Review: Wizardry – Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord

Posted on June 11, 2024 by Michael Merchant

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Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is an absolute love letter to the original game that creates a perfect balance of old-school brutality and modern quality of life adjustments.

Developer – Digital Eclipse

Publisher – Digital Eclipse

Platforms –  PC, Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Playstation 4/5

Review copy provided by Publisher

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord was recently released on the Nintendo Switch and is a remake of the original Wizardry from the 1980’s. While some remakes fail at what they are trying to achieve, this game is an absolute love letter to the original game. It features all-new selectable options and baked-in old ones that create a perfect balance of old-school brutality and modern quality-of-life adjustments.

The premise of the game is fairly simple, a band of adventurers are venturing into the depths of a maze at the center of town in order to try and find this powerful amulet and defeat the wizard Werdna. You can either choose a set of premade characters or create your own party and can even recruit other members as you level up. Character classes include Bishops, Fighters, Thieves, Ninjas, Samurai, Lords, Clerics, and you can choose the character’s moral alignment such as Evil, Neutral, and Good. Another option for when you are creating your characters is using random dice rolling for stat allocation. With the modern system, you have a preset dice roll which limits the number of starting class options, but with the old-school mechanics, I’ve seen rolls upwards of 29 points. This is a great way to start your character classes as you have more options and can buff the strength of your characters right from the start.

The maze itself is fairly large and has a lot of twists and turns, traps, and evil monsters lurking every corner. In the past, you would have to draw out your map as you progress through the maze, but with the modern settings, you can see the surrounding area a bit easier as the walls and doors automatically appear on a small mini-map. I ended up going with the old-school option for this part of the game as I loved making the maps as I explored. A few pictures are below.

In terms of difficulty, Wizardry can be absolutely brutal! You can find yourself progressing at a good pace and then all of a sudden find yourself fighting several groups of monsters that decimate a few party members and you will be forced to backtrack to the start to visit the temple and revive the dead. Unfortunately, this is very expensive. To put it into perspective, the cost of reviving the party members that I had was about 1,500 gold each, and each fight was giving about 50 gold. Of course, since I lost my best fighters, I had to create 3 more fighters from scratch and then farm level 1 to build them up to farm some gold and hopefully continue progressing. This set me back quite a bit and made me want to create a full backup party for these scenarios. 

Another aspect of the game that makes it quite difficult is the aging and healing system. The primary way of healing is by resting your characters at the inn, in the old school settings you can rest for a certain amount of gold per amount of health gain, or in modern settings healing is free. Either way, you will also age your character by 1 week. This is a huge detriment to healing, and while you have quite a lot of time before it really starts to impact it is something that made me hesitant. 

The other way to heal is by using your healing class characters, but the starting spell literally only heals a random value of 1-8 HP and can only be cast a few times before they also need to rest to replenish their spell-casting abilities. Healing items are extremely expensive and heal the same way, so you will find yourself creating healers just for keeping in town that can heal your party and age without worrying about quickly aging your primary characters.

The best addition to the game is the ability to pick and choose what settings you want. Do you want to have an old-school map but modern healing mechanics? You can do that! Each setting from the classic version of the game and the modern mechanics are available to turn on and off making the game much more accessible for those wanting to have a more relaxed experience but can be the same experience from back in the day. It’s a great system and I wish more remasters would follow this route. 

Visually the game is great looking even on the Switch, however, if you want, you can turn on the old-school graphics as an overlay to the newly updated visuals. The sound effects, monster design, and music all do a wonderful job of making you feel like you are exploring the murky depths of a treacherous maze. While there isn’t much of a story, that isn’t what this game is about. I loved coming up with the team that I wanted to create and seehow I could make everything work and discovering the secrets that were in store deep in the maze. I can’t recommend Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord highly enough for those of you that enjoy games such as Etrian Odyssey, Legend of Grimrock, and Eye of the Beholder. Of course, Wizardry was the foundation for all of these games so it is to be expected, but how well the modern updates have helped keep this game from showing its age is a testament to Digital Eclipse and their love for the source material.

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