What do you get when you mix ToonTown Online, Pokemon, Harry Potter, and a Trading Card Game? Wizard101.
I’ve been playing around in the beta for a few days now and I thought I’d share my first impressions.
Note: This game is targeted mainly at the pre-teen age group, but I strongly suspect there will be plenty of adults playing.
Character creation has two paths. You may answer questions about yourself and have a school of magic suggested, or you can skip that and just choose a school. There are seven schools of magic (technically six and one more that is a little of each school). The schools are: Fire, Ice, Myth, Storm, Life, Death, and Balance. The school you choose is where you will focus your “training” but you can still pick up skills from other schools. You build a deck with various cards (or “spells”) you earn during training or as rewards.
The turn-based combat takes place in a ring that is created when you encounter a creature. On the outside of the ring is a bunch of circles with symbols in front of them. The creature stands in a circle on one side and you on the other. A random selection of your cards show up and you choose one and then click on the creature you want to attack. After the round, if everyone survived, you do it again. The animations are very well done. Many of the spells are summoned creatures that attack and then go away. For example, you can summon a fire-cat and you watch as it leaps out to the center of the ring and then breathes fire on the creature you are fighting.
During combat, other players may choose to join the fight simply by running into the circle. This is often accompanied by another creature joining the fight as well. This system works just like in ToonTown which is a system I really like. It encourages people to play together. You don’t need to form a group, it just happens for the battle. The symbols in front of the small circles I mentioned earlier? They are there so you can see what each player is attacking. Beneath each player is an icon representing the spell they are using, and who they are using it on. This helps make it easier to coordinate your attacks. It also lets you see each players health and mana status in case someone needs help with a heal.
The game is quest driven with the usual yellow exclamation points and question marks over the NPC heads. You get XP, gold, items, and/or treasure cards as quest rewards. Items can be things like wands with attacks, clothing with bonuses for different damage types, etc. Characters advance with levels, and you have health and mana to manage.
Chat is menu driven, where you choose from drop down menus. There is a way to open up regular chat, but only other people with that options can understand you. This is just one of the several child safety features included in the game.
They included a variety of minigames that you can play to refill your potions (which replenish health and mana) and they are fun all by themselves. I played quite a bit of one game where you choose the strength and angle to shoot an arrow while being attacked from a castle. There look to be games that play like Bejeweled and Tetris as well as a few others.
Another great thing they do that ToonTown and Guild Wars (and soon Lord of the Rings Online) does is the way you get the game downloaded to your computer. To start playing it is only a very small download. You start the character creation and while you do that in the background the next areas are downloading. It does this throughout the whole game and it is a brilliant way of delivering the game to the customer.
It seems a lot deeper of a game than I first expected and so far I am having a lot of fun. There have been a few bugs, as you might expect in a beta, but nothing bad. Things like sound cutting out for a bit. All and all, I expect to continue playing this quite a bit during the summer as it is very enjoyable.