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Item - The Eye of the Dragon

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(British cover)
(American cover)
Series: Golden Dragon Fantasy Gamebooks — no. 4
Contained In: Golden Dragon Fantasy Gamebooks Box Set (Collection)
Translated Into: Doragon no me [ドラゴンの目] (Japanese)
Dragens øje (Danish)
L'occhio del dragone (Italian)
El ojo del dragón (Spanish)
L'œil du dragon (French)
Author: Morris, Dave
Illustrators: Elettori, Bruno (original cover)
Warhola, James (American cover)
Nicholson, Russ (interior)
Dates: February 14, 1985 (original)
August, 1986 (American edition)
ISBNs: 0425088650 / 9780425088654 (American edition)
0583307612 / 9780583307611 (original)
Length: 310 sections
User Summary: A formerly-sunken city has resurfaced, and a powerful relic called The Eye of the Dragon has been found there by an expedition. You are hired to locate the members of the expedition and recover the Eye. However, as soon as you arrive, you discover something is amiss...
Fireguard's Thoughts:

This was the first Golden Dragon book I ever read, and even though I'm now grown and I've seen a lot more of what interactive fiction has to offer, if nothing else I can appreciate this even better than when I first discovered it.

The main thing setting Eye of the Dragon apart from other Golden Dragon books is of course the presence of a magic system. Admittedly, it's pretty crude -- you have a list of spells and cross each one off as you use it -- but so was the one in Citadel of Chaos and that book wasn't bad either.

Atmospherically, I found this book incredibly successful. Thalios was magnificent yet repressive at once, what with danger lurking around every marble corner. Russ Nicholson was also at the top of his game here, producing artwork far outstripping anything I've seen him do for Fighting Fantasy. The illustration accompanying section 49 I've always thought was particularly impressive.

Eye of the Dragon is also a challenge, but unlike the book that followed after, the challenge comes from finding the right items and optimal path through the book instead of constantly hoping the dice are on your side. That doesn't mean there aren't some really mean buggers in this book, but it's a much more manageable amount.

I won't say the book is perfect. It had some really weird moments, like the doors with strange frames, for one, and the apparent decision that gate-crashing a sporting event was deemed punishable by execution by the rulers of Thalios. The optimal path is also hard to find, and when I was a child I thought it didn't even exist, that the writer had made a mistake somewhere. That said, I heartily recommend this book, if you're the kind who isn't put off by a challenge that doesn't involve merely slogging a dungeon full of monsters.

More reviews by Fireguard

Guillermo's Thoughts:

Many people consider this to be the best book in the series. While I do agree it's an excellent book, I also have a couple of minor gripes with it which prevent me from ranking it above The Temple of Flame, for example. Before going into details, however, a description of its qualities is in order.

The player character in this book is a warlock, which is a sort of warrior-mage. This character class is further detailed in Book 6 of the Dragon Warriors RPG, The Lands of Legend. As a result, in addition to the usual Golden Dragon combat system, the book includes a very simple magic system, which consists of a fixed list of spells assigned to the character at the start of the game. Since each spell may be cast only once, choosing the best application for each spell becomes critical, as a wasted spell may mean failure at a later point in the adventure.

The book is very well-written, and the abandoned city setting is effective and atmospheric. As is common with Dave Morris, elements from ancient real-world cultures (Egyptian, Aztec, Greek and Roman), are integrated with elements from the fantasy genre, and even a little science-fiction is added into the mix. Many of the creatures and scenarios encountered have a seafaring or underwater theme, which is not only interestingly and creatively portrayed, but also provides some relief after The Lord of Shadow Keep (this last having been a very generic D&D-like setting). This book is further enhanced by Russ Nicholson's excellent artwork which captures the feeling quite well.

The adventure involves exploring many of the abandoned city's locations and finding some necessary items while staying alive (which is definitely not easy). I have identified two main paths through it: one will be very straightforward once you figure out the item(s) required to get through it, but has so many tough combats that I found it almost unfeasible. The other is much more convoluted, requiring that you visit more locations and gather more items, but also has tough fights and unforgiving die rolls. No matter which one you take, this adventure is very, very challenging: there are few clues to help the player along, often the correct choice does not seem like the most logical one, and there are way too many opportunities for inadvertently making wrong choices and only realizing it when failure comes later on. In this aspect the book vaguely resembles the Hark gamebook series by R. L. Stine, as figuring out a correct route through it will require several attempts even if you are an experienced gamebook reader. Besides this complexity, the difficulty level of most combats ranges from high to very high, so even when you believe you have figured the correct route, you may find yourself failing several times due to opponents killing you. For these reasons, this book is not for the casual reader who is looking for something to finish in a single evening; it definitely took me more than a couple of days. The book is so complex that extensive note-taking and map-making may be required to make it easier to figure out.

