It may surprise some people to learn that, before playing Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf HD Remastered, I hadn’t heard of the series or the author. A quick Google revealed that Joe began writing the Lone Wolf books back in the late 80s’, and the character has also made appearances in videogames and gamebooks – the novels alone have sold over 9 million copies! Lone Wolf HD casts you as the titular character, the mysterious Liege Lord of Sommerlund. A ruler of his people, who has sworn to protect them from any threat, no matter how big. But don’t be fooled by this description or the screenshots floating around the internet, Lone Wolf HD is a text-heavy gamebook first and foremost, and a turn-based RPG second.
You start off by customising the Lone Wolf to your liking, choosing his skills and traits which you’ll be able to use during the game to overcome difficult situations. The game quickly launches into its lore, telling of a snowy, mountainous land reminiscent of games like Skyrim.
The village of Rockstarn has been set ablaze, her people murdered and their belongings stolen. You soon discover that a foul horde of Giaks is responsible for this heinous crime. With your sword in hand you set about thinning out their numbers, whilst looking for survivors and clues as to why this has happened. These sequences take two forms: turn based combat, and choice-driven story. As you progress through the game, you will be presented with meaningful choices, and how you approach them can benefit you or come back to haunt you later in your quest. Every dilemma gives you a number of choices, each relevant to a particular skill you may or may not have mastered. While some situations call for a more direct approach, others may require tact on your part, to achieve the desired results.
The Lone Wolf’s story is of epic proportions, and you’ll travel across Sommerlund to take the fight to Giak hordes and their masters. Your map is marked with various locations and merchants where you can stock up on provisions. Exploring each location furthers the story and takes you deeper into your quest to find out why the people of Rockstarn have been murdered. The land is overrun with enemies though, and you’ll have to lay waste to them to protect your people.
Combat is turn-based and you must complete your attacks within a time limit, after which the enemy will begin their assault. You’ll go up against a variety of different beasts during your quest, ranging from bog-standard Giaks to their superiors, the formidable Drakkarim, and the terrifying Red Fang. Lone Wolf has a number of powerful attacks in his arsenal to overcome his foe, as well as various arms and side arms. You’ll also be able to call upon your Kai power, a kind of mental ability that only few have a mastery of, to launch debilitating psychological attacks. The options available to you are also linked directly to the skills you chose during the game’s opening, so it is worth keeping that in mind when choosing your skills. Combat is quick, fluid and fun, but it’s a shame that some special moves require quick cursor rotations or directional flicks. Undoubtedly, this would have been responsive and intuitive in the iOS version of the game, but on PC it feels a little bit clunky and un-optimised. That’s not to say it spoils the combat, but the thought that your cursor movements might not have been accurate enough is always there. While the combat is engaging it serves merely to break up long sections of the book and, ultimately, you’ll be anxious to get back to reading it.
And what a book it is. Mr Dever’s mastery of his craft is immediately apparent, as he weaves a complex but approachable tale filled with interesting characters and locations. His masterful descriptions created images so rich in my minds-eye that I could almost feel the heat, and smell the acrid smoke, of Rockstarn as it burned to the ground. You will spend most of your time reading, so be aware that the only GPU getting a workout won’t be inside your computer, it’s inside your head. It’s at this point that I should disclose that I am not much of a reader, but found Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf HD Remastered to be an addictive and gripping tale. I’d encourage anyone with even a passing interest in fantasy books to give The Lone Wolf some of their time.
As an iOS port, I wasn’t expecting much from the game graphically, and, truth be told, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. While the menus, book and illustrations are all rendered nicely, the 3D combat sections do suffer from some graphical disparity. The Lone Wolf and his enemies all feature detailed animations and textures, but the surroundings they’ll be fighting in are low-resolution and low-poly. Luckily, these jarring differences are offset by how brief combat tends to be. The game’s score can’t be faulted though, and while there’s only a handful of unique tracks they run from rousing to melancholic, and are played at suitable intervals – it’s also included in your download for your listening pleasure!
Whilst it does have its drawbacks, Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf HD Remastered is a stunning example of the gamebook genre, brought to life on PC. Featuring an engrossing mix of story and turn-based combat, it’s sure to appeal to people with an appreciation of a deep lore. Completionists will also get bang for their buck, with the choice-driven narrative lending itself well to replayability. For the Sommerlund and the Kai, you must buy this game!
Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf HD Remastered is available on Steam.