Lone Wolf is back in video game form with a brand-new story and a deep combat system. Acclaimed author Joe Dever played an active role in the development of the game and his new narrative follows on from his classic 1980’s gamebook, shedding a new light on Lone Wolf’s world, Magnamund. The Console Edition includes all 4 acts of the story. Are you ready to write your own destiny?
Much like the gamebook series that it’s based on, Lone Wolf is all about choice and it’s a design mantra that’s keenly felt even at the very beginning of the game since when you start, you must first choose the skills that you want to take with you for the duration of the adventure. Including such abilities as brute force, stealth and even animal kinship to name just a few, each skill you elect to embrace has a very real effect on events that take place in the game. For example, you could come across an impassable wall and either use brute strength to break through, or, if you have the animal kinship skill, call upon the local wildlife to see if they know way around the obstacle.
Chiefly, you’ll spend much of your time in Lone Wolf staring at a map, character sheet and of course, this being a gamebook adventure, lots and lots of narrative text. To be clear; this isn’t some Dragon Age or The Witcher type affair, this is a slow-burning, immensely chilled out and tactical thing that owes a far greater debt to the adventures of old rather than those of the present.
Structurally then, Lone Wolf is an easy enough affair to grasp. Travelling from area to area, new pages of the narrative are revealed and decisions must be made at key junctures to propel the story in a number of different directions. Sometimes these decisions can be made based on narrative choices, other times your progress will diverge based upon the skills that you have chosen at the beginning of the game. In either case, the potential for repeat play is certainly quite considerable, especially when you consider that the game has four rather large acts for the player to go through.
It’s not all page reading and character sheet gazing though because you do get the opportunity to get stuck into some actual 3D combat as well. Taking place from a third-person perspective, these sequences have your Lone Wolf facing off against one or a number of foes in turn-based fashion. During each turn you can elect to use a number of different Kai abilities, weapon based skill or stat replenishing items. In the case of the Kai abilities, these are special powers that have the ability to turn the tide of any fight and so must be used sparingly lest you run out of the power to use them when you need them the most. While the combat is assuredly tactical then, it comes a little unstuck on the simple fact that it just isn’t very satisfying.
The seeming culprits for the lack of verisimilitude in Lone Wolf’s scraps would appear to be the visuals and the sound. The former’s dated mobile origins are simply not up to the task of fostering believability in the violence it portrays, while the latter’s tame sound effects sap any sense of impact or audible feedbacks from your attacks, thus robbing the combat in Lone Wolf of the heft that it so desperately needs.
Elsewhere, Lone Wolf departs a little further still from its established gamebook beats with lockpicking mini-games and QTE driven event sequences. In the case of the lockpicking activities, these are handled in a familiar fashion; the player must rotate a pick and wedge until they can turn the lock at least 90 degrees in one direction to release the lock and expose whatever lies within. The QTE events on the other hand are used throughout Lone Wolf, from activating bonus damage during combat or to resolving certain story elements at key points, they are both numerous and without a zero fail state meaning that if your QTE reflexes aren’t up to par, than your time in Lone Wolf will invariably suffer as a result. Take that as a warning or encouragement depending on your mileage with QTE mechanics.
Of course any gamebook adventure should ultimately live or die on the strength of its writing and so I can happily report that Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf is tremendously well scribed. With a number of charismatic characters, beautifully descriptive writing and a deep non-linear epic story, Lone Wolf arguably succeeds in fostering the same sort of immersion that one might get from reading one of those gamebooks whilst tucked up in bed on a cold, wintery night.