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WarWizard is a top-down fantasy role-playing game by Microgenesis, a little reminiscent of the Ultima series, but with its very own, unique mood similar to that of early Amiga RPGs (with good reason, since the game was first programmed for the Amiga after all). The game is controlled by a combination of keyboard keys and a mouse.
You play the role of a War Wizard, a kind of jack-of-all-trades hero specially trained by an ancient order of monks. In addition to using all manners of weapons, he is also able to master spells from every spell school available in the game. The mercenaries that can be hired throughout the game cannot; each is able to cast spells solely from the single school they specialize in, and most are only able to use a limited range of weapons. Your task in the game is explained right at the beginning after talking to your old master: to find nine magic equipment items of great power made specifically for another War Wizard during the first battle with his evil counterpart ages ago, and to then defeat the evil War Wizard that is once again threatening the land from the far North of the continent.
The continent on which the events in the game take place is divided into many different lands, ranging from dry deserts and lush jungles to grasslands, swamps, dense forests and mountains. Each area has its own set of enemies and non-hostile characters that can be usually encountered within it. Some of the latter can be hired right in the beginning for free, some others demand gold up-front before they agree to join you, and some only join you if your Charisma is high enough. Some are better than others, and some are not necessarily worth the gold they demand for their services. You'll need all the help you can find, since you'll constantly have random encounters which, depending on whether you're in one of the more civilized areas or in the middle of wilderness, often result in a combat accordingly.
Which brings us directly to the next subject: the combat system. As soon as your party is attacked by hostile creatures (or maybe after your party chooses to attack neutral or good ones), you're taken to the battlefield. Your party members always start in the lower part of the field and your enemies always start in the upper part. The starting initiative lies with the attacker. Each character has a number of movement points based on their Dexterity. After all points are spent, the character with the next highest Dexterity moves, which can very well be the enemy before your party members.
After choosing a weapon in either right or left hand (preferably equipping them before the battle, although you can access the inventory anytime for no loss of movement points), your party member can target an enemy figure in attack range of his weapon and choose a part of the body he wishes to attack. The enemy can (and will) also do the same to you.
The health points for each body part lower with each successful hit until reaching zero. Hitting a target's arm can disable it, preventing him from attacking with it or any weapon in it. Similarly, disabling the legs will stop the target from moving, while reducing the health points of any of the other parts of the body simply kills the target.
Each weapon has a different attack range (even melee weapons), so choosing a weapon with greater range than your enemy is part of the combat strategy. Also, each part of the body is protected individually by the armor piece worn on it, which adds to the strategy in combat. Landing a blow on a chest protected by plate mail, for example, would be more difficult than hitting a head protected by a simple light helm (or not protected at all).
Although one can equip two weapons instead of a weapon and a shield, this doesn't offer any advantages. When an attack is performed with two weapons readied, the movement points required for the attack are the sum of the amount required for attacking with the right and the amount required for attacking with the left weapon, so it doesn't matter whatsoever if you attack with one weapon or two at once, and doing the latter causes you to lose the protection of a shield.
While offering an interesting combat system the game can also be a little annoying due to random encounters (unless they're switched off). If you're not in the mood for the battle you'll have to run away from the battlefield, which can take a while if attacked by a large number of enemies. However, better items sold by merchants cost gold, and gold is a bit hard to come by in this game. Plundering dead bodies is one of the best ways to gather some. The merchants all have a static, pre-set inventory so if an item is sold to a merchant it stays there forever, taking up his inventory slot and ultimately limiting the chances to make good gold after some time.
Also, proficiency with particular kind of weapon or body armor can only be increased through extensive training in battle; therefore, avoiding the random encounters all the time isn't the best option.
There's practically no music in the game. The only two available short tunes play during the main menu screen and during location entrance screens. The sound is quite good for the small size of the game, with enemies screaming in agony during combat, crowds of people having conversations in pubs and various actions of the game being accompanied by respective sounds. However, it's not very varied; all characters/creatures hit during battle, for example, share the very same sound, no matter their race or allegiance. This can be unintentionally funny in some cases, such as hearing a wolf or a sand worm moaning like a man.
Graphics are colorful and could almost pass for being 256 colors. Though the game displays only 16 colors at an unusual resolution of 640x200 (640x400 in DOSBox), it's barely noticeable and looks much better than the usual EGA graphics in other games. This is due to a clever and thorough utilization of every one of the 16 colors. The screens for entering cities, temples or dungeons also look good and each is to its location. There are no animations, though, and every character on the travel or combat screens is just an icon without any animation.
There's no automap feature, which can make it sometimes hard to find one's way through the world, particularly in the outdoor jungle and forest areas where the view is mostly limited to the 3x3 space around the player character. Even harder is the orientation inside of dungeons, caves and temples which often consist of huge labyrinths. However, once the game becomes more familiar, it's easy to know where you are, since the game's locations are pretty memorable.
Every party member also requires food, which is consumed while moving through the game world and while sleeping. It takes more time to pass through difficult terrain and so food is consumed faster when moving through these areas. You can purchase a horse and ride it which reduces the number of encounters, speeds the movement up and lowers food consumption, although you can't ride through more arduous terrain like forests or deserts. However it's actually so easy to stock up greatly on food through hunting (aside from other, even more efficient methods) that it's not worth mentioning any further.
All in all, WarWizard is a fairly unique game which, although it can be compared to some other role-playing games of the time, is a game with its own charm and atmosphere that should be explored in order to fully appreciate it. It can't really beat other, more famous front-line genre representatives of the time like Ultima VII or the various Dungeons & Dragons series, but it is a little, almost forgotten gem that should put everyone who appreciates role-playing games in its spell.
Putting aside any personal and nostalgic feelings I might have for this game, I would give it a score of 4 on a neutral scale, as the game has a few interesting features, but the graphics and the sound are a bit low for 1994.
Before typing any commands in DOSBox, type "VER SET 7 10". Otherwise you won't be able to save your progress or start a new game. After that run the game using WW1.BAT.