Wizardry Brings A Forgotten Part of Gaming History Back to Life In May

Back to where it all began.

key art from Wizardry Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord remake
Digital Eclipse

You may not have played the dungeon crawler Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, but you’ve almost certainly played one of the games it inspired. Released in 1981 for the Apple II, Wizardry was one of the first roleplaying games available on computers, and the very first to feature the party-based setup so common in the genre. Now, it’s set to return to PC and consoles in a form that should be appealing to newcomers and old-school fans alike.

The Wizardry remake comes from Digital Eclipse, the same studio behind last year’s The Making of Karateka and this year’s Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story. The game entered Early Access on Steam in fall 2023, and its full release is set for May 23, which also marks the first time it will be available on consoles.

The Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord remake is built on the original Apple II game’s code.

Digital Eclipse

According to Digital Eclipse, Wizardry is “built directly on top of the original 1981 game's code,” meaning its core gameplay remains the same despite a fresh coat of paint. The remake also gets some quality-of-life additions that should make the first-person dungeon crawler more comfortable to today’s players. Those include a modern interface and streamlined systems for party management, navigation, and combat.

Wizardry comes from a time when video games were in their infancy, so these adjustments should make for a more palatable experience. But the remake’s best feature may be one that brings the game’s roots into full view. At any time, players can turn the original Wizardy’s interface on to see the best wireframe graphics 1981 had to offer drawn right on top of the remake’s new visuals.

Players can toggle on the original game’s interface at any time.

Digital Eclipse

That cool feature sets Wizardry apart from most other remakes, but it shouldn’t be entirely surprising coming from Digital Eclipse. The studio built its name on accurate remakes of games like Mega Man and the SNES-era Disney games before expanding in recent years into documentary-style releases that chronicle important classic games. Those include 2023’s The Making of Karateka and 2024’s Llamasoft: The Jeff Minter Story, which combine original interviews, archival footage, and remakes of classic games from various stages of development to bring some possibly forgotten games back to life. Wizardry isn’t getting that same treatment, but Digital Eclipse’s commitment to reusing the game’s original code and letting players toggle on its old interface shows a similar level of dedication.

And Wizardry is a great subject for it. Inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, Wizardry set the standard that modern RPGs like Final Fantasy are still built on. Despite that, and its numerous ports, it’s only playable today through emulation for anyone who isn’t hoarding the old hardware it was released on. As a 2023 report from the Video Game History Foundation and the Software Preservation Network found, 97 percent of games released before 1985 are now out of print, and Wizardry is among them. A remake can never truly replace the need to preserve classic games in their original format, but for the average fan, Digital Eclipse’s Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord is as close as it comes to reviving an essential part of video game history.

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord will be released on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox on May 23.

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