Quick shout-out to my gamebook buddy Stuart Lloyd who sent me this book!
In the wake of a great war that brought ruin to much of the lands, the feared General Karam Gruul has eluded capture. As a bounty hunter, the main character is asked to track down this war criminal and bring him to justice. I really quite like this idea. It's a nice change from the usual "a wizard is raising an army, go and kill it" type of scenario.
Wonder if being a moonrunner is much like being a bladerunner....
The introductory bit for this book is excellent. Our mighty bounty hunter, who we'll name Fobar Bett, has been enlisted to track down Gruul, who is believed to be hiding out in the city of Blackhaven, and possibly under the protection of a cult called the Cabal of Werewolves. General Major Bretton, who is debriefing you on the information, offers to pay for the mission - but the character announces that he has a personal grudge to settle with Gruul as well.
|My acrobatic skills are|
no match for your
Using my acrobatics skill, I'm able to get to the ground easily... Oh yes, this is one of those Fighting Fantasy books that employs a range of possible skills. Like the ones from Sword of the Samurai, you may remember. But these are implemented far better already, quickly giving you a feel of possible actions without relying on the old 'this skill will boost skill stat' type of fallback. All the skills are accessible directly via the text, which not only adds to the flavour of the story, but makes it easier to cheat. Not that I'm cheating here, though. But you could. If you wanted to.
|Enjoy your new aftershave |
smell, eau de merde
Without any strong idea where I should head to, and suspecting that I should have given stronger attention to tracking the assassin earlier, I instead decide to hit the local tavern and ask for advice. "Hey," I say to the barmaid, "Know anything about the Cabal of Werewolves?" This rather weak attempt at a chat-up line does not go down well, leading to a bunch of men of ill repute hitting me with a bar stool and throwing me out of the tavern. And I did not even get a slap-up dinner, either.
|Sure, I'll go on your quest,|
if you're offering me a free dinner
And even better, she DOES provide me with a lovely dinner! The Professor tells me that Gruul is a practitioner of a rare form of sorcery, and that we can overcome it by acquiring six relics which are scattered throughout town. She gives me a shopping list of items for me to pick up from interesting places around town. Naturally, being me, the first place I choose to visit is the Chamber Of Horrors!
|Best show in town, folks. Check it out.|
My next stop is a curio shop, where I have to pick up a bottle of a vampire lord's blood. The shop owner tries to charge me more gold than I have, so I threaten to do horrible things to his puppy unless he just hands over the bottle. With it, I head over to the old abandoned jail, to recover a chain that has been used to bind a powerful demon. Having unchained the demon, I promptly kick it back into the pit that it has crawled out of. Interesting fact about demons, they are vulnerable to being jump-kicked.
|A most cunning trap!|
I decide to head to the temple next, in order to recover the mask, seeing as masks seem to often be used as horcruxes and all that. En route, a man in a crowd gives me a note telling me to meet him on a hilltop on the far end of town for information on Gruul. Sure, sounds legit. What could go wrong? Not like it could be a trap or anything....
Oh shit it's a trap! Who'd have guessed? When I get there, I am chased around the hilltop in the middle of a rainstorm by an obsidian monster for a while. It knocks me around, and is just about to kill me when it is struck by lightning. Not a lovely way to spend a few hours, but by the time I get to the temple, I discover that the mask has already been stolen by Gruul. Hmmph.
Hoping to pick up some speed, I head to the seediest tavern in the city next, where I need to meet two bodysnatchers who will help me find the next item, an evil skull from the local graveyard. They offer me a pint to drink, and I gladly accept. I wake up a few hours later, still reeling from the drugged ale, to find all of my possessions have been stolen. Yeah, only got myself to blame for that one...
|Totally reputable chap|
The necromancer lives in a very dark house, probably called 'Mansion Sinister'. It's full of shadows and echoes. The necromancer, who may as well be called Wicked McEvilson for all I know, takes the hand and tells me to wait here while he enchants it, telling me most emphatically not to follow him through the door into his ritual chamber.
Y'know.... what do YOU think I do?
Just... scroll down a bit, and put a comment in telling me what you think I do at this point in the adventure. Tell me if you think I stay and wait, or if I follow the necromancer through the forbidden door.
I'm not going to tell you how this adventure ends, but I will mention that it ended very, very soon after I made that decision. Very soon. With lots of screaming and yelling, and the sounds of the mortal mind snapping like broken glass, and eyes being burned with the images of something called the Necrotic Wilderness of Q'Yann.
The gameplay itself feels very free. I restarted the chase sequence a few times during play, simply because it can spiral off into so many different results. It certainly doesn’t feel at all linear. The last areas we visited here, recovering the artefacts throughout the city, feel like inter-connected mini-adventures all on their own, but don’t feel isolated from the rest of the story. And the options of skills that you can change (all of which open up new routes through the adventure) give a lot of replay potential.
So in short, I just LOVED this book! Big thanks to Stuart for sending it, I’m thoroughly glad to have got the chance to finally try this book as it has a whole lot to offer. Fantastic! Good to end on a high note, eh? Especially after the last few weeks’ less-than-excellent fare. Lovely. And damn, I've needed to get a good book going, after the last two. Feels damn lovely to be able to have something positive to say about things again.
Zagor theWarlock has been doing the same. That’s right, I’m now as old as the first Fighting Fantasy book.
And if you want to send me some stuff, I won’t stop you.
But, I figured that this deserves a little re-shuffling in my planned schedule of playthroughs. I want to do something a little more Zagor-ish. So come in next weekend when I will be going back to where it all began, and playing through the fiftieth Fighting Fantasy adventure – RETURN TO FIRETOP MOUNTAIN!!