Anyone who loves their choose-your-own-adventure books will have heard of the classic Fighting Fantasy series at some point or other, written by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson. Well, some of their books have gotten the video game treatment for PC with free-to-play Fighting Fantasy Classics on Steam, developed by Tin Man Games.
For the uninitiated: Fighting Fantasy is a series of popular stand alone choose-your-own-adventure-books that began in the 80’s, but are still being published and written to this day. The books ask you to not only use the book, but treat it like a pen and paper game, by writing down your inventory on a sheet of paper, with stats that you roll with the dice.
However, if you already have the books or one of the apps on iPhone that they’ve developed, don’t get excited. The game hasn’t done anything interesting with the game play: You are still just reading text, this time on a screen. All you do is click on choices when the game stops dumping piles of exposition on you or describing the scene. None of it is visual: only some of the drawings from the books have been placed in here, and they’re not even colored like the app versions.
Fights mainly play themselves out, as a series of dice rolls. You just simply choose to either “Fight”, which is a contest of who’s-number-is-higher influenced by your Skill stat, or to choose “Luck” after a round of attacks to determine if you get an extra hit in, or if you dodged some of their attack that they landed on you. These fights can be over in a matter of seconds. It also all depends on your base stats.
If you don’t roll high enough stats for Skill, Luck and Gold, chances are you’ll be dead or unlucky early on. You can choose out of three difficulty settings: “Adventurer” which plays the book as intended, with no rewinding decisions, “Hardcore” which makes it harder to roll better stats and sometimes placing a set amount of gold to start with instead of rolling for it, as well as “Free Read”, which is more of the classic play-style you use when you just want to get to the end, by allowing you to rewind choices (even if you technically die or fail), select choices that would otherwise be locked off because you haven’t met the requirements for it like having a certain item, and healingyour fighter as much as you want, whenever you want.
That’s another thing, luck rolls also influence some outcomes of an event like trying to overhear a conversation: also based on dice rolls influenced by your Luck stat. This is all well and good for a pen and paper game, but when adapting such games for PC or consoles, it shouldn’t rely so heavily on this, and allow more player involvement in whats happening. I mean, Neverwinter Nights is based on Dungeon and Dragons, and it isn’t just a wall of text with some dice rolls and simple choices is it? This is especially a problem, when you realize how much exposition is thrown in your face at the beginning of each novel, before you can actually play, which is usually six or seven pages worth, if not more.
There is also character customization… in the way that you can choose from a handful of drawn black and white portraits and choose a name. Not that the game goes out of it’s way to tell you, I only stumbled upon it when making the game full-screen. That’s right, you heard me: It isn’t even full screen automatically when you first launch it, yet the window is the size of the monitor, which is a bit weird.
This game is really just a lazily put together collection of only eight out of the many, many books that have been published over the years, with only one of them actually coming free with the game: the pirate themed adventure “Bloodbones”. Worst of all, this game feels very similar to the app versions of The Forest Of Doom, Blood of the Zombies and Island Of The Lizard King, only awkwardly ported to the PC, right down to the image based user-interface. People who bought the stand alone version of Warlock Of Firetop Mountain may feel particularly cheated, as that version is about $27 Australian dollars, and that same story is available for Classics, as DLC for about $5.50 Australian dollars.
All in all, this was a really disappointing, boring adaption of the books, which has been done by the same studio before on IOS. Technically speaking, it is well built and I didn’t see any bugs, but if you are wanting to get into Fighting Fantasy, I would say don’t touch this, despite the fact it’s free-to-play. Do yourself a favor, and buy the actual books. That way you can actually roll the dice yourself and not just be mindlessly clicking at a screen, using up power to play something that’s available on paper, that’s more involving and fun to play. As a fan of some of the books (particularly Deathtrap Dungeon), this is just a huge disappointment.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10