Monday, July 20, 2015

A Fun Old-School Dungeon Crawl

The Citadel Of Chaos (Fighting Fantasy, #2)The Citadel Of Chaos by Steve Jackson
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Assassination, sorcerer style, is the name of the game in The Citadel of Chaos!

Steve Jackson has been pumping out these gamebooks for decades. I believe there's something like 60 of them. In them you play an adventurer on a quest that involves a dungeon crawl, a term gamers use to describe an adventure in which your character is going room-to-room through some kind of controlled area, like a dungeon, crypt, catacombs, caves, etc. For the purpose of books like this, which are very much modeled upon the Choose Your Own Adventure style of reading, it's necessary to keep "on track," if you will. More on this will be explained below.

But now for some book-representative illustrations!


Not all fantasy art is created equal, but Russ Nicholson's got the goods!

With the advent of ebook readers, you can now read/play these without having to keep track of ability scores, health level or inventory. You don't even have to make a map of your progress. That's a good thing, because I just don't have the time or desire to do all that. I just want a bit of fun and, after purchasing it for my kindle, that's what a book like this provides.

In The Citadel of Chaos you play a wizard and the coolest part about that of course is that you get to cast spells. That was an exciting first for me! The spell choices are limited and the ones on offer (Strength, Stamina, ESP, Levitation, Fire, and a few others) are designed to be useful at some point in the dungeon. Some more so than others, and if you take a certain path through the dungeon you may not find a use for some of these spells at all.

These books aren't "open world," meaning you can't investigate the whole place, at least not in a single adventure. You see, the story is linear and although this is a game you can manipulate, it too is fairly linear. Per each adventure, you pick a path. Usually you're given a couple choices. But you must keep moving forward, no backtracking. It's a drawback and failing of these kinds of books.

Occasionally the writer is able to include choices that allow readers to experience variant parts of the adventure that would normally only be found by following a different path than the one you're on. That's difficult and if not handled correctly could lead to an infinite loop, which would be embarrassing for the publisher. I think I've only come across one of those, so the editors/testers have done their due diligence.

Anyhow, the linear nature of these books is honestly a minor quibble and just one of the rules of the game you must abide by. No big whoop.

A fun aspect to these particular books is the creatures you meet. Sure, you encounter your standard goblins, leprechauns and witches as well as the slightly more rare golems and lizardmen, which are still fairly well known in the fantasy world, but you also get some often delightfully original - or at least oddball - creatures and characters. For instance, that Whirlwind was a breath of fresh air! *rimshot*

Overall, this was fun. I've enjoyed the two of these books by Jackson that I've read so far and I will no doubt read more.

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