Fighting Fantasy (1982-1995, Puffin)
Le chasseur de mages (French)
Nicholson, Russ (interior)
February 2, 1995
0140370137 / 9780140370133
Paul Mason's FF books have always been more ambitious than the others that made up the series so it is only fitting that his final addition to the series is his most ambitious yet. The only problem is it is maybe a bit too ambitious.
The premise is interesting in that it has you magically transported from your homeworld, which is more advanced than Titan in that it has developed flintlock pistols and the like, and you come to Southern Allansia in pursuit of a wizard. It's not quite that simple however, as there has been some body switching going on, and it is up to you to put everything right. While this plot is clever and certainly out of the ordinary, the whole fish-out-of-water premise does not quite work. The reason for this is that unless you are a relative newcomer to FF, you're likely to know far more about Allansia than you do the protagonist's home world (the only things we know about that is that it is like 16th/17th century Europe in terms of technology, all wizards are evil, and everyone has Germanic names) making it hard to empathise with the main character. Nor are there any major plot twists along the way making this ultimately another "Kill the Evil Wizard" FF book albeit a bit more inventive than most. One thing I did like is that the focus of the plot is neither on the protagonist nor the antagonist, but on the companion you drag round with you. His personality develops throughout the book, which was a very nice touch.
As far as the gameplay goes, if you are familiar with Mason's other books, it will not surprise you that this is a tough book. The route to victory is very narrow, and there are lots of false paths; however, there is a logic to beating it. At the start of the book you are given "The Most Revered Treatise of Magehunting" which details the methods of hunting down a mage. This is actually cleverly implemented as you need to actually consider your situation before you use these methods; for instance, drawing a holy symbol on the earth may point you to the nearest mage, but is that necessarily the mage you are after? It is clever stuff and definitely the best implemented part of the book. The problems in gameplay come with the amount of variables to keep track of. Mason does a good job using codewords and key items to monitor progress, but there are one or two inconsistencies that do appear although nothing too serious. There are also a few things that are made unclear. For instance, the book says that you can have access to your Companion's items - I assume that means you can swap items with him, but can you for instance switch clothing with each other? Futhermore, at one stage you can visit a storyteller, but the book does not make it clear whether you have to have heard of these storytellers before. However, the real problem is that because of the amount of variables and the amount of routes offered to you, the book itself is quite short. The route to victory has few particularly exciting encounters (the exceptions being the well written and designed final confrontation and an imaginative, but annoyingly arbitary section just before it) and the book punishes you for exploring. All too often, you will die in this book simply because you run out of options and have to do something stupid. More could certainly have been made of exploring Kallamehr - as it is, it is rather unsatisfying. I think the book could have benefited from being a tad longer though I understand that Mason had to stay in the 400 paragraph limit. As far as combat goes, the book is designed in such a way that high stats are not really any help. The battles are designed so that the odds are slightly in your favour, but a few unlucky dice rolls will finish you off quite quickly. All in all, it is a book you have to be very patient with.
Mason's writing is up to his usual high standard, and he makes Menicus suitably menacing and your companion Reinhardt suitably whiny, but I found the ending a bit vague as to what actually happened. Russ Nicholson's illustrations, however, are not his best work. They are not bad, but he is capable of so much more.
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to Nicholas Campbell for the cover scan and Ben Nelson for the character sheet.|
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Fighting Fantasy #57 Character Sheet