The History of Joe Dever
To discuss this game, one must first delve into the history of the man behind it: Joe Dever. Mr. Dever was an award-winning author and game designer who passed away in 2016. He created a fantasy world called Magnamund which he used for his early role playing games and even won the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Championship of America in 1982. This was a man very passionate for fantasy worlds, and it shows splendidly in his works.
Starting from 1984, he created the first of his original, interactive series of books titled Lone Wolf. They were very popular with the role-playing crowd and sold an incredible 11.5 million copies worldwide. And for good reason. He was a very talented writer and cared deeply for his craft, and it shows with every page that you turn in this game. Yes, this game is almost entirely set up in an interactive book format.
A Game of Choices
There are hardly any “gameplay” sections in this game. Most of the gameplay, with the exception of battling, is done by turning the pages in a book and reading your story. As paragraphs appear in the book, a symbol will appear at the end of a section. Here, you are generally given the ability to choose between a few choices. At the beginning of the game, you will choose certain skills, abilities and traits of the Lone Wolf, and those abilities will affect certain the kinds of choices you can make. For example, if you choose to make your character proficient in his forestry skills, you can inspect the footprints in a dangerous area to see what kinds of creatures are nearby. However, you could alternatively rush forward if you want. Both choices could have dire consequences, and both will end up with alternate results for your book.
Acts and Chapters
As you progress, your book will become fleshed out creating a coherent and well-written story that you can return to at any time you would like to simply read like you would any book. I didn’t expect the game to be like this and really enjoyed the change of pace. Frankly, it is difficult to do storytelling any better than in a pure book format, and this game exemplifies that well. You absolutely will not enjoy this game if you don’t like to read or if you want more direct control over your characters, but if you don’t mind stepping back a bit to get engrossed in a good story, then you will find a brilliant story to unravel here. It is broken up into four acts, and each act has multiple chapters to play through, so there is quite a story to get through here.
Choices With Consequences
Below, I have included two images showing you just what can happen depending on a choice you need to make if you get your horse hurt in the early part of the game.
There aren’t many sound effects in this game. The music mostly stays in the background, and that is for the best in this title as it allows player to focus on what is most important: the reading. If the music were any more overwhelming than it is, it would detract from the experience. The developers choosing to keep it soft and thoughtful was absolutely the correct choice.
As your story appears in the book, it is not voiced. It would have been great if they had been able to voice over the book. This would’ve been difficult to accomplish thanks to the sheer number of minor branches the story can take, so it not being there is forgivable. The cut scenes, however, are narrated by Joe Dever himself. Mr. Dever did a phenomenal job delivering these scenes, and it shows the personal passion he had for it.
Visuals and Performance
The book is aesthetically pleasing with four letter fonts you can choose from to display your story in. Occasionally, there will be pages with slightly animated drawings as well. This part of the game looks quite nice until you get into the 3D animated battles. The only time this game leaves the pages of the book and enters a fully 3D rendered environment is when you begin a battle. The visuals here may have looked nice at one time, but they just haven’t aged very well. The environment textures have sort of a blurry low-res look, and the character models just look okay for what it is. When you look at it, it is obvious that this is a phone title from 5 years ago just spruced up a bit for consoles.
The 3D Battles Feel a Little Out of Place This is just my opinion, but the 3D battle scenes felt a little out of place in this game. Since everything else is portrayed from the pages of the book and with occasional drawings which looked quite nice, I would have rather seen battles done in that way instead. Just have the characters appear on the right side page with attack choices coming up on a menu-based system and have the characters depicted and animated in a way similar to the other pages with pictures. This would have felt more cohesive with the rest of the game and would have been a timeless style as opposed to the 3D graphics which simply have not and will not age very well.
Slightly Long Initial Loading Time
Also worth noting is that when you initially load the game, it takes roughly one minute and thirty seconds. I legitimately thought my Switch had frozen the first time I started the game. Rest assured that it just takes it a while to load up. Once you are in the game, the load times are fairly fast.
Gameplay is one area which falls kind of flat in Lone Wolf. There isn’t much here to engross players who want something more than an interactive book. You have a great number of choices that you can make, but it always just leads into more paragraphs. There are not scenes where you can take control of the Lone Wolf to run around in environments. When you are in the book, the menus work okay, but you have to scroll through quite a few options as you might be looking at your skills. This would have been one place where the game would have massively benefited from touchscreen support, but it sadly does not feature any touchscreen capabilities whatsoever.
Battles are turn-based in Lone Wolf. I am a big fan of turn-based battle systems, and it works fairly well in this game although there is a bit of a learning curve. You have an active time bar during which you can use as many moves as you like until it runs out. After you use a move, its icon greys out for a short while until it recharges. When you attack, a quick-time-event appears allowing you to string out a chain of attacks, but these don’t give players much reaction time, and it is easy to miss. Once you memorize what types of inputs to expect it works fairly decently, but it can be a little frustrating when just starting out. After you get the hang of it, you will be performing fluid combos, counter attacks, blocks and leaping back to your feet after being knocked down by attacks.
It will be much better for you to see the combat in action as still images don’t really depict it very well, so I have included a link to a video on Youtube demonstrating the combat on the PS4 version. Unfortunately, Lone Wolf does not support video capture on the Switch, so I cannot show you myself.
The replay value in this game is absolutely immense. Your choices of skills, weapon proficiency and abilities alone will change the types of choices you can make, and your other choices can have a big impact on your story. Being able to go back through at any time to read your story just adds icing to the cake. I quite like the thought of being able to have a few different books set up on this game to be able to go back and read much later on after I have forgotten about exactly how each one went.
Your value with this game will certainly be determined by how much you like books. If you don’t care for books much and only go through this game once, it is still going to be a decent purchase for you, but it is worth noting that the game takes up 2.9 GB of data. If you only plan on playing it once then don’t foresee yourself going back to reread your story, it won’t be worth keeping the game downloaded to your system. And if it gets to the point where you just delete it after one play through to free up space, then it is questionable as to whether it was worth it or not. However, if you really enjoy books and think you might play through it multiple times to see how your story can change, then you will find great value in this one.
Also, a fun little fact that I just had to fit into this review is this is the first game I have seen on the Switch which actually affects the profile select screen as you start the game. I was really surprised to see this and wasn’t even aware that it was possible on the Switch. I’m hoping to see this more in the future!
Excellent, Fleshed-Out Story
Your Choices Matter
Thoughtful Music Compliments the Reading
Only Interesting For Avid Book Readers
Visuals That Don't Age Well