• The Warlock of Firetop Mountain review by Rick Moscatello


    Nostalgia isn’t everything

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    “Pick a path to adventure” books are an old school way to play role playing games; they started coming out around 1980, and fizzled out sometime in the 90s, when computer games finally became a common thing. They’re books, but you don’t read them cover to cover. Instead, you read a page or so, and were presented with a choice. For example, you’d encounter a sleeping orc, and then you’d choose “Kill the orc? Turn to page 112” or “Sneak past the orc? Turn to page 176.” Eventually, you’d either muddle through the adventure, or die trying.

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    There were many such books, but perhaps the best was The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, which I played in 1983. You rolled up a character (yes, you needed dice to play, though not every book required it), and then went off to adventure. Most likely, you died, as the puzzles were rough (“Do you have the bone flute? It not, you die. Otherwise, turn to page 67” type choices came up often), and there was even a maze of tunnels (or paragraph numbers) to figure out before finally making it to the Warlock himself…where you either died in a brutal combat, or chose to cheat and win (it’s not likely anyone was watching you roll the dice).

    The Warlock of Firetop Mountain computer game is a somewhat faithful recreation of the book, including many of the same puzzles and even (if memory serves) the same artwork from the book. There are a few significant changes.

    You pick a pre-made character at the beginning; they all play pretty much the same, however. Usually this sort of thing adds to the replay value, but there’s a real problem here: you always go to the same dungeon, with the same rooms and same puzzles and same everything else. Changing your character isn’t going to help with that. Granted, 30 years ago this was perfectly acceptable in a computer game (and perfectly understandable in a paperback book), but this just doesn’t fly nowadays, where procedurally generated dungeons are pretty much the norm, even for 99 cent computer games.

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    The combat has been greatly improved from the old book. This is something of a low bar, as in the book you rolled a pair of dice for your attack, and then for the monster…hey, it was the 80s, don’t judge me! Anyway, combat is now played on a grid, and you can greatly improve your chances of not getting slaughtered by maneuvering around and attacking cleverly. It’s totally an improvement, but still no great shakes, as I feel it’s mostly just taking advantage of feeble AI.

    Anyone who’s heard about the great (for its time) book-game and with some gaming dollars to burn, will get a little bit of fun here but bottom line this is weak stuff for 2016. If this computer game came out in 1996, however, it’d probably be revered as a classic. It might play a little bit better as a game on your phone (since it’s all turn based and option-selecting), but this is a game that most computer game players can safely miss.

    Overall rating: 60
    This article was originally published in forum thread: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post