Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Wizard 101 Review

Wizard 101 is a new MMO aimed at kids. In it, you play a young wizard going to a magic school and having adventures. The basic mechanics are based on collectible card games, where each card represents a spell, though the game itself is a subscription game. You don't buy cards, you get new cards as you level. Each wizard specializes in a specific school of magic, such as Fire or Ice, but can also get cards in a secondary school.

It costs $10 / month, but you can try it out for free. There's also the standard price cuts if you subscribe for a longer period of time.

  • Gameplay: The basic mechanic of combat in Wizard 101 is elegant. Your spells cost Power Points. The more powerful the spell, the more Power Points it consumes. You build up Power Points at the rate of 1 per turn. However, buffing and debuffing spells cost zero Power Points. So the game revolves around casting buffs and debuffs to build up Power Points, and then choosing an appropriate damage spell. There is some beautiful tension involved, and getting the right mix of buff/debuff spells and damage spells of appropriate cost is a lot of fun.

    Basic gameplay is turn based, with up to four players on each side. Other people can join your battles, and other monsters will also join (if there are more players than monsters).

  • Graphics: The graphics in Wizard 101 are crisp, clean, cartoony, and colorful. It's a kids game, so it's not cutting edge graphics, but the art style more than makes up for it. Gear looks nice, and the monsters and card animations are very well done. I'm a big fan of the art style of this game, but your mileage may vary. In particular, the word "realism" has no place here.

  • Polish: Wizard 101 is nicely polished. It's stable and there were very few bugs when I played it.

  • Character Creation: The character creation system is a series of Ultima-style questions. I kept getting Fire mage, even when I was trying for something different. I'm not sure what that says about me. The naming system is also cool. You choose a first name, and two parts of a last name. My character in beta was a Fire/Myth (primary school/secondary school) mage named Richard Sunweaver. After the wipe, I made a Death/Balance mage named Valerian Ravencaller. I liked the character creation system and naming system a lot.

  • Communication: I never thought I'd see the day when I missed Barrens Chat. Because Wizard 101 is aimed at kids (have to Protect The Children™), it's somewhat hard to communicate with people. Nintendo does very much the same thing in their multi-player games. There's no guilds, no parties. Most communication is done through a menu system which I found awkward to use. As well, since all the barriers are so obviously aimed at protecting young kids, as an adult I found myself uneasy at the thought of approaching people for help with tough battles. There's no general chat channel, where you can send requests for help out into the void.

    The closest WoW analogy to this is doing quests with the opposite faction. If you're Alliance, and you come across a Horde working on the same quest, sometimes the two of you will work together to complete it. You can't talk to each other, so there's this odd dance of gestures and inferring meaning (and the dance takes on extra weight on a PvP server). That's what playing with strangers in Wizard 101 feels like.

    I'm a quiet player, but I like seeing guild chat or general chat scroll by. Wizard 101 just felt very lonely to me, even though I was surrounded by other players.

    Obviously, this may not matter to you if you play with friends, or it may even be a positive if you have young children you are concerned about.


Wizard 101 is a great game. It has many good qualities, and is worth trying out even for the jaded adult gamer, just to see the basic gameplay. It is a children's game, so it is cute. It isn't amazingly deep and doesn't have many sub-games like crafting or raiding or PvP (though there are some arcade games and an arena where you can duel). But Wizard 101 focuses on its core gameplay, and that core is executed cleanly and polished to a shine.


  1. While this is not a game that I will likely have any time or inclination to play, this is a great read.

  2. I would go buy this game right now if I could gank and corpse camp eight year olds.

  3. Yeah... I'm a "life wizard".

    Apparently even in Children's MMMO's I get stuck with the healing job. >.>

  4. This game has interested me for awhile. No Mac client though. I'll probably check it out on my company-provided laptop but I wouldn't play long-term having to rely on something I didn't own.

  5. I've been playing this game for two weeks and really enjoy it. I'm not really a gamer so this is a great entry level game for adults. A+

  6. I've been playing for a short time with my eight year old son. We both have fun with this, its not a hard game for him to understand but still provides a challenge even for me in some cases. I really enjoy the story line and the animated charicters.

