Joe Dever's Lone Wolf: Act I - Blood on the Snow

"If you love a good adventure game where role-playing choices matter, then you can't go wrong with Lone Wolf."

Did you ever read any of those Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid? I certainly did, and enjoyed them immensely. That style of writing shares many similarities with game design; it's about choosing particular actions and facing the consequences. Joe Dever's Lone Wolf is based on a table-top RPG setting, and Blood on the Snow is the first act in a four-part series to be released on Android and iOS. Not only does it manage to walk the line between adventure book and adventure game, but it does so with considerable style.

You are Lone Wolf, the only Kai Lord survivor of a massacre that destroyed your kind. The story begins as you are en-route to a borderland village under your jurisdiction. There have been reports of enemy activity around the mines, and it's your job to investigate the problem and sort it out. As you arrive, it becomes clear that the enemy has already attacked and the people of the town have either been killed or gone into hiding. You must eliminate the threats and rescue your people.

True to its roots, character customization and choice are key aspects of Blood on the Snow. When the game begins, you choose the specialties of your character – an important decision. If you choose to specialise in strength, your dexterity and intelligence are weaker. If you choose the sword, you can't use the axe. Even with your magic/psi-like Kai Powers, you'll choose some and lose others. Not only does this add terrific replay value to the game, but it impacts your options during important points in the story as well.

Playing Lone Wolf is literally like reading a book. You read part of the story, then swipe to flip the page and continue, and at certain points you make a decision on how to progress. These include using dexterity to sneak or strength to smash, using your Sixth Sense Kai Power to choose the right direction or blindly guess, or using your intelligence to bypass a difficult problem. There are dozens of these ability-based choices throughout the game, and I felt like everything I had chosen for my character mattered. The game is even kind enough to point out when a decision is vital enough to alter the course of the story.

But don't worry! Lone Wolf is still a game. Aside from making choices, two gameplay-focused segments continue to pop-up: lock-picking and combat. In order to open chests without strength, lock-picking is required. To use it, you play a fun mini-game in which you rotate a pick around the lock and use your knife to lever and test it; identical to the system used in Skyrim. Combat uses an exciting real-time system and though you can't move your character around, you can pick from a wide variety of actions such as your primary weapon, throwing knives and Kai Powers. In addition, you have access to the Sommerswerd, an epic magical sword that can deal monstrous damage at the cost of nearly all your Kai Power. Non-magic attacks are restricted in use by your stamina, which refills over time. You can also buy and upgrade equipment, potions and bags from merchants to improve your prowess. I was surprised and pleased by the diversity offered in combat.

Since Lone Wolf is based on a table-top setting, the world and characters are rich with lore. I have no experience with the original RPG whatsoever, but it didn't hinder my enjoyment in the least. The game assumes the player has no knowledge and takes time to point out and explain the important terms. There's even a codex included for those wishing to learn more about the world. The story feels like it was ripped straight out of a table-top campaign with sharp, atmospheric writing that sets the scene and describes what's happening in detail. There are no particularly interesting twists in the tale, but it's a decent read regardless. Since Blood on the Snow is only Act I, I suspect the story will take on greater depth in later chapters.

The presentation of the game is beautiful, and I felt as if I were being pulled into the pages of the book. Flipping the pages feels natural, and the animated illustrations are flawless. The 3D models used in combat are sharp, though the same enemy designs are repeated throughout the game. As stunning as the graphics are, it's the art direction where the game truly excels. The camera position when Lone Wolf executes killing blows or magic powers, and the choice of illustrations to include is brilliant. The sound is good, but less exciting, and the same few background tracks are frequently reused.

If you love a good adventure game where role-playing choices matter, then you can't go wrong with Lone Wolf. The story is solid, character customization is important, and its presentation is simply stunning. Blood on the Snow only takes a couple of hours to complete, but there is plenty of reason to start again with new specialties in order to see everything it has to offer. The combat is exciting and quite unlike anything I have played before, and I can't wait for the release of Act II.

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