In the early 1980s, only a few years after the release of the original Dungeons & Dragons, a book series allowing players to play a game, solo was released. The first in the Fighting Fantasy series, where a reader would pick and choose options and choices even roll dice to determine success and advance to a new sections of the book. An advanced choose-your-own-adventure book, if you will. The books did well enough to spawn multiple series throughout the years, and new adventures can even be found today for the youngest generation of pen and paper gamers. A few years ago, the Australian game studio, Tin Man Games, took the concept to the mobile app store, with a good deal of success. Their newest release, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, is the first of their games released on a console and the first of their games on Nintendo.
Gameplay is solid as you choose from a rather large roster of adventures (most unavailable at the start but are unlocked as you play). Each pre-made character can attempt to survive the massive mountain just outside of town. Inside is a labyrinth filled with goblins, ghosts, spiders, all sorts of badies and of course an evil warlock at the top; if you live to actually meet her. You have 3 lives, and checkpoints throughout the mountain but the game warns, do not get attached to any one character for too long. Permadeath is a factor.
Taking cues from the early roots of role playing games, your character is a miniature figurine, painted even! Rather than taking control of each, you pick a decision to where they go and how they handle situations. Some even require skill checks, allowing a pair of virtual dice to be rolled.
But let's get this out of the way, you will be reading... A lot, like non-stop. But wait! Hear me out before you go. The writing is absolutely fantastic. I was completely enthralled by this game. I kept picking up my Switch and losing track of time because I was so interested in just where and what I was going to see next. One particular section, I died the moment I entered a room. After not taking advice from two scared goblins outside I was attacked by a swarm of spiders. The detail in which my character was obliterated cannot be justified here, I was a lost for words and that fueled my next attempt even farther. So, yes, a lot of reading but absolutely worth it.
Each character has their own personalities and backstories. Some seek a particular treasure and some just want fortune and fame. As you adventure the paths each take and how they handle situations makes the game very replayable. The mountain is the same no matter who you play as, so the game does become a lot easier to navigate after just a few attempts. However for this particular game, it’s not as much about the combat as it is the story and how different one character will interact with another. A great example, during a meeting with a goblin at a bridge, for one character he greeted me as “a huge fan of my work” and during another play with a different character I was greeted with growl and a sword slash. Another note, there is a gauntlet mode where you can take a much simpler character, such as a slime beast or a giant rat, and focus on surviving. It's a fun and challenging way to experience the game again.
Combat is a simple system of turned based combat. When your character meets a foe the game takes you to a version of the map filled with squares. Each figure has one action per move. You have a few different skills you can use and each character is equipped differently. You also might find several different things while exploring to help you in combat. The virtual board game feeling works and keeps that aesthetic of old school RPG.
I will note that the AI is okay. Of course the lower levels of the mountain are simple and easy to handle but as you continue forward you’re met with several different enemy types and even obstacles in the terrain that offer a challenge. Each kill offers a player souls, those are kept to unlock new adventures once you meet your demise.
Graphics-wuse The Warlock of Firetop Mountain holds its own. While not using too much due to charters on screen being a motionless figurine, the detail and more importantly the text is easy on the eyes. One of the issues Tin Man Games has had in the past was working within the limits most phones have. The screen and upgraded graphic engine on the Nintendo Switch completely vanishes the issue of hard to read text.
As you press on threw the mountain you will hear several great audio cues that really add to the game. From the loud chatter of orcs in the dining hall to the sounds of a bridge crumbling away, I found myself turning up my Switch several times. While some games press hard on background music, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was careful enough not to force anything while a player was trying to read.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. This version has enough to keep you interested and works extremely well on-the-go. Pen-and-paper games are not everyone’s cup of tea but this game has enough to keep you going. With the “rougelike” elements sprinkled in and the extremely entertaining writing style, I would highly suggest the game for those coming off, or rather running away from Dark Souls: Remastered on the Switch.
Final Score: 8 out of 10
A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of review.