    While it is true that chat is turned off by default it can be turned on by the adult account if you log into the web site. It is annoying dealing with those that can not chat when they join into your battles :(. Although you can type they will not be capaple of reading anything but the preselection chat. I have found there are a lot of people without that restrition though and it became a more friendly place.

    Even after yout turn off chat you are still restricted from saying numbers. If you want to say I am level 33 then you have to use the preselection text. I think they do this so you cant give your age or address out.

  7. I agree that the chat is hard to use even if you use open chat however after a while it becomes easy to use.

  8. PVP System is being implemented this Friday, exciting!!

  9. The Access Pass mechanic is relatively new, and brilliant. It's all about selling perpetual access to areas for a set number of Crowns (purchasable via cash). Effectively, it's the Guild Wars model in smaller chunks, and using a secondary currency.

    They are now selling subscriptions and content, in other words. That's on top of the perpetual free trial areas. There's room for almost every budget now, both time budgets and monetary budgets.

  10. I don't think the access pass thing is very brilliant. It is very dumb. You shouldn't have to pay to go to certain areas. there should be no limit as to where you can go.

  11. Just to clarify for the last commenter. The access pass thing is another method of paying.

    You can either pay X per month, and get access to everything while you are subscribed. Or you can pay Y per area, and get access to that area forever.

    It's two different ways of paying, and you can choose which one you prefer.

  12. I'm a teenager and I think the game is very fun and I'm an ice wizard. But I don't like the access thing either 'cause I don't subscibe and every other level you have to pay for=(. All in all, it's an awesome game and I would recommend it for anybody, any age.

  13. *shrug*
    You either pay a sub and pay for time or pay for the Crowns and get Access Passes to pay for content. The whole game isn't free, and I don't begrudge their need to make money.

    It's extraordinary that they offer both models.

  14. I played this game for a while, and actually enjoyed it. The only thing I absolutely hated was the fact that you had to pay to get into other areas to do quests. If you can't pay, you can't do anything except level on the same stupid monster over and over and over...

    Personally I feel that you shouldn't have to pay to get into areas you have quests in. It makes it irritating for those people who don't have access to credit cards or paypal.

    So basically after level 8, you have no quests. Or rather, quests you can't really do because you can't get into areas like firecat alley and colossus avenue.

    If they're going to have you pay money for anything, it should JUST be to upgrade your 'armor', or buy different pets or whatnot. NOT to go into other areas/worlds. That's not right.

  15. well i find the game very fun but more then half the quests are just talking to other characters. i got life mage for my job. i also have fire AND ice for secondary schools. i am a member so yea not many people where i am in the game so i'm kinda loney nothing the good ol' friends list can't fix. XD i have only been playing for 2 weeks and i have over 20 friends already. and i'm also level 31. i quit runescape for this and it better be worth it.

  16. I've been playing Wizard101 for about 3 days now with my son. We purchased the family account for 3 of us in the house. I'm not a huge MMO guy here...but this game is addictive(so much to do), however it is very basic. Lots of running around will consume your time. If you need help...just ask...RONAN DRAGONFLOWER of the death school will be happy to assist.

  17. How can people be complaining about having to pay for going to areas? You're basically saying you deserve to play it all for free. Why? Because you're you? The company that created the game needs to make money somehow. If you don't want to pay $1 or so per area to go into, just pay the $10/month and open up everything. They have a "family plan" too for $7/month if you open more than one account from what I understand too.

    Anyway, I'm the father of a 7yr old and found this game while looking for an MMO for him. Now I'm hooked too. I have a lvl 29 Ice Wizard and a lvl 8 Balance Wizard that I use when we play together. It's a lot of fun. Anyone that ever played Magic the Gathering will enjoy this a lot. The only problem I have with it now is the repetition. There are essentially 3 types of quests. Talk to someone, kill something, or find something. It's the same thing over and over. Fortunately, the new cards you get every couple levels keep it interesting and give me something to keep playing for.

