It has arrived. It’s day I’ve long dreamed about, but never dared hope to see. After decades of secretly wishing, a modern remake of the first Wizardry game has been released! If you’re a frequent reader on this site, then it is no mystery that Wizardry is one of my all-time favorite gaming franchises. It’s the game that single-handedly created a whole genre of gaming; the CRPG.
I first encountered Wizardry back in 1989 while spending the night with a friend. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning crawling through the dungeon, fighting terrifying monsters, and collecting magical treasure. From that moment forward, I was hooked on sword and sorcery gaming. Several years later, I picked up a copy of Wizardry for the NES and I found myself entranced yet again. Over the years, I’ve played just about every version of the game that’s seen the light of day and I’ve long hoped for a modern remake. But, knowing the complicated licensing issues surrounding the franchise, I never expected this to actually become a reality.
Then, the other day while scrolling through my feed on X (Twitter), I game across a familiar logo with the word “Soon” plastered on top of it. Alarm bells went off in my brain… Could this be it? Is someone really releasing a new version of Wizardry? Well, I didn’t have to wait long. The very next day, Digital Eclipse (a company famous for resurrecting retro games) announced the immediate release of Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. It was described as the classic game with modern graphics. As you might expect, I purchased it immediately.
Now, this isn’t going to be a full review of the game. I’ve already reviewed the DOS version of Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, and from a gameplay standpoint, not much has changed. In fact, the core gameplay itself is identical to the original Apple II version of the game. This is because it’s actually the Apple II version running in the background. You can even press a button that pops the old-school version on the screen. What the developers have done here is created some sort of graphical wrapper that takes what’s happening in the original version and dresses it up with visuals using the Unreal Engine. As you might expect, the end result is gorgeous. For the first time, the dungeon walls are detailed in stunning graphics and lighting, the monsters have unique animations, and every magic spell has a unique visual effect.
Of course, there are some modern additions to the game that were not present in the original release. But anything new is completely optional and can be turned off. Examples of these new additions are an on-screen automap, simplified character creation, in-game hints, etc.
But even these modern conveniences come with a retro twist. For example, when automapping, the map is generated according the what the character is experiencing. What I mean by that is, let’s say your character is walking down a straight hallway. The map will be updated to reflect this. However, unbeknownst to the character, they triggered a teleporter trap that took them back to the beginning of the hall. Not knowing that this has happened, they continue forward, retracing their steps. But the map doesn’t know this, so it appears as an extremely long hallway – just like what would have happened in the old days if the player was mapping out every step on graph paper. The error only becomes obvious the next time they cast a Dumapic (aka: location) spell and can see they are not where they thought they were.
Which brings me to another point… All of the original spell names and story elements are present in this new version. Well, technically that’s not true. For trademark reasons, Hobbits have been renamed to Halflings. But that’s a change that simply couldn’t be helped. And yes, the spell names include helpful notes that explain what they are to players unfamiliar with the strange, magical language that’s unique to Wizardry.
It is important to note that this new version of Wizardry is still in Alpha mode. This means that the even though the game is completely playable, it’s not finished cooking. The developers plan to squash bugs add more assets to the game in the coming months. Revealed plans include more character portraits, revisions to monster art, and more musical pieces – just to name a few.
Already, the game has captured more attention from the gaming community than I anticipated. This can only mean good things. One can hope that this release is successful enough that we might see similar treatments for other classic Wizardry titles. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. But no matter what, it’s 2023 and we finally have a modern/playable version of Wizardry 1 for PC gamers.
Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is currently available on Steam and GOG.
Other Reviews In This Series:
Gaiden I – Gaiden II – Gaiden III – Gaiden IV
Wizardry Empire – Wizardry: Dimguil – Wizardry Chronicle – Wizardry Summoner
Tale of the Forsaken Land – Tale of the Forsaken Land 0
Prisoners of the Battles – Absence of Misericordia – Five Ordeals
Wizardry Asterisk – Wizardry Xth
Labyrinth of Lost Souls – Prisoners of the Lost City
Pledge of Life – Heritage of Oblivion