Nemesis: A Wizardry Adventure

Sir-tech return to its roots with a new angle on a  RPG legend.

The people who helped create computer role-playing games return to the world that made them famous-- and it's Wizardry like you've never seen it before

-T. Liam McDonald

Game: Nemesis: A Wizardry Adventure
Developer: Sir-tech
Publisher: Sir-tech, Ogdensburg Business Center, PC
Box 245, Ogdensburg, NY 13669, (315) 393-6633

In a Nutshell:

Combine real-time combat, adventure gaming, and roleplaying, and you have a whole new type of Wizardry game.

What's So Special?

This combination of elements has never really been tried before, and if the game plays half as it looks, it'll be a landmark.

Why Should I Care?

Sir-tech has solid chops for class-A gaming, and Wizardry is the granddaddy of RPGs, so you can expect something pretty entertaining.

It's been more than three years since the name "Wizardry" last appeared on a new game, with Crusaders of the Dark Savant. Those three years have seen amazing growth and upheavals in the gaming industry that Norm and Rob Sirotek, heads of Sir- tech software, helped create. Publisher of the first big computer role-playing games, Sir-tech has stayed an independent entity while other small publishers were swallowed up by larger companies. And now, with a new team of developers capable of meeting the high technological demands of new games, they're ready to start making cutting-edge games again. Hot on the heels of Jagged Alliance and the award-winning Realms of Arkania titles, Sir-tech is back with Nemesis, a whole new type of Wizardry adventure.

Long-time role-playing garners are already arching their eyebrows and muttering beneath their breath; a Wizardry adventure? Has Sir-tech gone soft? Is the dense, complex play of past Wizardry games past being supplanted with a fuzzy- bunny, user-friendly adventure games a la Myst?

Rest assured, the Siroteks have no intention of abandoning their loyal, hard-core gaming market.

Wizardry 8 is in the works, and will have all the elements - multi-character parties, phased combat, complex characters and story lines - that made the series great But more non-garners are getting computers and looking for entertainment, and the cries for a first-person, real-time combat Wizardry game could no longer go unanswered. And so we come to Nemesis, the brainchild of Norm and Rob's younger sister, Linda Currie.

When Currie was in high-school, her older brothers were creating some of the first computer role-playing games, and Currie quickly became the house expert on Wizardry. She played through the entire series and learned them inside-out, becoming Sir-tech's best source for helping people out of sticky Wizardry situations. After working for Sharp Electronics for a time, she came back as a producer for Sir-tech, heading up Jagged Alliance and, in the process, marrying lead designer Ian Currie. Once Sir-tech started building a new in-house development team to keep pace with the increasing technological demands of the new market, Linda began work on a new type of fantasy game: Nemesis: A Wizardry Adventure.

"We wanted this game not to be intimidating or complex," Currie says, "with an easily figured-out interface. It's a cross between an adventure game and an RPG, and it probably will feel more adventure-like. One of the things we found was missing in a lot of games like Myst is interaction. There were no other people, no creatures, no conflict, and those were the elements we'd like to see in a game."

Toward this end, they divided the game into several separate elements:

combat, puzzles, exploration, narrative movies, and NPC interaction. As Currie points out, "We want to have all these elements molded together into a single game, so that it offers the enjoyment of adventure but the conflict of a combat game. We also wanted to introduce real-time combat, but we wanted it finessed enough so that you a had a chance for something more than click-click-click. We wanted some strategy in terms of what weapons you would use and what approach you would take. The combat also has to take place slowly enough so that if you saw a creature attacking high and to the left, you could block that."

The result is a game that's Myst-like in its graphical Look, but more complex in terms of play. The interface is simple: the left mouse button controls your left hand, the right button controls your right hand.

You can have a weapon in either hand, so you can attack or defend with either hand. The game's magic system is also very simple. There are sixteen possible spell effects but only eight icons, since each spell falls into either the attack or defense category. To cast spells, you keep a focusing talisman in hand, and you can change spells very quickly without a time penalty. Movement through the game world is step-based, but a scaling technology is being created so the perspective can scroll smoothly instead of stepping.

All the creatures you encounter move in real-time, which made meshing the stepping movement and real-time engine tricky. Sir-tech's designers had to work hard to make the two-dimensional, pre-rendered scenes look three- dimensional. Using scaling, shadows, and other tricks, however, they've managed to create an elaborate gaming environment that effectively blends real-time action with pre-rendered scenes.

In Nemesis, you play a lone adventurer in a world facing a dire threat from something called the Nithos Shadow. This shadow is the offspring of some ancient magic that is once again emerging, and for reasons that are not exactly clear, it's targeting you for attack. Rian, a sage in the high council of the city of Galican, sends you on a quest to uncover the secret of the shadow and stop it. This force is part of an of an ancient power discovered long ago by a society known as Nithera. The Nitherin Mages were not evil people, but as they tapped into this unknown power, they eventually lost control of it and were annihilated. All that remained were seven magical talismans, which have resurfaced throughout the ages, with destructive results.

Your quest is to locate the talismans and deal with the threat, making sure that it never resurfaces in the future. Along the way, you encounter a variety of friends and foes (and you won't always know which is which). You also have to learn why this force is targeting you, and what your link is to the Nitherin Mages.

Gameplay itself involves a number of different aspects: There are item-related puzzles, character interaction, traps, and combat with various foes and creatures. And although, as Cume points out, the size of the worlds you travel through are "not that vast, there's always enough happening and lots of things to do."

But what makes it a Wizardiy adventure? "No, it does not share a common world or creatures with the other games. What it does have is the qualities that Wizardry stands for: an epic story, intrigue, mystery, and arsenals of unique items. It also goes in a new direction." Nemesis stands to introduce a whole new range of people to the Wizardly name, people who didn't even have PCs when the most recent titles were released. Such an accessible and entertaining game may help people crossover to the more complex role-playing games. Who knows? It may be just the thing a sagging RPG market needs to revitalize itself for a new audience.

The highly customizable interface gives you a wide range of combat and spell-casting options during fights. The "Fire" spell is one of sixteen that can be cast during game-play.

Pigman goes on the offensive in one of Nemesis' real-time, first person combat sequences.

The world and creatures are entirely new and weren't taken from previous Wizardry games.

Sir-tech's background rendering is impressive throughout Nemesis. The developers worked hard to make the pre-rendered scenes look three-dimensional.

On your quest to uncover the secret of the Nithos Shadow, you must explore an entire world. Your mission will even take you out into the great outdoors.