“For longer standing fans however, I would have to suggest the original.”
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is the episode latest in Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy game book series to see a transformation into the world of video games. Originally the first instalment in their classic series, it is about time that the adventure that started it all made its way into the more modern format. The question for fans however is does the video game version of the adventure hold up? More importantly, should it have been converted from its classic style into a digital game at all?
For the most part, the structure of the adventure and its storytelling has remained consistent with the original format. If this is your first experience with Fighting Fantasy then be prepared to do a lot of reading. The game doesn’t do you any favours by employing a narrator, so that side of the classic model has remained precisely the same. The biggest change which the transformation has created is the vastly increased use of visual aids. Although many upgraded illustrations from the book appear in the game, the in-game graphics present you with a clear idea of your surroundings and your options at that point in time.
Entirely new to the video game version of Warlock is the requirement to select a character. Traditionally, the books made you their central protagonist, and your skills were determined prior to beginning the game. Now you choose from a preset group uo of heroes, each with predetermined Skill, Stamina and Luck ratings as well as a unique special move. This takes something out of the experience, not only because it sacrifices a level of immersion that the game books established so successfully, but also because it removes the factor of your adventure being intrinsically different every time, right from the word go.
Combat takes place in an unusual way in the Warlock video game too. This is no longer a throw of the dice showdown as in the books, with a tabletop style being opted for instead. This makes movement, timing and strategy key elements in combat situations, rather than everything be determined by chance. In most video games, this would be a wise development choice, but for Warlock it comes across as another element which has been altered in an unfortunate way. New players of the adventure however might appreciate this model which certainly gives you more control over your fate, even if it changes the base nature of the original gameplay style.
One thing, perhaps the most important thing, which is true about both this version of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and the original is that the story holds up. The basic scenario is that you are searching for an artefact, a magical amulet rumoured to hold great power, and consequently seek to come face-to-face with the mighty Warlock; Zagor. Many adventurers have come before you and failed in their quest. That is what makes every one of your decisions so important. Every choice, from which direction to follow at a crossroads, to searching behind a closed door, to fighting or fleeing and choosing whether or not to trust suspicious loot and characters, can make a huge and critical difference the rest of your adventure. Sometimes the results are immediate, whereas other times you have to wait to find out whether or not your decision was correct. That is the beauty of this game series; every action matters and uncertainty is as much a factor as each dice roll you have to make along the way.
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain on Steam is a good, but not great version of the original game book classic. It emulates the story and style of adventuring for a new format and audience well, but at the same time it fails to maintain much of the game’s original elements and charms. More than anything, playing the video game version of Warlock simply made me long for the original version instead. I could almost smell the fresh new pages just through my recollection of the good times I spent playing it. New players may very much enjoy the Steam version of this adventure game. For longer standing fans however, I would have to suggest the original.