App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is technically a game book, but the way it's built makes it feel like a text-heavy dungeon crawler. In the game, you choose a character, who must then quest their way to the top of Firetop Mountain to defeat the evil warlock running things there. It's a common good vs. evil story, but it's littered with loads of interesting choices, engaging combat, and wonderfully descriptive writing to the point that you can look past a lot of the game's rougher edges.
Choose your battles
As a game book, the primary thing you'll find yourself doing in Firetop Mountain is reading and then making choices based on what you've read. After entering a huge room with multiple doors in it, for example, you might read that through one you can hear screams and another with rushing water behind it. With this little amount of information, you make your choice and then live with the consequences.
Oftentimes, these consequences will turn out to be battles, which then turn the action of Firetop Mountain into a small scale turn-based strategy game where you must read your opponents and move or attack at the right times to make sure you stay alive. If your character dies, they get a few chances to try again from an earlier part of their adventure, but after three failed attempts, you have to start the whole game over again, which ends up giving the game a roguelike feel.
Rolling the dice
Every time you start a new game of Firetop Mountain, you go in knowing a little more about the adventure than you did before, but you can't just rely on remembering what you did last time to succeed. This is because every new adventure mixes things up with new floor layouts and item placements.
This randomization certainly helps certain parts of Firetop Mountain from feeling too repetitive, though there were times when replaying sections of the game where a lot of elements stayed pretty similar. This resulted in times where the game felt like a chore because of all the sections of identical text you have to page through to get back to where you were.
My favorite thing about Firetop Mountain is that it's less game-book-y and more action-oriented. It actually feels like a solo Dungeons & Dragons campaign, particularly with the game's tabletop graphical style. That said, I'm not sure that the roguelike hooks are quite strong enough to pull you back in once you've completed the game once.
Part of this could have to do with the fact that some of the choices in Firetop Mountain can feel a little unfair at times. It could also be because the experience doesn't change quite enough between playthroughs, even when using different characters. Or, perhaps it's because the game looks weirdly plastic-y and can only be played in landscape mode one way on your device for some reason.
It's easy enough to power through past these minor issues on a first playthrough, but these things become more noticeable annoyances as the narrative built around them loses its novelty.
The bottom line
I loved my first playthrough of Firetop Mountain, even though I died. On the second playthrough, I was laser focused on beating it and did so while skipping over a lot of the text I read the first time. After that, I didn't really want to go back to the game. For a roguelike, this would be a terrible thing, but for a game book, I suppose that's not too shabby. Despite some of its issues, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is certainly a complete and compelling package, though maybe not one you'll want to revisit.