PC

  News 
  Reviews
  Previews
  Hardware
  Interviews
  All Features

Areas

  3DS
  Android
  iPad
  iPhone
  Mac
  PC
  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Vita
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One
  Media
  Archives
  Search
  Contests

 

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Score: 83%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Tin Man Games
Developer: Tin Man Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Strategy/ RPG/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain takes the classic book-based Fighting Fantasy game and converts it into a tabletop-styled video game that tries to remain true to the mechanics of the original gamebook format, even where standard video game design practices would suggest otherwise. Some of these decisions add to the feel of the experience, while others can be somewhat frustrating.

Visually speaking, this game is very appealing. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain sells the tabletop feel by making your characters mini-figures tapping their way through the dungeon-riddled caves which appear around the player as the character moves. Your fighters aren't the only characters in this style though. All of the inhabitants of Firetop Mountain also appear as minis, and when you get into a fight, some of the larger foes will take up multiple squares, not only helping them to dominate the battlefield, but also taking up more places that can be attacked.

While The Warlock of Firetop Mountain doesn't feature any voices for your fighters or the other characters you encounter, the music fits the bill with a suitably-feeling fantasy fare. This, coupled with clashing sounds when weapons are used and other appropriate sound effects, helps to set the overall mood. That being said, if you want to listen to something else while playing, the sound can be turned off and the game can be enjoyed just as well without those elements.


Gameplay:

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain puts you in control of a wide variety of fighters as they work their way through the red-hued mountain. While each character has their own mission they wish to accomplish, they all have a secondary objective of finding the Warlock Zagor and defeating him, though why each character wishes to do this is different. Some characters are more virtuous than others, wishing simply to rid the land of Zagor's evil, while others will see it as a challenge to prove their own strength, and others have even less noble motivations. Like I said though, most, if not all characters, have other reasons to be in Firetop Mountain. Some are looking for specific artifacts, others are hunting beasts for one reason or another, but all have their own personality and traits which can have subtle changes in the way the game plays out for each character.

While the layout of Firetop Mountain is mostly static and you will find that the inhabitants of the caves are pretty well set, regardless of who you play as (with a few exceptions), the character you choose to play as can change how you interact with the world and the NPCs. Basic examples of this include a more daring character not wanting to sneak past some orcs, or another deciding to try and talk to an NPC instead of outright attacking him/her/it. Other differences come when your character finds some bit of information pertaining to their primary quest. If an NPC tells them directions to their goal, you will find many of your choices limited so that you are pushed in the right direction.

Outside of those variations though, the primary difference between each of the heroes comes down to their attacks when they get swept into a fight. Some characters will have more ranged attacks at their disposal, while others will deal more damage or cause additional effects when their attacks land. No character seems to be over-powered and are generally well-balanced, so it really comes down to learning the best way to fight as each of the heroes if you hope to progress in The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and see the missions to their end.

Firetop Mountain itself feels really big. The corridors are filled with branching paths and rooms that tease you with a variety of exploration options, but be warned; choosing a branch can often leave you forced in that direction. There are remarkably few times when you are able to backtrack and choose a different option, and those are typically the result of finding a dead end. What it has in abundance though is enemies to fight.

Each fight puts you and your enemies on a grid that represents the fighting area. Your character has a set list of attacks that can affect specific squares around them. In each turn, you can choose to either move or attack, the same choices your enemies have. The fights are all about tactics and judging what your enemies will do in the next move. If you attack the square they will be in without also getting attacked, then they take Stamina damage, but the opposite is also true. If the two of you manage to attack each other, then a roll of the virtual dice decides which character gets how much damage. The fight is over when either you are out of Stamina or when you've vanquished all of the enemies. Your reward for surviving a fight, besides progressing in the story, comes in the form of Souls which are used to unlock heroes.


Difficulty:

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is all about managing your Stamina. Since the only ways to regain Stamina come in the form of resting on a bench (which also creates a checkpoint if you die), eating provisions (of which you have only a few and can rarely find in the mountain) or by using certain types of potions (which are even scarcer than both provisions and benches), the best way to keep yourself alive is to either avoid fights altogether or be really good in the fights you can't get around.

Unfortunately, even the heartiest of heroes starts the game with only a few Stamina points and you can easily find yourself in a bad situation quickly if you mismanage even the simplest of fights. As a result, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain cannot be considered an easy game by any means. While no single part of the game can be called difficult, the combination of the low starting Stamina stat with the inability to really keep that value up means that the game will take many replays before you know the mountain well enough to reach some of its deeper passageways.

All that being said, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain offers a mode that lets you skip the battles so you can experience just the story, though it does seem to mock you quite a bit if you choose this option.


Game Mechanics:

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain keeps to the same feel of its gamebook origins. At each step in your journey, the game gives you choices. Do you turn at this juncture? Do you open that door? How do you approach the enemies ahead? At first, you feel like you are given a wide range of branching options, but as you play, you realize that many of these branches either eventually come together or, if they dead end, you automatically backtrack to your previous junction (one of the few times you can choose a different option). You start to see that your choices really aren't as limitless as you first thought. This is especially true when an NPC gives your character guidance and you are shunted into a particular part of Firetop Mountain and the fact that you can't turn back to explore another path. That being said, this is in the spirit of the gamebook format, I just can't help remembering keeping my fingers in pages during previous branching points trying to decide if I really want to go down the path I had chosen, but since The Warlock of Firetop Mountain relies heavily on multiple playthroughs, the best option for exploring other branches comes down to simply starting a new game and changing your choices.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is both refreshing and frustrating. On one hand, it's adherence to some of the gamebook mechanics helps to connect it to the source material and that should be applauded, but on the other hand, many of those design decisions feel arbitrary, given that the game no longer exists in a book. The structure of a book makes it really hard to let a player backtrack whenever they want, but there is no such limitation in a computer. As a result, there are a lot of little details in The Warlock of Firetop Mountain that feel like they could have been improved upon. All that being said, I did find this game enjoyable and those seeking a new tactics style game, or those that are fans of the original Fighting Fantasy books should at least consider this game.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 7, 1.5 GHz Processor, 4 GB RAM, Hardware Accelerated Graphics with 1GB memory Graphics Card, 3 GB available hard disc space
 

Test System:



Intel Core i7-3820 CPU @ 3.60GHz, 16 GB dual-channel DDR3,Windows 10 Home 64 bit, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (4GB)

Related Links:



iPad The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated