Monday, November 24, 2014

Gamebook Geekdom

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain (Fighting Fantasy, #1)The Warlock of Firetop Mountain by Steve Jackson
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"NERD!!!"...There. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, allow me to continue...

I bought this Dungeons & Dragons style game book years ago in a shop on (or maybe just off) the high street in St. Albans while on honeymoon in England. And to answer the obvious question that follows...yes, my wife is an unusually understanding woman.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain is apparently a classic of the fantasy adventure gamebook sort. *shrugs* What did I know? When I picked it up I thought it was one of those old-school Choose Your Own Adventure kind of books. Alas no. This lays out a "dungeon crawl" (ancient gaming style in which adventurers enter a maze-like setting often underground in a tomb or highly fictionalized castle dungeon) in which the adventurer (created by you) journeys through in an attempt to pick up treasure and not get killed by monsters and traps.

With the physical book, you're suppose to write shit down, like maps, and keep track of "hit points" or items found in the dungeon, which I honestly wasn't interested in doing, so I only flipped through the book, read a few passages and never played it.

Fast-forward seven years to a technologically wondrous time known as the 2010s and low-and-behold what should I find but The Warlock of Firetop Mountain as a free ebook, an ebook which kept track of all the extraneous crap for you! "Wow," I think I might have shouted in my head as I moved on to more enriching reading material. Ah but it stuck in my craw, so I ended up getting it a few days later for my Kindle and finally played/read the damn thing.

The adventure is contrived to the extreme! Sure it's fun enough to tramp through the dungeon hoping you make the right choices as you come up against goblins and ghouls, but if you step back and think about it a moment, the whole premise is ridiculous, even for fantasy standards! Why would a super powerful and highly intelligent warlock create an incredibly convoluted, deadly maze and sit in it all day, everyday just waiting for some fool to stumble into it and die? Anyone in solitary confinement all that time would welcome visitors!

There's a number of other nonsensical encounters seemingly thrown into the game in order to add color to the story, like an old man calmly sitting in a rocking chair in a room set up like a cluttered cottage which is surrounded by deviously trapped rooms, orcs up the wazoo, a minotaur's labyrinth, deadly sandworms that pop out of the banks of a highly impassable Styx-like river, etc etc etc. How is the poor old man suppose to get his shopping done stuck in the middle of all this dangerous danger?!

As implausible as it all is, it's what fantasy is all about: fantasy. Suspend belief and enjoy the adventure!


Not all fantasy artwork is created equal. Some of it sucks ass. The illustrations in this one are actually pretty good. Check it out...


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