    Definitely worth a test run for anyone of any age. The battle mechanic is really fun and different from other MMOs. It doesn't take long to download and start playing either.

    Really would like to see a MAC client soon!

  18. Wizard 101 Wiki was a huge help to me - covers Wizard City at the moment - as well as fun things like rare drop pets. Increasing database coving spells, items and quests - very much grateful.

  19. yeah this game is superr awesome, ive been playing for half a year and me and my cousin really love it, we spend our afternoons on this and i'm a life wizard she is an ice wizard. We are on level 30 and we really like this game, i think we are like addictind to it our parents cant get us off the game, it has lots of fun interactive stuff, and yeah i agree i like this game LOTS! <3

  20. I like healing so I am a life student with ice as secondary. Unicorn and Fairy are good for healing (Fairy can heal others as life student) and Unicorn heals all your teamates! Sadly if your free to play you will only become level 10 or so unless you play lots.

  21. I love this game and it is a safe game. I am a death/life wizard and i am helping people a lot now that i am a member.

  22. i my self think wizard 101 is an exelent game and i plat it all the time, though its not as fun without friends the game provide a multitude of ways to have fun.also i have a death wizard who is level 32 so if you play look out for me.over all: great game, really fun and well polished, i absolutly love and recomend it to peoples of all ages as long as you have a fantesy type imagination

  23. There a few things that bother me about this game.
    -The voice overs for the characters you talk to are not very convincing, most of them sound like they were voiced over by people they grabbed off the street and said "here, read this script for this game." it bugs me that the characters just dont seem all that into the missions they give you, doesnt make me excited to go do them.
    -The quests are all pretty much the same, "go talk to so-n-so"," beat 3 of these things". Not very diverse.
    -There ARE other people around you, quite a few in fact but the game leaves you feeling lonely. Im not much of a chatter on any games i play but it is fun to read what other people say while you play, but i only catch the rare "lol you got him" or whatever, i dont like the chat at all.
    -Regaining mana take SOO long that after a while i get tired of hunting down those little mana orbs and stop playing, gaining health is much easier but i rarely take much damage in battle anyways, i usually run out of mana before i can beat anything.
    -I dont care much for the "because i told you to" quests in any game. I prefer the quests to help you get one step further to a main goal but all i have seen so far is "oh, by the way, could you rid me of these little creatures for no real reason other than its something to do?" I understand its for kids but they could have at least made the quests entertaining, clicking a card and clicking the monster isnt exactly thrilling.
    These are just the things i dont like about it, everything else about the game is good, i play it and enjoy it, these are just things that bug me that maybe the company will get wind of and hopefully up the ante on the gameplay. good game overall.

  24. Alura Duskwalker12:31 PM, July 25, 2009

    im addicted to this game but im confused...people keep saying their like death and life...how can you be both??? i dont get it im on level 17 so if anyone can answer my question id be very very happy

  25. This company has no parental controls. Without my permission, my 10 year old took my credit card and charged $80 (the annual fee) three times in a row, buying tokens of some sort. He some how pretended to be me, and set up his own parent confirmation. The company emailed me saying that "Currently there's no known method to validate a "real" parent vs. a child impersonating a parent" The company refuses to give my money back or to acknowledge their responsibility. BEWARE --- not a very good company. The game is now banned in my home

  26. Alura, the way people are able to be both life and death school is by beinng one school while having the the other one as thier secondary school.

  27. KingsIsle really missed a good opportunity with this game. The beginning levels of the game are fun and addictive, but the game progresses into a dungeon crawl the deeper you get into the game. The first part is meant to lure you in; then the gameplay becomes unreasonably difficult. If you like playing games all the way to the end and accomplishing all the tasks, I do NOT recommend this game. Way too difficult, KingsIsle.

  28. As a father of three (12yo, 10yo, 7yo) I enjoy playing this game with them and alone. It is sufficiently challenging enough to hold my interest. I can't agree that it becomes a dungeon crawl in the later stages; however, I can say that where dungeons are present you can always take friends. So difficulty isn't a real factor unless you choose to solo. The chat is designed now to allow adults to use numbers, but when dealing with non "open chat" players you still must use an alternative way of conveying any numbers. For example I can say "I need 3 more of those enemies" to an adult but to a younger player I would have to say "I need third more of those enemies".

