Review: Fighting Fantasy Legends Portal19 Jul 2018 0
Review: Fighting Fantasy Legends Portal
Released 05 Jul 2018
Back in the 1980’s the Fighting Fantasy books were a true phenomenon. These choose your own adventure tomes with their distinctive illustrations and atmospheric branching narrative enjoyed incredible success. In addition to selling millions of copies, they also gave many their first taste of fantasy role-playing games. This may not be the first time that the series has made an appearance on mobile devices, but Nomad Games have taken a different approach, maintaining the core plots of the books but replacing the page turning with a map and a deck of cards.
The main frustration with the Fighting Fantasy books was that death often felt arbitrary, take a right instead of a left and splat; it was back to the character creation sheet and a return to page one. Well, there was another option – cheat. Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it but like many others, I often backtracked my fatal decisions and selected a different option. Stuffing my fingers between the pages to mark my progress to the extent that I was using up digits faster than a drunken knife juggler. At the time, I didn’t even feel that guilty, convincing myself that if the story could so easily send me to my doom then I needed some way to level the playing field. In spite of the frustrations, I loved these books and have fond memories of spending hours lost amongst their evocative black and white drawings and twisty-turning passages.
The long-windedly entitled Fighting Fantasy Legends Portal consists of a trilogy of linked stories, with access to the latter ones being reliant on success in the earlier parts. The trilogy begins with Deathtrap Dungeon in which your adventurer will take on the challenge of the Labyrinth of Fang. Designed by Baron Sukumvit, the labyrinth is brimming with fiendish traps and fearsome creatures, can you be the first to survive and earn the reward of 10,000 gold pieces? The twist is that you are not alone in your quest as five other contestants, including a dour barbarian and a dark assassin, also have their eye on the prize. Trials of Champions is the second part, it begins with a murder mystery and a few rounds of gladiatorial combat before you even reach Fang Labyrinth 2.0. The final part of the adventure, Armies of Death, sees Agglax the Shadow Demon amassing an army of undead warriors. Our hero must travel from Fang with his band of veteran fighters to take on this new threat. Along the way, you will need to acquire the powers required to defeat Agglax, but do not take too long about it because his power grows ever stronger.
At the start of each adventure you choose a character class; Rogue, Paladin or Chaos Warrior and select a difficulty level. In a nod towards the sensibilities of modern gaming, the difficulty level determines how many chances you will have to complete the story. Thus, you will begin the game with three, six or nine lives. Die and you will lose one of your lives and be forced to return to the dungeon entrance. However, you restart with full health and all of your equipment and experience gains intact. You also won't replay any of the main set pieces that you may have already overcome.
Before entering the dungeon, you must allocate points between three statistics. Skill determines your likelihood of success in combat and other actions like leaping pits. Luck determines such things as your chance of avoiding traps and finding valuable items. Stamina reflects how much damage you can take. Finally, you get to select a special skill. Naturally skilful and naturally lucky characters have a chance of automatic success when taking a skill or luck test. Alternatively, your adventurer could choose to be resistant to curses, have an increased knowledge of traps or maybe they are a quick learner.
During the game you will have to make numerous rolls. The number of dice you roll is determined by your ability rating in either skill or luck. All dice are six-sided and at the beginning of your quest, they will each have five blank faces. If my maths is correct this means that each die only has a one in six chance of achieving a successful roll. As your level increases, you can modify the dice; each die has the potential to be improved twice, thus increasing the chance of success to 50%. However, adventurers can also suffer long-term injuries and curses, which will affect your dice and may lead to you automatically failing.
The action is viewed from a forced overhead view with some moody graphics, a rousing fantasy themed soundtrack and a smattering of sound effects. Icons clearly show the directions you can move and the items you can interact with. As you progress through the story you will encounter several set pieces that remain true to the books, but there are also random encounters that are drawn from a deck of cards. These may lead to you having to fight a monster, finding an item, discovering a trap or triggering a special event.
Even making allowances for numerous deaths, the stories do not take that long to complete, but as well as the overriding quest there are also numerous sub-quests to keep you interested. In a neat touch, after completing the game you get to learn the fate of the various characters that you encountered and helped during your journey. Completing every quest will certainly take some time and for the completest, there is also a codex of monsters to compile.
The experienced designers have clearly made a sterling effort to reinvent Fighting Fantasy for a modern market. It sticks to the winning mix of tense combat, interspersed with classic riddles and puzzles. The modified dice system is fast paced and works well. It can lead to some nail-biting moments as your handful of dice ricochet across the screen before tethering, tantalisingly on the edge of success or failure. However, the game can be frustrating - there are still those instant death situations, made worse by having to restart from the very beginning every time you die. Granted, with the extra life failure isn’t as harsh as it used to be but having to trudge back from the entrance every time you fail feels like one trait from the past that is best left there.