Monday, 25 February 2008

#2 - The Citadel Of Chaos

The Citadel Of Chaos has a very similar premise to The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain, in that you must venture into a place with loads of monsters, traps and groups of doors from which you can only choose one (it seems never in Fighting Fantasy gamebooks do you peek through a slightly open door - it's all or nothing, every time), ultimately facing off against an evil magician. There's no treasure at the end of Citadel though, at least as far as I know, cause I didn't complete it. Nope. Didn't even get as far as the villian, Balthus Dire, which is a pity as apparently Steve Jackson put many hours of planning into how the final battle would work.

I didn't start so well, rolling a skill level of seven, stamina 20 and luck eight. In this gamebook, you get a bunch of spells, of which the dice were kind and gave me fourteen. With such low skill, I chose several 'creature copy' spells, which create a clone of your opponent to fight on your side. What I needed in the end were levitation spells, but I'll get there in time.

So at the entrance to the, er, citadel, were an ape with a dog face, and a dog with the face of... yep, an ape. Interesting. So far, so it seemed Steve Jackson had run out of ideas after only one book. I told them I was there to stay the night, and walked right in, which apparently is what you do when confronted by a pair of Wuzzles.

The first person I came across once inside was a dying man, whom I ignored. He wanted my stamina spell, and with such a low skill level, I decided I was going to need it more than him! Besides, if I gave it to him, it'll encourage panhandling, and there are enough beggars in the Fighting Fantasy world already! I came across some later on, who weren't happy till I'd given them every gold piece I owned...

Anyway. Something you don't do in Citadel it turns out is hang around places for too long. Much like the crypt in Warlock, hanging around almost anywhere on this adventure results in flaming shit being thrown at you or your arrest. Even in the library (where I learned the 3-digit combination to Balthus Dire's room, which is laughably short - even in a world where most doors can be broken down with a decent shoulder barge - and suspiciously convenient for a 400 section book) too much loitering can get you locked up in a cell guarded by a two-headed bipedal snake. Not that it happened to me, not at all...

Another place I hung around in too long inadvisedly was the wine cellar. In Warlock, drinking rum gave me stamina. In Citadel, drinking wine gave me hallucinations, and made me tell people things I should have kept secret - whoever said Fighting Fantasy gamebooks weren't realistic?

So after some rose wine, I told the winemaker I was not a travelling herb salesman, as had been my cover story thus far. No, I was actually on my way to kill his master, Balthus Dire. D'oh. A fight inevitably ensued, something I would've expected after rum, but not a couple of glasses of red. Ah well.

Perhaps I should've taken some with me further on the adventure, as I soon ran into a crazy biatch in bed who wanted presents. I offered her a silver mirror, which she didn't care for - considering she was attempting to shoot me with beams of fire from her eyes, perhaps I shouldn't have bothered! The book asked if perhaps I wanted to offer her a spider-man in a jar... WTF? I love some of the items you get asked if you have, the ones you never do always sound way more interesting. Like the cheese, from Warlock. The closest I came to cheese this time around were some berries. But berries you can put in a pouch or something. Cheese you need to wrap, and the book didn't say anything about having a roll of gladwrap in my rucksack.

So how did it all end? I encountered the ganjees, who were basically like disembodied banshees, flying around screaming and whatnot. I ran towards the door on the other side of the room, not realising it was a door OUT of the citadel. D'oh. I'd used my only levitation spell earlier, when a staircase became a 'super fun happy slide'. My 'broken body' landed in a 'crumpled heap'. Ouch.

So, all in all, I'm guessing The Citadel Of Chaos would be easier to complete than The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain, not that I managed either. I say this because I've attempted the latter so many times without ever succeeding, and am pretty sure once I knew what spells to choose at the beginning of the former, it wouldn't be that difficult. None of the monsters I encountered were that much of a threat, and it's not like there are keys you need to collect in the right combination in order to succeed.

This book isn't as well known as Warlock, which is perhaps to be expected. It's very similar, without being as ground breaking; and has a pretty lame cover. The one here doesn't exactly look like mine; the other one on the Wikipedia page is closer, but mine has the text of the one above. Weird. The newer cover is better, but that two-headed snake thing looks nothing like the illustration in my copy, which I think is closer to what Jackson probably intended. There's no way my unskilled fighter could have defeated the monster on the new edition's cover!

