Review: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
I grew up reading Fighting Fantasy books and they are an incredibly important part of my childhood. I can still remember the first time I saw the cover of Freeway Fighter and I instantly fell in love with it. I was sold on the cover of the book alone, but when I discovered that you took part in deciding the fate of your hero, it was one of the coolest things for an imaginative 9 year old!
I soon discovered that Freeway Fighter wasn’t the first book in the Fighting Fantasy series, so I quickly sought more works from Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson. It wasn’t just the stories that captured my imagination, it was the incredible artwork that featured in every book bringing the pages to life. I soon began collecting every book available, saving every penny to pay for my new found habit.
As any collector with OCD will tell you, I knew that I needed to start with the first ever Fighting Fantasy book, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. I still enjoy dipping in and out of my collection, looking at the illustrations, seeing the pages marked with 30 year old pencil and the corners folded so I could go back in case I made the wrong choice and my character perished.
With the rise of smartphones and tablets I found out that Tin Man Games had released a number of fantastic interactive Fighting Fantasy books. Some of my favourites were available including Appointment With F.E.A.R and Caverns of The Snow Witch. I would highly recommend that people check them out especially as you can pick them up for less than the price of a sandwich.
I was very excited when I heard that Tin Man Games were branching out into a fully fledged game on PC. They obviously have a passion for Fighting Fantasy and know their stuff, so what could they achieve with a bigger budget and better technology?
The first thing to say about The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is that it looks absolutely fantastic! The makers have really captured the spirit of the books, in fact there are nice little touches where you can change the original artwork from colour to black and white.
The game itself is part text adventure, part choose your own adventure and part turn based strategy game. There are a number of different heroes to choose from and they all have their own back story and special abilities. As you would imagine with a Fighting Fantasy game, skill, stamina and luck play a part, but these are already preset based on which hero you pick.
The game is played in an isometric view, with your character looking like the lead figures that I used to paint when I was a child. The game itself reminds me heavily of Hero Quest on the Amiga, which is no bad thing as I absolutely adored that game.
Your character moves around like a piece in a board game and you make choices deciding which direction you wish to move. As you move you can only see the immediate path ahead and are rarely aware of what dangers and opportunities are in front of you. When you decide which way to go, the area is magically built around you. This effect is fantastic and watching the caverns and dungeons fall into place really adds to the atmosphere of the game.
As you inevitably encounter enemies, this is where the turn based strategy element comes into its own. I’m the first person to say that I’m not the biggest fan of this genre of game, but it works really well and is easy enough to understand. The viewpoint changes to a combat area made up of tiles where you have the option to move, attack or carry out a special move. The enemies have a tell indicating what they may do and this gives you a chance of defeating them. You can also pre-empt enemies by attacking areas that you think they will move into. There are even status effects such as poisoning and burning which can take stamina from you or your enemies.
As in the book there are random choices that can end with your demise and unfortunately there are no opportunities to fold pages like I used to as a child. However, there are resurrection stones that mean you can start again at your last checkpoint. There is plenty of replayability as you can collect orbs to unlock new heroes and choose different paths.
The music is great and really suits the fantasy theme of the game with a score that Howard Shore would be proud of. The sound effects will actually react to the text depending on the different encounters. For example, meeting an angry snake will result in hearing a hiss which adds to the overall experience.
I really enjoyed my time with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and if like me you grew up reading Fighting Fantasy books, I’m sure you will love it too. From the page to the screen Tin Man Games are onto a winning formula and I would love to see more of the Fighting Fantasy books turned into games. How about Freeway Fighter next?
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is available now on PC for £14.99