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Item - Bloodfeud of Altheus

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Series: Cretan Chronicles — no. 1
Translated Into: Aruteusu no fukushuu [アルテウスの復讐] (Japanese)
O feudo sangrento de Alteu (Portuguese)
In viaggio verso Creta (Italian)
La venganza de Alteo (Spanish)
La Vengeance d'Althéos (French)
Authors: Butterfield, John
Honigmann, David
Parker, Philip
Illustrators: Embden, Michael (cover)
Woods, Dan (interior)
Date: 1985
Length: 620 sections
User Summary: You must travel to the distant city of Athens from Troezen in order to prove that you are King Aegeus' son, and after that, reach the island of Crete in order to avenge your brother Theseus' death.
Guillermo's Thoughts:

This first book is a strong start to a great series. There are many cities to explore and adventures to be had on the way to Crete, and the game world is very well detailed both in the urban and rural environments. The adventure is very combat-intensive, but it also rewards careful thinking. The amount of quests the player can undertake is almost staggering: even after completing the book many players will certainly want to replay several times in order to explore the different locations and solve all the subplots (it's impossible to explore every possibility in one trip). As I said in the series overview, the combat system is unforgiving on the player, and spending Honour points to defend oneself is practically a must. One complaint I have is that opponents in a couple of the subquests have ridiculously high stats compared to the feasible strength of the player character at those points (making them almost unbeatable), but you don't need to face any of them in order to complete the adventure.

This gamebook – like the series as a whole – introduces the player to one of the most interesting interactive experiences I've had with gamebooks. For the most part, formulaic random choices (do you want to go left or right? Run or attack? Press the red button or the green button?) are not the norm. Instead, many choices are of a moral nature, often tough. Life definitely wasn't easy for Greek heroes! The book is very engaging thanks to the way the choices are constructed.

Characterization – one of the strong points of the series – is excellent. The gods are very well represented, as well as the different social classes of the period and the mythological creatures. There are, however, some points where the story doesn't seem very well told – why, for instance, doesn't King Aegeus mention his son Theseus anywhere in the book? Minor stumbles like this did not hamper my enjoyment of the book, though.

The book provides an amazing experience by itself, ending when the island of Crete is reached. The way I see it, the book's main purpose in game terms is to equip the player with weapons and armour which will be needed in order to complete books one and two (succeeding without them will be very difficult in both cases). Completing this book will not be an easy task in any case, not only because of the challenge level of the subquests and the strength of opponents, but also because of the hint-taking system. There are several critical points (especially towards the end) where the player needs to remember exactly when to take a hint (and also when NOT to take it). Not doing so will make the adventure much more difficult. This arbitrariness may put some novices off, but that's the way with British gamebooks, and most of us enjoy them because of that complexity, not in spite of it. I guess that by this point we reviewers should have learnt the lesson and stop apologizing for daring to recommend complex gamebooks (if you don't like complexity, the British gamebook tradition is not for you anyway).

Overall, this is a very inspired gamebook that should keep you wanting to revisit its pages again and again.

More reviews by Guillermo

Shadeheart's Thoughts:

[Rating: 4/10]
[Recommended? NO]

The "Cretan Chronicles" trilogy deliberately kicks off with power in its first book, "Bloodfeud of Altheus". Despite an emphatically elaborate length, impressive complexity and a great deal of variety in the resulting book of considerable magnitude (in comparison to many other gamebooks), this is a title which, for all it's worth, never manages to stylistically come alive past all the roughness and grit. There are obvious signs of the extensive research, and the story logistically makes enough sense to work, but the scope of the full experience packaged - and both its high difficulty level and occasional arbitrariness - never quite manages to satisfy as much as it exhausts the possibilities it deals with. Unfortunately, as interesting as it may seem and sound, and as much as others might enjoy it, this chronicle isn't worthy enough of my recommendation. ^^

(Mysteriously disappears into the shadows.)

More reviews by Shadeheart

Errata:In the first printing, the second half of paragraph 325 (starting with: "ing high over the city"), is printed on the following page underneath paragraph 326. This is corrected in later printings.
Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary.
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