Wizard101 is a MMORPG about wizards fighting magically with an intricate card system that is pretty much anything you could want in a turn based MMO. It came out in 2008 and is arguably one of the best when it comes to card based multiplayer gameplay.
You might be asking why you haven’t heard of it. And if you aren’t asking that…it’s probably because you knew someone around the age of 10 about nine years ago.
Wizard101 is an amazing game, with interesting tactics, good gameplay, and it’s a game made for children.
However no media exactly hits the demographic they are aiming for and Wizard101 does no better than its peers. The game is whimsical and childlike but you are more likely to find a parent or nostalgic teen playing it than an actual child.
And this is sad because KingsIsle refuses to acknowledge this. It is so in denial that its demographic isn’t little kids they are sabotaging themselves at just about every turn.
This spreads from the frustrating child-locked chat system, to the website interface being split between ‘child’ (player) and ‘parent’ (creepy stalker spectre person?)
At every turn, the game is meant for a child to play; in fact it’s baby proofed and teenager proofed to the point of ridiculous.
However, the gameplay isn’t. It’s charmingly simple, don’t get me wrong, but it is not designed for child use.
The game is played by walking around a large world that is for the most part very open. You run into monsters simply walking down the street and are placed into battle with them, it’s cutesy and cartoonish but the tactics, while simple, are no joke. You are given a card deck, some mana, health, and ‘pips’. Pips are collected throughout the battle, and early on in the game, with no buffs, you get about one per round. Each card takes a differing amount of pips, and will do different damage depending on what element it is, what element you’re fighting, and whether you got a critical or not. The basics are simple and easy to grasp but once you get into higher levels it explains less and less and gets harder and harder to comprehend.
The story is clearly made for children and often talks down to the player. but it’s easy to ignore for the most part, because, just like in any other MMO, the player often doesn’t care why they have to kill ogres and collect their rubies, they only care where the ogres are and what the drop rate is.
I started playing back in 2009 at 11 years old. It was only a year after release and pretty much only children played it at that point. And I got very little out of it. I found the gameplay hard and confusing and the questing wasn’t intuitive to me. I enjoyed what I could do, but often I was simply frustrated and I quickly put the game down in favour of something that made more sense.
However two years ago, I picked the game back up, and I found it fun and engaging. I started a new character and I got further than I ever did as a child in just a few days. But I also discovered that everyone else playing, were adults as well.
I feel KingsIsle has missed out on a great opportunity here. No, it was never gonna be the next WOW, but if they had advertised toward adults and older teens, and made the interface less infuriating, they could have had something really good.