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Strategic Simulations, Inc. had dabbled in the role-playing genre prior to the 1985 release of Wizard's Crown, but this particular title was important because it was SSI's first RPG release for DOS (though it would hit four of the other major platforms over the next two years) and was the first game to introduce us to the deep tactical battle system that would eventually become a staple in their successful Dungeons & Dragons "Gold Box" series.
Wizard's Crown was among several early D&D-inspired titles that prided itself in the creation of a massive party - eight characters in total, in this case. Fighter, Ranger, Thief, Priest, and Sorcerer professions were all represented, along with a considerable variety of skills, equipment (including some obscure weapon and armor types), and spells. This variety brought a level of sophistication to the tactical battles that was practically unheard of in other RPGs at the time - spells had particular casting times, ranges, and diameters, polearms could hit opponents two squares away, shields could block incoming blows, and a weapon's chance of causing serious injury and bleeding during combat was of great importance.
Outside of the battle system, though, Wizard's Crown is still very rudimentary in comparison to SSI's later games. The graphics and nearly non-existent sound effects were fair at best even for the time (the 1986 and 1987 releases improved upon this, however), the difficulty level was unforgiving, the text-driven interface lacked a few common sense options, the direction each character is facing on the battlefield had to be adjusted on a regular basis, and so on. Still, Wizard's Crown can at least be remembered as the game that started paving SSI's way toward Pool of Radiance.
Interested in more RPG spotlights? Check out our previous entry for Castle of Tharoggad, or our next entry for Hillsfar.