Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Rings of Kether playthrough

Written by Andrew Chapman, artwork by Nik Spender

Ah joy, we have another of the Fighting Fantasy sci-fi gamebooks to get through, which if you know how I feel about the FF sci-fi adventures, means that this adventure is going to be bleak and painful. Urrgh. Rings of Kether is apparantly one of the better ones in the sci-fi FF books, which is kinda like saying that being kicked in one tooth is better than being kicked in a different tooth.

I'm promising that I'm going to be very, very positive with this playthrough, though. Not going to say a single negative thing. Positivity is the name of the game today. So, let's get this adventure underway. The intergalactic police have decided to send the player off on his own to break a space drug ring, all by himself. Without backup. Even Judge Dredd has backup. So I'm just going to assume that I've pissed off my department manager and he wants to see me be thrown into a space-river.

The character I've rolled up is pretty decent with high stamina and middle-of-the-line skill, and I start out with two 'Smart Missiles' for ship to ship combat, the usual sci-fi 'blaster' type of gun, and a handful of Pep Pills, because nothing says 'Law enforcer on the move to take down drug rings and narcotic smugglers' than someone chomping down on fistfulls of pills.

The adventure starts with my shuttle arriving at Kether, the planet that I've been told that is flodding the sector with drugs. Immediately I'm asked where I want to start searching for the drugs ring, and I'm given three choices, with no clues or hints as to which may be correct. I decide to hit up the moon. I spend about five days searching around the moon, looking under rocks and lumps of space cheese, but find no drug rings at all.

Eventually I head down to the main planet, where customs take away my 'Spy Ray'. I don't even know what a Spy Ray is, the book didn't tell me what it is or that I even had it. It may as well have told me that my Samoflange had been taken away from me. Blasted samoflange. But yeah, I decide to head down to the local police station to see if anyone there can clue me in to the investigation.

Upon arriving at the police headquarters, I meet Mr Samuel, who is rather like Commissioner Gordon, but without the epic 'tash. When I ask him what's going on, he makes a show of looking over his office for listening devices, and then hands me a note telling me to meet him later. Oooh, conspiratorial!

He meets me later in a seedy cafe, looking about as inconspicuous as a man in a false beard can be. He tells me that the police are corrupt and that he can point me towards his contact, a freighter captain. The captain in turn directs me towards a poker game going down in a local pub, where we meet our primary suspect, Zera Gross. Zera is described as a hideous, belching woman which describes most of the inhabitants of Essex.

Showing the subtlety of a highly regarded space cop investigative detective with a specialty in handling vice cases, I walk up to Zera and say "So m'love, how's the drug trade going?" I wake up the next morning in a gutter nursing a severe concussion and decide that I'll try doing my work in the local library instead. I am truly the best there is at my kind of work.

Evidently the local library contains all kinds of useful information, because I'm able to pull up some info on a court case some years ago, involving Miss Gross and her good friend 'Blasty' Blasterson, who I'm guessing has some kind of gun fetish. The court records, which are evidently available to any member of the public who has an interest to look at them, confirms that they are (or at least, were) involved in drug running. I'm also able to pull up a copy of Blasty's home address, which is apparantly in the public domain as well. And I thought Facebook was intrusive when it came to personal information!

So when I reach Blasty's address, it turns out that it isn't a suburban semi-detatched house at all, but is an old warehouse. I mean, I guess that gangsters live in warehouses, I suppose. I sneak in through the back, and over-hear a conversation between two people who I don't know. The book then asks if I want to go to their meeting and listen in on it, but I choose not to because I don't have any idea as to if or why it's relevant to the case. Instead I stick around to snoop through the warehouse some more.

As I do so, I hear someone behind me say "Freeze!" I assume it's Blasty. Naturally, I have no fear, and I fully suspect that I won't take too much damage. After all, being beaten up by Gross and her buddies cost me only a mere 2 stamina points, so I decide to take the risk and get into a fight with Blasty. Sadly, it turns out that in this one eventuality, phaser fire is utterly lethal, and I'm turned into swiss cheese.

Well, the downside of this adventure is that it's still a sci-fi Fighting Fantasy. But on a more positive note, it's possibly the least awful one that I've read thus far. I can't say that it was a work of art or anything, but I was genuinely surprised. At no point did I feel that I was just exploring a dungeon that was disguised as a spaceship a la Space Assassin. I never groaned at the stupidity of having to fight off rampaging bands of guards who are simply 'called guards because you have to be on your guard around them' a la Starship Traveller. And I certainly didn't feel the urge to beat myself to death with a copy of the book, as I did throughout every living moment of Sky Lord.

In fact, this book wasn't bad at all. It's pacing is a little stringy, throwing you around from location to encounters at speed that's a little too disconnecting at times, and it doesn't really give you any sense of your own identity at times (you don't even have any real inventory, much less a background). But when the investigation gets going, you feel that you're actually playing the part. The setting is actually quite nice this time around, slightly dystopian but not over-the-top post apocalyptic a la Freeway Fighter.

It's entirely possible that I didn't hate this book. Be shocked! Be amazed! Be sure to tune in next time when I play something with swords in!

(If you've enjoyed this article, be sure to check out Justin MacCormack's two bestselling collections of horror stories - "Return to 'Return to Oz'", "Cthulhu Doesn't Dance" and the young adult coming-of-age comedy "Diary of a gay teenage zombie". His newest novel, "Twilight of the Faerie", is available now)


  1. From the title, I thought that Rings of Kether was a fantasy book, but then I was put right. I haven't actually read this one yet - I only got it when I was 21 and never read it. No idea why, maybe it's like Desmond from Lost who wants a particular book to be the last one he reads before he dies.

  2. I had this one as a kid but remember not really liking it but like a lot of people, I preferred the fantasy ones rather than the sci fi themed ones. Having said that, I've replayed this one a few times recently & did actually quite enjoy it! I would say this is probably the best of the science fiction ones and I've even updated my copy as mine was a bit tatty & I got hold of a quite good green zigzag copy recently. ...