locations are present here; an inn where characters can rest, a shop, a temple, and the training grounds. In this game there’s also a guild hall where players can go to pick up new quests. Having a “quest system” built into the game is something that might be new to people who have only played the first five games in the classic series. But it’s been present in the Japanese Wizardry games for some time. I was first introduced to the concept when I played Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land, and I’ve been a fan of the idea ever since.

Quests in this game follow a pretty basic formula. Typically they involve finding a specific item (or number of items) in the maze and returning them to town for a bounty. Occasionally, the quests may involve finding a person or location somewhere in the maze and participating a cutscene. It’s these types of quest that usually drive the game’s storyline. The downside to these story quests is that the targets for them are often found in parts of the maze that you’ve already explored, therefore making it very difficult to complete them without a little backtracking.

Labyrinth of Lost Souls takes place in the the city of Aitox, the capital of the Kingdom of Diement. The storyline that is presented in the intro of the game provides a lot of lore for the new world that was created for this game. However, this is largely unimportant to the plot of the game itself. Instead, as I said before, the main story that you’ll be focused on is that of the lead character you select at the beginning of the game. The rest of the game’s storyline does exist, and it seems fairly shallow at first, but it slowly unfolds as you continue to explore the labyrinth. Eventually, you’ll come across a special quest that’s tailor-made for your main character. The overall story-arc for the main character is resolved by completing this quest.

In this game there are a total of three different mazes to explore; Shinn’s Dungeon (where the main story of the game takes place), The Dungeon of Trials (the first five levels consist of a starter dungeon designed for leveling up, while the sixth through tenth level were originally locked behind DLC and were designed as an optional challenge), and finally The Deep Levels (these levels were added to the game as part of The Red Shadow of the Sister DLC and contain their own storyline and are considered to be the most challenging content in the game).

With all of these dungeons to explore, you might expect that it is easy to get lost. In the old days, we had to break out a pad of graph paper and map the dungeon as we explored. That is a thing of the past. Labyrinth of Lost Souls includes an auto-mapping feature. However, the auto-map feature is only available if your party possess a map of the dungeon (which can be purchased in town or found in the maze) or if you cast the “Arcane Map” spell. The level design in this game matches the classic 20×20 grid made popular by the original Wizardry games. Of course, all of the usual tricks and traps (and even a few new ones) are littered throughout the dungeon to impede your progress.

People who have played through the eight games in the original series know that the gameplay shifted dramatically with the release of the sixth game. Wizardry VI not only introduced full color graphics and a slew of new races/classes, but it also brought the game out of the dungeon and into a semi-open world. Labyrinth of Lost Souls discards nearly all of these changes. In this way, it feels more like a sequel to the first five games than Wizardry VI actually does. To me, this game feels very much like a natural evolution to the original Wizardry formula. (Even if many of the old die-hard players tend to disagree).

In the grand scheme of things, I have no problem admitting that this is one of my favorite games in the series. Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord will probably always be my favorite and Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge is probably my second (for a variety of reasons), but this game is easily my third favorite in the series. It kills me to know that since I cannot read Japanese, there’s a sequel to this title that sits just beyond my reach. I hope that one day we will see a proper port of the next game. Labyrinth of Lost Souls is just THAT good.

I’ve spent a lot of time comparing this game to the other titles in the series, but let’s jump into some specifics and get to my breakdown for the game itself.

Version Reviewed: PC

Difficulty: Medium –  When compared to most of the older Wizardry titles, this entry is considerably easier. For starters, if the entire party is wiped out, the main character will wake up in town, injured but alive. The rest of party will still be dead in the maze, but the temple offers a recovery service (for a price), so players no longer have to make an expedition to retrieve dead characters. Also, characters left in the maze do not lose any equipment as they did in the previous games. On top of that, players can now save the game virtually anywhere and reload those saves if necessary. This removes nearly all of the peril that the Wizardry series is famous for. Still, many of the encounters in the game (especially in the DLC levels) are tough as nails. Players who want to see everything the game has to offer will still have a quite a task on their hands.

Multiplayer: No.

Story: The intro cutscene for the game is rich in lore. But outside of that opening movie, not much of it seems relevant to the game itself. I feel like this is because there was originally some grand plan for the Wizardry Renaissance titles and either this plan never fully came to fruition or it was lost on western audiences since this was the only real Renaissance game we received. Still, the concept of each main character having their own goals and backstory is a nice touch and it’s fun to see how these stories play out as you explore the game.

Originality: Much of what is seen in this game has its roots in the earliest Wizardry titles. Still, these retro mechanics are peppered with a handful of new ideas. For everything in this game that’s been seen before, there are plenty of subtle touches that keep it feeling fresh.

Soundtrack: The music in this title is very limited. The majority of it is heard while hanging out in town or while in the heat of battle. These tunes are fun and catchy, but admittedly they do not meet the bar set by the NES port of the first Wizardry game. The voice acting is all in Japanese but is very good quality in it’s own right (even if it gets a bit repetitive at times).

Fun: As I always say about Wizardry games today, this type of game is very much aimed at niche audiences. But there is plenty to love about this title for players that know what they are getting into. The general public on the other hand, is likely to have a very hard time digesting a game of this type.

Graphics: Some people have a lot of hate when it comes to the anime style presented in this game. Personally, I think it’s fantastic. I said this before when Tales of the Forsaken Land was released on the PS2, but in my eyes, Wizardry has never looked better. The dungeons in this game gorgeous and moody. The lighting effects are atmospheric and set the tone of the entire game. Visually, this is a stunning game.

Playcontrol: It is important to remember that even though the PC release is the most popular way to play this game today, it was originally developed for the PS3. With this in mind, playing with a controller is going to be the way to go. This is a turn-based game, so playcontrol isn’t really an issue. I’ve played this game with a PS3 controller back when it first came out and switched to an Xbox controller for the PC release. No issues either way. Yes, the PC version also features keyboard controls, but they are not particularly intuitive by today’s standards.

Downloadable Content: Included with PC version. The PS3 release offers a DLC dungeon and a stat-boosting consumable.

Mature Content: Fantasy violence, mild language, partial nudity.

Value: The PC version of this game is available for $15 and the PSN release is $10. Considering the amount of content this game has to offer, even the $15 price point is well worth the money.

Overall score (1-100): 90 – Fans of retro dungeon crawlers and the Wizardry series will find a lot to love with this game. Everything we remember about Wizardry is represented here with a few modern flourishes added in. Gamers who are not familiar with this type of game may fail to see the magic. But that doesn’t stop this from being an absolutely stellar game.

Original System: PS3

Available today on:  PC, PSN   – (Updated as of Fall 2023)

Best Experience: PC – (Updated as of Fall 2023)

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

Classic Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VII – VII– VIII

Remakes:

I

Japanese Era:

Gaiden I   –   Gaiden II   –   Gaiden III   – Gaiden IV

Wizardry Empire   –   Wizardry: Dimguil   –   Wizardry Chronicle   – Wizardry Summoner

Tale of the Forsaken Land –   Tale of the Forsaken Land 0

Prisoners of the Battles    –   Absence of Misericordia   –   Five Ordeals

Wizardry Asterisk   –   Wizardry Xth

Labyrinth of Lost Souls   –  Prisoners of the Lost City 

Pledge of Life    –    Heritage of Oblivion

Wizardry Online

Old Game Hermit

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