Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain Updated Hands-On

We venture deep into the dwarven keep of Firetop Mountain to slay some ugly orcs.

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The Nintendo DS is a hotbed for role-playing games--especially Japanese ones--but Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is a distinctly western-style RPG for those who prefer a first-person, Oblivion style of play. We had a chance to see Fighting Fantasy awhile ago, but Aspyr decided to swing by our office one more time to give us an update on this handheld adventure. The game is based on a book of the same name from the popular role-playing game book series created by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson, the cofounders of Games Workshop.

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One of the biggest changes made to the recent build expanded character development. Now, it's completely open so rather than choosing one of three classes to start with, you choose the attributes that you want to focus on as you level. So you can be a hybrid or focus on being a mage, assassin, or warrior. Because of the game's initial difficulty, most people will want to lean toward the fighter class in order to survive in the dwarven keep.

Our demo took us through the initial quests, and we noticed that in the early stages, our character leveled quickly so we were able to give ourselves a boost in the stamina department and acquire the regeneration skill. There are plenty of skills to choose from, but you're limited to seven skills as you build your character. Before heading off into the keep, though, we made our rounds through the newly named Stonebridge town and picked up some healing items, which consisted of corn, cheese, and apples. You can stack up to nine items per slot in your inventory and then move them to your touch screen shortcuts to give you easy access during a fight. The purchasing interface is a bit cumbersome, though, because you can't just buy nine at a time. Instead, you have to drag and drop then tap OK each time you purchase an item. We weren't able to equip most of the armor available, but we did pick up a long sword and headed toward our first quest.

Most of the game takes place in the vast keep, which was a short walk down a lush path and through the misty woods. The visuals haven't changed much since the last time we saw them so the environments are still quite impressive. The orcs that we fought looked a bit flat, though, and it can be hard to tell whether or not you're actually hitting anything. Using the L button or the touch screen, you basically try to center your weapon and swing until the enemy dies. Enemies hit hard initially, so be prepared to use those healing items liberally. The game autosaves as you go; generally, it will autosave before a new room so you can load and try again. The number of enemies in a room can change, so you can try to reenter and hope that there's one less orc waiting inside.

Use the map to navigate around the keep.
Use the map to navigate around the keep.

The map comes in handy if you want to take notes and mark down the areas you've already explored. A larger area map is displayed in the top screen, and you can scribble reminders on the bottom screen. For the directionally challenged, a green dot on your compass will direct you to your next quest and prevent you from getting completely lost. As we made our way through the dingy corridors, we came across a treasure chest that could be picked by a simple lock-picking game. Using your stylus, you move this small green dot from one end of the screen to the other, pushing tumblers and avoiding rotating traps while sliding through a narrow tube. You're on a timer, but if you can make it to the end within the time limit and without touching the sides, the treasure is yours.

Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain isn't going to have all of the extensive features and customization options that you would expect from a PC or console RPG, but what it does have, fits nicely on the DS with all the basic elements that you'd expect. You'll take on quests and talk to locals, and depending on your interaction with them and how polite you are, the outcome could change. Look for the game when it is set to be released sometime in mid-October.

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