Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy from Nomad Games presents to us three Fighting Fantasy books in video game form at one low price. Is it worth it? Find out in our Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy review!
The Fighting Fantasy franchise is a beloved series of books created back in the 1980s by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone. For each of the books in the series, there are different choices to make as you go along, and each decision you make will take you to a different page of the book, but never in a linear way. On top of this, there are some roleplaying elements, making these a set of RPG-infused books with plenty of “replay value” since you can go back to the first page and change your choices as you go along.
The first book of the series was The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, a book I own and which I’ve enjoyed, along with The Citadel of Chaos, City of Thieves, and Deathtrap Dungeon, to name a few other examples. I’ve reviewed video game versions of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, as well as of Talisman of Death, which were part of the PSP minis range back in 2011. In 2018 I got a chance to review a new take on The Warlock of Firetop Mountain for the Nintendo Switch, an excellent game you should certainly check out.
It’s now time to dive into a new video game version of a trio of Fighting Fantasy books, presented as the Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy on Nintendo Switch. This digital release brings us digital versions of Deathtrap Dungeon, Trial of Champions, and Armies of Death, with the first two originally releasing in book form back in 1984, with the third game in this trilogy releasing in 1988. Several decades later, we’re getting great video game versions to play at home or on the go for dozens of hours, with the twist of adding some collectible card game (CCG) elements.
The first book in the game, the aptly named Deathtrap Dungeon, has players take on the labyrinth of Fang. Fang, which was created by Baron Sukumvit, is packed with traps to overcome and monsters to defeat, making good use of your character’s stamina, skill, and luck stats to survive the journey. It will serve as an extended tutorial for you since you’ll get to learn all of the basics, how to build up your character, and how every choice you make will have consequences.
Trial of Champions is a direct sequel to Deathtrap Dungeon, and as such, you will once again take on the labyrinth Fang. For this sequel, Baron Sukumvit is not to be messed with, as he has managed to revamp and “improve” the dungeon labyrinth to test your skills. For this one, you will take on the role of a slave who is owned by one Lord Carnuss, who just happens to be the brother of Baron Sukumvit. For this particular Trial of Champions, you must overcome all of the dangers and hazards to be recognized as the champion of the gladiatorial games… to be recognized as Lord Carnuss’ champion. Becoming the champion also includes winning a very respectable 20,000 gold coins, which is nothing to sneeze at.
The last book in this trilogy is Armies of Death, which acts as a direct sequel to Trial of Champion, has you playing as the winner of the challenges from Trial of Champions, the slave I’ve previously mentioned. For this one, the overall story beat is completely different, as are the stakes. Instead of participating in a series of challenges to become the champion, you’ll be commanding an army with hundreds of fighters as you take them into battle against the undead warriors of Agglax, the Shadow Demon. Since you won 20,000 coins after becoming the champion in Trial of Champions, it’s thanks to that 20,000 gold coins that you can fund the efforts towards saving the continent of Alliansia.
Something to keep in mind is that you can’t start playing Trial of Champions or Armies of Death right away since the books are presented one after the other in chronological order. Because of this, you will first need to do a full run and complete Deathtrap Dungeon to unlock Trials of Champions, so that you can then do the same with the second book in the trilogy in order to get a shot at playing Armies of Death. It sort of makes sense since learning the story for each book as you go will allow you to have more fun when playing subsequent books, but it’s something that might rub some people the wrong way.
Without spoiling things too much, since reading (and experiencing!) each of the books is a big part of the overall enjoyment you’ll get out of Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy, I’ll briefly talk a bit about how you set up your character for the first of the three books. Your quest will begin by first selecting your hero from the six available choices: Dwarf, Elf, Barbarian, Rogue, Paladin, and Chaos Warrior. The next step will be to balance your Skill and Luck stats by changing the value for each one. The default value is eight, but you can set each one as low as six and as high as twelve – this will affect your time with the game.
You can also select the difficulty for the game, which will affect the number of lives you’ll have. Lives are how Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy changes things around, since when you die – which is more of a when and certainly not an if – you will lose a life. The more lives you have, the more chances you’ll get to continue with your adventure without losing your progress. The default is set to nine lives, and this also affects how many special skills you can select for your character. At nine lives, you can only select one bonus skill, but if you lower the total to six, you can select two special skills. Lower your lives to three, and you will get to select three skills. What will you do?
The presentation will have you overlooking everything from a top-down perspective as you explore each new location and area you visit. Since all three games are based on individual books, you’ll be doing a lot of reading, so you better be ready for it! There’s no voice acting for this one, which means your imagination will be put to the test as you give each of the characters you meet a unique voice – just like players used to do back in the day when each of the Fighting Fantasy books was released!
As you play, you will gain access to quests, which will be added to your quest log. Once you complete a quest, you will be rewarded with experience points, as well as other potential rewards. Experience points will be added to your experience bar, and once you’ve obtained enough experience points to complete the bar, you will level up, getting the chance to upgrade your dice. This is important due to the random nature of some of the interactions you’ll have during your journey.
Speaking of this, as you explore each area, you will find new locations, and at each location, you will end up drawing from the deck of cards for that particular spot. Said deck of cards will include monsters, treasures, traps, and even events. You have no control over how the deck is shuffled since the deck for each location is shuffled automatically by the computer when you start the game. As you reach a new location, you will immediately draft the top card from the deck, and must then act based on what is required of you.
If you end up drawing a monster card, then you will need to combat said monster… to death. Defeat a monster, and you will get to live another day as you add it to your Creature Codex collection. If you’re lucky and draw a treasure card, then you will get to add a new item to your inventory, which could prove to be very valuable down the road. Traps are tricky, and could prove to be deadly! Some traps will have a skill or a luck test, which will use your dice to try and lower the damage you receive. Events will each have their specific instructions, and might also have a skill or luck test to go along with it.
As a fan of the Fighting Fantasy book series, I was very much looking forward to reviewing Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy, and I’m here to report that it offers solid videogame versions of three books with fun gameplay mechanics, with a presentation that makes it ideal for playing it at home or on the go. Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy is out on Nintendo Switch for only $9.99, and it’s one I recommend you get as it offers a lot of fun content for a low price.
This Deathtrap Dungeon Trilogy review is based on a Nintendo Switch copy provided by Nomad Games.