Published on May 26th, 2024 | by Andrew Paul

Wizardry Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord Review (PlayStation 5, 2024) @ #WerdnaVSTrebor

Wizardry Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord Review (PlayStation 5, 2024) @ #WerdnaVSTrebor Andrew Paul

Summary: Wizardry Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord -prepare to be beaten... badly


Nostalgia pain

The classic (and original) Sword & Sorcery RPG has returned to the gaming world with Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord that was originally released on the Apple II way back in September 1981 when pixels roamed the planet. The game was originally developed by Andrew C. Greenberg and Robert Woodhead during their student days at Cornell University and was published by Sir-Tech. With a little bit of backward spelling of their first names, they also play two of the main characters in this game.

It is also considered the forefather of RPG games and was the first title to successfully recreate a true Dungeons & Dragons experience on the home computer with not just one character but a whole party! It was definitely a game changer back in the day that is fondly remembered by fans which set itself apart from other games during this era – 42 years to be precise. As a fun fact, Wizardry was so popular that it even beat Ultima.

The Review

As an older gamer, Wizardry still holds a special place in my gaming memories and I remember playing this RPG back in the day with my friends, the CGA (Colour Graphics Adapter) PC version of Wizardry from 1984 on a computer given to me by my older brother and needless to say, we had a blast. Even though the graphics were basic, the gameplay and atmosphere worked so well together, including the challenging monster encounters.

If the odds were against you, you could also flee a battle and if you were not successful, sometimes you lost a party member or worse, the entire party that then needed to be resurrected. Fortunately you could find their items in the dungeons so not all was lost which is also the same of this re-release. In essence the PC was the Dungeon Master as you ventured in this sword and sorcery universe.

The original game also crashed for us midway through the game and as a result, all our characters were made the highest level possible that allowed us to kick the ass of Werdna (aka Andrew C. Greenberg)  the evil protagonist of the game and complete the game in just under a few minutes with each play sequential play through. Good times indeed and when I found out that Wizardry was coming back, I was super excited!

So here we are again in 2024 as developers Digital Eclipse bring this fondly remembered game back into existence with their tweaked incarnation of Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. The developers have also built this version on top of the Apple II version, including porting the original Pascal code into the Unreal Engine. As a result, nicer graphics, however you can still channel the original line graphics and text if that is your wish.

The gameplay is almost identical to the original, in that you move one step at a time through the “proving grounds” and encounter random enemies. From there, you need to choose your actions such as attacking with weapons or casting spells. Prior to starting the game, you need to create your party or pick up random adventurers in the Inn or the proving grounds. Again old school charm which harkens back to Dungeons & Dragons.

Graphically, there is a huge update from the initial game but don’t expect next-gen graphics, however given the mechanics and homage to the original game and as it is a turn based title, the controls work well on the DualSense controller, including the PlayStation Portal that allows you to go cordless with your RPG’ing. And man oh man… the memories of the Training Grounds, Gilgamesh’s Tavern, Template of Can’t and the Maze – awesome work Digital Eclipse. For diehards and purists, there is even an “old school option” that makes the game as difficult as the original, however by default, it has a more accessible setting.

Following the D&D formula, the more enemies you kill, the more experience points you are awarded that allows you to “level” up your characters. Additionally, you find gold and loot throughout the proving grounds which allows you to uncover better weapons and armour. You also need to ensure a careful balance for your party that includes a Fighter, Cleric, Mage and Thief, including two additional party members such as another Warrior and Wizard. Given that, Wizardry can be super brutal so pacing and tactics is the key. While it does have a “map”, pen and paper is far superior. All in all, this RPG is pure old school mechanics with far superior graphics.

So does it work in 2024? Yes and no – at times Wizardry is a brutal homage to the past that can be very very difficult. As a result, things are a little clunky and don’t get too fond of your characters because you’ll lose them if you get too cocky. However as mentioned, it has this charm and almost Sun Tzu meditative aura that had me glued to my TV and portal, all while I wanted to throw this console out of the window. Damn you Digital Eclipse.

Final Thoughts?

Wizardry Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlock is a fun walk down memory lane which successfully brings the original game in its entirety with updated graphics and slightly tweaked gameplay. Given that, this is not a remake of Wizardry but rather a remaster. Definitely for the gamer who is seeking that old school atmosphere without the old school graphics.

About the Author'

Back to Top ↑