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Game Reviewed: Wizard101
Publisher: KingsIsle Entertainment
Developer: KingsIsle Entertainment
ESRB Rating: E10+
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Wizard 101 is honored as the “Family Game of 2009” by MMORPG.com. It is also an Honors Award winner in the National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Children’s Products competition, and has a Parent Tested Parent Approved seal of approval from 2008. The game is regarded as something that gamer parents can play with their kids without falling asleep at the keyboard and something that non-gamer parents can release their kids to play without having to worry about lots of violence and bloodshed.
The player begins as a brand new student to the Ravenwood School of Magical Arts. Upon arrival to the school, the player meets with the headmaster, Merle Ambrose, to discuss training as a wizard. An interruption then occurs by Malistaire Drake, a former instructor of Ravenwood who has gone rogue to pursue his own plans. The player then has a minor battle with some of Malistaire’s minions, whom are defeated with the headmaster’s assistance. Headmaster Ambrose then sends the player on his way to begin training and to explore the worlds of the Spiral while also determining what Malistaire is up to.
The majority of gameplay in Wizard101 involves casting spells from cards. When an enemy is encountered, a small selection of cards is displayed from the player’s deck. Everyone in the battle selects which card they wish to use. Characters then take turns casting the spells they selected. Play continues until all characters on one side of the fight are defeated. When a spell is cast, your character’s Mana (magic power) decreases. Run out of Mana and the player loses the ability to cast spells. Health, Mana, and other attributes can be increased by equipping clothing and other items. In between fighting monsters, gameplay is typical fantasy MMO fare with quests to complete, items to craft, and worlds to explore. The game is subscription based, but also has an option to purchase permanent access to areas one piece at a time.
What Parents Need to Know
Attacks are done using different forms of magic spells. Most attack spells cause different types of animals or other creatures to send projectiles towards enemies, but some spells directly attack enemies. Other spells may use creatures that drain life from an enemy to send a portion of health back to the player. A few of the enemy attacks can be crude, consisting of things such as farts. Enemies and players who are attacked usually wince or get knocked back in some fashion when attacked. Players who are defeated will stand there dazed until someone heals them or the rest of the players on your team are all defeated. Enemies who are defeated will either run away or keel over melodramatically. Some characters disintegrate or vanish when defeated.
There is no bad language within the dialogue of the game itself. Wizard101 also features a very strict chat filter that prohibits just about anything a parent would not want young eyes to read. Players under 13 or players with certain parental restrictions are unable to use or see player-generated chat. These players (and any players who wish to communicate with chat-restricted players) must use a pre-selected list of phrases and emotes in order to communicate.
There is no sexual content in the game.
Wizard101 has plenty of references to magic and the supernatural. The majority of these elements in the game are based largely in fantasy. Unicorns, Cyclops, Kraken, Satyrs, and other mythological creatures make appearances. The spells in the game are also largely based on fantasy magic.
There is at least one item, however, that has been inspired from real occult artifacts. Players can equip an athame (dagger) that increase your character’s stats. In real life, an athame is a ceremonial dagger used in witchcraft to direct energy.
At the beginning of the game, your character is introduced to the different schools of magic. These various schools are referred to with titles that are used in more authentic wizardry. For example, a student of the school of Fire magic is referred to as pyromancer. A student of the Death school is referred to as a necromancer. Myth students are called conjurers. Diviners are students of the Storm school. A wizard who is balanced in more than one of these schools is called a Sorcerer.
Players will face ghosts, banshees, and some other creepy specters during their travels. Some of the settings in the game reference cemeteries. One locale, the “Well of Spirits,” features souls of Krokotopians (crocodiles) ascending in smoke inside an ancient pyramid with accompanying ghostly noises.
Wizard 101 also gives several tongue-in-cheek examples of “real” wizards from history that practiced in these different schools. For example, William Shakespeare is mentioned as a pyromancer. Winston Churchill is referenced as a thaumaturge.
Speaking in terms of the game itself, I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed playing Wizard101. It is a very solid MMO in terms of gameplay for the game’s target “tween-aged” audience. Most parents concerns, however, are going to lie in the spiritual themes that are presented within the game. Although Wizard101 waters down the spiritual elements in the game to a more fantasy based system, it is possible that some children might become interested in learning more about the magic in which the game models its schools after. Therefore, we recommend that parents who allow their children to play Wizard101 be sure to regularly communicate with your children about their experience in the game and the concerns that you as a parent may have.