Reviews You Can Use: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Tin Man Games has another hit on their hands with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain; the rare digital game that evokes tabletop fantasy medieval tabletop RPGing.

In 1982, Puffin Books began publishing the Fighting Fantasy series of single-player interactive gamebooks, the first of which was The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (penned by British gaming legends Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone; a collaboration which kindled the creativity of young minds everywhere.)

Having lost none of its lustre since 1982, gamers are now experiencing The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain in a thrilling new way, with music from BattleBards, and minifig design by Otherworld Miniatures.

Familiar ground is covered in the game’s opening stages, with the selecting of a hero (or heroine) from a handful of available choices. Your character then enters the dungeon, and your virtual adventure begins.  Accumulate souls and unlock even better player characters as you progress through the murder dungeon.

Just how immersive is this game?  Very.  From the scintillating background music by BattleBards, to the combat situations actually involving some tactics, to the AI refereeing, to the dice rolling and more.  Graphically speaking, it’s a feast for the eyes (and the engine purrs like a kitten when lower resolution settings are activated, so don’t fret if a higher resolution setting gives you any trouble.)

Watch your resurrection stones and use them wisely.  Be wary of the giant bats upon entering the fortress by the beach.  Perhaps you’ll encounter stone golems (and perhaps not, depending on your chosen path.) Remember to give the Bull Amulet to the Air Wizard. Be wary of the stone hands in the earth elemental chamber. Remember to rest on tree stumps (and eat your provisions, for proper stamina boosts.)  Win the combats that you must partake in, but it is the evasion of combat which you’ll find to be a useful strategy as well (especially when playing a thief character.)  Players will enjoy how sometimes during an evade, the story moves along with your playing character having vanquished a foe (something which happens infrequently enough to be appreciated and savored.)

One wonders how much involvement Otherworld Miniatures had with the development of these virtual renderings of the miniature figurines that appear in the game.  To see their physical 28mm minifigs is a treat that all tabletop RPGers should have the pleasure of enjoying.  In addition to the player characters appearing in The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, a plethora of opposing monsters are beautifully represented in the game as well.

Experienced gamers will feel a slight squeeze from the unmistakable clench of the game’s more railroady aspects (a la not being able to turn back at certain junctures to try another path instead.)  Railroady aspects are to be expected though; a common issue with digital games and board games.

The visuals of the dice rolls are a nice touch.  It’s easy to wonder though, why the game is 2d6 the whole way though.  One could suppose that it would change from 2d6 to 3d6 at some point, based on character class or magic bonus or any number of reasons why.  Nonetheless, the static 2d6 situation remains true to most board game dice environments.

Another stunning visual occurs when areas drop in from above as your player character advances through the dungeon (with enemies dropping down last, if any.)

Having the game be longer would be a boon, with more forks in the road.  Having the Warlock himself be as formidable an opponent as the Dragon would also add to the excitement.  Perhaps there’ll be expansions, add-ons and updates to make it so.  Still, even if The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is a bit on the short side to complete, the variety of player characters (and the virtual tabletop feel) makes The Warlock of Firetop Mountain a winner.

Highly recommended for all fans of fantasy medieval tabletop gaming.  Much gratitude to Tin Man Games for allowing us to have a look.

(Editor’s Note:  Special thanks to Brian Witt and Erik Tenkar, from our Long Island Chapter of the TSR Games Review Crew.  Playtesting this game with Brian and Erik was a blast.)