The Forest of Doom
Back when I first “played” The Forest of Doom in its original paperback format as a child it was a dark and scary place where danger lurked around every corner. As the book was one of my first introductions to the “fighting fantasy” series it felt like anything could happen. From a giant spider dropping down to attack my sleeping adventurer to an angry dragon coaxed to sleep by a magical flute. I read the book over and over even after completing the main “quest” and still found new areas, creatures and items with each playthrough.
Now, thanks to Australian developer Tin Man Games, The Forest of Doom is accessible to players who want to explore its foreboding depths on PC. The game is basically a direct version of the original book, meaning you are still going to be reading about everything instead of seeing the action unfold, but even after more than three decades it has lost none of its charm. Of course, it is difficult to be objective with a title that is as steeped in nostalgia as this one. However, there’s no denying that Tin Man Games definitely did a great job in presenting the game in a way that makes it look appealing even to players who would normally never pick up a book.
The Forest of Doom uses the Tin Man Games Gamebook Adventures Engine which means it automatically keeps track of stuff like your stats and inventory. When reading the original book these things had to be jotted down on a piece of paper to keep track of them. Believe it or not, but the Forest of Doom is actually quite an intricate place and the inclusion of a new auto mapping feature is definitely very handy. Even with these new features and the selectable difficulty settings don’t expect to complete your quest on the first or even third try. Unless of course you are playing on the “Free Read” mode, which basically allows you to cheat or have completed the book before. This is because it is very easy to go off in the wrong direction or miss out on important items without even knowing it. Even if you do fail in your main quest to find the two missing pieces of a legendary hammer in order to help some dwarves suffering from a troll problem, you will still have plenty of fun along the way. It also means that the game has plenty of replay value as it is impossible to see everything during your first run.
Visually the Forest of Doom looks about as good as you can make a book look without turning it into a multimedia extravaganza. The original contained a couple of excellent illustrations by Malcom Barter, which in this version have been colorized to bring them to life. The buttons you click to select which “page” to turn to look like they are embedded in the page while the dice you roll to resolve encounters and combat actually bounce around based on physics.
Of course, if you are a purist, you can switch over to the “retro look” and play the game with a plain page background and the original illustrations. All the illustrations you encounter are added to a gallery accessible from the “Rewards” page which is pretty neat and also serves as a visual indicator of how much you have left to find in the game. Three different font types and the ability to set the font size to anything between 14 and 40 ensures that eye strain is kept to a minimum when reading. Also tucked away in the “Extras” menu of the game you’ll find some interesting information about The Forest of Doom story as well as the history of Fighting Fantasy.
Although the game doesn’t contain any speech, it does have some atmospheric music and sound effects to immerse you in the experience. These can also be disabled if you prefer reading in silence. I really enjoyed the audio, but the music did feel like it looped a little too often. It’s not really something you notice when you are engrossed in reading the book though. Since all your actions in the game are handled using a mouse I didn’t encounter any issues with the controls.
As The Forest of Doom was originally written in the early 80s the story doesn’t have the type of depth players used to modern role playing games might expect. It was certainly very nostalgic encountering all the creatures and characters again so many years after reading the original book, but newcomers might find the main quest to be somewhat shallow and too reliant on luck. Luck certainly plays a big role in the game as even combat is resolved through dice rolls and a streak of bad luck can result in your character biting the dust very quickly. By using the bookmarking system you can quickly jump back to previous sections, providing you remember to mark a spot.
The Forest of Doom can be completed very quickly, although as I mentioned before, it will take a couple of tries and probably some note taking to reach the true ending. I found the game to be very entertaining, although nostalgia obviously played a big role. For players who fondly remember the original this is a must-have, although anyone looking for a role playing experience without all the associated complexities will also enjoy the story.
- OS: Windows XP SP3
- Processor: 2 GHz dual core
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: Hardware Accelerated Graphics with dedicated memory
- Hard Drive: 350 MB available space
- OS: Windows 7/8
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: Hardware Accelerated Graphics with 1GB memory
- Hard Drive: 350 MB available space