Wizordum review - mage battling demons

Wizordum review – Hocus Pocunstein 3D

Remember when the Wolfenstein 3D engine was the hottest thing around? With Apogee publishing classic FPS from JAM Software and ID? Well, in a possible alternate timeline, they continued releasing FPS, Hocus Pocus, instead of a 2D platformer, actually came before Heretic. That’s really what Wizordum feels like – a kind of 1992 alternate reality when Doom still hasn’t happened. We’re giving it a look to see in its early access state, if it’s worth your hard-earned doubloons.

The story goes that Terrabruma is seeing Chaos reign free ever since the ancient seal has been shattered and almost all the mages of the Wizordum sanctuary have been destroyed. As one of the last of your kind, you must embark on a quest to restore the balance of powers, before the Chaos takes over the entire kingdom. Not much to the story obviously, just a good premise to go out and start spell-casting some goblins.

In the early access copy we had early access to (okay, sorry), there are about five levels completed, five different weapons and several enemies to dispose of. While five levels might sound like not that many, make no mistake here: they are sprawling. Each level is made up of several floors you’ll have to explore to grab keys, activate levers and kill the hundred or so enemies that just won’t be ignored. The devs clearly spent some time balancing things out, since every enemy can be dangerous, especially when it’s 2 or 3 of them.

You have to constantly be on your guard and often look behind you, as they tend to sneak up and drain you of 30 health points in an instant. You’re not defenseless. We start with a magic mace, which doesn’t feel very wizard-like, but we’ll allow it, and along the way, you’ll get two rings that emit magic flames, a staff to freeze your enemies, a pistol and magic balls. No, not the one in your pants, these are magic grenades that can be thrown like bowling balls.

The levels do require you to pay attention, since missing a lever or a button to press is quite easy. Keys are usually easier to find, along with the gates that they open, but once you start getting underground – and you will do that a lot – the caves can be a bit more confusing. At one point, I wished that I wouldn’t be left to aim directionless in the sprawling maps, but had a way to tell where I would be heading next. But lo and behold, the devs later added a little sparkly indicator in the map to signal where to go next. Man can’t even complain about something and they fix it.

But it wouldn’t be an Apogee classic FPS without points, right? Indeed, there is a lot of treasure to collect, which doesn’t seem to have an in-game use. It’s there for people who want to compete for Leaderboards and high score points, of course. Just like in the good ol’ days. Or, well, just like today too. The way the levels are designed, they seem to be made for speedrunners to go through and finish in the quickest time possible. There will be secrets too, so be on the lookout.

Along with treasure, there are a lot of different health-restoring items to grab. For example, there are the usual classic potions, in the small and big variety, armor that will save you some damage and food. But you can also drink from wells or even grab fruits off trees and little plants. You can also search corpses for loot; whereas before you had to just gib them, now you can just interact with corpses. Or, well, you can also smash them anyway, no one is judging. Do your thing.

Graphically, the game does feel like it truly belongs in the early 90s, even though slightly updated for modern convenience. So no, you won’t be playing at 320×240, have no fear. The engine runs smooth as silk even in the busiest combination of enemies, items lying around and scenario elements. The sound effects are also true Adlib gold, and if you recognize that reference then yes, it is probably time to call your doctor for that prostate exam.

Wizordum feels like a possible missing link between Wolfenstein 3D, Hocus Pocus and Heretic. A sort of full-on 1992 experience which feels different from many “boomer shooters” resurgences, since it aims for a very specific niche. The mechanics all work as they should and the devs have spent a lot of time playing old games and have nailed that feel perfectly, with a great balance of difficulty since even the medium skill will offer a fair challenge. If anything in this review sounded familiar and good to your ears, then Wizordum will entice you. It’s a kind of magic, ain’t it?

Our Wizordum review was made possible with a key provided by Stride PR. Wizordum is available on Steam.

Wizordum: Wizordum is a magical throwback to classic pre-Doom shooters with a fantasy vibe, rich with character and with a perfectly balanced difficulty. Damiano Gerli

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Damiano Gerli

Damiano Gerli was born with a faithful Commodore 64 by his side. It taught him how to program basic adventure games and introduced him to new genres. Then, he fell in love with Sega -- while the Master System wasn't as powerful as the Genesis, it was where he played Sonic and Outrun. Years later, he got the idea that he was the most Sega-knowledgeable person in the world, so he opened a website in 1997, The Genesis Temple. Damiano is a gaming industry professional and historian, loves adventure and indie titles, but he never shies away from action and triple-A RPGs. Basically, Damiano is been writing about videogames for 20 years, with no plans to stop. Say hi to him on X at @damgentemp.