In the distance you sense danger, a vague scent of turmoil edging ever closer. You feel like there’s something important amidst the dark fog, but the end seems so close and holds the ever elusive answers to all your questions. You take stock, coffee raised and heart beating. Do you…
Run to the end like a scared rabbit being hunted by the pack. Prepared or otherwise, you’ll be presented with your destiny… (Skip to the verdict)
Venture forth into the hopeless fog with the chance of gaining knowledge that could aid you in the eleventh hour… (Read on brave warrior)
Game: Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf
Developer: Forge Reply
Publisher: 505 Games
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 (Review code provided)
Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston; two names etched into the memory of my childhood with their adventure/role-playing novels that allowed you to choose your story by skipping to certain paragraphs throughout the book. Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf comes from the same genre and brought it into a digital age. Now, with this latest release, it comes to our gaming consoles.
The game itself is essentially a novel that writes itself based on the decisions you make. Thrown in are several RPG elements such as abilities and turn based combat, as well as some good old fashioned QTE button wiggling to add that small token gesture of action into what is, for the most part, a text-heavy mix. A lot of what you do during your time in game will be based on choices you make early on. Even before you start in earnest you’ll be creating a character that will shape the narrative, whether you’re a stealthy swordsman who likes talking to the animals, or a dexterous axe wielder who’s more comfortable walking through things, rather than around them. The layout feels pretty nice, with the text writing itself to the left of the screen and a map/inventory interface to the right. Once you’ve made your choices you’ll be guided through that map to playout your adventure as you see fit.
Unfortunately, Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf does suffer in places where perhaps it really shouldn’t. For example, the story is pretty generic and frequently borders on dullness. Even the narrator at the beginning of the game sounds akin to someone who’s been up all night accounting, rather than someone who could forge in the fires of mount doom. What’s more, is that excessive reading generally isn’t synonymous with people who like video games. It’s no deal breaker, but I’d have found it much more interactive had the novel been fully voiced, with a more visual approach. Pencil-art sketching that pops up frequently is simply beautiful to look at; combine that with some voice over work and the game would be much more appeasing to a wider crowd.
That’s not to say it’s all boring, far from it in fact. Throughout your story you’ll run into towns and locations of interest that require some decision making to progress – some of which may trigger a fight. Combat is actually quite enjoyable with its turn based mechanics. Some fights will require some trial and error to figure out the best approach, but in general you’ll select an appropriate ability, then prepare for the subsequent quick time event that’ll pop up shortly after. I enjoyed the fact that you can use the skills you chose at the beginning of the game to aid you in battle. You might use some archaic power or call some animal friends into the fight that makes you feel pretty awesome when you get into the swing of it.
Once you emerge victorious, you have all the other typical RPG trappings such as managing an inventory and gathering new equipment you acquire through your journey. Sometimes you might have to pick a lock or two in towns that uses the ‘Elder Scrolls guide to creating lockpicking minigames’ manual for its design – if it’s not broken; don’t fix it, I guess. The great thing is that longevity is a real feature for Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf. Even once you’ve made it through to the last chapter, you can replay the game with different choices and abilities, essentially telling a different story each time.
If Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf had the ultimate goal of creating a choose-your-own adventure novel that could be played digitally, then it’s hard to argue that it hasn’t achieved its goal admirably. However, whilst the ethos is attained, the story could’ve been far more engaging and I’d have loved to have seen more of the stunning sketch-art to carry the narrative, rather than the stream of text which will undoubtedly turn a lot of potential buyers off. Ultimately, if you chose the first option at the beginning of the review, then this game probably isn’t for you.