Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain First Impression

We take charge of our own adventure in this upcoming action role-playing game for the Nintendo DS.

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Fighting Fantasy was a popular role-playing gamebook series in the '80s--selling more than 14 million copies worldwide--that might be compared to the Choose Your Adventure novels except you used dice that would determine your character's stats, as well as the outcome of battle. Created by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, cofounders of Games Workshop, the books are described as a single-player fantasy game, set in the world of Titan in which you take on the role of a brave adventurer. As with many other hobbies that experienced a decline in popularity thanks to video games, Fighting Fantasy is hoping to make a return. Instead of using your imagination and rolling dice, developer Big Blue Bubble is bringing the gamebook experience to the Nintendo DS with Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Representatives from publisher Aspyr came by our offices to give us a demo so that we could see how the book magically translates into a portable dungeon crawler.

The town of Anvil acts as your hub where you can take on new quests and mingle with the locals.
The town of Anvil acts as your hub where you can take on new quests and mingle with the locals.

The first thing that we noticed was the incredible amount of detail in the environments as we headed into the town of Anvil, which is where the story takes place. Like an old-school dungeon crawler, you play as a bold adventurer who is seeking fame and fortune. You'll be spending most of your time exploring every nook and cranny of the Dwarven keep in Firetop Mountain, helping the distraught locals by taking on quests and vanquishing an assortment of monsters that get in your way. The story is a simple and relatively linear one, which will take about eight to 10 hours to complete. A warlock has moved into the keep, causing the resident dwarves to flee, but that doesn't stop your brave hero from exploring the dark corridors to look for treasure. There will be three classes to choose from: warrior, magician, or assassin, and each class will determine your starting attributes. Your stats can be adjusted as you level, so it's entirely up to you to decide on your specialization

In this pre-alpha build, everything seemed to be running smoothly. We were told that the touch-screen interface might be tweaked, but as of right now, you control your character with the D pad and look around with the stylus or the face buttons. It's a first person action RPG, so you'll never see much of yourself beyond the weapon you're wielding or your free spellcasting hand. To attack, there's the option to use the left button or the touch screen, depending on what's more comfortable. Access to your inventory, maps, and slots for spells is located on the bottom screen, and there's a compass on the top screen to guide you to your next quest.

In our demo, we watched as our hero, armed with a skull-tipped mace, clubbed his way through a zombie dwarf-infested hall. (These were the dwarves that stayed behind to serve the evil warlock.) Our goal was to clear the path, which we could go about in a couple of different ways. We could help this random skeleton in the keep by disposing of the dwarf infestation or kill the skeleton so that the dwarves would let us pass. Either way, the path would be cleared, and this example shows that there are often multiple ways to get to your objective. Your choice of action won't affect the outcome drastically, but it's nice to have the option.

Explore the dingy corridors of the dwarven keep.
Explore the dingy corridors of the dwarven keep.

We didn't get much of a chance to mingle with the locals and engage in a lot of dialogue-tree conversations, but we did get a general idea of how it's all laid out based on our brief exchanges. We were told that the humor is very tongue-in-cheek and that you can get a better idea of the story through the exaggerated and dramatic dialogue with the townspeople as you take on quests.

From what we've seen, Fighting Fantasy is shaping up to be a well-crafted action RPG that you would normally find on the PC or console but is scaled down to fit onto a handheld. It may not have the frills and excessive customization that you would find on the other platforms, but it's quite impressive for the DS. Those who like dungeon crawlers may want to keep their eyes on this one, and we'll update the site as soon as we get more information. Fighting Fantasy is scheduled to be released on the DS in late October.

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