My brother sent me a really cool game for my birthday I'll be notching later this month: Wizard's Crown by SSI (1985 for DOS, 1986 for C64). To put it into context, this game came out for C64 one year after
Bard's Tale and Ultima IV, 2 years before Pool of Radiance (PoR)
hit C64 in 1988, and 4 years before PoR
made it to Amiga in 1990.
In other words, Wizard's Crown is pretty ancient and hits that sweet spot of 8-bit RPG grand-daddy sweetness and the timeframe of the birth of Amiga.
But its influence on SSI was stronger than I ever knew until getting the game and reading about it this week. From a historical perspective it is absolutely fascinating as it offers what the Gold Box games are often heralded as being legendary for: a very deep tactical combat system in a fantasy setting.
Tenured professor of English and retro-gaming YouTuber Matt Barton
describes Wizard's Crown as "probably the most hardcore RPG of its time" and "one of the most sophisticated tactical CRPGs ever designed."
In fact, the tactical combat system created in Wizard's Crown seems to be fairly similar to the future Gold Box incarnations by SSI that would follow in later years. But due to the complexity of the system in Wizard's Crown (some single encounters could take up to 40 minutes to complete!) things were streamlined for the future Gold Box adventures. I do look forward to seeing what those differences contain. A 40-minute tactical combat for a single battle sounds... cool yet daunting. But you know what? There were times when I was a wee lad playing D&D with my brother where encounters could take ages, too: shuffling through character sheets, rolling dice, completely missing and having to wait for other party members to decide (after painfully long minutes of scanning their own sheets and skills and spells and stats and inventories) before another choice was made, and all around the room.
You've seen the first season of Stranger Things; that shit was real, yo.
As such, Wizard's Crown also offers a "Quick Combat" option, so you don't have to spend all summer playing the game.
Also, during the character creation process you can pick the icon that represents your character in the game. Sound familiar, Gold Box friends?
From what I've read
, the game sounds hard and confusing at times. But it does sound pretty cool and worth playing if not completely finishing just to see where some of these ideas we're all so used to originated from.
In fact, this game was so popular back in the day it was SSI's second best-selling Commodore game as of late 1987. As such it even spawned a sequel called Eternal Dagger (which I'm also looking for now...).