Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (XSX) Review

Digital Eclipse, recently known for their Atari 50,  Karateka, and Llamasoft Gold Master Series, has once again re-released another old game within a modern, elegant format. Wizardry, originally released in the early 80s, is one of those series that gained a cult following over many years. Personally, my experience with this groundbreaking series is very limited, and I am ashamed of myself. Why? Because after playing this complete reimagining of Wizardry: Proving Grounds, I can’t help but feel a great deal of FOMO.

Simply put, this 1981 release is going to be a little rough if played in its original format today. The now primitive visuals and complex interface is a product of its time. However, Digital Eclipse, with their exquisite vision, took the original game and painted a modern release literally right on top of it. Playing this old game through this modern lens is not only impressive from a technical perspective, but it also breathes new life into this retro experience. In fact, if you had zero background information of this game and just started playing it, you would think it was a 2024 release.

Everything about the original game remains intact just with a new presentation. This new coat of paint not only looks good, but it also sounds great and plays even better.  Instead of 1-bit visuals, everything has been remade with 3D models, animations, and an accompanying soundtrack.  Taking it one step further, there are several “old school” options that the player can adjust. Things like, having the ability to choose starting perks instead of making everything random, there are inn options, map options, and more. If you wanted to play this re-released with its original ruleset, go ahead. But for newbies like me, having the ability to make the game a little more player friendly for 2024 is welcomed. The game also opens with a personal letter from the devs which is another thoughtful addition. 

At its heart, Wizardry is a classic dungeon crawler with involved mechanics. If a party member dies, they can optionally be revived at the temple (for a cost, of course). New party members can be recruited from the training grounds. The inn is used to restore health and MP. Then of course the store is used to purchase material things. Also applying to the old school ruleset is combat, where the player essentially just tells party members to fight, analyze enemies, or use magic without necessarily selecting specifics. Then, if you die, players have the option to venture back into the maze to collect their droppings, again, at a potential cost. Initially, it is complex, but it all makes sense with some minor trial and error. There isn’t any sort of included instruction manual or tutorial, so players are on the own, but it is easy to decipher after a death or two.

Digital Eclipse has been spoiling us with all the included extras and tiny details packaged with the recent Karateka and Llamasoft interactive docu-series titles; they set the bar high. Unfortunately, the lack of bonus material found in this Wizardy re-release is a bit disappointing. Sure, it is convenient to have a game from the early 80s easily accessible on all modern platforms but not having any extras feels like a slightly missed opportunity especially coming from a company that prides itself on detailed documentation.

Even with the lack of included historical context, this enhancement of Wizardry: Proving Grounds is another remake done right thanks to the dedicated effort of Digital Eclipse. It is literally the original game built directly on top a new modern display, but presented in a way that is respectful to the original, but more importantly, more playable than the original. In fact, the tap of a button displays the original game as an overlay, which is super cool. Without this re-release, I probably would have continued to ignore this classic and historical game and provides excitement for future releases. If we can get new Wizardry, Atari, and Karateka games, it is fun to wonder what other dormant/neglected/forgotten franchises Digital Eclipse is targeting. Either way, there is no denying that modern gamers have been eating good off the retro menu lately.

SCORE: 8/10

Also Play: the Vaporum games

Don’t Forget About: the Etrian Odyssey series

Better Than: the 19 other roguelikes that were released in the past 7 days

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief

Twitter: @ZackGaz

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