So that was Citadel of Chaos, and I'm 0/2.


Anonymous said...

The cover of The Citadel of Chaos was redesigned part of the way into the run, as the original, pre-green-spine version was considered not to fit in with the style of the rest of the series. The Wizard Books reprint depicts a Hydra, which is encountered beyond the point you reached in your play-through.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, even the levitation spell would not have saved you from the Ganjees.....

This is actually the first FF book I read as a kid. As such, this is the one book that held a special place in my heart as the book that got me hooked onto FF gamebooks. I remember being severely disappointed by the fact that most of the FF books I read later contain no magic spells system like this one. :)

Warlock of Firetop Mountain I actually read much later, so it was never anything special to me. I understand that it was groundbreakng as the very first book, but as someone who's already read the more "advanced" books already it's hard to be interested in one that holds only the bare basics.

Oh, and this is supposed to be the book where you can literally win with the worst starting stats possible (7/14/7), isn't it?

It's interesting to note the difference between the styles of the 2 co-creaters, Jackson and Livingstone in general. Both can write extremely difficult books, but Jackson's books tend to be all about finding the optimal path where you can avoid the worst death traps and horrible opponents with the right items/spells/abilities, whereas, Livingstone is all about picking fights and opening every door with potential traps in order and seek conflict in order to find the items to keep you alive when you meet the big boss. For the former you need to find Item A to get past the big tough mobs; for the latter you have to fight the big tough mobs to get Item A.

Unknown said...

This book always had a special place in my heart. Rather than being reliant on ridiculously lucky dice rolls (Caverns of the Snow Witch, I'm looking at YOU), this book promoted strategy and planning, particularly with the spells.

And it is absolutely true that, for a change, it is perfectly possible to finish this book while having the minimum scores. There are only two battles in the book that are unavoidable, and these are both perfectly winnable with minimum scores. Further, only a couple of Luck rolls are necessary to win.

I loved the final duel as well. Without giving too much away, it placed a premium upon planning and strategy, rather than just serving up a Skill 12 superbeing and wishing you luck...

Peter34 said...

The two real challenges in this book are ones that are not quite combat-based. The Ganjee, and the Hydra. And then there's the special number you find in the library.

I'm not sure it is possible to get both the special number, and the anti-Ganjee item (as far as I know the only way to defeat the Ganjee) in a single play-through, as they occur along different mutually incompatible paths.

The Hydra can be defeated with spells (you need to cast several spells, though), or an item. But them Ganjees are nasty!

I give this gamebook top marks for atmosphere, but very low marks for challenge design.

Anonymous said...

Just to correct the post above for fun and profit... the ganjee item and the number can both be got on the same run-through. There's definitely exactly one true path, which it's easy to deviate from right at the beginning, but it's there.

Rhodoferax said...

I, too, wish to make a correction.

There are actually two items that can get you past the ganjees, and it's possible to get them both on a single playthrough. I think it's also possible to win with only fighting a single battle.

It is, however, incredible easy to miss the combination.

The showdown against Balthus Dire is absolutely brilliant.

However, this book is a BITCH to map out.

Anonymous said...

It is perfectly possible to win with all the lowest possible stats, even though it seems unlikely that through some really horrible streat of rolling you should roll six 1s in a row. Eight spells are perfectly sufficient if chosen properly. The only combats you need to win are against the dozy goblin, orc and dwarf in the courtyard who only attack one at a time! And one last simple combat with a weakened Gark. You can either take the shorter route without the ignominy of being captured or you can get captured and see the two headed lizard and the O'Seamus - yes that's his name. Unaccountable the Ganjees want a jar of alchemists healing balm that the goblins, the orc and dwarf in the courtyard have with them.

If you take the longer route, the spells you need are:

2x weakness
1x ESP
1x shielding
1x levitation
1x stamina
1x luck
1x illusion

You only need the illusion spell if you want to be captured. I prefer to do without and just take an extra luck spell. Amazingly, Dire can be killed with sunlight and he lives in a belfry room with an ordinary window with ordinary curtains... He would have been better off underground, like Zagor was.

The only flaw is that there is no evidence of any armies being prepared in the citadel, or any real campaign of war.