Il Cuore di Fuoco (Italian)
Im Feuer der Dämonen (German)
Ward, Michael J.
November 15, 2012 (First printing)
2017 (Second printing)
0575118776 / 9780575118775
1473223660 / 9781473223660 (Second printing)
736 pages |
I don't want to give a gushing fanboy write-up here, but I honestly think Destiny Quest is pretty much the gamebook gold standard. Unfortunately the name "Destiny Quest" sounds like a naff Saturday morning cartoon that should probably have at least one talking animal in it. The cover-art doesn't do the series justice either - it looks like a highly stylized piece of CGI, practically screaming all polish, no substance. No surprise then that I opened the book with low expectations, and it's no exaggeration to say I wouldn't have bought it if I wasn't already an avid gamebook fan. Well that was one first impression that didn't last long.
Heart of Fire's tone is kept up far better than the first DQ book. The first act of the previous DQ book got instantly disjointed: you read an intro which oozes grimdark desolation and some shadowy mystery -- and then you blink into the first act, which seems to have an almost nursery rhyme ambiance to it, rapidly and utterly spoiling the mood set by the intro. This time round, the intro consists of a desperate and bloody jailbreak from the dungeons of the inquisition, with dark hints of your character's hidden depths, and unfolds into a more menacing and grungy medieval world. The narrative hits the right note and holds it very well this time.
That's not to say the book is purely an excursion into pitch-black reaches of grimdark. All the DQ books strike similar chords to a Blizzard game - you get plenty of grit and grisly spectacles, but there's often an undertone of humour and quirkiness lurking around. I don't want to spoil the plot, but it's an interesting one - your character's existence becomes progressively corrupt and unnatural as he becomes more powerful, owing to the damning twist of fate that's been laid on him.
The gameplay is essentially the same as the previous book. The DQ system uses 4 stats: speed, brawn, armour and health. Speed works the same as Fighting Fantasy's skill, brawn is the amount of damage you do, armour the amount of damage you resist, health the amount of damage you can take (if you're a sorcerous character, brawn is replaced by magic). It's very intuitive and straightforward, but what really marks the system out - and perhaps what will make you love it or hate it - is the sprawling arsenal of special abilities available via items and character progression. There's eleven (!) equipment slots, five inventory slots, and different character class options opening throughout the adventure. Vast scope for customization then, but some very extensive record-keeping needed from the player as well. The book has three acts, and I needed a new page every act to keep abreast of my character's stats and item haul.
The prose far exceeds the descriptive narrations and character portrayals of the vast majority of gamebooks. Each passage tends to consist of several well paced paragraphs, and there's a lesser number of lengthier passages to more fully flesh out the plot. The author's talent for describing high octane action sequences in particular really stands out. The plot itself is so far-ranging and the ending scenes so apocalyptic that by the end I felt as if I'd played through 10 Fighting Fantasy books.
There's not much else to say as a round-up. DQ pretty much does everything a gamebook tries to do, and does it well. No instant death paragraphs either, and the puzzles, though rare, are very satisfying -- challenging without being frustrating. The only drawback which comes to mind is the somewhat bloated record-keeping, although this weakness is the obverse of one of the book's strengths, i.e. great scope for character customization.
The occasionally overused cliché unsurprisingly crops up. But what high fantasy yarn escapes that? If you like reading and you like gaming I would say you'll like this. Great fun and highly recommended for gamebook readers.
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to sireeyore for the first printing cover images and to Ryan Lynch for the second printing images.|
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Known EditionsFirst printing
DestinyQuest #2 Character Sheet
Thanks to sireeyore for the scan.