"Skyrim on the lowest of budgets."
Developer: Laughing Jackal
Publisher: Laughing Jackal
Release Date: November 9, 2011
Platform(s): PSP/PS3 (PSN)
Before everyone had high definition appliances which slathered the screen in visual gaming pornography, people had to make do with the power of imagination, instead of processors. And the further back in time this refers to, the more imagination was the power of creation. Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is the furthest back one can go and pays tribute to the glory of pen and paper RPG and text-based adventures. Not many will remember the RPG books that relied on turning pages to the appropriate page, in order to see where the adventure was leading. Fighting Fantasy is just that, in digital form, plus more.
The world of Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
The universe is just a book which tells the story and by making the appropriate choices, players need to turn to a certain page to see what the result is. After turning cards to give value to Skill, Stamina and Luck, players embark on the quest to defeat the powerful warlock. Skill determines the power of a character, Stamina is its health and Luck is used to determine how it can turn the odds to a more favorable result. Combat is divided into either dice rolls or cards, giving a nice alternative to a set mechanic. With dice, players must eventually roll lower than an opponent or difficulty setting in order to pass a challenge or make a hit. This is affected by modifiers, such as Skill, which heighten the score of the opposition. So facing creatures with high skill will make it a lot harder to hit. The person with the higher roll gets Stamina deducted until death and an equal roll makes for a glancing shot where neither gets hurt.
The cards are there for adventurers that want to get a little more skill out of their gameplay, instead of relying on lucky rolls. But in a similar fashion, players need to turn over cards on a board and get a more favorable result here as well. Luck in this aspect is based on skill, where a meter shows up and adventurers have to stop it at the appropriate time. With every try, more red sections appear that make it harder to hit the goal. With dice, luck is determined by the Luck score and having to roll underneath that number.
Roll some dice, yo!
Just about on every page, heroes will be given a choice in old fashioned style: A crossroad appears and they can choose to take it any which way they want and see what lies beyond. Exploration is based more on mental mapping, rather than a visual presentation and as such it’s important to keep a good head on things. The book is several hundred pages big and contains a ton of content to mull over and only 1 solution to reaching the end goal. At any time, it’s possible to consult the log, but it’s a little complex to keep doing. Additionally, upon travels heroes pick up items by exploration or defeating monsters, which may be vital to the progression. They’ll encounter many strange personas that can give clues to the continuation. And at certain points, it’s possible to regain health by eating provisions or by being lucky or otherwise favorable to have a boost in confidence.
Yes, the adventure has only 1 real solution and as such offers not so much replay value, but it’s impossible to complete in one fell swoop. In fact, the vast amount of text to go through will take many tries and require some additional mapping in order to attain the end goal. As such, this game uses imagination to offer a ton at a modest price. Additionally, it uses it to create an epic adventure without having to visually present it.
Flip some cards, G!
This game definitely won’t be for everyone. Newer generations might get lost on the concept of text-based adventures. But the fact that it pays the most humble homage to a forgotten format and does it so well and so diverse, makes Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain a true joy. It’s Skyrim on the lowest of budgets. It takes guts to go out on a limb like this and in the end it really pays off for this game, as it is a perfect reminder of pen and paper RPG times and text-based adventures of old. Nostalgia and imagination are an immensely powerful tool combined.