Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was a 1982 choose-your-own-adventure book written by now-game developers Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. Now it's a 2009 DS action role-playing game.
Choose-your-own-adventure books were popular in the 1980s. Nowadays, I can only find them at garage sales with a lot of the stat pages missing. I didn't grow up with the Fighting Fantasy series, but it sounds like the character development was more detailed than my Master of Kung Fu book. Also, I'm told that while most choose-your-own-adventures had multiple endings, the branching paths in Fighting Fantasy typically led to death. Yikes.
What Is It? Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is a first-person action RPG set in the same place as the novel with roughly the same plot. Players can choose from one of three different classes with modifiable stats and venture through the mountain and the town around it in search of the Warlock. There are side quests along the way and tons of non-playable characters to interact with. The 3D action takes place in the top screen while the bottom screen is home to the inventory and the map, which you can make notes on.
What We Saw I spent about 30 minutes with the game in a dungeon halfway through the main quest. The primary objective was to find a secret entrance into the upper levels of the mountain, while the secondary quest involved a choice between helping skeletons by killing dwarves and helping dwarves by killing skeletons.
How Far Along Is It? The game is due out in October.
What Needs Improvement? What Do I Do With The Stylus? The control scheme in Fighting Fantasy allows players to use the face buttons or the stylus to look around; but other than that, it's not clear what you're supposed to do with the stylus. You can use it to make notes on the dungeon map or cast spells and select weapons if you don't feel like jabbing the lower screen with your fingertips. However, unless you're using the stylus to look, it's almost like you're just trying to keep it out of the way while you play.
What Should Stay The Same? Rich Environments: From the exterior town around the mountain to the various caverns inside Firetop Mountain, the 3D environments in Fighting Fantasy just look so detailed. I'm not sure if it's the art style that gives colours and textures this really rich detail, or if somehow the developer has optimised the DS's rendering capabilities. But either way, visually, Fighting Fantasy is very entertaining.
Fast Combat: Whether you're a melee class or a ranged class, the combat in Fighting Fantasy is fast-paced. The shoulder buttons control melee combat – both quick attacks and slower, powerful strikes – and to cast a spell, you double-tap it on the lower screen (and make sure you're pointed in the right direction in the top screen). There's no targeting reticule, but from the few spells I cast, I get the feeling that the game is forgiving in ranged combat. Always a plus if you're going to be frantically casting spells.
Final Thoughts I'm not sure how I feel about there being only one ending, but it's good to hear that even with a single critical path, there will still be 8-10 hours of solid adventuring. If nothing else, I'm always happy to have another adventure game on the DS, especially one that comes with a rich IP already attached to it.