Realms Beyond – A classic turn-based fantasy RPG

Source of Inspiration #3: Wizardry

Whenever the conversation touches upon old-school computer roleplaying games, the subject turns to just how difficult those games were. With that in mind, I think it is time to talk about Wizardry, the legendary RPG series developed by Sir-Tech. THOSE games were hard to beat! Seriously hard! Similarly to the Ultima games, most of our team’s first contact was not with the first Wizardry game, but rather with later entries in the series, typically, starting with Wizardry IV: The Return of Werdna.

Bane of the Cosmic ForgeIt may sound strange, but the very first thing that comes to mind when remembering Wizardry IV is its copy protection. The game allowed you to play through the entire first dungeon but then would ask you for a series of digits from a list that was included in the box. The fact that the list was printed on red paper made it virtually impossible to photocopy. (Remember, this was long before color copiers or the Internet.) It is a strange thing to remember, altogether, but it stuck for some reason.

If Ultima gave us a world to explore and Pool of Radiance gave us tactical, turn-based combat, the AD&D ruleset and the sense of wonder brought across through strange NPC encounters, Wizardry gave us the satisfying sense of accomplishment for surviving every single step of the way!

Wizardry IV, in particular, had an extremely cool story setup that was very easy to understand. You started on level 10 of a dungeon and had to make it to the top level to escape. On each level, you would have to find a pentagram to restore a part of your former power. That was it. But good luck!

Combat in Wizardry 6What they didn’t tell you was that there were monsters in that dungeon that could kill you with a single blow. They also did not tell you that you needed expert mapping skills to carefully map every step you took. Without it, you were hopelessly lost in no time at all. Did you just have a round of bad luck rolling the digital dice and miss a few hits? Too bad for you… end of the game! Yes, it was that hard.

Because Wizardry IV was never released on the Commodore C64, Atari ST or Amiga, few of us had actually played it. The Apple II on which it ran simply wasn’t a very popular computer in Germany. But it has always been one of those legendary games the older, nerdy gamers talked about. People you would meet at the fantasy store. The one you bought your AD&D stuff at. And according to them, all the other computer RPGs were merely kids stuff. And there was some truth to it.

With that in mind, the Wizardry games most of us had actual hands-on experience were David W. Bradley’s Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom or Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge. The reason is simple. These games were finally available for the C64 and Amiga, respectively. And it was at this time that we got indoctrinated to the difficulty level of a Wizardry game because either of them was hard. Really hard. If you hear people talk about Demons or Dark Souls these days, this is where that true feeling of accomplishment came from. The fear that each step might be your last, and the satisfaction when, at long last, you made it past your previous point-of-defeat.

In future blog posts, we’ll revisit the Wizardry Series, to be more precise, Wizardry VII – Crusaders of the Dark Savant, in regards to advanced/prestige character classes.

But for now, we wish you Merry Christmas and happy holidays!


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