While the book is very enjoyable for the most part, I have a few minor gripes with it. First, the setting is, in my opinion, not as solid as that found in The Temple of Flame. Sure, having real-world influences is fun, but except in some cases (such as the Roman arena), they are presented in a rather uninspired and superficial way. At some points Dave does not seem to have pressed himself enough and just thought it sufficient to include pyramids and sphinxes with very little flavour or description, without adding the extra spice which made almost every encounter in The Temple of Flame seem right.

Furthermore, while the writing is of good quality for the most part, the text at some points feels rushed and summarized – especially towards the end – its quality definitely not being as uniform as that found in The Temple of Flame. I also wasn't very satisfied with the way magic is used in the game, as I didn't feel that choosing the right spell for each situation demanded much thought on the part the player, at least not as much as in other series like Sorcery! and AD&D Adventure Gamebooks.

Last but not least, not only is the book designed to be challenging to the point of being almost confusing, but its conclusion requires the player to pick an alternative out of three in totally random fashion, which is only a crude way of making the book tougher without really making it better.

Overall, while its faults are noticeable enough to prevent me from ranking it above The Temple of Flame, this is indeed among the best books in this series. It's not, however, for the easily frustrated. Caveat emptor.

More reviews by Guillermo

Shadeheart's Thoughts:

[Rating: 1/10]
[Recommended? NO]

With neither the glitter of gold nor the ferocity of a dragon, the "Golden Dragon Fantasy Gamebooks" aim for and deliver a decidedly mixed story within the scope of "The Eye of the Dragon". Released during what I refer to as the golden age of both fantasy literature and interactive storytelling in general (the 1970s and 1980s; only in Japan do these still have the chance to continue blossoming), as with other titles in the series there are numerous lows that keep the enjoyment from ever taking full effect. All the hallmarks of the series are in full swing, alas - the game design system is as derivative as the narrative borrows from other works, the frustrating difficulty level which is annoying mostly due to the unforgiving ignorance of embedding opportunities to heal and/or preserve health, and, to my surprise and disappointment, an overall absence of unexpectedness or innovation. Something was especially disappointing about the mundaneness and probability-based experience in this title; it turns out to be one of the all-around weaker works in the series because of its heavier use of chance. I would also like to call attention to how, when comparing the initial releases to the reprintings, the quality of the cover art sharply declines; the illustrious, evocative cover paintings on the original covers are inexplicably replaced with ugly, minimalistic garbage (not to mention how the text itself is carried over with loads of errors and zero attention to detail)... and I cannot help but wonder why the one thing that truly worked in the first editions of these gamebooks would be taken away and destroyed.

Ultimately overstaying its welcome for its polarizing difficulty/probability levels, mismatched narrative-and-style combination and lack of everlasting substance, I cannot help but suggest that readers avoid this gamebook title (and the series in general). Don't let yourself be fooled: while there is much to love in these stories - at least in how they were originally presented - readers would not be wrong to pass on these gamebooks and keep searching for more valuable quests. ^^

(Mysteriously disappears into the shadows.)

More reviews by Shadeheart

utfanatic's Thoughts:

As with most Golden Dragon books, the writing here is superb, but what I enjoyed most about this book was the unique setting, mirroring an ancient Greek or Roman ruined city combined with pyramidal structures of ancient Egypt, yet set on a tidal coastline... the setting is communicated superbly for the most part, and there are a multitude of setting appropriate encounters, as well as many unexpected ones.

Succeeding in this adventure centers around finding the right items, and there are many items to find. A spell system is also introduced in this book -- quite simplistic, but effective. You have 12 spells, each of which you can only use once in the adventure. One of these is... HEALING! I didn't find any other opportunities to heal in this adventure, but you have a number of offensive and defensive spells to assist you in fights, as well as a number of other miscellaneous spells which are used to good effect. There are a number of fights which would otherwise be impossible were it not for your spells. With them, the adventure becomes manageable, yet is still challenging.

There is a certain logic to this adventure in terms of pressing on and avoiding fights, but you need to be somewhat intrepid and explore certain areas in order to find the items necessary to success.

As with the rest of the American issued books, the strange cover art continues, with the main character portrayed ever more androgenously and inappropriately as a young child. However... the interior art of this book is AWESOME and is drawn by the inimitable Russ Nicholson, maybe my favorite interior illustrator of all time.

Wonderful choices, the ability to backtrack, a new spell system, and the unique setting, to go along with the superb writing and illustration make this book a real winner. I personally think Temple of Flame would be the best of books 2-4 were it not... umm... impossible! The authors seemed to have responded to this by making the fights easier in book 3, and introducting the magic system in book 4, which helps a lot. The book is still challenging however. The only thing holding this book back is the merely decent characterization and the stand-alone nature of the book which does not afford history or context to your character or actions. As well, your final choice is based on nothing but luck unfortunately. Yet, truly a must read for any gamebook fan.

Rating 1-10: 9

More reviews by utfanatic

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary.
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