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Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (NES) artwork

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (NES) review


"You are in a dark dungeon. The stench of kobolds overpowers you as you squint down the dark hall. You step forward and pause, fearful of an ambush from an unseen band of highway men. When the ambush does not come, you feel brief relief -- but it is short lived, for each and every step you take, could be your last. You turn and look behind you. Through the darkness, you can no longer see the ladder that you used to descend into this labyrinth. What madness has driven you here? "



You are in a dark dungeon. The stench of kobolds overpowers you as you squint down the dark hall. You step forward and pause, fearful of an ambush from an unseen band of highway men. When the ambush does not come, you feel brief relief -- but it is short lived, for each and every step you take, could be your last. You turn and look behind you. Through the darkness, you can no longer see the ladder that you used to descend into this labyrinth. What madness has driven you here?

The madness is not your own, it is the insanity that has defeated the Overlord Trebor. He had discovered a legendary artifact, an amulet, and held it triumphantly within his castle. Yet his foe, the wizard Werdna, discovered this, and in the dead of night, stole it right out from under his nose. In its place, Werdna left a letter mocking Trebor. To further infuriate him, Werdna hide himself at the bottom of the labyrinth beneath Trebor's own castle. Obsessed with recovering his precious amulet, the Overlord has sent out a call to all reaches of his domain for loyal individuals to prove their worth by descending into the maze, slaying Werdna, and recovering his lost treasure. Werdna will learn that one does not toy with a man in power and escape the consequences.

But it seems that you are the one who will pay. The labyrinth has taken on a life of its own, it has become a manifestation of Trebor's madness. At every step, vicious monsters stalk you, hidden traps lay ready for your unsuspecting approach, doors lock shut behind you, rooms move, and puzzles of all sorts will likely trap you underground for the rest of your days. With no map to guide you, you are forced to carry graph paper with you and plot each step you take. But this proves a more difficult task than you imagined when you turn and find you have mysteriously teleported to a different location within the maze. Where are you now? Are you still on the same floor? Injured and lost, can you find your way back to the surface to recover?

Like Trebor and the amulet, this maze has consumed you. You don't even know who you are any more. You create new characters, give them names, give them their professions, but they never speak to you. You begin to wonder if they even exist. In the dungeon, you see everything through your own eyes, but you never see yourself. The Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord has driven you as mad as the Overlord himself.

Yet these characters you create are everything to you. The experience they gain and the gold that they gather from monsters in the maze are the only proof that you are even here. As they become smarter and stronger, you can allow your friends to change professions, and even advanced to professions that cannot be accessed by a novice. Perhaps you have created a Ninja with a chance or felling an enemy in a single blow or a Lord that can use the coveted lord's garb to recover your health? Only by experiencing the maze and recovering at the Inn repeatedly will allow your allies to grow in potential.

Should you become lost or should one of your personalities be killed, you have no choice but to continue. There are no saves to return to, your adventure is recorded into the annals of history after every fight you endure. You may be forced to find a spot to hold down and wait for help. But there is no band of heroes to come for you. You must create new characters, explore the dungeon, and, with the aid of some spells, you may find the bodies of your lost or fallen comrades and carry them back to the surface.

As you grow stronger, you can venture deeper into the labyrinth's ten floors. Rooms that spin, steps that transport you to unfamiliar locations, and hidden doors in seemingly mundane walls will make it very difficult to plot your course on graph paper and find your way to the very bottom of this madness. If you succeed, you will confront the wizard Wernda, a powerful creature capable of casting the most feared spell in the realms, Tiltowait. But if you have enough experience, you may very well be able to return the favor in kind. Once defeated, you can claim the amulet and return it to the Overlord.

But the madness does not end. You may be compelled to create new characters and to return to the maze. Moster's still lurk and Werdna's presence remains. Yet if one of your original companions joins you, Werdna will be gone. Does the foe really survive? Who are you?

It is better to not ask these questions. There are no NPCs around to ask, you do not see buildings, and you never see yourself. Sometimes you may not even see the names of the enemies that attack you. All that you know is the familiar walls of this maddening dungeon and your own frustration as you walk through a newly discovered door only to have it disappear behind you.

Rating: 8/10

dagoss's avatar
Community review by dagoss (January 14, 2008)

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