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Usurper!

(British cover)
(American cover)
Series: The Way of the Tiger #3
Translated Into: Erövraren (Swedish)
Usurpador (Spanish)
L'Usurpateur d'Irsmun (French)
Usurpatore! (Italian)
Uzurpator! [Узурпатор!] (Bulgarian)
Authors: Smith, Mark
Thomson, Jamie
Illustrator: Harvey, Bob
Release Date: 1985
Length:420 sections
User Summary: You must travel to the city of Irsmuncast nigh Edge and sieze the throne from the evil Usurper.
dArtagnan's Thoughts: After the underwhelming Assassin!, the series gets back on track here. The plot is much more involving though, like Avenger!, the writing is somewhat impersonal for what is essentially a revenge story.

The design of the book is similar to that of the authors' Fighting Fantasy book Sword of the Samurai in that you are given the option of following one of two paths at the start of the book and these paths do not converge again until near the end of the book. One path is similar to Assassin! in that it's little more than a sequence of tough fights, but the fights are at least more involving and memorable than those that made up the previous book. The other path gives you a companion and lets you embark on a more spiritual journey, battling demons in your dreams before having to make a harrowing journey through a land ruled by undead. Both paths are well-written and challenging without being unfairly hard, and while the sequence of events in each one is quite linear, you are given enough options to keep repeated play-throughs interesting.

Once you reach your destination, you have to visit various powerful figures in the city to gather support against the Usurper, making deals and choosing who to trust. It's similar to Smith's later Coils of Hate though on a smaller scale and thankfully lacking in the continuity errors that plagued that gamebook. It's easily the highlight of the book and it's a pity this section doesn't go on for longer.

So far so good then, but Usurper! is far from perfect. The main problem is the ridiculous final fight - no matter how many bonuses, useful items and allies you have found, your chances of beating the Usurper are extremely slim. The fight seems to be designed so that veterans of the first two books will not find it easier than newcomers which is a nice idea, but a little playtesting would have revealed that all they've done is made it near impossible for both. Another more minor problem is that you can learn one of two new skills at the start of the book and only these two new skills seem to be of much use - your original skills are near pointless.

Despite these problems though, Usurper! is the strongest book in the series so far and definitely worth a read.

More reviews by dArtagnan

Special Thanks:Thanks to dArtagnan for the plot summary.
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