Video Game Review: Fighting Fantasy: Forest of Doom | Giant Fire Breathing Robot

Video Game Review: Fighting Fantasy: Forest of Doom

Game: Fighting Fantasy: The Forest of Doom
Devloper: Tin Man Games
System: iOS (Reviewed), Android
Price: $5.99/£3.99/€5.49

All images courtesy of Tin Man Games

The Forest of Doom is the best of the three Fighting Fantasy gamebooks I’ve played. The first one, Blood of the Zombies, was content to swamp you with hordes of the undead, turning the gamebook (at least the end stages of it) into a slog. The second, House of Hell, stayed with the original and was more likely to end your game by driving you insane by chipping away at your sanity, one scare at a time. In the former, you were wary of opening each door in case another horde lay behind it. Each decision was weighed against the weapons you possessed, and your ability to use them. The latter was an old-school Hammer Horror romp, where you paused before opening each door in case your sanity wasn’t up to it.

The Forest of Doom plays differently to both of the previous FF gamebooks. Yes, there is combat, but at only a few points does that combat feel especially challenging or truly life-threatening. This accomplishes a few things, the first of which is the sense that when you do run into something that poses a threat in combat, it feels momentous and challenging. More than a few of the fights you’ll encounter can be avoided through clever thinking or caution. The other thing this accomplishes is that you find yourself encouraged to explore without worrying that your next fight will be your last.

That confidence to explore is reflected in the game’s new feature – a mapping system. A first for the series, it automatically creates a map of the locations you’ve visited as you move through the world. While you’re not exactly free to roam around the world at will, you are able to backtrack to a certain extent. You won’t be able to see everything on your first playthrough, but that’s okay, because the in-game achievements and rewards you can unlock lend themselves to repeated playthroughs.

That backtracking is at least partially required, due to the nature of the quest you find yourself on. At its heart, it’s the same fetch quest any D&D player has found themselves on in their first few outings. You’re tasked with finding the two parts of a magic warhammer, needed by the Dwarven king to unite the disparate tribes.

The game’s mechanics are unchanged from the previous entries in the series – you roll up your Skill, Stamina and Luck at the start of the quest. As you move through the various sections of the gamebook, you resolve different situations by rolling against the appropriate statistics. Ingesting poison may result in a Stamina test, while avoiding damage from a pit trap will prompt you to roll against your Luck. Combat is a series of opposed Skill tests between you and your opponent.

All told, there’s a much more relaxed, leisurely feel to The Forest of Doom than previous entries in the series. House of Hell, although wonderfully creepy in places, did end up being a bit of a grind – death came all too frequently, and it was too easy to reach the final battle with no hope of surviving. Blood of the Zombies could be a bit of a slog as you waded through hordes of the undead again and again. The Forest of Doom is a much more “gamey” piece of action.

That’s not to say it can’t be challenging. As before, The Forest of Doom comes with a Hardcore mode which lowers all of your stats and offers extra challenges. For those who want to simply breeze through the game without worrying, there’s also a Free Read mode, which allows you to bypass all of the challenges and choices you’ll encounter along the way.

The artwork throughout the book is as gorgeous as you’d expect. The cover image, the iconic Shape Changer, is worth mentioning in particular. Drawn by artist Iain McCaig, who later went on to design Padmé Amidala and Darth Maul for Star Wars Episode 1, it’s a wonderful image that’s perfectly suited to the old-school fantasy world of The Forest of Doom. The in-game art comes in either the classic black-and-white art from the original book, drawn by Malcolm Barter, or new versions, coloured by John-Paul Bove.

A final confession: Forest of Doom is actually the only FF gamebook I’ve finished without cheating. That’s not simply because it’s probably the easiest one so far, but probably because it’s the most fun. There’s still no “book mode,” for those of us who might want to simply flick through the pages and enjoy the descriptions without having to play the game each time, but I can overlook that for now. Forest of Doom is definitely worth your time. If you’ve been curious about picking up a Fighting Fantasy gamebook, it’s easily the best place for you to start. Not only does it have the old-school cachet that’s vitally important for pressing your nostalgia buttons, it’s also bloody good fun to play.

A copy of The Forest of Doom was provided to Giant Fire Breathing Robot for review purposes.

 

Follow Craig’s intermittent tweets @d20shapedheart

There is 1 comment.

  1. Joy said on August 19, 2015 at 1:06 am

    Nice website

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