Digital Eclipse has announced that not only are they remaking Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, they’re launching it into Early Access today.
Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord was the first in the series and launched all the way back in the primordial days of 1981 on the Apple II. It was one of the games that popularized dungeon crawlers and helped translate tabletop RPGs to the home computer. It’s not the first, however. Richard Garriot’s Akalabeth predates it by a year and DunjonQuest: Temple of Apshai by two. Even before that, there were attempts to recreate Dungeons and Dragons on mainframe computers.
On the other hand, you could consider Wizardry to be the seminal dungeon crawler RPG. It set the standards for a lot of first-person dungeon crawlers that would follow in its wake. It also spawned a long-running series. This isn’t even the first time the game has been remade, but Digital Eclipse is staying extremely true to the original version.
Remakes and remasters are nothing new to game preservation, but I’m really digging the “warts and all” approach we’ve been getting recently. Usually, some of the more aged aspects get smoothed over, but everything that made the game special is preserved. That’s certainly the case here.
I was given an early look at the game but only had time for a bit of noodling. The one feature that really stands out to me is that, while you’re always looking at shiny and new graphics, the original interface continually plays in the bottom-right corner of the screen. It’s sort of a picture-in-picture comparison. I think it’s pretty fun, sort of like when a game allows you to switch back and forth between remastered graphics and the old look. On the other hand, if you don’t like it, you can make it transparent or hide it entirely.
While Digital Eclipse says that they’re sticking fast to Wizardry’s original difficulty and mechanics, there are some quality-of-life changes to make it a bit more friendly. This mostly comes down to how you find your way around and how your characters level up. Despite this, there are options to change it to follow the rules of the original game more closely.
I haven’t played a Wizardry game to any great length, so my first party got trounced by some kobolds. Then, my second party got trounced. I’ve got some learning to do.
Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is out on Steam Early Access and GOG today. The downside is that it’s going for $29.99, and the price is supposed to rise as the game is updated. That’s quite steep.