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Item - Temple of Terror

(Original edition)
(Dragon logo edition)
(American edition)
(Wizard Books edition)

Combined Summary

Series: Fighting Fantasy (1982-1995, Puffin) — no. 14
Fighting Fantasy (2002-2007, Wizard Books Series 1) — no. 19
Contained In: Adventure Gamebox - A Thrilling Fighting Fantasy Collection (Collection)
Translated Into: Chrám zkázy (Czech)
En la ciudad perdida (Spanish)
Hramat na uzhasite [Храмът на ужасите] (Bulgarian)
Kyoufu no shinden [恐怖の神殿] (Japanese)
A rémület útvesztője (Hungarian)
Der Tempel des Schreckens (German)
Le Temple de la terreur (French)
O templo do terror (Portuguese)
O templo do terror (Portuguese)
O Templo do Terror (Portuguese)
Adapted Into: Temple of Terror (Video Game)
Author: Livingstone, Ian
Illustrators: Achilleos, Christos (Original edition - cover, American edition - cover, Dragon logo edition - cover)
McKenna, Martin (Wizard Books edition - cover)
Houston, Bill (interior)
Dates: April, 1985 (Original edition)
March, 1986 (American edition)
April, 2004 (Wizard Books edition)
ISBNs: 0140318321 / 9780140318326 (Original edition, Dragon logo edition)
0440985900 / 9780440985907 (American edition)
184046528X / 9781840465280 (Wizard Books edition)
Length: 400 sections
Number of Endings: 24 instant failures, 1 victory, plus death by Stamina loss
User Summary: Malbordus, a human adopted by evil elves, is seeking five dragon artifacts with which he can conquer the world; you must find them first and stop him.
Demian's Thoughts:

Right on the heels of the unforgiving and frankly rather tedious Freeway Fighter, I must confess that I was not thrilled at the prospect of immediately undertaking another Ian Livingstone adventure. Fortunately, my (very low) expectations were exceeded by Temple of Terror, which is nearly as different from its predecessor as possible while still sharing the essential Ian Livingstone item hunt hallmarks.

Where Freeway Fighter took the series in a direction it had never gone before (and never went again), Temple of Terror instead embraces the series' established fantasy mythology, presenting itself as a direct sequel to The Forest of Doom and engaging in some world-building through (among other things) a second visit with Yaztromo the wizard and a return to Port Blacksand from City of Thieves. I can't claim that there are any particularly brilliant ideas plot-wise, or that the prose is anything more than adequate, but there is something a bit comfortable and satisfying about revisiting old stomping grounds once again.

The return to familiar locations is really only the first act of the book; after that, it settles into a fairly traditional dungeon crawl full of deadly traps and monsters. The gameplay is spiced up a bit through the inclusion of yet another magic system (how many different takes on magic does this series offer?). This time around, early in the adventure, Yaztromo teaches the player three spells (from a longer menu of options) which can be cast at the cost of some Stamina points. Between these spells and an opportunity to go shopping for a wide variety of items at a key point in the adventure, there are a lot of options for the reader to try to use as shortcuts past the book's many obstacles. Since many deaths are inevitable before victory, having all these options helps to keep things fresh when replays are required, and while it often seems pretty arbitrary which items will solve which problems, I'll take what I can get. I still found the book wearing out its welcome before I eventually found the successful ending, but this was mainly due to the usual problems with this series: the well-known fact that you simply can't win without getting lucky and rolling high stats, the fact that I find the combat system more tedious and annoying than fun, and the general tedium of being forced to arbitrarily poke into every last corner seeking hidden items (and often finding nasty traps instead).

I don't think Temple of Terror is at the top of anybody's favorite gamebook list (a fact which I would blame in large part on its underwhelming artwork), and it's very transparently trying to ride on the glory of its better-remembered predecessors... but for all that, it's not a complete failure. It colors in a little more detail in the series' setting, it has a couple of interesting mechanics (like having to talk to NPCs -- and pay attention -- in order to find some vital information), and it's certainly not the cruellest book in the series. That's hardly the highest recommendation I can offer, but if you've already played through the better-remembered titles in the series and you're in the mood for an old-school fantasy adventure, you could do worse than to check this one out.

More reviews by Demian

Sanselano's Thoughts:

It's hard to know what to think about this one. On the one hand, the scope of the tale takes you across multiple locations, the difficulty is manageable if you know what you're doing, the Messenger of Death subplot is great and the quest objective is engaging. On the other hand, the book squandered a wonderful chance at exploring a lost city and ended with a weak showdown.

The plot is simple. Someone named Malbordus that was raised by the dark elves is on his way to the lost desert city of Vatos to acquire five dragon statues. He plans on using the statues to bring forth dragons, which will bring an era of darkness over the world. You volunteer to help the wizard Yaztromo stop Malbordus. To do that, you must reach the lost desert city of Vatos and snag the five dragon statues before Malbordus does.

One thing the book got right until the end was Malbordus. My roommate and I would refer to him as Malbordius because that sounds a lot better than Malbordus in my opinion. Every time I saw the name 'Malbordus,' I just pretended that I read 'Malbordius.' I was really hoping to something akin to having a sword duel against him on top of a dragon flying high above Vatos with both of us trying to gain the upper hand by the use of magic spells. Instead the showdown against him is underwhelming and really leaves the reader with the feeling: 'is this the best Malbordus can do?' Sure his stats are good enough but there is nothing to establish him as a memorable villain and the illustration of him is uninspiring, as are most of the illustrations in this book, the Giant Sandworm being the exception. For quite some time, I thought the cover illustration of the wizard edition was Malbordus but it turns out to be some other guy, which is disappointing.

The book has another antagonist who I won't spoil but this antagonist never really amounts to anything. I was hoping to face off this villain right after pulverizing Malbordus or something to that effect, but this character is vastly underused. Why were they even in the book at all, except to create circumstances that potentially sap your stamina?

Speaking of which, the difficulty is at least manageable in this book. A skill of 9 might be really pushing your luck but if you have a skill of 11 or better and know what you're doing, you should be able to make it through quite easily.

One thing confusing about the book is the sense of timing. Is the player in a huge hurry or not? A time elapse of fifteen minutes makes all the difference on whether you stop Malbordus or not in one of the endings. From this, I infer that the player character is rushing through the book, hacking down anything that gets in the way in a mad dash to get to the statues, but the player character's interactions with NPC's do not feel rushed in any way. Also, if stopping Malbordus is so important, why is only one adventurer sent? Why does Yaztromo not go himself? Why does the player character just stuff a sacrificial dagger in his/her backpack that can be acquired instead of using it as a secondary weapon, although to be fair, there is one point where it does come in very handy.

This book is not bad by any means but was a bit underwhelming. Perhaps the fault lay with my expectations.

More reviews by Sanselano

Special Thanks:Thanks to Nicholas Campbell for the jagged-logo British cover scan.
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Known Editions

American edition
Dragon logo edition
Original edition
Wizard Books edition

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