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Friday, September 18, 2015

Wizard101's Most Game-Changing Update


In celebration of my fourth blogoversary, I hosted a contest requiring contestants to write a blog post about the update to Wizard101 that changed the game the most, for better or for worse. The winner of the contest was Mary Darkriver, and I'm sharing her post today as the first of five in my September Guest Post Series.

After six years of Wizard101, it's occasionally nice to take a trip down Nostalgia Lane and look at all the updates from over the years to see how much the game has changed. After all, can anyone honestly remember a time when there was no Bazaar? No crafting? No pet training? A level cap of 50? It’s amazing to think about how much the game has expanded and developed since the early days. Most of the updates have been great, but there have also been a few letdowns. After looking back on all of them, I’ll do my best to summarize what I think have been the best and worst.


A Cornerstone in Game Mechanics

In my opinion, the best update is one that most people would not immediately think of, which is the May 2011 update listed as "Wintertusk, New Spells, and Pets." Why? Well, although just one paragraph on the updates page is devoted to it, I would argue that Waterworks was the best and most influential update so far. It certainly didn’t seem that way when it came out, and may not even now, but when you think about it Waterworks was a landmark update that led to more difficult cheats from bosses, more player interaction, Aquila, the Four Dungeons / Key Bosses, and the start of farming dungeons for things like gear and snacks.


Cheaters. Cheaters Everywhere.

Although cheating originated in Celestia, it wasn’t very prominent nor did it have much of an effect on battles. It wasn’t until Waterworks was released that people realized cheating could be used to add a whole new level of challenge to certain battles as well as the need for strategy and teamwork. As frustrating as the dungeons can be, they remain the best way to meet and work with other players, which is an experience that is largely nonexistent in regular questing. Even with new team up features, questing is usually done alone or with a friend due to the sheer volume of content. Meeting and working with other players to tackle Waterworks, Aquila and the Four Dungeons are some of the best experiences I’ve had in Wizard101, and the battles are always challenging even with a group of four people.

Waterworks was also the main introduction to "farming" for drops from dungeons and bosses. It was the first dungeon to have a set of gear with great stats for every school, and the first real place people began to farm. Not only that but the gear has remained among the best in the game and is still commonly seen among even top level wizards. In all fairness, I will point out that some people may hate these dungeons and farming; after all dungeons and difficult battles can take hours even with a good group, and farming requires an incalculable number of runs. Many people don’t have the time for it, and farming will undoubtedly at some point make you want to throw your computer out a window and swear off Wizard101 for life. That is until five minutes later when you log right back on to try again. Nothing feels better than finally getting through a tough battle and getting that one piece of gear you wanted. I think this is best explained by Professor Greyrose.


When it came out 4 years ago, it was the most difficult dungeon with the hardest battle in the game. Reactions were mixed, with some praising the gear and challenge and pretty much everyone groaning at some point about the low drop rates and overall difficulty. Now it’s just another dungeon, and it’s amazing to think that there are many battles even more difficult. I think this speaks volumes about the Wizard101 community and how eager everyone is to take on and conquer the next new challenge. I think it’s also worth mentioning that the animations, artwork, and designs continue to get more impressive with each update, and that those are things that tend to be overlooked.

Honorable mentions for best updates: Crafting, Pet Pavilion, Celestia



Room For Improvement

Now that I’ve covered the best, it's only fair to briefly talk about the worst. Most notably, Wysteria. The sad part is that it had one of the best themes and a beautiful design, but was too short and unremarkable. To be fair, it was followed shortly by Zafaria then Avalon and Azteca, so it's understandable why it was so underdeveloped, but it seems like a huge missed opportunity. 


 The decision to not make it into a full world (while sad) would have been fine had they done something to make it stand out and be worthwhile. For example, by adding a dungeon (don't even get me started on the Tower of the Helephant) or taking full advantage of the theme and designing some unique gear and housing items. I was hoping for a long list of gear and furniture to craft / buy / farm for, especially after the Wysteria Villa was released (better looking gear for girls and more furniture!), but that hope was short-lived. However, all in all, I do applaud KingsIsle for reliably providing a lot of great new content, and the list of disappointing updates is definitely a short one.

So I’d like to end this by saying thank you, KingsIsle! Keep the updates coming!

Do you agree with this? What do you think have been the best and worst updates and what do you hope to see in the future?

A big thanks for Mary Darkriver for her effort on this post. This was one of the updates I least expected to be mentioned, and it's an angle I never considered before. I hope you found it as insightful as I did. Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral!

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