Developer: Reply Forge
Publisher: Reply Forge
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Role-Playing & Adventure
Release Date: 16th of February, 2017 (EU & NA)
You are the hero of your own story. Do you write your fate or does destiny write it for you? The world of Magnamund is in peril as the last of the Kai Lords, it is down to you to save it.
Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf is based on the Author’s original Gamebooks of the 80’s which, had the reader make a number of choices and roll a dice in order progress through the different story arcs. Each decision would cater the story around it and could give a completely different ending. Will be the hero and save the day? Or will you fall victim to the Giaks and Drakkarim? Game Developers Forge Reply, worked alongside Joe Dever and created a unique story based on the original Lone Wolf Series. Dever wrote the story and had direct involvement throughout the project, keeping it faithful to the original context. The Game originally released on iOS and PC back in 2013, and eventually making it’s way to PS4 in 2016. Now after 5 years, Lone Wolf has come to the Nintendo Switch and what a fitting game to have on the console. The story of the game is set between the forth and fifth game books of the Lone Wolf Series; Shadow Of Doom and Chasm On The Sand. It also includes all four acts from the Mobile release which was originally released periodically. As the story goes, the land of Sommerlund is in danger. communication with the mining village of Rockstarn have ceased and as it’s liege lord, Lone Wolf sets out to investigate why.
After braving the mountainous trek to the village, you discover that the entire village has been ransacked and what is left of the villagers have been grotesquely slaughtered and have been left to freeze in snow-covered streets. You learn that this is the work of the Giaks, Orc-like creatures of evil origin and servants of the Dark Lords. After tussling with a few of these foul beasts that still remain in the village, you discover that there are still some villagers that have not all been eviscerated. You save a young woman from another group of Giaks to explains what has happened here and why, as her liege lord, had you not come sooner. She also tells you that some of the villagers are hiding in the Bronin mines and have been cut off from the village by the cliff face elevator which has been purposely sabotaged as to stop the Giaks in the village from returning to the Sunken forest below which borders the Darklands, Home to almost every despicable being to ever roam Magnamund. The Young woman tells you that her name is Leandra and she is the daughter of Rockstarn’s Inventor who has been captured by the Giaks and in his possession is an invention that has the potential to create horrific war machines that will allow darkness to cover Magnamund once again.
Before I get into graphics, it must be reiterated that this was originally game designed for mobile devices that has been optimized for consoles. That said, Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf is still finely rendered and looks incredible. It is a blend of story-telling with RPG turn-based elements and is literally pages of a storybook coming to life. Though I spent most of my time playing this game in handheld mode, Lone Wolf looks just as good on the big screen. The Music is well orchestrated and really helps set the tone of the game. There is a distinct medieval feel to the music score that accentuates the game’s aesthetic of the Days of Olde.
The most important thing that you must take into account is that this is not your typical adventure RPG with Turn-based strategy thrown into the mix. If you want that, there are plenty on offer on any platform. Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf is probably the most unique title you will ever get to play in this day and age because it doesn’t rely solely on gameplay. Lone Wolf sticks closely to its source material and that it is a Game book first and foremost. In fact, it is actually an interactive Game book where the words appear in front of you and the pages come to life with moving images. Instead of having to roll a dice or decide what to do with random number combinations. You can choose what to do in each situation via an interactive menu that, depending on which abilities and skills you chose in the beginning, will affect the outcome of the events that unfold in front of you.
Prepare yourself for a LOT of reading because it is a book and the real adventure is the story in the text. There are action sequences that you do get to physically interact in to help break up the monotony of reading. These action sequences are where the turn-based strategy elements come into play. These are played out in a third-person view set behind Lone Wolf with the enemies facing towards you and the main protagonists. There are about 5 different enemies that you will face, each one bigger and uglier than the last though you will only fight up to three at any one time but bear in mind that sometimes another enemy can jump into the fight after one perishes or blows its horn. You will be given an assortment of actions which you must use before your time is up and it is the enemy’s turn. Some enemies will not play fair either and may attack you whilst you are coming up with your strategy. You have three different bars which represent your Vitality (Health), Kai Power (Magic) and Endurance (Physical attack meter).
Depending on the weapon you chose in the beginning (Sword, Axe, Mace), you will be able to inflict varying amounts of damage on your enemies. You can also use range weapons, and different kind of Magic abilities. You also have the legendary Sommerswerd that can inflict heavy damage that consumes a lot of Kai Power so be sure to find the right moment to use it. Using the Sommerswerd, ranged attacks and Melee attacks will also have Quick-Time events (QTE) that will allow you to do more damage or inflict a status ailment on an enemy. Each technique has its own QTE but they do not change so once you know when to respond to each technique, you will be able to pull off the trickier QTE’s without too much hassle.