    If you are a parent like myself you can setup parental controls which give you control over your children's accounts. You can do most anything from allowing them to chat to allowing them to play in the member areas. There are some limits to your parental abilities such as you cannot allow them to have adult chat known as "Open Chat" in the game settings. When you setup the parental controls you will choose a password which will allow things like credit card purchases to be locked out. I'm not sure how the one person managed to have his kid use his credit card to make those charges unless he doesn't have parental controls on his child's account or left his parental password out in the open where the child could read and use it.

    As a home schooler and a military dependent I was happy to see this game receive positive reviews by publications associated with both entities. Home schooling publications mostly approved for the reading abilities it promotes, and military publications for the ability to play together even when half way around the world from each other.

    I hope this input helps others as they review and decide on allowing their children to play. For the discriminating adult who may be concerned about meeting other adults there is nothing to worry about. If you are looking to meet and work with other adults there are several fan sites where you can meet up and agree on times to play together in game.

  29. Hey guys! Just wanna say that i also play wizard101 and i like seeing that people like it too. I am a level 13 life wizard, but i am thinking of making a balance wizard. My friend, his brother and I all play. Its so much fun because i'm life, my friend is myth, and his brother is fire, so we all add something unique to the group. Also, im not a member but i am level 13. The only thing that members can do that non-mem's can't is go outside wizard city. But, non-mem's can purchase a gift card for crowns, or but crowns, to get the new places as well. And Dazanna, i have to heal as well. But you have to admit, life is sort of cool because we almost never die! Anyway, this is a great game and i recommend it to anyone, "wether they are 6 or 106!"

  30. You know I don't mind that you have to pay as it is an online mmo and almost all mmo's require some type of fee. Even in Maple Story there are things you can't do unless you pay cash. Wat I do wish they would do, however, is allow money orders so that those who don't have cards or don't have money on their cards at the time can just get a money order and mail it in.

    They do have gift cards available now at quite a few places, but it's still a pain in the butt if you happen to live in a place where they don't have those gift cards.

  31. it's nice to find an RPG that i can play with my kids.
    though their prices are pretty steep in my opinion, unlike club penguin which has a non automatic monthly subscription via paypal. wiz101 only has a recurring monthly subscription or 6 months & 12 month sub's. i can't afford the darn 6 or 12 month, but a small monthly fee is all i can swing. it suck's they must do the recurring billing. i loathe that. i think i will buy the gift cards at walmart then do it monthly. if at all possible.
    the chat setting's are fubar. but truth is, i ain't there for the chat, if i want that? i have yahoo & my space chat, if i am playing a game, i am playing a game. though it's nice to run with daughter in the game and talk with her. :D then again she is in the same room i am and therefor can hear me, so..again, lack of chat not really a big deal

    i love this game, my girl loves this game. it's cute and fun.

  32. I've been playing Wizard 101 for like ALONG TIME, and i absolutly love it and would recomend(spell check?) it to anyone. I am right now doing the 'pay by area' thing...and it's not really worth it. I have a level 15 ice wizard and once you get to level 15 you get a quest to go to another world...and of course you have to pay...for everything! Maybe i'll ask my dad to do the "allowance for subscibtion" he is doing for my sister.
    By my rating...this game is pretty awesome....and i'm choosing it over World of Warcrat!!!That is totally saying something!

  33. The game is very good, unless your free to play. I am Aaron Death Dreamer, and level 16 death with myth as secondary. The core, or stages is very good. But after you pass level 12, the game starts to lose it's bite. Training on the Harvest Lord and Sometimes Nightshade, it gets old. If you want to progress far in the game, you should pay.

  34. im a huge fan of wizard 101 im a ice wizard level 17 and i think the paying procces is great you cant play for free so im going to go play it and oh im jacob deathbringer till next time ice represents