Wizard Books, £4.99, ISBN 1-84046-387-2
Fantasy, 2002 (Reissue)
The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is the first ever gamebook in the Fighting Fantasy series, and it’s also the only one that features both founders of this line collaborating on a gamebook. However, the end result is a far from impressive campaign.
There is hardly any plot or depth here. You are a warrior who decides to break into the warlock Zagor’s stronghold, a typical spooky castle on top of Firetop Mountain, to get your hands on his treasure. That’s pretty much it. The warlock is depicted as evil which makes your breaking in, killing him, and looting his riches a “good” deed.
The fundamental gameplay for this book – and for all books in this series – is basic and simple. It involves rolling of die. There is nothing too complicated here. Your Skill points denote how well you are in melee combat. Your Stamina points is a gauge of your health so if you have zero Stamina point, you’re dead. Your Luck points denote – duh – how lucky you are. At various points in a campaign, only luck can help you, so this is where you need to roll die to “Test Your Luck”.
The campaign is even more straightforward. Hack, slash, keep treasures, and hope they are the ones you need to succeed in this campaign. These special items you need to defeat Zagor and unlock his treasure chest are pretty easy to find… if you have the patience to spend hours wandering around the stronghold. The whole campaign revolves around random wandering through corridors, tunnels, and passages.
The exterior dungeon-crawling moments aren’t too bad, as there are still plenty of combat encounters to elevate the tedium, but once you’re in the Maze of Zagor, that’s when the utter boredom sets in. You can actually find a map of the Maze, but the campaign never allows you to use it for some reason only the authors will know. Instead, you will be wandering around, often returning to the same locations, until your life begins to flash before your eyes and you wonder whether Zagor wants you to die from excruciating boredom. The descriptions of the locations in the Maze of Zagor are practically zero. If it’s a rock tunnel, it’s called a rock tunnel and that’s all there is to the description.
Ultimately, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is a trap – a time sink where one finds oneself wandering around in zombefied stupor wishing for a sudden death ending to end one’s misery.