Based on the single-player adventure book by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is an ambitious title that uses the premise of the book and attempts to recreate that feeling through video games. While there are some interesting ideas working in its favor, like the variety of playable characters, aesthetic and combat, it also falls short, with terrible load times and bad controls.
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain has a variety of playable of characters ranging from archers to warriors. These heroes not only have different attacks, but also different skill sets that impact the story, such as being well educated or having a fearsome presence. These are noticeable when traversing the same areas, because one educated protagonist will be able to decipher the text, while another may be illiterate and see the text as gibberish. These different attributes have the ability to change the outcome of certain events and are easy to see in subsequent playthroughs.
I found the presentation to be quite impeccable; it gave the feeling of playing a tabletop game. Characters on the map are represented as figurines and the narrative is presented through text, in a manner akin to the book it is emulating. The other way this feels like Dungeons and Dragons is that, when going through Firetop Mountain, you will come across branching paths and character interactions that lead to choices that impact your journey. In some of these interactions, you will be forced to roll for either luck or skill to determine the outcome of the current predicament. I found the combination of these ideas adds to the feeling that I was playing a single-player board game. The idea that this is on the Switch also makes setting up and playing a few times easier and makes this feel superior to its literary counterpart.
Firetop Mountain is a dangerous place filled with goblins, ghosts, and an iron cyclops. It’s a relief to say that the combat system is easy to learn. The battle system is a strategic, turned-based system, similar to Fire Emblem or Disgaea. This system, like the previously mentioned titles, is based around placement, due to each character’s combat capabilities. This placement is also relevant to avoid the onslaught of opponents. Where these battles differ though is when two combatants attack each other at the same time, the battle will stop and make each individual roll a skill check. This roll is added to each character’s skill level, and whoever has the higher sum is the victor of the clash. I found the risk and reward system rewarding, which made combat more interesting.
Loading times are a major annoyance that became more frustrating with each playthrough. When first loading the game, I found myself introduced to a loading screen that took at least a full minute before getting to the main menu. Along with that, getting around Firetop Mountain had a lot of issues with loading each scenario. The game would freeze for extended periods just to load choices that I had already run several times. These hiccups would happen randomly, and I found myself irritated to no end.
My other major issue was while making decisions on the game board, there would be lag between making a decision and the game reacting to my input. This delay happened quite often and, at one point, made me think my Joy-Cons were broken. Combat, on the other hand, was consistent and always had instant results. I just wish the simple controls of the game board, where you spend two thirds of your time, was just as responsive.
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is an ambitious game that has potential – if they patch the laggy controls on the overworld map. While I enjoyed the character variety, look, and combat, there were too many times I was taken out of the game – a mediocre experience at best, in its current condition. As it stands, this is the best way to enjoy this title, but I personally would wait for an update before giving this one a try.
Review: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Nintendo Switch)
Warlock of Firetop Mountain is a unique experience that takes a single-player adventure book and translates it into a digital experience. While fun at times, this title is bogged down by delayed controls in spots and long load times.