The Warlock of Firetop Mountain for the Nintendo Switch
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, from developer Tin Man Games, is a Nintendo Switch remake of the classic choose-your-own-adventure story from the 80’s. The game relies very much on a sense of nostalgia and that can be a dangerous thing if the target audience is too young or have never experienced the source material in any way. While Firetop Mountain may not get it right all the time, I would be hard pressed to find a better tabletop-like experience on the Switch.
The story of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain concern a Warlock who lives in a place called Firetop Mountain obviously. You are one of several adventurers tasked with facing the dangers of Firetop Mountain in order to murder the Warlock and save the surrounding areas from his presumable tyranny.
Apart from the overarching plot, you also have one of several mini-backstories or motivations depending on which one of the adventurers you’ve chosen. Some of them are being sent to complete a trial of some sort, while others are sent to deliver something to the wizard and eventually kill him. Either way, the actual story, once you start exploring, is the same no matter who you pick, excluding some minor changes to dialogue.
Gameplay comes down to functioning like a digital version of the physical book. You are presented with a faded page of text every time you reach a junction in the path, or an encounter to deal with. I appreciated the artwork of the images shown as they were well drawn, highly polished, colorized, and some were taken directly from the actual book.
Combat of Firetop Mountain is one of the updates to the book’s mechanics. Instead of simply rolling against the stats of the enemies you face, you have to move around a grid square, one square at a time, choosing exactly where to attack and where to move. Once you’ve selected your choice, each character involved in the fight moves simultaneously. This means if you try to attack a monster, they can very easily move out of range. The die are only used when you and a monster choose to attack each other at the same time, leading to a clash where a roll of the die decides the winner.
There are three stats that follow the abilities of each character: skill, stamina, and block. Skill is your ability with your chosen weapon or how good you are with tasks. Stamina is your health and Luck plays into giving you a higher chance of success for die rolls or when making a choice. The stats are different for each character, meaning some are better suited for different situations and approaches than others.
Other major differences between characters are their combat moves. These range from being able to attack before everyone else to hitting more than one square at a time. Characters also have passive abilities that sometimes provide different solutions to puzzles or more information for future challenges.
As you defeat monsters you earn Souls, which are not like the Souls you earn in Dark Souls but instead are a type of currency you use on the main menu to purchase new characters to go through the adventure with. You also earn Gold, which counts as both a score for the end of the adventure and as a way of buying certain objects as you play through Firetop Mountain.
My main gripe with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is the randomization of certain segments. Most of the time, your playthrough is going to be the same no matter how many times you play through the title, and you will get different dialogue choices and different solutions to puzzles depending on who you play with. However, the actual path through the mountain hasn’t changed.
Unfortunately, the developers have seemed to add extra padding to the game by adding a maze. This may seem like a good idea first, but the maze is so poorly implemented that it managed to frustrate me more than add anything of significance. There seems to be no foreseeable solution other than just guessing and hoping you’re heading in the right direction.
Aesthetically, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is set up to look like a tabletop adventure game with each of the characters and monsters being rigid figures on round bases. As you move, parts of the scenery clatter onto the tables as if being dropped there by some omnipresent force. The style is aimed as a mix between the fantastic and the mundane, both keeping itself firmly rooted in the kinds of titles that inspired a fantastical setting. Visually, Firetop Mountain looks great for the type of style it’s trying to portray and it couldn’t have been done better.
Music and sound effects are ever-present but aren’t particularly exciting. The soundtrack is the same generic fantasy music used in about any other low-budget fantasy games, but it does swell and give off a tonal shift at the correct moment that makes the proceedings more engaging. The sound effects are a mix of the realistic and fantastic with the noise of a plastic figurine being moved around a game board, but with the noises, you would expect from a fantasy dungeon crawler.
Overall, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is a successful return to the classic board games and fantasy books of old brought into the modern market. I could really see this being a great way to bring some life into the fantasy game books I spent my childhood enjoying. It can become repetitive and mundane playing through the same areas over and over again, but if you have a passing interest in seeing what the genre is about, this is worth checking out.
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Reviewed by Josh on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by Tin Man Games.