|Their tails are going like fan|
blades right now. Vrrooooom!!
Daggers of Darkness is a fairly standard FF adventure. Let's check and see what's new with it, before I start my playthrough.
The most stand-out thing about this book is the cover. It is the best cover of any FF book of all time, because it shows a mongolian barbarian who seems to be wielding a death-mace-whip weapon of some sort, and his trusty eagle companion, jet-skiing across a river by means of standing on top of two saber-toothed tigers. There is simply nothing better than this image. Compared to jet-skiing tigers, Game of Thrones falls flat on its face. "Oh, you have dire wolves? Can I jet-ski on them? I don't think so!"
Well, the formula of the adventure seems standard. A villainous warlock (or in this case, the vizier Chingiz) is trying to usurp power in Kazan, and I need to go and stop it, or something. Aside from the usual stats, the book also has a poison rating. Well, not so much a rating, but it's a little drawing of a man with his body parts blocked out into seperate areas. As you go through the adventure, you fill in more and more of the body, until the poison takes over and you die. Charming. So already the book is devising new ways to kill the player.
So how do you get poisoned in the first place? What are the plans of the evil vizier? What are my starting stats for this game? Let's find out! Well, stamina's a lowly 15, but skill's a decent 9, so it looks like we might do okay this time.
|There was a time when all video games started like this|
I was rescued by a drinking buddy, who turns out to have been a wise wizard all along. Kinda like Cliff the mailman in 'Cheers', but without the uniform. Anyway, he tells me that I've been targeted by the assassin because I'm one of the 'Select', a group of people who may compete to claim the distant throne of Kazan. There's a whole history as to how this comes around, it's a very complicated and involving story which adds a lot to the general atmosphere of the book, but it essentially boils down to this - if I want to become the ruler of Kazan, I need to find some amulets that are guarded around the land. That's the only way I'll be able to confront the vizier, get a cure for his poison, and kick him in the knee for being such an evil plonker.
With Cliff's advice still ringing in my ears, I head out on my travels. Before long, I find another of the Select, who is laying dying with one of the daggers of darkness embedded in his chest. He manages to tell me which way the assassins went, so I opt to head in the opposite direction. I don't have the chance to rob the body though, because the full force of the poison that flows through the poor victim causes his body to crumble to dust - along with ALL OF HIS POSSESSIONS as well! How does that work? Seriously? Did the gold coins in his bag get poisoned too? Damn, I don't stand a chance with that kind of poison in my system! I'm lucky that plants don't just die as I walk past them...
|What does it say about me that the first version of|
this shot I looked for was the Ralph Bakshi one?
It seems that the riders weren't assassins, because when they confront me and I tell them that I'm one of the Select, they greet me with praise and respect and offer to take me along on my journey. They even give me a horse to ride on. An old gray mare (which ain't what it used to be), and before long I'm making really good progress.
Well, we make good progress until we're attacked by orcs and my entire party is scattered or killed during the night (although I'm sure a couple manage to scramble into Fangorn Forest and are probably eaten by Ents). I chop up a few of the orcs, but I'm left stumbling in the dark. From somewhere in the shadows, I am assailed by a 'dark warrior', who I have to assume is one of the vizier's assassins. I take a skill penalty due to the darkness, but I'm still able to overwhelm my enemy and push on.
Leaving the ruins of my comrades behind, I head into the unforgiving snow. The snowstorm begins to get wilder, sapping both my stamina and spurring on the poison in my system. In the midst of the storm, a sinister magical force of unspecified origin (I have to assume the vizier or his assassin's hands are involved, because the book doesn't really tell me otherwise) coaxes me to lay down in the snow and wait for death. But I draw on my strength and, seeing an image of Cliff the mailman shimmering before my eyes like some kind of celestial Obi-Wan Kenobi, I push onwards!
|If Obi-Wan asks you to go to Port Blacksand,|
the wisest answer is to tell him 'no'
It turns out that this is a good idea, because he teaches me how to fight in the dark. Which would have been really useful a few sections ago when I was fighting the dark warrior, but I don't mind. We head to a nearby tavern, where I have a quick meal. It seems that things will be settling down for a while...
But of course, me and 'peaceful' don't co-exist in the same general area. After a couple pints of ale, a group of mercenaries burst into the tavern and throw a net over me. They knock me out, and I wake up later on in a dingy caravan where I'm informed that I will spend the rest of my life in the fighting pits. Oh joy. Does this mean that I will one day rise through the ranks, only to be released and seek my revenge against the evil Thulsa Doom (played by James Earl Jones) and his snake cult? I certainly hope so, and to prove it, I challenge my cruel slavemaster to a duel.
|So, Adventurer, what is best in life?|
Anyway, it seems that my willingness to stand up and make myself the center of attention has caught the notice of one old man, who tells me that he has been watching for the Select, and he can tell that I am one. Being one of the traditionalists, he wants to see the old rituals of royal ascension maintained, so he hurries me to my freedom. We journey to his home city, where I am plied with food and wine (and I chug down my Stamina Potion now so that my health is maxed out) and I'm told about the trials that stand before me.
In order to win my first medallion, I need to win the test of chance. To do so, I need to make my way from one side of a chamber to the other. There is no floor, only a series of pillars which I need to walk over the top of. Several of these pillars hold vicious snakes. So in short, it's like the movie "The Golden Child", if you remember back when Eddie Murphy made good films (oh, so long ago)...
But more deadly. And more random, because your movement direction is determined by the dice. You roll 5/6 to move up or down, 3/4 to move left or right, and if you roll 1/2 then you stay where you are. You cannot go back, I assume because the pillars you've just stepped off will crumble into the pit beneath you once you step away from them. And if you're bitten by a snake, you lose three stamina. If you're bitten by three snakes, you die.
|We should have just let Lara Croft handle this part|
Not a bad book, the atmosphere is very thick and you get a real sense of history and fantasy environment from it. It's a lovely escapist piece, because it gives a very unique feel to the area and culture you're travelling through. But the downside, it's one of those very difficult books. It often feels like the author was trying to make sure you couldn't get through some parts without vast amounts of luck (actual luck, not the stat).
(If you've enjoyed this article, be sure to check out Justin MacCormack's bestselling collection of horror stories - "Darkness Bites", and the young adult coming-of-age comedy "Diary of a gay teenage zombie".)