Lone Wolf is a series of Gamebooks or Choose Your Own Adventure novels spanning as far back at the 1980s. In them the reader plays a character named Lone Wolf, last of an ancient order of warrior monks battling an ancient enemy, journeying through a medieval fantasy world stuffed with choices to test their wits and courage. I always found Lone Wolf preferable to the Fighting Fantasy series due to continuity reasons, as stats and items carry across adventures to create a real feeling of progression. Gaming loves choice and progression so a crossover between mediums only seems natural.
Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf HD Remastered doesn't stray far from its origins. The majority of playtime is spent turning digital pages of an entirely new book written by author Joe Dever himself. One could call it an interactive novel with a combat system bolted on if inclined to quibble over classifications, but let’s not tread down that road. For all intents and purposes this game is an official Lone Wolf novel, made for iOS and ported onto PC. This partially means there’s not a lot of interest in the main menu aside from the appreciable option to switch between fonts, because a legend isn't worth telling unless it’s written in ancient Elvish lettering.
Starting the game prompts a choice between the three main attributes — strength, intelligence, and dexterity; these seem to rise at various checkpoints depending on how often they’re used during the story. There are also several Kai powers (spells) to pick from, and a few weapons which may cause the brows of seasoned Lone Wolf players to crease in confusion. Lone Wolf’s signature blade, the Sommerswerd, remains a sheathed super weapon limited to ultimate attacks. The game treats the Sommerswerd with the reverence due a holy sword and must be onto my blasphemous ways from the book series, where I used it for everything from stabbing Giaks to buttering bread.
[caption id="attachment_42406" align="aligncenter" width="1920"] I washed it first, obviously.[/caption]
Familiarizing one’s self with the inventory and stat screens is the first order of business and immediately brings an avalanche of annoying popup tutorials. The interface is serviceable but ponderous, insisting on playing an elaborate unskippable animation every time I want to check the biscuit supplies. The standard backpack has merely 8 spaces and fills up fast, so this makes upgrading a high priority. A crafting system uses materials to improve equipment, though shops and crafting are not available at all times.
Turning the book’s pages reveals beautiful artwork, complimented by music that captures that epic fantasy feel and conveys the character’s sense of isolation, taking advantage of the chosen medium by introducing the world of Lone Wolf through new senses. A codex has unlockable entries that help flesh stuff out further for those wondering what a Giak is or are interested in the lore.
[caption id="attachment_42407" align="aligncenter" width="1920"] Reading? In my games?! If I wanted to read I'd grab a bo- oh, wait.[/caption]
It’s not long before Lone Wolf presents a multiple choice event, the first of many that can lead to advantages in combat, hidden loot, or a sticky death. Tempting as it might be to use the same type of solution to buff up the related attributes and build a specific playstyle, not playing smart purposely or otherwise often gets punished. All the attributes have a variety of equally important uses anyway, so it’s perhaps better to build a playstyle around items and combat skills rather than attributes.
Combat moves frantically fast at the beginning in real-time turns, forcing a race to discover the basic essentials. A bar at the top left-hand corner of the screen shows how much time is left until Lone Wolf transitions to his rest period, which replenishes endurance lost from offensive moves. Basic physical attacks require a set amount of endurance, meaning there’s only so much a player can do during their turn. Ranged attacks don’t cost any endurance and should be used strategically as they consume ammunition. Some physical and ranged attacks cause status effects such as accumulative burn damage. There’s a bit to learn here! Let’s not forget spells and the Sommerswerd’s attacks that cost magic power. Although the final blow offers an opportunity to use the Sommerswerd to replenish magic power, and since magic can completely restore health and endurance via the healing spell, almost every combat begins and ends with Lone Wolf at full strength. Not selecting the healing spell from the start of the game is like a self-imposed harder mode relying entirely on consumable healing potions.
[caption id="attachment_42409" align="aligncenter" width="1920"] A small sample of the lovely illustrations.[/caption]
Losing a battle isn’t a big deal. Long gone are the days of looking from side to side on a bad combat round and lying to avoid having to start at the book from the beginning. The game over screen is anything but final, presenting several options like starting from the last chapter checkpoint or reducing the difficulty setting. Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf smartly dangles the promise of bigger loot rewards on higher difficulties, encouraging a harder playthrough for a shot at the Sword of Penetrative Glee.
A few other issues persist such as the interactive combat buttons swaying with the character model. New enemies are quite a rarity. Those cube puzzles are infuriating without the sixth sense power. The companion character causes every major crisis in the story. A certain boss fight can kill Lone Wolf at full health outright on the first round before he’s able to take a single action (restarting the battle was Groundhog Day’s extremely violent unreleased sequel).
Well, maybe more than a few issues.
Clocking in at a healthy 15 hours, fans of the novels are sure to enjoy Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf HD remastered. I sure did, though on reflection the time may have been better spent wading through the treasure trove of Project Aon, Dever’s fansite, where he's kindly published the novels for free.
Joe Dever's Lone Wolf HD Remastered can be found on Steam. This game was purchased by Mark Richard and reviewed for PC.
What say you dear Raptors, will you take the plunge for Sommerlund and the Kai or go back to playing Hand of Fate?
An acquired taste for fans only, somewhat weighed down by design issues.(Review Policy)