Review: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Nintendo Switch)

6 mins read

Review by Matt S.

As a big fan of the old gamebooks that I obsessively consumed through my childhood, I was so impressed with what Tin Man Games did with The Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Taking the basic gamebook experience and turning it into a blend of board game and Dungeons & Dragons-style RPG was unexpected, but worked so unbelievably well. And now it’s on Nintendo Switch.

I’ve already reviewed Firetop Mountain at depth from its iPad release. The basic gameplay isn’t any different this time around, so please check out my review of the iPad edition for more on it. In short; you’ll pick a character a wide range of different heroes, each with their own skill sets and backstory, and then delve into the dungeon, trying to survive increasingly-hazardous traps and monster encounters on the way to whatever your character’s particular objective is.

There’s a couple of things that I really love about Firetop Mountain on the Switch:

I can’t wait for the PSVR game by Tin Man Games that uses this engine. It’s going to be A++++++++ #NintendoSwitch

— High priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku (@DigitallyDownld) September 17, 2018

1) Firstly, and frankly, most importantly; the aesthetic is so appealing to me. Rather than fill the game with animation, Tin Man Games has kept things classical. Whatever character you choose is represented on the “board” as a playing piece, and as they move around the dungeon, they “bounce” from space to space as though lifted and placed by hand. In battle, monsters do the same thing. Environments, meanwhile, look like they’ve been hand-sculpted boards and props.

As a fan of Dungeons & Dragons and board games such as Hero Quest and Space Hulk, this aesthetic is so delightfully nostalgic, and really helps to activate the imagination while you’re playing. Firetop Mountain, the book, worked hard to do much the same with its words and art, and it’s impressive that Tin Man Games have managed to do the same with the visuals. Each character miniature is nicely detailed, as though painstakingly painted by hand, and it’s so easy to replace the same adventure over and over again just for the chance to play with each and every one of these figurines.

2) Speaking of the characters, the fact that each character has a subtly different plot is a brilliant way of extending the longevity of Firetop Mountain. The basic dungeon layout and challenges are the same each time, but because each character has their own motivations and skills, how you approach those challenges will change just enough each time to ensure that you keep paying attention. A battle that one character can avoid because of a particular skill will be unavoidable because the next character can’t resist a scrap. Some characters are heading into the dungeon for fame and fortune. Others have more altruistic goals. The variety in stories that Tin Man Games is able to spin around a single “environment” is truly impressive.

I love this game’s combat system #NintendoSwitch

— High priest of the Church of Hatsune Miku (@DigitallyDownld) September 17, 2018

This structure also gives Firetop Mountain its core reward mechanic; you’ll start out with access to just four characters, but as you defeat enemies, you earn “souls”, which can be used to unlock more heroes. Which you’ll instantly want to dive right into the game with just to see how they change how you can interact with the dungeon. Because of this, what might have otherwise been a fairly brief-but-sweet experience into a game that feels meaty beyond its humble indie roots.

3) It’s an ideal travel game. It’s possible to feel like you’re making meaningful progress in Firetop Mountain with short, five-minute bursts of play, and as a result it’s already on high rotation on my console. I’ve already got it on my iPad, of course, and this isn’t a game that necessarily needs button controls, but I enjoy consolidating my games onto the console wherever possible anyway.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain has clearly been a success for Tin Man Games, and perhaps the neatest thing about it is that the modular nature of the game allows Tin Man Games to build on it from here. There’s already a VR title in development that will use the platform to start expanding the adventures that players can have with it, and it’s exciting to see just how much further Tin Man Games can go with its “gamebook board game” creation.

In the meantime, giving people with a Nintendo Switch a new opportunity to try the game, if they haven’t previously, is great. If you haven’t played The Warlock of Firetop Mountain yet, don’t miss it this time around. It really is a brilliant single player board game.

– Matt S 
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld

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