Hamilton, Todd Cameron (interior)
O'Malley, Gerald (Jerry) (cartography)
0441138071 / 9780441138074
138 sections (plus prologue) |
|Number of Endings:||
2 (one bad ending led to from 28 places and one victory) |
|User Summary:||When a dangerous magical artifact is left at his abbey, Alynn, a cleric of Cearn the protector, is drawn into a dangerous mission.|
This book follows the same basic format as the previous two; it's a mostly well-written but highly linear adventure that's blatantly inspired by Advanced Dungeons & Dragons but which still manages to include some fairly fresh twists on very familiar ideas. From a gameplay perspective, this is marginally better than its predecessors thanks to the fact that the reader controls the actions of a cleric. This means that at several points during the adventure, spells have to be chosen, so even though the storyline itself doesn't give the reader much choice in what happens, the spell selection adds some strategy to the proceedings and reduces the number and length of tedious combats. As in the previous book, when the reader fails, the book suggests making the next attempt a little easier. Rather than increasing a skill level, though, this book proposes adding an extra healing spell to Alynn's repertoire. In terms of storyline, the book is fairly short on plot, consisting mainly of one battle after another, but it is made interesting by an effectively creepy portrayal of the undead and a conflict based on the reader's eventual indecision over which of Alynn's companions can be trusted. Of course, this conflict would be more interesting if more actual decisions were based on it, but at least it keeps the pages turning. There is some continuity with the previous volumes; the Mistwall and the Darklord are prominently featured, and there's even a cameo by Talien, hero of the first adventure. Ultimately, in spite of its good points, the adventure is pretty forgettable; still, it's above average for its type, and if the linearity isn't a major deterrent, it makes for an enjoyable evening or two of reading.
As the only Swordquest book I own, I re-approach it without the context perhaps afforded by reading the entire series in order. As a child, I remember viewing this book as incredibly complex and quite an "adult" alternative to FFG, etc. Reading it as an adult, I can say it does add complexity, but with no resulting "value added" in my book. Sure, there are the occasional checks against stats to climb a wall, or resist disease, etc., but that doesn't add much. The spell system is basic and consists of choosing 3 spells per day from a list. The book, as mentioned by Demian, fails to mention how many spells you get per day until well into the book.
The author is an average writer overall, but has moments of exceeding clarity, evocation, and excitement. He excels when describing undead, death, and morbidity.
The plot centers around a cleric, Allyn, whose monastery is ravaged so that the Darklord may recover an Ankh which can open a Demongate. Allyn's motivation amounts to recovering the ankh to save civilization, avenge his fallen brethren, and well, you know.... appear manly to his lady interest found on his travels. Sensuality is alluded to by the way, an interesting touch.
Unfortunately, most choices center around rather mundane items or battle. As mentioned, multiple opportunities for meaningful choices to be made are bypassed as you are carried along the path by the author.
There is one situation where death is inevitable unless you managed to find a magical weapon previously.
Section 78 leads to section 119, inexplicably, creating a non sequitur, and making continuation of the adventure confusing. As it turns out, the correct section to turn to appears to be the next in line, 79.
Very battle heavy book. Many pluses and minuses to keep track of in battle. Reference to the main character is in third person, which I personally find more difficult in terms of interactivity. The author also refers to the main character and travelling companion as "the two humans" at times.
However..... redemption is found in occasionally inspired writing, especially later on in the book, as well as some insight into your character's psyche, and a workable plot. Toward the end of the book, some very interesting ideas are introduced and the writing is enthralling at times. The book deals with the concept of religion and sacrilege in interesting, respectful ways as well. By the end of the book, I was completely absorbed.
|Errata:||The spell selection rules neglect to mention early in the book how many spells Alynn may memorize at a time. The number is eventually revealed (in section 16) to be three. The book also fails to mention until near the end (section 136) that healing spells may be cast any time, even during combat. In sections 22 and 23, be sure to turn the page for additional options to choose from. Section 63 should lead to section 75, not section 66.|
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to Ken G. for the back cover scan.|
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twar - 1 copy. Creased front/back covers. Old pencil price erased from first page. Spine line. Good playing copy.