I agree that Wizardry 8 is a great game; it is, however, not without its flaws. In particular:
* Combat is often rather slow.
* Attack magic, especially single target attack magic, tends to be a bit weak; this is especially apparent later on when everything has significant resistance to all elements.
* Enemy encounters scale with your level. This means that leveling up can sometimes make the game harder. (A better way of handling this would be to have encounters scale with quest progress instead; perhaps the enemies get stronger after each artifact you retrieve.)
* The first trip down Arnika Road is far harder than it should be, and comes before the game really gets fun.
* I really don't like the way Stealth works, making enemies less likely to target the character with the ability, and it can't be turned off. (If you try soloing with Stealth, and you take the time to raise it to high levels, enemies will, to my understanding, often defend, which will drag out battles even longer than necessary.)
With that said, Wizardry 8 *does* have the awesome Gadgeteer class, as well as finally having a Bishop class that is actually useful at mid levels (unlike the rather useless Bishops from earlier in the series).
1) The Brutal Start-up Difficulty of Wizardry 8
I think, the brutal start-up difficulty of Wizardry 8 is because the game designers deliberately made it that way, so that it can give people unique feeling not commonly experienced in other RPGs.
As I have said in one of my other threads, this feeling is called by Japanese gamers, who have played Wizardy 6, as "Aranami Kan（荒波感）" (The feel of bitter, surging seawave； the helpless feeling of being thrown into a strange world with no reconnection to the outer world until beating the game).
In Wizardry 6, 7 and 8, the player's party might have come from different places of the universe. Before they decided to explore the lost Kingdom of Aram, they might have already had their own adventures elsewhere.
At the begining of the game, they came together, and were trapped in a strange and unfriendly place, being cut off from the safety outside. If we examine the selectable races of the player's party, we can see that some of them, such as Gnome, Hobbit, Lizardman, Dracon, Felphurr, and Rawulf, haven't even appeared as NPCs nor Enemies in any of the New Wizardry games (Wizardry 6, 7 and 8). This indicates that the stages of the game are not the homeland of player's party members. They are alien to these worlds.
Unlike other open-world RPGs, in Wizardry 6, 7 and 8, the environment is actually the enemy to the player's party, rather than friend. One main focus of the game is to survive the hard environment and become tougher so as to make life easier and easier. It is not an amuzing world tour. It is an one-way, no-return mission. I haven't found any other open-world RPG wherein survival can be so big a problem as Wizardy 8 (Expert, Iron Mode).
2) Japanese Gamers: Say No to Western RPGs!
By the way, the above mentioned game design was infamous among Japanese gamers back in the 90s. There were two games which caused many Japanese gamers to quite playing traditional WRPGs. One was the FC (NES) version of Might and Magic I. The other was Wizardry 6.
On July 31st,1990, Gakken Co. Ltd. released the FC Japanese version of Might and Magic. Before the game's release, Gakken had advertised the game in "Youth Science" and "Youth Eduction" magzines, two of the famous magzines in Japan.
"The World's greatest RPG, ever! Ground breaking cartridge storage! 3D dungeons! Awesome story! All in all, a perfect RPG!"
Because of this, many elementary school students bought the game. But the brutal start-up difficulty had made them shed bitter tears.
At the beginning of the game, the little kids got no text messages indicating what the goal of the game is and what they should do.
After exploring the game world a little bit, they would encouter monsters who could single-handedly wipe out the entire party.
Might and Magic had caused such great trauma to the Japanese that even to this day, many would still believe that it is the worst Kuso game ever made.
Several years later, Wizardry 6 (SFC version) was released. Again, its obscure gameplay and brutal startup difficulty aroused great controversy.
It was these two games that have left wrpg such a bad name in Japan, that Wizardry 7 and 8 haven't even got a decent Japanese console remake.("Wizardry Collection" Locus, Aug. 1st, 1999)
3) The Attached Pic, Illustrated by Jun Suemi, is One of My Favorite: https://imgsa.baidu.com/forum/pic/item/d6fc7ef0f736afc31b1fba64bf19ebc4b64512d7.jpg
A generic adventurer's party, which is composed of Felphurr Thief, Dracon Lord, Human Samurai, Elven Valkyrie, Faery Priest and Mook Mage, is standing before the gate of the Aram Castle.
The Thief is inspecting the gate. All of them look composed. Perhaps, they were thinking that they could retreat from the castle when facing great danger.
They don't know, this is an one-way trip into a strange world.