When I was a child I was a voracious reader, I would read anything, anywhere and at any time. The thing is though, when you read so much, you consume a lot of books and eventually you run out of things to read – especially if you are a fan of a series.
I loved the ‘Goosebumps’ series and read them all over a fortnight – so when my mum presented me with a ‘Choose you own adventure’ Goosebumps book; I was all over it. It was literally many books in one and it was different every time.
Why the storytime?
Well ‘A Land Fit For Heroes’ (ALFFH) is the video game equivalent of a choose your own adventure (CYOA) book. It goes for broke in its conceit and as a result it’s literally a (barely) visual novel – as I’ve said before; when a game goes for narrative over gameplay then it lives and dies by the quality of its story.
And ALFFH has a great story. Written by fantasy novelist Richard Morgan, ALLFH has a narrative that is dense, funny, harrowing and truly adult – the “game” follows the paths of three heroes (Kirellin, Clnar and Ilaria) as they make their way through very personal quests which, inevitably, intersect with one another. It is with this that the game’s coolest feature lies – there is a multiplayer aspect to the game.
You and two friends (and you must be a party of three and sign up for accounts) choose your character and play through ONLY their story until you meet for the finale. It is interesting and means you can complete the game in roughly two hours. If you are alone, then you’ll have to play through all three campaigns simultaneously. Which can be a bit of a slog.
The majority of ALFFHs takes place as a book, you read a chapter and make a choice on how to progress – these paths push the story on and adds some replayability to the game. The game successfully builds the characters (who are all likeable) and the situations so that they feel consistent and somewhat believable; and the narrative builds to a brilliant finale.
You’ll read along as your character tells you about their past, questions tavern owners, has graphic sex with prostitutes, build relationships, manipulate those who are dumber than them and of course get into battles. It is these battles where the game falls apart…
…you see, ALFFH started life as a mobile title and it really shows in these incredibly simple battles. The game adopts an isometric viewpoint above a game board in which your character and the enemies are represented by icons. You literally just move around the board and click to attack; in my experience you never miss and all enemies can be defeated in two hits; it is unchallenging and if I’m honest, a complete waste of time. It smacks of a game designed to played on the bus – it’s overly simple and over quickly.
Other clues to its origins are everywhere, the sound effects are simplistic, the music is on a continuous loop that is blatantly obvious – you can hear where it is stitched together – and the art is basic. There is nothing here for the eyes. Look beyond its graphics and gameplay shortcomings however and you will be treated to one of the better videogame stories ever told.
Overall ‘A Land Fit For Heroes’ is a superb story attached to a barely serviceable game. There is no depth to explore or secrets to be uncovered here – there is only the story. And it is truly an excellent story – if you are a fan of fantasy books you owe it to yourself to play through this once. Just do it with friends for the best possible experience.