by Murray Lewis
reviewed on PC
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Originally released as a series of mobile games, this new PC port brings all of those Lone Wolf games together under one (lengthy) banner. This is a game based on a Choose Your Own Adventure series and it's immediately obvious that the developers have gone to great lengths to ensure that same style carries over to the digital form. The entire game takes place on the pages of a thick, age-worn tome, with the story written in cursive ink lettering as you play.
Even for someone, like me, who has played very few game-books, this was a hugely appealing approach – it felt like I was settling in to read a good book and drew me into the narrative from the very first words. Be warned, though, that there's no voice over on offer, outside of a few cutscenes – you will be in for a lot of reading if you want to know what's going on.
The plot itself is nothing terribly special, being a fairly typical fantasy romp about mining villages, buried temples, and orcs (they're called Giak here, but let's be honest, shall we?). In places, the writing even sounds a little amateurish, with unnatural phrasings or laughably self-serious ruminations. On the whole, though, the story is raised up by its presentation and it becomes a joy to play, just to read a little more.
At frequent intervals, the player is offered a choice which will affect the story trajectory. Some of these are game-book tropes, such as choosing which dank tunnel to crawl down, and are purely an exercise in guesswork. Many, though, make active use of character skills, chosen at the start of the game. Someone trapped in a cave-in, for example, could be rescued by tearing the rubble down (strength), seeking a way to lever the rocks apart (cunning), or using the mysterious 'Kai' energies to lift them away (magic). It all works quite well and provides a great deal of replayability.
Most frequent of all, though, are the combat sequences. Even when trying to play Lone Wolf as a cautious hunter, it seems the man can't go five minutes without running headlong into a fight. Use of abilities beforehand can sometimes affect the starting conditions of a battle, tipping the balance very slightly in your favour, but there are precious few opportunities to avoid a battle entirely.
The biggest problem is that fights seem to happen far too often. They quickly go from being a fun diversion to being a chore and it's a shame that there wasn't more of a focus on developing the narrative instead of constantly bombarding the player in this way.
Good sense of atmosphere. Refreshingly well-written, on the whole. Lots of replayability.
Combat system rarely feels fair. Soundtrack is disappointingly limited. Way too many fights, even when trying to avoid them.