La legion de las sombras (Spanish)
Die Legion der Schatten (German)
DestinyQuest Infinite (Digital Gamebook)
Ward, Michael J.
2011 (First edition)
May 17, 2012 (Second edition hardcover)
April 11, 2013 (Second edition paperback)
0575118717 / 9780575118713
(Second edition hardcover)
0575118733 / 9780575118737 (Second edition paperback)
1848765428 / 9781848765429 (First edition)
Second edition hardcover: Gollancz -- United Kingdom
Second edition paperback: Gollancz -- United Kingdom
534 pages (First edition)
672 pages (Second edition hardcover, Second edition paperback)
Gamebooks are back! Since we reviewed the Lone Wolf and Fabled Lands series, they are both back in print. Furthermore, at the Apple app store, there are around ten gamebook apps, over half being new gamebooks, others being digital version of classic gamebooks like Fabled Lands and Fighting Fantasy. What really convinces me of the second coming of gamebooks is that a major British publisher, Gollancz, is publishing DestinyQuest: The Legion of Shadow (Book One) by Michael J. Ward. At 534 pages, DestinyQuest: The Legion of Shadow (LoS), is the biggest gamebook in history and Book Two will be even bigger. It is as thick as a phone book, roughly four or five times longer than the average gamebook. The first 1,800 copies are self-published but Ward is working with Gollancz to get a second print of Book One with bonus materials printed, while simultaneously writing Book Two for the fourth quarter of 2012.
Ward has a goal of creating a hybrid: "...I really wanted to offer something that combined the best of both worlds –- something that had the dice-rolling and stat-obsession of a good [paper] role-playing game, with the customisation and quest structure of an online [role-playing] game." Therefore LoS plays likes a paper port of a CRPG. The game system has modern features like auto-heal and auto-saves. After combat, your hit points return to full and if you die, you mark that section and you can repeat that section or go elsewhere on the world map. The gamebook also uses quests, bosses, and other terms that are common in CRPGs. Finally LoS uses the classic amnesia plot device that is oftentimes used in videogames.
The world map has multiple side quests, ranked and color coded in difficulty level. You have to finish the easier quests to gain items and work your way up to battle midbosses and then the boss, the gatekeeper between the three acts of the book. You can choose to play in any order you want, and can even skip some quests, but the boss must be dealt with to go beyond the first act.
The RPG system uses the standard six-sided dice for initiative, skill checks, and damage. There are plenty of dice rolls but LoS controls die chaos via numerous magic items that manipulate dice. Items can switch, re-roll, or adjust dice rolls. The player must strategically plan on what equipment to keep and time its use to gain maximum effect. The RPG rules are complex but the rules are woven into to the narrative and given to the player in bite sizes. In fact, you do not even pick a class (Warrior, Rogue, or Mage) until you pass one-third of the book. The game system primarily uses equipment to boost character power, as done in the older games like NetHack or D&D 1st edition. However equipment offers skill-like powers and thus can be stacked and combined, as in a traditional RPG skill tree. Ward chose to keep the skill tree simple but offer equipment permutations instead that do the same thing as a complex skill tree, but with a lower complexity overhead.
Originally posted on 'Play This Thing!'.
First and foremost, all books in this series are like self-contained epics. They are huge in volume and people looking simultaneously for depth and length in a gamebook would be amply rewarded if they come across the first book in the DestinyQuest series, The Legion of Shadow. The book is divided into three acts, each act complete in itself. There are various quests which are marked on the map according to their difficulty. Boss fights are also there which are a boon for players due to the attractive bonus items made available after the fight is over. The game system is well-structured and the combat rules are pretty smooth. You can travel anywhere you want, explore markets and towns, buy stuff, help NPCs and keep customizing your character with better and still better gear. There is no permadeath. You can start playing again from the point where you died and play the same quest again or choose a different one from the map. Dice determine the outcome here, the randomness of which gets more or less balanced by the game mechanics. Overall, a great game. Do check it out.
First let me say this book is epic! It is a colossal gamebook that certainly stands out in my bookshelf of gamebooks. And for those who don't like a lot of reading and prefer just to get along with the game, there is a stupendous game system within.
The writing is quite good; the author does a good job of capturing the feel of each location you visit; for example in the first "Act" has a whimsical fairytale feel, in the second there is a wandering adventurer type feel, reminiscent of many MMORPG, and in the final "Act" a strong feel of "apocalyptic struggle" reminiscent of many "save the end of the world" movies. And in each quest the setting is also well portrayed.
