The Warlock of Firetop Mountain | reviews, news & interviews
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
A fun exercise in nostalgia that would benefit from more variety
Tin Man Games has carved out a successful niche, producing electronic versions of the classic Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks (as well as its own, original, Gamebook Adventures series). Created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone, the Fighting Fantasy books turned their author’s love of tabletop Dungeons & Dragons into branching narratives in which readers/players decide how to progress through the story, punctuated by battles and tests of luck using dice-rolls.
The first few Tin Man adaptations were straight digitised version of the original books, complete with page-turning effects and lovingly recreated illustrations. In this conversion of the first Fighting Fantasy book, however, Tin Man founder and creative director Neil Rennison has taken the basic text and narrative structure of the book, but rendered it as an isometric 3D game with an aesthetic that echoes the series’ tabletop gaming origins.
The plot of The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain is a simple one. You are a fortune-seeking adventurer who has decided to raid the mountain stronghold of a notorious Warlock, kill him and steal his treasure. The mountain is home to many terrifying creatures and cunning traps, and you will need your wits about you if you are to survive.
A lot of care has clearly been taken in getting the look of the game just right. Your character and the monsters you encounter on the Mountain are depicted as painted miniatures which hop around the "board" as you move around the Warlock’s lair. The innards of the mountain seem to fall into place as you approach each room, as if assembling themselves from bricks and other props.
The text of the book (and some new, original sections) appears on scrolls which pop into view to show you a description of each room and any choices on offer, sometimes accompanied by one of Russ Nicholson’s illustrations from the book which can be viewed in the original black and white or in a new colourised version.
All of the familiar passages from the book are here – the sleeping orc guard; the wild-eyed former adventurer kept prisoner in a filthy cell; the drunken goblins – but this dungeon has a lot of new rooms and puzzles that fit well with the originals, and will both extend the game and provide a challenge to players who may have read the book inside and out.
The two biggest changes are your character and combat. You are no longer an anonymous everyman adventurer but must choose a character from a shelf of figurines (four to start with and more unlockable later), each of which has special skills and attacks as well as their own sub-quest. A cunning thief, for example, is searching for a magical ruby, while a grizzled soldier seeks revenge on a goblin who robbed him and fled to the Mountain.
Combat was always the series’ weak point, as battles were just a succession of dice-rolls combined with you and your opponent's Skill score. The new game keeps the basic mechanic but adds a system where you must move around a simple grid, choosing which square to attack while your opponent does the same. It's a bit Paper-Scissors-Stone at times, but it does add a welcome tactical element and makes fighting monsters much less tedious.
Sadly, tedium does set in eventually. The map of the Mountain never changes, and while your chosen character might have an attribute which alters some of the encounters, you will quickly learn at least the first few rooms off by heart. A little more randomness or procedural generation might move the game further from its source material, but it would greatly add to replayability.
Until you exhaust the game's content, this is an enjoyable romp with bags of nostalgia value that does just enough to update a classic game. An update which adds a few more random elements might give the game a longer lifespan and encourage more players to unlock extra characters, but Tin Man has done a good job in wringing out a great deal of fun from what most fans would admit was one of the most bare-bones adventures in the Fighting Fantasy library.
Now, how about Deathtrap Dungeon?
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