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Item - Quest for the Dragon's Eye

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Series: Swordquest — no. 2
Author: Fawcett, William B. (Bill)
Illustrators: McPheeters, Neal (cover)
Byert, Teanna (interior)
O'Malley, Gerald (Jerry) (cartography)
Date: July, 1985
ISBN: 0441697097 / 9780441697090
Length: 98 sections (plus prologue)
Number of Endings: 2 (one bad ending led to from 25 places and one victory)
User Summary: Ceddwein, a thief turned guardsman, must travel with his military unit to recover a magical gem in order to defeat a demon.
Demian's Thoughts:

This book is much like the last one; it's a highly linear adventure featuring a mediocre design but a better-than-average story. Bill Fawcett is a rather uneven writer -- sometimes his text is downright boring and confusing, but other times it's inspired and evocative. Fortunately, his strengths more than make up for his weaknesses. This is unashamedly cliche-filled high fantasy, but it still manages to have a flavor of its own and to introduce some interesting ideas here and there. Too bad the writing is let down so much by the pointless, tedious game design. There are very few choices in the book of any consequence; most branch points involve winning or losing combat or succeeding or failing in skill rolls. Most non-fatal failures simply deal some damage and then reconverge with the successful path, and several perfectly good opportunities for decision-making are completely ignored. This means that replaying after failure is dull and frustrating, a situation made worse by the same plodding combat system seen in the previous book; the odds of anyone hitting anything are so low that I can't help but suspect the book was originally designed with a twenty-sided die in mind but that this was replaced by three six-sided ones at the request of the publisher. One nice touch which can potentially reduce the tedium of replaying the book over and over is the fact that the failure paragraph suggests increasing Ceddwein's skill level to make the book easier -- this is reminiscent of a similarly-motivated mechanic used in the second Knuckleduster Interactive Western Adventure several years later.

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Naniyue's Thoughts:

Not a bad little game book. The writing is okay, with some nice illustrations, and, above all, fair dice rolls! Even a low luck roller like myself managed to win this one only after a small number of tries. This series is also inexpensive to acquire, at least when I bought them, so go for it!

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Shadeheart's Thoughts:

[Rating: 2/10]
[Recommended? NO]

There's something particularly refreshing about epic fantasy when it's been done right. When a work comes along that understands the genre well and is written with a greater purpose from the very beginning, the efforts often pour through and are evident in the finished product. Bill Fawcett's "SwordQuest" series takes the very best qualities of fantasy gamebooks and allows them to shine, but something imperceptible is missing from "Quest for the Dragon's Eye"... and that's a real shame, because the potential in this story is remarkable.

The ever-promising, flashy sword-and-sorcery feel of the story's setting is reminiscent of the best works of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and Tanith Lee, just as epic glimpses of this otherworldly scope are evoked in the narrative's finer moments. Where this title loses its way is in the mechanical details; the occasionally refreshing use of tone and emotional resonance is never allowed to fully shine because of the way the experience was designed to read. In theory, interactivity should boost the quality of the reader's abilitiy to become immersed in the story, and in practice, the gameplay system should never get in the way. I was disappointed that "Quest for the Dragon's Eye" never overcame its unbalanced combat system, inconsistent production values and odd relationship with the law of conservation of detail, to which I wish Fawcett relied less on the conventions expected on him in making the story "suitable for use" with the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying game. Was the book composed as fuel for the imagination of further stories? Was it meant to be a deliberate tie-in/cash-in? Were the conventions originally drafted up for this story intended for a product of greater/different scope? Readers are likely to encounter these and other questions after (and while) playing, and there sadly aren't any answers to offer. This book aims high and misses the bullseye, that's for sure - this is a combination of odd-length passages, faulty results from the combat/gameplay system(s) and overall sense of ephemerality derived from the unattuned marriage of too many rules with an otherwise salvagable story.

Do I recommend this adventure? In a sense, I believe it to be highly underappreciated, historically important and well-defined as an interactive experimentation which could be studied for its merits and its misaligned qualities. This is a decidedly mixed experience which I cannot outright call a satisfactory one, and thus I am hesitant to call it an essential classic. Despite this, there are enough peculiarities the right reader can appreciate between the lines, and there are some genuinely bright, creative sparks of potential. Ultimately I recommend using one's discretion when discerning the value to be found here - the endlessly uneven passages won't live up to their promising potential, but that doesn't mean there aren't occasional glittering jewels scattered throughout... only problem is, some of them are be fool's gold. ^^

(Mysteriously disappears into the shadows.)

More reviews by Shadeheart

Errata:In a rather dramatic oversight, somebody appears to have accidentally put the back-of-book text from the previous volume on this one as well! In a less dramatic but more annoying oversight, Ceddwein's character sheet neglects to mention what kind of sword he is armed with. Finally, though probably correct, the transition from section 70 to section 65 is awfully abrupt.
Special Thanks:Thanks to Ken G. for the back cover scan.
Users Who Own This Item: Alatar001, Ardennes, Arkadia, B0N0V0X, BarefootJimmy, bookwormjeff, Crazyscotsman, CSquared, dbriel, desdichado66, Dronak, Eamonn McCusker, EegahInc, Erikwinslow, Ffghtermedic, Fireguard, greyarea13, hoops4ever, horrorbusiness, jdreller, Joe_TC, katzcollection, kinderstef, knginatl, le maudit, Malthus Dire, marnaudo, mlvoss, Naniyue, nelsondesign, Nomad, Oberonbombadil, opeth2112, Pessimeister, peterm2, Pseudo_Intellectual, qazplm, redpiper05, Robert Mammone, Sheridan77, Sir Olli, sireeyore, spragmatic, StagQuests, Tremendez, twar, waktool (US 1st printing)
Users Who Want This Item: Cyan, Gartax, NEMO
Users with Extra Copies: Ffghtermedic
twar - 1 copy with creased/slightly rougher cover, with penned name on the inside cover. No other markings; usable copy.

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