Big Blue Bubble's first-person RPG starts off with a short quiz targeted at gauging your personality and assigning you a character class accordingly. My answers suggested that I don't like direct conflict, so I became an assassin, skilled with ranged attacks. Once my character was created, the game began, and I stepped off a boat into a small town, walking into the town square with the D-pad and looking around with the face buttons (the touch screen works as well).
From talking to the inhabitants, using dialogue trees populated by statements of varying irreverence, I learned that the mountain keep I was hoping to explore was way dangerous! So dangerous, in fact, that the gate leading to the mountain was locked. Keys are only issued to adventurers who prove their skills with a weapon, which I did by beating up a straw dummy (covered in retractable spikes) outside the weapons shop. The town and its occupants all have a not-too-serious character that makes wandering around more interesting. Items all have interesting descriptions too: the "Old Mace," for example, "has been used many times on many unfriendly people."
Once inside the keep, I walked around the lowest level looking for valuable ore. The keep is rife with orcs, so I got to try out my new combat skills. Aiming with the face buttons or touch screen, you attack the 2D sprite enemies with either shoulder button, or by touching the "attack" icon. Because I was an assassin, I had a bow and arrow, allowing me to run like a sensible coward and attack from a distance. Eventually, I came across a dwarf who gave me an additional quest beyond my hunt for ore: he wanted a hammer. I went off in search of one, and was attacked a few rooms away by a bunch of less friendly dwarves who hadn't lost their weapons. I tried over and over again, and died every time, letting a chilling in-game scream as I was hit by an axe or hammer. Sometimes, when I restarted, an orc would be in the room as well, also taking part in my murder.
Though my time in Firetop Mountain was brief, a complex game was already emerging. My character had a skill tree with upgradeable stats, attacks, spells, and even weapon enchantments. The in-game map allows the player to draw notes with the stylus. And even treasure chests offer challenge, with one chest locked with a puzzle that kills you within seconds if not solved. But all that is a side offering for the real game, which is walking around in caves and jamming on the shoulder buttons to damage orcs and dwarves in tiny increments. Which, at least for me, seemed like it could be monotonous. And insurmountably difficult.
Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain will be out on November 24.