Tuesday, September 18

Review: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain [Nintendo Switch eShop]


While many people enjoy turn-based RPGs of many flavors old school gamers (and straight-up nerds) can appreciate the tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons that they originated from. Set up with your Dungeon Master you’d take your character stat sheet, work through a module, and hope that the dice rolls were favorable as you tried to make your way to loot and glory. The Warlock of Firetop Mountain looks to deliver that experience in a digital form, and while its pacing may be a bit slow and methodical it challenges and character variety can provide a sustained challenge and many possible ways to succeed.


Starting out with only a selection of 4 warriors (with more that can be unlocked, and monsters you can play through with in Gauntlet mode) you’ll look to set out on your mission to conquer the mountain but who you choose carries a variety of consequences. Aside from the fact that each character will have some variations in their attacks their luck, skill, and stamina stats will influence your play. In addition, characters may have special skills like a Keen Eye that can be beneficial in specific scenarios, potentially saving your life. Finally, since each of their motivations for taking on the mountain is different each will have differences in their goals and ultimately the path they may take. Not only does this provide a potential for every character to feel quite different in combat but it also helps to ensure that the journey can have a fresh tough even if the details of the mountain as a whole don’t change.


The fun in the game tends to be most driven by the small stories and scenarios you’ll encounter along the way, ranging from potentially lethal to a bit silly depending on the options you choose. In a number of cases you’ll find that preparation and some luck can get you through trouble unscathed, for instance if you manage to disguise yourself or have found a specific potion you can avoid what otherwise be a taxing or deadly battle. This very much encourages exploration and getting to know what lies behind each door, but that tends to be fun anyway since there are many unexpected events hiding behind them. Combat is handled with a mix of tactics, understanding the attack and movement patterns of the many foes you’ll face, and some luck when you and your opponent both attack each other at the same time and the high roller wins.


Aside from the pacing and lack of things like active combat that may not be for everyone the up and down of being at the mercy of the RNG gods would probably be the most frustrating aspect of the experience. While you can get on a hot streak one critical skill roll missed can also snowball into disaster. You will have the opportunity to resurrect your character 3 times at least, spawning at the last bench you sat and rested at, though in the latter half of the game you’ll find their frequency gets to be pretty limited. If you’re down for a challenge, and find the prospect of exploring the many branching paths the mountain offers across various characters, each altering the experience a bit, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain delivers an authentic digital tabletop experience.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • The mountain, and its many branching paths, offers quite a variety of scenarios and mini stories to encounter along your way
  • Each character plays differently in terms of combat tactics and will have different goals, offering some variety in each run up the mountain
  • In general everything is well-written, painting a vivid picture in your mind’s eye of what’s going on and often complemented by great art

Cons:
  • While there are many choices along the way, and each character will take their own path in places, the mountain does remain static
  • The nature of so many scenarios across a playthrough coming down to a roll of the dice opens the door to good and bad runs, or even a great run brought down by one key stretch of bad luck
  • Some unusually long load times