Is WIZARD101 Worth Playing in 2022? | An MMO Review

Is WIZARD101 Worth Playing in 2022? | An MMO Review

“Wizard101 is so unique,” they said. “You’ll love it!” they said.
And you know what.. despite its flaws – of which there are some blatantly obvious ones – this game was significantly more fun than I had ever given it credit for.

Today, we’re taking a look at Wizard101. I was warned that while the game is free-to-play, there is a pay-wall present that severely inhibits your ability to play the game beyond the introduction. But do I ever listen to what people tell me? Pffft, no.

Wizard101 is an MMO developed by KingsIsle Entertainment, released back in 2008. Players take on the role of a student at Hogwa-wait, wrong game. At Ravenwood, a school dedicated to teaching kids how to hone their innate abilities as wizards.
Upon starting the game, players are asked a selection of questions that help discern your interests, and your affinity with different elements.
I had chat choose my answers based off of the kind of person they thought I was, and we ended up with an Ice element.

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume that’s because.. I’m pretty cool.

After selecting your magical affinity, you create your character. Options are fairly limited. You can customize a basic small selection of facial features.
Then you’re immediately thrown into a battle with Atilla the Hun, while being walked through the basics of combat.

Which I guess should be what we address first.
Wizard101 employs an interesting type of instanced, turn-based combat.
As a wizard, you build a deck of cards. These cards consist of monsters you can place onto the field – in face-up attack position, or-wait, wrong game.
You place down cards, which summon monsters for that turn and deal a set amount of damage to enemies. Every card, every monster has their own element, and as such, is both weak against, and strong against specific elements. If you ever plan on playing this competitively, it’d be wise to learn both your deck’s individual strengths and weaknesses.
Or just do what I did: Have a bunch of high level people join you, 1-shotting everything with cards right out of myth and legend.
As noted, combat is instanced. This means you can’t just walk out into the world and engage enemies other players are engaging like you would in traditional MMOs.
The combat is unique though, and as a fan of JRPGs, was actually a massive blast of nostalgia.

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Graphically… I mean, I can’t deny that this game certainly leans towards looking incredibly dated. KingsIsle is an American developer, however, and Western MMOs never really excel graphically.
Even the best Western MMOs like The Elder Scrolls Online fail to live up to their Eastern competition.
Nevertheless, the game has this unique.. charm to it. Kinda like you’re playing a book out of your childhood. The headmaster reminds me of Merlin. We have talking animals. Cartoony villains.
I understand the target demographic wasn’t necessarily.. teenagers, young adults, or players who prefer competitive content like hardcore raids or PvP.

What the game DOES have a focus on though, is its narrative.
You’re introduced to a plethora of different characters over the course of the game. Each region has their own unique stories, and NPCs associated with them. Granted, I did only traverse through 2? 3 zones total. The reason for that is due to the paywall I noted earlier.

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This world is segregated. Just like Final Fantasy XIV. Just like Blade & Soul, or Guild Wars 2. To access different zones, you’re required to move through small loading screens. And while they’re instanced from one another, you’ll encounter tons of players out playing the game.
Now, I mentioned that I only traversed 3 different zones total due to the paywall. Wizard101 advertises itself as a free to play MMO, specifically, a “Free Wizard MMORPG Game!”
They state that you’ll gain free access to most of the first world, Wizard City, but for those of us that wish to play beyond the first world, you’ll be required to purchase one of several different packages.
On the one hand, you can opt for a monthly membership that will unlock every zone. On the other, you can pay for zones separately. The latter option allows for you to retain access to zones permanently if I recall, whereas premium memberships do not.
Paying separately ends up much more expensive in the long-term, so if you plan on playing daily you’d honestly be better off with the premium monthly membership.
The main issue I have with this, however, is that after purchasing access to this content, you’ll have access as long as your membership remains active.
So if I’m in the middle of a zone when my membership runs out.. too bad. You’re done. Keep paying if you want to play more.
I have no issue with premium games. I had an active sub with WoW for a decade. I’ve had an active sub with Final Fantasy XIV since 2016. I’m also more than happy purchasing content. I purchased every expansion for ESO. For Guild Wars 2.
But when you advertise yourself as a free game, require you purchase access to new content, and then remove your access to the content when you stop paying? Nope. Either advertise yourself as a premium game, or allow us to purchase the entire game.
This just feels a little misleading. And I know this opinion is likely to upset some of you, but I can’t help how I feel.

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In terms of content… there are a significant number of worlds players can purchase. Wizard City, MooShu, Avalon, Arcanum, Mirage, Wysteria, to name a few. When I Googled, I happened across approximately 20? Give or take a couple.
There are a large number of dungeons for players to enter. You seem to be able to run with groups of up to four players total. There are Gauntlets – which function similarly to dungeons.
There’s a functional PvP system over in the PvP Arena. There’s also a form of player-housing present: Dorm Rooms, Modest Private and Luxury Private homes. I’ve been trying to get a plot of land in Final Fantasy XIV for years – I feel like I’m in a perpetual state of homelessness in every MMO I play.

At the end of the day, Wizard101 was a very fun MMO.
The game definitely looks dated. Probably too dated for me to want to invest time into long-term.
The combat was incredibly unique, and left me feeling a sense of nostalgia – I love JRPGs. I loved them back when they were turn-based, and wish more JRPGs developed these days still utilized turn-based combat, as it required forethought. Tactics, more than reflexes.
However, I’m not fond of the business model utilized. I feel like it’s cheap, and a little misleading, when you go into the game thinking it’s going to be completely free and it isn’t.

Is this the greatest MMO? To some people, maybe. To me? No.

Combat – 5/10 The combat was fun, but waiting on members of your party to make their move took far too long and often left me sitting there bored. However, playing solo was a lot more fun. It just kinda.. defeats the purpose of playing an MMO if you have to play solo to have the engagements move at a moderate pace.
Graphics – 4/10 Graphically, well.. it had a unique charm to it, but felt like every “magic game” ever developed in the 90s and early 2000s.
Narrative – 5/10 The narrative.. was actually pretty solid. It was fun, it was quirky, and felt like something out of a childrens novel.
World – 7/10 The world is immensely large. There are so many different regions to explore, all with their own unique aesthetic and stories. But it’s all locked behind a paywall.
Content – 5/10 Realistically, you have access to the same features most MMOs provide us. So I’d say we fall in about average here.
Overall – 26/50

I had fun in Wizard101. I did. I was laughing hysterically throughout the story because of how silly it got at times. The voice acting was also pretty good, surprisingly.
The world was cute. The combat was unique. I wish I’d had access to more cards, though. Seeing the kinds of things that some of our viewers were summoning mid-battle though were incredible.
Is this an MMO I’d play long-term? No. It felt too slow for me, and I’m definitely not part of its target demographic.

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