|See that orc? He will destroy you.|
There's still more to come. In the meantime, let's look at an obscure DS RPG that was critically panned on release! Does it suck as much as reviewers say it did?! READ ON AND FIND OUT!
-An extensive skill-building system allows players to flexibly alter their focus as they progress through Firetop Mountain. With abilities to exploit luck in gambling, curse weapons, and a slew of other spells and abilities, no playthrough of Fighting Fantasy will ever be the same.
-Extremely charming dialogue peppers the entire experience, and the snarky protagonist makes you feel both cocky and badass as your progress and dominate each new challenge.
-Great difficulty spike.
-Ranged attacks are extremely overpowered, and I found myself ditching the melee-based equipment so that I could gleefully snipe enemies from a distance.
-Lockpicking chests can be a tedious experience- I mean, I can understand making me lose some health, but POISONING/CURSING me upon failure? That's wiggity whack.
-While the lack of music is certainly atmospheric, it leaves an empty feeling. It wouldn't have hurt to have some boss tracks, would it?
-AI is often trumped by its own stupidity
The only possible explanation for this game having been reviewed poorly is that people were too frustrated with the difficulty curve. Which is funny, since the game sets out to steamroll you from the very beginning, so if you can get through the first hour or so I'm pretty sure you can stick through to the end.
The Wizard of Firetop Mountain isn't some spectacular, kingdom-spanning narrative- it's about a guy who goes to a tower to get some loot and just happens to be smart and cool enough to end up getting it. With a premise as simple as this, you would think the crushing difficulty would entice players to complete it even more, but I suppose this wasn't the case. My personal dungeon-crawler was a man with initial experience in magic and curses that grew up to be a thieving archer who could curse magic users and sniped everyone with the ridiculous endgame bows. I think it's really neat that the game offers you a great deal of free choice in how you build your character and that you really can't completely ruin your chances of survival unless you never go to a shop during the game.
What Fighting Fantasy does well is give you objectives to strive towards. The shops list what stats you will have to match in order to wear specific equipment or weapons, which gives grinding a purpose. Also, there's a number of repeatable sidequests as well as serious choices to make that will affect future relationships and fast-travel throughout the game. With such a small setting, it's not likely you'll get lost, but the areas are expanse enough to make you wonder how big Firetop Mountain really is.
That being said, is the first difficulty spike hard to get over? Potentially. But the autosave feature allows you to respawn quickly to the last door you decided to enter and either retry or get the hell out of there. With the way the game is designed (and the auto-hp and mp regen), you are rarely far from a quick save and heal.
It really baffles me that this game was received poorly, because while it feels like an uphill struggle, it's an enjoyable one, and a game that makes you feel like you're out of your element and thrust into dangerous situations. I don't think that's a bad thing for a dungeon crawler to have. All-in-all, I'm pretty pleased that I completed this game- the finale had a great sense of buildup to it (a pretty fun dragon-battle, too) and the atmosphere was great. I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is looking for an RPG that isn't afraid to kick your teeth in now and then.
Final Verdict: Fun dialogue and an expansive ability system accompany this first-person RPG, but Fighting Fantasy's relentless ability to boss you around is what makes overcoming its challenges and conquering the Wizard of Firetop Mountain an extremely satisfying experience.