Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord Review: Dungeon Royalty

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord review: relive the 1982 classic, only in 3D, new features, and an epic soundtrack!

Writing a Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord review is as ambitious as a Gloomhaven one, but I managed to cover that, so let’s give it a go. Why is it ambitious? First of all, think about the heritage of this game: launched in 1982 and a title that launched a thousand RPG ships, it’ll have a legion of fans to appeal to.

That didn’t stop Digital Eclipse, and considering they’re steering their own ship and flying the flag for the classics, you know you’re in good hands. This review isn’t catered for the veterans, however. I’m well aware of the original and its impact, but while the dungeon crawlers were having their minds blown with the Apple version, I didn’t experience the genre until Eye of the Beholder—hence the incessant number of references across this site.

No, this Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord review is for you, fellow semi-serious/more than casual gamer with experience in the ways of the classic RPG and not shy about sporting chainmail and shouting, “You shall not pass!”. So, what is it? It’s a dungeon crawler, silly, and it all begins when you select your party…

Either accept a random party or create your own – not in the style of a Bethesda freckles-and-all customiser, but a group of versatility of steel and magic. The town where you begin is your hub not just for creating characters, juggling their inventory and flirting with the merchants but also a place to rest from The Maze – a ruthless labyrinth of coordinated rotters determined to stop your progress.

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord Review - Party of six
Party of six. Source: Steam

Those seeking a story will pay heed to the Overlord’s amulet. Some wizard named Werdna has stolen it, so Overlord Trebor (mints) has put out a hit that anyone who retrieves it will be promised power and the envious title of Honor Guard. Cue hordes of reprobates looking for a quick prize, little knowing how treacherous the maze is. And no, that’s not hyperbole – Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is tough!

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is a remaster that beautifies the original. Those unfamiliar with traditional dungeon crawlers may find the text somewhat verbose and the lack of free movement when looking around as restrictive. This approach is more for the D&D audience who are accustomed to others whispering sweet nothings into their ears about “You’re in a room…” and so forth.

Combat that will be taking up most of your adventure. As a turn-based adventure, enemies will be presented in rows, as per your own party, and it’s down to you to apply the best strategy for the win. Those on the frontline are free to melee, while the party members at the rear can cast spells and offer support. The fight’s pace is fine, but the text flashes far too quickly to see what happened.

What may prove frustrating for some is being unable to target individual enemies. Attacks will apply automatically to whomever, while certain moves and spells seek multiple targets. It takes some getting used to, and it’ll require practical thinking as you can’t have one row randomly attack while the others provide range support. Instead, you’ll analyse, look for weaknesses, and hope your mages are clued up on vulnerabilities.

Besides the rapid text, the battles have a nice pace, and the excellent music supports this. From the uniform medieval bard ballads to the dungeon-crawling ambience that sounds like something out of Ghostbusters, the score is very eerie, atmospheric, and suited to the world building and drama.

Other genre traits to look out for in Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord include trap disarming, exposing magic, and walking into walls – “Oof!”. Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is very familiar territory – I mean, it’s one of The Originals – and as a little nod to veterans, there’s an overlay that shows a monochrome screen with the original player screen, text-based with some crude graphics from ‘back in the day’.

I never had the pleasure of playing the original, but Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord has converted me to its cause. Whether that means I’ll be altering our house into a lair and speaking in bastardised olde English remains to be seen, but in terms of this old-school RPG – as a brand new player – it reignites the desire to relive the classics tremendously.

The verdict?