What do you get when you take a tabletop RPG game, mix in a card game, and add elements of a dice game just to be safe? You might end up with something very like Nomad Games’ Fighting Fantasy Legends role-playing game. The game is set in the Fighting Fantasy world of the single-player role-playing “gamebooks” (i.e. “City of Thieves”, “The Warlock of Firetop Mountain” and “Citadel of Chaos”) created by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. This is our review of Fighting Fantasy Legends.
Let me start off by saying I wasn’t familiar at all with the Fighting Fantasy series of interactive novels, also known as “gamebooks”, before lunging into this interesting hybrid PC game. So, my review is based on my experiences of the game as a fantasy RPG, of which I am experienced in, versus how it stacks up to said gamebooks and their lore.
In Fighting Fantasy Legends, An Adventurer is Born
Character creation in these type of games is usually something to behold so let’s start there. You’ll start by being presented with three difficulty levels; Adventurer, Hero, and Legend. All three looks like valid choices but only Adventurer is emboldened and selectable. Presumably, Hero and Legend open at a later milestone. A mouse over tooltip would have been helpful here if we’re being nitpicky.
Next you select from one of several predefined “hero names” followed by an avatar; Barbarian (human), Dwarf or Elf. Now it’s time to move “points” around between our Skill level (weapon and fighting expertise) and Luck (affects luck dice throws). Skill and Luck level also affect your initial Stamina level as it’s made up points not spent on the other two categories. Skill and Luck can be in the range of 6 and 12. Lastly, you’ll select one special skill from a static list of six, self-explanatory skills including Naturally Skillful, Naturally Lucky, Curse Resistant, Quick Learner (XP gain), Trap Knowledge, and Treasure Hunter. And for those die-hards it’s here that you also can enable the “Hardcore Hero Mode” where death is permanent when you lose all your stamina. One annoyance encountered during writing this review; I had started a new game not realizing it would quietly overwrite my prior character and saved game progress without warning.
Off into the game world
Once in game you’re greeted with a top down view of your character and where they are on a region map. All movement in game is experienced in a top down, not isometric, view which might catch some players by surprise. Your Skill is represented as red die, with the total number of dice based on the level previously chosen at character creation. The same holds true for Luck which is represented as green die. Also on the UI is your XP bar in blue. You also have an easily accessible quest log, creature codex (cards you’ve collected based on monster encounters), inventory (items are represented as cards as well), your current gold and an options screen which has minimal options and best serves as access to “Quit Game”.
Your hero’s movement on the map is defined by dotted paths and green buttons with two footprints for quick movement. As soon as you’re in game you’re placed in front of your first town / tavern and the text reading begins. If you’re bothered by a lot of quest text then this is probably not a game for you. As you walk along predefined paths you will run into “encounters” which are mobs, traps, scenarios, etc. Encounters are represented by bubbling question marks, NPCs, etc. Text for these encounters are presented in a “tabletop dungeon master” type style, e.g. “As you approach the main gate you are confronted by two guards”. Generally, you’re presented then with choices, e.g. “Attack”, “Flee”, “(Tell them you’re) Selling Booty”.
Other encounters include Skill and Luck “tests” which require throwing the associated dice. When your current XP bar is filled up you can upgrade either your Skill or Luck die, no traditional RPG attribute or skill maps here to dump points into. Items found are in the form of Treasure Cards which are added to your inventory and will show up when they can be used in a scenario in game. Trap Cards show up as well and usually require you to roll your Luck dice and come up with non-blank rolls to leave unscathed.
Monster fights take place as character cards, yours, and your current opponent, are placed on the main UI area followed by each of you rolling your skill dice. You can roll blanks, fists, swords, etc. Depending on the throw, your stamina and your opponent’s’ stamina will decrease, whomever reaches zero first loses.
Stamina does not auto-replenish so battle in some cases is costly. Which brings up the biggest complaint about this game. Upon death, you’re thrust out of town and placed back onto the mainland. To “rest” at a town, i.e. renew some of your stamina, requires gold as does performing a complete “replenish”. If you’re low on gold you can’t renew your stamina. To get back to the spot where you perished you need to retread the game map. Doing so throws you into different encounters along the way. In some cases, you might not have enough stamina to compete. Essential point, if you do something “stupid” you could be in for quite a treadmill to get back to a healthy and productive state. It’s this cycle that takes you out of the game a bit. On the plus side, it does add a bit of strategy to the game in that you need to consider your actions, e.g. do I want to pay off the guard in gold or attack him.
The bottom line…
- Interesting blend of several genres
- Unique dice roll combat & leveling system
- An RPG that draws you in
- Enchanting soundtrack
- Auto-save feature
- Top down view might not be for everybody
- Somewhat unforgiving on death
- Can’t save multiple games
The game is available on Steam, iOS, and Android. Steam copy reviewed through key provided by the game publisher.