The plot is definitely enthralling, somewhat similar to Creature of Havoc, or Black Vein Prophecy where you wake up with no memories, though you soon discover you hold a sinister secret in your past. You quickly find yourself swept up in a dark plot of treachery, betrayal, and war. There are plenty of interesting twists, which definitely make for and interesting story.
The game play is quite entertaining, you have your choice of path (Warrior, Rogue, Mage) and also a choice of careers you can learn based upon your path -- for example, warriors can become Gladiators, Berserkers, or Cavaliers; Rogues can become Assassins, Witch Finders, or Shadowstalkers; Mages can become Alchemists, Pyromancers, or Necromancers. All with different abilities and advantages, which makes is hard to choose which career to pursue. Also quite interesting is the "loot" -- almost every monster you defeat, chest you open or quest you complete will give you a variety of equipment to choose from. You cannot carry equipment in your backpack, or store it somewhere for later (like in Fabled Lands) so you must always choose if you want you swap your original equipment, for some new equipment permanently (i.e. once you unequip something, it's gone forever). Most interesting is the concept of "your equipment is your hero" that is to say; without any equipment your hero has 0 in all stats. You have no starting attributes, and while your career will give you 2 abilities, and your Path will determine your health, you are left to customize your hero based on your choices of equipment. Also here and there you will find puzzles, which always adds a nice bit of spice to any gamebook. Most of the puzzles are in the second "Act" when you stumble across ancient Dwarven ruins here and there during your quests. All in all quite entertaining and well balanced, and thought out gameplay.
An important part of game play (for me at least) is about how linear the story is. I can't stand those books where your decisions make little to no effect on the outcome (for example Swordquest's Quest for the Dragon's Eye which may as well have been a novel, where you get to roll the dice every here and there for a combat). DestinyQuest gives you a fair amount of freedom to explore and have freewill; obviously nothing like Fabled Lands but better than most. There are barely any returning locations (so no codewords, like in Fabled Lands or Virtual Reality Adventure) so your quests just set you on a path and you simply follow it, taking some small detours until the end. In between quests you are given a choice of places to go from a map (which is full color and beautifully illustrated) and you have the choice of going to any location which will either be a town, or a location in which you may take up a quest. There are 3 maps, one for each "Act", after defeating the "Boss" on each map, you will be given some narrative, and then will be able to proceed to the next map. While you are supposed to be able to freely choose which quest you want to follow when you want, the quests are ranked in order of difficulty and it is fairly obvious that there is an order you are supposed to follow; on the first map I skipped ahead to try to complete an orange quest (2nd level of quests) before having completed all of the green quests (1st level of quests) and promptly got the snot beaten out of me by the first enemy I encountered. However within quests there is a bit of free will; your choices may lead you to slightly different locations, and collect different items. So there definitely a fair amount of replay value, though you will ultimately find yourself following the same plot line, and choices will eventually lead you to the same place.
Now for the mechanics: The best part of this book is the combat system, there are few gamebooks out there that can even begin to compare to it. In most gamebooks combat is straightforward; you roll the dice, your opponent rolls the dice, you see who wins; you make little to no choices during combat and can't significantly affect the outcome. However in DestinyQuest, your hero has many different abilities to choose from that affect combat; you can fudge dice rolls with abilities such as "Charm" and "Trickster", cause extra damage for one turn when you most need it with attacks such as "Overload" and "Critical Strike", and avoid damage with powers such as "Vanish" and "Command". These abilities come from your gathered equipment and your career. The timing of your use of these abilities is critical, and furthermore, your opponent will often have its own abilities that it will use against you! Only one small nitpicky qualm; only one person is damaged in each combat round. Combatants roll against each other with their speed, and the highest is the one that strikes the blow. While there are abilities that can be used to affect this, usually the fighter with the lower speed is at a serious disadvantage because they rarely get the chance to make a hit while their opponent is repeatedly battering them, without getting so much as a scratch. However in retrospect almost every other gamebook uses the same system, though this book at least balances this with the abilities that change die rolls, and even cause damage when a fighter looses a combat round. All in all very well designed, very well balanced. A true revolution in the combat mechanics of gamebooks.
In conclusion, this was a fantastic read, I can't wait to see more in the series of DestinyQuest. While I'd like DestinyQuest to be a little less linear, the replay value is good, and the plot was riveting. Gameplay and mechanics were fantastically well done. I had lots of fun playing The Legion of Shadow. This book is definitely on my favourites list.
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to sireeyore for the first edition cover images and to Ryan Lynch for the second edition paperback images.|
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DestinyQuest #1 Character Sheet
Thanks to sireeyore for the scan.