|Here's lookin' at you, kid.|
It was published in 2005, and was the first Fighting Fantasy book in about a decade, following the conclusion of the original series. But it seems a fairly standard FF book. It doesn't have any of the special rules or extra stats that we've seen in the other new-FF books. It has 407 paragraphs, which is an odd number, and I can't really see any reason for it. In general it seems that an odd one to be the 'big return to the franchise' that we'd have imagined after a decade of nothing.
Also, while flicking through the book, I swear one of the drawings of a shop merchant looked JUST like Ian Livingstone... This book was evidently also owned by 'Alec' before me, and he had a skill of 10 when he began his adventure - I know this because he was nice enough to fill out the sheet in pen. Thanks, Alec! I hope you're reading this right now, because if you are, I hope the titular 'dragon' in this book ate you.
My adventurer (with a skill of 10 and a stamina of 19) is on hard times, struggling to afford to eat - I guess I've already emptied most of the dungeons around. While kicking back in the town of Fang, presumably considering whether to enter the Deathtrap Dungeon contest or not, a particularly suspicious chap called Henry Delacour joins me and tells me about his adventures. The book makes a point of telling me that there's something very dodgy about Henry. Please remember that.
Henry tells me the story of a golden dragon statue which is worth untold riches. He has found the dragon, but cannot pick it up unless the dragon's 'eyes' (two emeralds) are returned to its sockets. If you touch it without both emeralds in place, you die. Somehow. He never explained how, if this is simply an ancient curse or if some stupid bugger painted the dragon in asbestos paint. Either way, Henry hands me over one of the dragon's eyes, and tells me that if I can find the other one and bring him back the dragon, he'll split the profit with me.
|Every rose has its thorn, just like every night has its dawn|
just like every cowboy sings a sad, sad song...
I'm only four pages into this book, and I'm already convinced that my character was dropped on his head as a child. I don't mean just once, I mean repeatedly for an entire hour.
It immediately seems that most of this adventure is going to be a dungeon crawl. I'm sent off to the Forest of Doom (which I've still got to play at some point soon), and find the entrance to the dungeon via a woodcutter's cabin. This strikes me as a rather odd entrance, because the dungeon is very busy - I wonder if anyone has noticed all the people going in and out of this woodcutter's cabin in the middle of a forest. Still, I find an axe head in the cabin before I venture down...
|Would you like some items|
with your insanity, sir?
I want to ask the merchant why he didn't just set up shop in the abandoned woodcutter's hut, so that he could get a better location for his store. I want to ask the merchant why he looks like Ian Livingstone. Instead I just buy a silver dagger, because I know how these books work and know that silver weapons are the only things that can kill dungeon-dwelling spirit beasties.
I leave the store, activate a trap in the tunnel and am almost impaled by arrows. Why is this trap here? So far, the only people I've seen in this dungeon are old men who want to sell me things. The painter doesn't seem the type to be dodging traps, and surely it doesn't help the merchant if half of his customers are shot with arrows before they even get to the door of his store. What is going on with this place? God damn it book, MAKE SOME SENSE!!
I enter another room. This new room is almost entirely empty aside from a statue of a cat. I notice that it has jewel eyes, and thinking that this may be some sort of clue, I take a closer look. The statue then hypnotizes me, and I collapse. I wake up later, with 2 stamina points missing, a splitting headache, and the cat statue has turned to dust. I then leave the room. Could anyone explain to me the point of this? What was the statue doing there? Did I lose my stamina points by hitting my head on the floor? If not, how did I lose them? Who put this statue here? What is it doing here? Who does it belong to? The merchant? Why did it turn to dust? THIS MAKES NO SENSE!! BLAAARRGHLGGLGHG!!
The next room I stumble across is a torture chamber. Okay, fine, that's in keeping with the theme of the dungeon... But whose torture chamber is it? The merchants? Who does he torture? There aren't any prisons or... agh, stop thinking about it! Just... just focus... okay, okay... there's a treasure chest in the chamber. I open it, and find a silver box and a crystal dagger. Yay. Happy yay. Yay. YAY! YAY YAY YAY YAY!!. All is good in the world. Let's not question it. Keep going. La la la. Yay.
Things seem to start to make more sense now, as I find a large chasm. Deciding not to cross it just yet, I climb down into the pit, and on the chasm floor I find a ghoul. Ghouls are nasty, as any FF player will remember - they can paralyse you if they get enough hits. Thankfully this one's rather weak, so I manage to kill it and find a rather nicely polished shield. Good. Things are definitely back to normal now. I climb back up, head over the bridge, and continue down the tunnel.
I come across an alcove in the wall, which contains a chair made from skulls. Hmm, I've always wanted to sit on a chair of skulls, preferably after I've taken over the world. I decide to try this one out for size. Expecting horrible things, the book instead tells me that this is a 'chair of life' and that I've regained some stamina... If it's a chair of life, why is it made of skulls? Shouldn't it be a chair of death, or at very least a chair of skulls? I.. but... it... no sense....
|Not pictured - the troll's giant sod-off massive axe|
I feel I'm actually making some progress when I come across a river. By this point I'm having flashbacks of Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and decide to ride across the river in the raft. The book has other ideas - instead it gives me an instant-death segment in which the river tumbles into a series of horrible river rapids, from which I plummet down a waterfall to my death.
Or at least, that's what the book tells me. Truth is, I suspect that my character simply passed out as a result of excessive poisoning caused by mind-altering chemicals he'd drank at the start of the adventure. He would awake later on to find himself chained to a table. Looking around, he would see Henry Delacour in the corner of the room. "Oh, foolish adventurer" Harry would say as he stepped closer, "I hope that you will enjoy the rest of your existence as part of one of my experimental humunculus!"
|Dare you look upon the face of He Who |
Spreads Chaos Across All Of Titan?
Yes, Mr Livingstone, I'm on to your little secret!
For most of the older FF books, I make excuses for strange things because they were wrote in the 80s and have a retro charm to them. I can't really apply that same logic to this book, because it's so much more recent. For the first FF book in a decade, I really hoped that they'd do something bigger than a standard dungeon crawl, even if the rooms in the dungeon did contain random nonsensical things. If this book had been written in the first ten of the original series of FF books, it'd have fit in well - but the series has progressed a lot since then.
Just looking at the other new-FF books like Bloodbones, Howl of the Werewolf and Night of the Necromancer, they all show much more willingness to play with the rules, create new risks and try to achieve bigger things. Eye of the Dragon just doesn't take that risk, and as a result it feels very plain. The upcoming 'Blood of the Zombies' sounds like it's going to take far more of a gamble in both setting and style, which is a welcome treat - I just wish the same could be said here.
In either case, while I've been traipsing around in the dungeons beneath the forest, my colleague Galactrix has been having even more fun up on the surface of the Forest of Doom, in the sunlight, without the LSD-fueled merchants. I'd definitely recommend checking out his blog, as he's managed to do something I've yet to do in my blog - bleedin' well complete one of these books!