Some enemies are really tough and can wipe you out in moments. If you made a mistake and paid the ultimate price for it with your life, you can restart the battle, go back to the previous checkpoint in the story and better prepare yourself for what’s to come or lower the difficulty setting so that you stand a better chance of victory. By restarting the battle, you will begin anew with everything you had equipped previously. If you decide to go back to the last checkpoint, you can then access your inventory before the battle and better equip yourself with armour, weapons, potions or accessories that may help give you the edge you need. If the battle is still too tough and you die again, you can try it again or take the third option of lowering the difficulty.
It isn’t just the fight sequences that are done in “Real-Time,” there are a couple of mini-games as well. One is lockpicking chests and doors whilst rotating the left and right Joysticks but not at the same time. The other is rotating a Rubix cube-like object called the Shianti Cube and pulling it apart to make it fit into special locks to open doors. Both mini-games have a limit, the lockpicking mini-game depends on how many lockpicks you have in your inventory and the Shianti Cube holds unstable energy which when the timer completely depletes will discharge and hurt you immensely. The Good news is that you can restart the Shianti Cube minigame with full life or continue on with damage if you are more hardcore.
It is not just reading and fighting, there is also a map. The map is a visual aid that you use to advance the next part of your adventure. Most times it is a linear affair from one point to the next but every now and again, you are given the option of multiple locations which you must journey to, leaving where you travel to first up to you. There are also a couple of instances that will make you choose one route or the other. The main story is the same but the events that take place inbetween will change accordingly depending on your decision making. At some locations, you may come across a merchant in which you can buy and sell wares, improve or reforge weapons and armour. You will need to make good use of these moments as they are usually few and far between and you will never have enough gold to buy all that you need. Resource management is also key to staying one foot ahead and sometimes you have to sacrifice selling something in order to buy something else that you really do need. Fortunately, you can also buy back items you have sold for the same price you pawned them off for, though you will find that you probably didn’t need them anyway.
An interesting Feature that new players and veterans of the original Game Book series may like is the Codex. Here you will find information on all the people and creatures you have encountered on your adventure along with the Lore of the Lone Wolf series. Depictions and details of the world of Magnamund can also be found here including Sommerlund and the Darklands. The codex helps to fill the player in on the world Lone Wolf, providing a more in-depth look into the characters and the fantastical world you have entered.
The controls are relatively straightforward apart from the more technical QTE’s that I mentioned earlier, the left joystick allows you to interact with menus, options, turn pages and highlight various actions, The A, B, X and Y buttons are all used to choose the different attacks and skills during fight sequences. A & B also accept and decline actions like opening or closing menus and options. They all seem to be pretty tight though there are some moments during the QTE events where you can sometimes fail the Joystick rotation actions when trying to get the joystick into position. There are moments where trying to highlight where you want to go can be tricky or more importantly when trying to highlight the meditate icon. Sometimes you will get the option to meditate which will allow you to recuperate vitality, kai and endurance at the risk of being attacked by monsters. When trying to access the meditate option, you can’t always highlight it straight away and sometimes can highlight a completely different point on the map.
The experience of Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf is solid. With that in mind though, there are a couple of faults and bugs. Later on in the game after defeating enemies, when you get to claim your rewards, the highlight icon disappears when trying to discard or take all items. it is a tiny glitch but it can cost you some pretty important items that may help you on your quest. If you keep pushing right on the joystick, the Take all option is the furthest right on the screen so you can still accept all even if you can’t see the highlighter. As regards to the text, You are reading a book and that is the main point of the game. There are several options to change the font to one more appealing to you.
I do wish however, that there was a voice narrative option which will allow you to rest your eyes as you are not straining to stare at a screen to read text for the mainstay of the game. It is a pet peeve that I had initially in the beginning which I have grown to dismiss and have grown accustomed to reading the digital Tome in front of me. Another option that seems missing is touch controls. I am sure the original game would have had touch screen controls as it was released on smart devices. With the Nintendo Switch’s handheld screen, it seems a golden opportunity was missed that would have made choosing to meditate so much easier and the QTE moments would have benefited in handheld mode as well. Turning the pages at a finger slide would have been appealing too.
If you are looking for an experience like no other and one that expands on the original concept of Gamebooks, you will definitely pick a winner here. It is immersive, intriguing, interesting and interactive in ways that a lot of video games have forgotten. I would say that due to this day and age, Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf is better suited for a more mature audience looking for something different and not just another Final Fantasy Iteration or RPG Fantasy game. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed this game a lot more than I thought I would. There is replayability to be had as you can make different decisions and chooses different skill sets on every playthough, Watching the pages come to life in front of me, the story driving the gameplay and not the other way around. I am sorely tempted to try and find one of the original game books to learn more about the world of Magnamund and continue the adventures of Lone Wolf. I have a couple of pet peeves but I learned to accept it as it was. I am proud to have Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf in my Switch Game Library and now it is time for me to finish this review so I can finish off my fifth playthrough of the game.
The Verdict: 8/10
*Review Key Provided by Reply Forge