I try to follow up any piece of bad news with something jolly, and what jollier a piece of news than the early access release of Wizordum, in which YOU'RE A WOZIRD, I mean a WIZORD(UM). It's a first-person spellcaster from Slovenia-based Emberheart Games, which takes hefty inspiration from Heretic, Hexen and Ultima Underworld, though it's far more colourful than I remember any of those games being. Check out the trailer.
If you've watched the video you'll know that plot isn't really the focus here, but let's do our due diligence: Wizordum is set in the titular land of Wizordum, where a Chaos invasion has been unleashed by an archwizord's tampering with the seal of a cosmic prison, deep in the forbidden depths of Terrabruma.
It's terrible news for the other wizords, but great news for fans of 90s-style shooters. As one of the last surviving mages, you must sally forth unto "disheveled dungeons, crumbling cathedrals, and ashen streets", equipped with nought but an expanding arsenal of spells and the ability to backpedal and strafe at lightning speed.
Hazards include goblins, walking skellingtons, giant rats and ogres. Methods of dealing with those hazards include fireballs, ice bolts, shockwave attacks, magic shields and, er, a gun. I feel like the last one is letting the side down, but I guess every wizord needs to keep something handy for close encounters. You'll also avail yourself of a big chunky mace, for those times when neither spellcraft nor gunpowder are sufficient, and a torch you can navigate pitch-dark crypts with.
The early access build includes eight levels' worth of locked doors, hidden keys, and "mazelike" puzzles, with multiple difficulty levels and leaderboards. There's also a level editor which makes me think wistfully of Dungeon Keeper.
I haven't had a chance to actually play this, but as you can hopefully tell by now, I'm a big fan of the concept. There's a demo, if you're interested. Here's the Steam page.
Little update: People have fairly pointed out that the Heretic, Hexen and Ultima links aren't overpoweringly prominent in the trailer. Double-checking the press release, it sounds like Wizordum takes greater inspiration from the music of those games, rather than how they play. I skimmed over this part, because I am a hack. Here's the key PR line:
"Drive out corruption to the tunes of enchanting hi-fi and lo-fi original soundtracks, coming soon from Apogee Music. Opt for ominous orchestral crescendos or complement Wizordum’s retro aesthetic with a nostalgic soundscape produced with authentic Roland midi modules, inspired by fantasy FPS classics such as Heretic, Hexen, and Ultima Underworld."