Sir-tech is the spotlight of part three in Bitmob's "Forgotten Ruins: The Roots of CRPGs" editorial series, and it comes as no surprise that the long-running Wizardry series is the article's primary topic.
Being able to choose from several classes and races to create a team with which to smash monsters spoke to the D&D roots that more than a few CRPGs at the time aspired to emulate. Although Ultima 3 would bridge the gap in '83 with non-player characters who could join the player's party, Wizardry was already there. This inspired many others to follow their example, such as in Japan where both Wizardry and Ultima proved to be influential references for its budding CRPG and console markets...such as with Enix's Dragon Warrior. Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord: where my enthusiasm for CRPGs began.
The first three games were also notoriously hard on players and scaled in difficulty, which offered an import function for characters as they went from title to title. Jumping into the third game without playing any of the previous ones would almost guarantee hours of frustration similar to missing an episode of Lost. And when the entire party died in Wizardry, it was dead permanently: the player was forced to start all over again with a fresh batch. But thanks to another innovative twist, this new party could also find the bodies of the slain party and bring them back.
This hardcore approach to CRPGs was arguably at odds against Ultima's slightly more accessible direction. As revolutionary as its features were, the difficulty and frustration of the series had also attained a sort of mythic status that is still well regarded today by its longtime fans. The design of the fourth Wizardry had even solicited save disks from players of the previous entries in the series in order to turn their characters into enemies for the player to fight past as an evil wizard. Yes, you were the bad guy in Wizardry 4 and these do-gooders -- who might even have been your own party at one time -- were your worst nightmare as you fought your way to one of the game's multiple endings.