Demian's Gamebook Web Page

Item - Vengeance

(reissue)
Series: Epic Adventure Game Books — no. 1
Platform: Adobe Acrobat
Authors: Lavisher, Anthony
Wallis, Jamie
Date: 2008
ISBN: 095598551X / 9780955985515
Length: 268 pages (400 sections) (original), 180 pages (400 sections) (reissue)
Number of Endings: 16
User Summary: Your adoptive grandfather has been robbed and murdered! You must track down his killers and find out his secret....
Demian's Thoughts: (This review refers to the reissued edition of the book).

You can't help being a little excited by a first glance through this book -- visually, it really captures the Fighting Fantasy / Golden Dragon feel with a healthy number of brief text sections illustrated with a mix of full-page art tied to specific text sections and smaller filler images. Although some of the illustrations suffer from murky reproduction or slight over-enlargement, the underlying work is of generally excellent quality and just feels like it belongs in a gamebook. From a graphical perspective, my only other complaint is that the character sheet could have been a little less cluttered and more attractively ornamented... but that's a nitpick.

The D6-based game system used here isn't too bad overall. The amount of dice-rolling involved in character generation offers the reader less control than a purely point-driven system would, but there are still enough choices to make things interesting. The use of a standard table to look up target numbers for skill, attribute and combat checks is a good idea, provided the reader takes time to make a copy of the table for easy reference -- constantly having to flip back to the rules for every check becomes annoying very quickly. The biggest problem is the combat system, which I found tended to bog down -- fights can take a long time, with little or no damage being dealt each round; I eventually got frustrated and stopped bothering to resolve combats. This is unusual for me, but maybe I'm just getting old and impatient.

Unfortunately, on the most important fronts of writing and gameplay, the book came up short for me. The revenge-driven storyline certainly makes sense as the center of a gamebook, but the writing never grabbed me. To a large extent, this is because the writing is trying a little too hard to sound writerly; take the first sentence: "The early morning sunshine is a welcome caress to your chilled body as you make your way through the deep dew-kissed grass and leafy forest floor." It's just a little too much -- "caress" and "dew-kissed" are more distracting than poetic, and is it strictly necessary to say that the forest floor is leafy? Obviously, this is just a small example, but the book strays far from the minimalistic prose that makes many gamebooks such a quick and immersive read. I like complex writing when it serves a purpose, but for something like a hack-and-slash fantasy gamebook, simplicity seems the better way to go.

Some over-the-top writing could be forgiven if there was a compelling game behind it, but I didn't find that to be the case here. This felt a lot more like one of the lesser AD&D Adventure Gamebooks than a Fighting Fantasy or Lone Wolf adventure. Nearly every turning point in the book is either a skill check or an effectively random directional choice. I never really felt like I had much control over what was going on in the book -- the first half of the book feels like almost completely aimless wandering in the woods, and this is followed by a dungeon crawl that's too brief to make mapping interesting or worthwhile and which ends in a Livingstone-style "have a critical item or most likely fail" situation. It's possible that I missed some important things since I gave up on resolving combat by the rules and just breezed through all the (often obviously difficult) encounters; however, nothing in the paths I followed gave me any particular desire to explore the ones that I missed, so I don't feel too bad about cheating.

In the end, I was quite disappointed that something which looks this good should read and play so poorly. However, I haven't given up hope on Greywood Publishing. I'd love to see this visual treatment given to a more substantial adventure, and I'm hopeful that things will improve in the future....

More reviews by Demian

Special Thanks:Thanks to Jamie Wallis for the review copy.
Users Who Own This Item: katzcollection, mir1812, mlvoss, Sir Olli, sireeyore

Please log in to manage your collection or post a review.

Related Documents

Play Aid

Epic Adventure Game Books #1 Character Sheet
This sheet is for the revised edition of the book.