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Wizardry's Back for Blood

The classic RPG series gets a new lease on life thanks to a Steam rerelease by retro specialists Night Dive Studios.

RPGs -- be they Eastern or Western -- are a lot more forgiving than they used to be.

While they weren't quite roguelike-brutal "back in the day" -- you could at least, in most cases, reload a save game if things went disastrously wrong -- you certainly had to contend with things like permadeath, tricky puzzles, random encounters and potentially unknowingly straying into areas packed with monsters considerably stronger than your party. The fact that many games also allowed you to create your entire party also significantly increased the possibility of you assembling a completely incompetent team of adventurers who would be incapable of making it through their whole quest.

The Wizardry series stood on the front line of these brutally challenging experiences, daring its fans to delve into its deep dungeons and dishing out regular slaps in the face to those who got a bit too cocky for their own good -- and actually served as a significant influence on Japanese RPGs such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. The series later went on to enjoy considerable popularity in the East after getting across the initial stumbling block of the very Western cultural references, jokes and parodies in the early installments. Since the original release of Wizardry 8 -- the last entry in the "main" series -- subsequent games have been largely Japan-exclusive.

This is Wizardry 8, the last of the Sir-Tech-developed entries in the series.

This sort of RPG is something that we don't see all that often these days, though there is the odd exception -- the independently developed Legend of Grimrock successfully channelled the spirit of the old-school dungeon-crawler and brought it bang up to date with modern aesthetics, for example, and a similarly modernized remake of Realms of Arkania hit Steam a short while back. Alongside these PC titles, retro-style dungeon crawls have found a surprising home on handhelds thanks to the Etrian Odyssey series that Jeremy's so fond of, too, with the latest installment set to arrive in October this year.

As good as Etrian Odyssey is, though, there's value in revisiting the originators of a genre -- particularly when these games were designed to be replayed multiple times with different party lineups. It's fortunate, then, that retro specialists Night Dive Studios have resurrected the "Dark Savant" Wizardry trilogy -- that's the sixth, seventh and eighth games, if you're unfamiliar with the series as a whole -- and rereleased them all on Steam.

As much as the announcement of these games being on Steam would apparently like you to believe that this is the first time Wizardry has been available to modern gamers for some time, that's not quite the case. They've actually been available on GOG.com for a while now -- Wizardry 6 and 7 in one pack here and the eighth and final installment here.

The Steam re-rerelease of these three Wizardries doesn't come with a huge amount of Steam-exclusive features -- though Wizardry 8 does support Steam Cloud -- and as such where you choose to pick them up from should largely be determined by personal preference. The GOG versions do come with the soundtracks and digital versions of the printed materials that came in the original box, but many PC gamers enjoy the convenience of having easy access to all of their games via their Steam library. It's the same price either way, so take your pick -- just be ready for a challenge!


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