Saturday, 12 April 2014

Star Striders playthrough

Written by Luke Sharp, artwork by Gary Mayes.

With only two books remaining before the series had been completed, I'm afraid I rather lost track of this blog. Still, I have the day free, so no time like the present to update on this and see what I can get. Which book is next on my list to... oh god no, not another sci-fi one!

It's not a secret that I've grown to dislike the sci-fi Fighting Fantasy adventures with the rampant passion of a thousand dying suns. But god damn it, I'm going to get through this.

The book opens with a quote from the hitchhiker's guide of the galaxy explaining that a Star Strider is a skilled bounty hunter... in space! I am then immediately informed that the President has been kidnapped by the romulans - oh wait, no, sorry, that's the Gromulans. Totally different. Another evil space empire entirely. As is standard in these games, instead of sending along a giant army of death-robots, they send one lone nutcase with a gun. Jack Bauer would be proud. And now I have the mental image of Keifer Sutherland beating up Romulans.

 It's also occurred to me that this is one of the rarer "rescue mission" type of quests, as opposed to the standard "there is an evil wizard over there, go and kill him" ones.

I start out the adventure onboard a shuttle to earth, where the President is being held hostage 'somewhere'. Aboard the shuttle, the waitress robot offers me some snacks, which I accept. The food cubes (that sounds vile! What is the obsession in bad sci-fi that all food should be done in multicoloured cube form?) restores one stamina point... which is still at maximum because the adventure has just started and I've not had the chance to lose any OH GOD THIS IS GOING TO BE STUPID

The shuttle reaches a dingy old docking station and I catch a bus to Madrid. FUTURE MADRID, that is! On the way, two GromPol grab me and throw me into a box or something, it's a little unsure. I'm not actually certain what GromPol are, I assume that they are some kind of police force. Working on that assumption, the police use a strange telepathic illusion in order to scare me. This adventure has a fear rating, for some obscure reason. It barely has any impact on the adventure, and serves no real purpose other than to give me something else to roll against. In this instance, the police give me the illusion of being sealed in a small box, which is apparantly quite scary. Once they are finished, they ask me who I am and what I'm doing, and then promptly drop me back on the bus without any further concerns or worry.

If you're confused about what just happened... yeah, makes two of us!

Anyway, the bus stops and I get off in Future Madrid. The book takes the moment to tell me that the place is a mess and is only used as a stop-off for people en route to London, which I think is a bit dubious. Either way, a robot walks up to me and 'pings' me. I've no reason to want to jump at the chance to make friends with a random robot, so instead I follow it down the hallways until I find out that it's actually working for the Grom. I'm wondering if the Grom are actually the Gromulans that were mentioned in the intro to the story. Maybe they shortened the name and didn't bother to adjust the rest of the book (this is stupid).

So, with no real clue what I should spend my effort on, I just follow the robot around the ruins of the old city, until I wander into a Grom ambush. Something akin to a billion drone fighter jets descend on me, and I'm quite happy to choose the 'run like hell away' option.

I am promptly saved by a group of sewer-dwelling criminals who assume that I'm one of their friends. Immediately a big nasty chap starts punching me for no apparent reason. Naturally I hit him back, at which point everyone in the sewer-dwelling criminal gang realises that I'm a bounty hunter and murders the shit out of me. So, having no interest in dying in such a pointlessly stupid means (an instant death, I should point out), I roll up a new character (two less stamina, one more skill on this one) and make all the same decisions in order to get right back to this point in the adventure, purely so that I can let a man punch me for no good reason and without any warning. Turns out that he is planning to thieve things from the hacienda, and wants me along.

I trudge along to this and am promptly dumped alone into the hacienda with no backup or significant reason for being there other than that there might possibly maybe be a clue here. By this stage, I am hemorrhaging 'time' points, which is another of the things that this book seems intent on subjecting me to. Having very little fun with this, guys. Anyway, the book tells me to sneak across a courtyard filled with laser beams. "Throw one dice, this is where the beam is" says the book, in possibly one of the worst explained examples of writing I've yet to see. Was this published from a first draft??

Once I get inside the hacienda, I find a random robot wandering around. Quite keen to get some revenge on one of them, so I beat it to death. Turns out it was just a butler robot, but I still feel satisfied. A small kid walks out of a nearby room looking for the butler. It's a Grom kid, which means that it has those weird psychic illusion powers. When she sees me, she asks if I want to play a game. Knowing better than to refuse to play a game when a kid with crazy psychic powers wants to, I agree. She promptly tells me that her game is to pick the lock of her dad's computer terminal... sigh.. which I do through the course of a tedious maths puzzle. Not just one tedious maths puzzle - two of them! I didn't buy a book of maths puzzles! Eventually I get access and find out that the president is stored in a warehouse in sector 169A. Oh gosh, I'm sure that number won't be at all important later on!

I flee the place and get back to the bus, where I'm told to deduct a few more time points for the journey out of Madrid and further along towards my goal. The way that time is applied in this game is utterly abstract, I could lose two time points by undergoing a long bus ride, or lose two time points for leafing through a book in a shop. There's no definite guide as to what a time point is worth, they're just applied haphazardly and urgh forget it. Moving on.

We arrive in Roma, which I'm assuming is Future Rome and not simply a gypsie encampment. But knowing how stupid this book is, it could be either. I find what I assume to be a future bed & breakfast, and during the night I catch sight of someone who looks 'familiar' in another room. The next day I follow her like a crazy stalker, and eventually figure out that she's a fellow bounty hunter. Together we plan to search for info.

She suggests that I check out a local abandoned unused cinema. I wander around it for a while, and in one of the rooms I find a large angry-looking man who agrees to help me. He escorts me outside, and we are just about to head off to meet his contact when a swarm of Grom ships swoop down on us. I am asked if I want to help the big strong dude fight them, and when I say that I do, I am greeted with yet another instant-death segment where the Grom capture us both with a net and take us away. I have no interest in playing through this again, so I officially consider this book 'done'.

This adventure is a mess. The descriptions are sloppy and unstructured, without anything approaching a feeling of atmosphere. The choices you're given are often muddled and unclear, and I had quite a few choices which I was unsure what the difference between both options actually were. The entire thing feels unpolished and lazy.

This is the kind of Fighting Fantasy book you give to your kid if they have been naughty and need some kind of suitable punishment. At very least I am done with the sci-fi adventures in this series, I never need to see or hear from them again. This was just utter dreck.

Next up, I'll be tackling the last of the main series of Fighting Fantasy books, Masters of Chaos. Until next time!

2 comments:

  1. what an awesome blog. kudos, and good luck in the final book

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  2. I played this one a few months ago. It was... not great. As much as this book WAS a mess, it wasn't ALL bad.

    There was quite an overabundance of "roll two dice, on a pair you die" tests, which I found lazy and annoying. And the arbitrary Time where riding a Silverhound to Rome takes as long as drinking a coffee, really weird.

    On the plus side, if you stick with it, the book does have multiple routes through it. Plenty of side quests that don't affect the real mission (but how would you know without exploring and doing them?), multiple ways to get that missing clue, and in fact being able to win without the clues if you're quite lucky.

    It wasn't a great book, but may be worth a revisit if you really did give up on it two years ago.

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