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RPG fans should make it a point to play this sleeper gem. While certainly not perfect, it's quite good and I think it's safe to say it's one of the best RPGs on the platform to date.
Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain isn’t a “bad” game, it’s just missing one key ingredient for the most part: identity. Unless you get your jollies hacking away constantly at the same handful of enemy models, you won’t find much of a reason to keep trekking through, but those who do will have a blast.
It's in those moments where Fighting Fantasy shines, and why this can still be a fun and engaging dungeon-crawler -- and why there might be hope for any future sequel, should developer Big Blue Bubble and publisher Aspyr team up to adapt another of the many different Fighting Fantasy gamebooks into a video game again. But, if they do, they absolutely have to make addressing the game's wildly fluctuating difficulty curve and balancing issues a top priority -- because as it is, even with its many strengths, most players will abandon their quest for the Warlock's treasure here after they've seen just about 20% of Firetop Mountain.
The game’s box art does a great job of grabbing the attention of fantasy nerds and most DS owner, but the gameplay is so unbalanced it makes the game impossible. Some games are designed to be challenging, like Ninja Gaiden on the original Xbox or the more recent Demon’s Souls on PS3, but with some good practice, it is possible to progress through the game. This is not the case with Fighting Fantasy. Even with practice and level grinding, you have no hope on getting through this game. This game single handedly proves how crucial balanced gameplay is when it comes to game design.
The seven to fifteen hours required for completing Fighting Fantasy will be a by-and-large frustrating experience. The freedom in developing one's character is the only overwhelming positive, and dealing with the aggravating controls will not make players happy. The Fighting Fantasy franchise is known for a plethora of choices in its stories, making the minimal story in this game a further disappointment. There are also a few bugs, none of which is game-breaking, but they may require shutting the system off and reloading. Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is a missed attempt to start a new video game series, and it will hopefully receive a sequel to capitalize on the potential of a property that has been squandered.
Did I beat The Warlock of Firetop Mountain? Hell no, and I wouldn't advise anybody to try. Not unless they actively enjoy slamming concrete blocks onto their dicks. The old school charm quickly wears off and gives way to a game that simply does not want you to have fun. It's absolutely tragic, because I was just starting to really get into it before the game basically slammed the door in my face and said "fuck off."
You could spend 10 hours or so investigating Firetop Mountain, but you'll have seen just about all the game has to offer once you've bested the wizard for your inadequate ending. You can access a new game-plus option that carries over your equipment and abilities for another play-through, but the distinct lack of additional storyline branches, interesting quests, and new areas to unlock drastically lessens the draw factor. Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is an inferior and empty experience beset by severely awkward controls and shoddy gameplay.
The DS game doesn't capture any of the magic inherent in Fighting Fantasy's formula. Instead of an adventure packed with mystery and excitement, the series' first videogame provides a dull story and frustrating controls in a generic dungeon crawl wrapper. It's a shame, because I remember enjoying the "Choose Your Own Adventure" style so much as a kid, and I bet that formula could make for a great game.