Wednesday, 25 June 2008

#19 - Demons Of The Deep

Surprise! I'm early this week, 'cause I'm working a long week from Thursday, and have an early 'weekend' as a result. Yes, this is my Saturday night, early.

It seems as a consolation for what I'm about to go through, the FF gods have seen to give me a classic, old-school adventure with swords and shit - at least at first, that's what I think is happening.

It turns out otherwise. I'm a sailor banished to the bottom of the ocean after encountering a pirate ship, and have to find Black pearls in order to survive. Right away, I'm thinking exactly what you're thinking: who has plagiarised who? Quickly enough though my thoughts turn to survival, seeing as I'm pretty much drowning.

The old-school introduction (minus any potion references) and resolutely old-school adventure sheet (with a box for potions) led me to believe this would be a classic Allansian adventure! I even started with a 'bare minimum of equipment' and enough provisions for ten meals. BUT, it turns out Atlantis, yes, THE Atlantis, isn't far offshore from Port Blacksand (someone tell the scientists!). Getting there involves the growing of gills, conveniently provided by some kind of coral pentagram, which the book takes no time in offering me leave from. Err, no thanks. The pentagram gave me life, I'll stay here.

I soon meet a mermaid, who apart from being hot tells me that come midnight, my gills will figuratively turn into the proverbial pumpkins, and nor can I go to the surface to breathe air, cause that'll kill my gills which are totally needed underwater, apparently. Just why I need to be underwater has something to do with finding the aforementioned Black pearls which are needed to defeat the damn dirty pirates who threw me down here, for some reason... There's not really a great deal of motivation given... why can't I just count my blessings and go back to hanging out amongst the low-lifes of Port Blacksand?

So, in searching the underwater, I first go to the dome with a broken roof, where I search all the seats, finding only sea snakes. All the seats? How many did this arena seat? In the centre though there's a harpoon, which sounds like a mighty fine item to have under the sea! I'm not aware of a sack or belt, but I'm able to whack it on myself regardless.

Passing a sandy beach-like area, still underwater (wow, global warming, this book was written in 1986, what are you doing here?) I recovered the skeleton of a ghost and in the process earned an extra skill point and, wait for it... one gold piece. I figure inflation was pretty bad in the time of pirates, Atlantis and genies.

A bit later on, I came across a trapdoor. This being a blog about what you can find in FF gamebooks, if nothing else and for no other reason, I opened it. When asked to test my luck, I had a foreboding feeling this was one of them times where an unlucky roll would be death. I never found out, as another lucky roll swept me down to a dolphin. A shark attacked us, and apparently the dolphin said, 'Look out! A shark!' (Maybe NSFW). Mmhmm. What followed was perhaps the easiest fight in any FF gamebook ever, with the two of us ganging up on an innocent creature that had a lower skill level than not only I (11) but the dolphin. Hmm.

The dolphin tells me his name Keeekweeet (only in fantasy, or an African tribal village will you ever encounter a name with two almost-consecutive sets of triple vowels) and he'll come in handy later in the book when I'm given a list of places I've never heard of and his offer to take me to one.

Time passes, I'm in a merman games room, where I'm offered the chance to gamble any number of Black pearls or gold pieces at even odds, which would be awesome if I had more than a single gold piece. My super-sleuthness had led me to believe I'd probably be needing some of these dang Black pearls before the jig was up, when the shit hit the famn etc, and the fact I had none, with the chance to win none-squared-to-the-nth-degree was highly frustrating.

Not even successful thrashing of a fish-guy (not a merman, apparently), a thing with a stamina of 30 and several octopi is enough. In the end, I'm given the option of going to the surface and taking on the pirates with my sword - to be honest, I'd kinda forgotten about the pirates at this stage. If it was me, I'd be pretty damn pleased just to get out of the ocean and back to the city of thieves and shiat. Instead, I hold this grudge against the pirates who graciously let me live at the outset, and try to kill their entire crew singlehandedly.

This is massive fail, of course. They killed my entire crew last time, what makes me think I could win this time, on my own? The lack of knowhow when it comes to summoning anti-pirate armies with Black pearls? I'm not even given a face-saving option of 'Do you chicken out and just go back to Blacksand to live out your days as a low-life?'

Instead, I die.

Anyway, not really that satisfying, though apparently written by one of the Steves. It might've used the classic rules for the most part, but felt kinda boring and uninspired; I never felt in too much danger, but also felt like a lot of the time I was just swimming about not really getting anywhere. But damn, the Kraken? 30 Stamina? Lucky I had 13 skill at the time! Yeah, one good thing - your dice rolls weren't permanent, which was pretty awesome. Lucky for me, mine only went up, after defeating a fish-dude at swordplay. So I suppose you need good rolls to get better... and I had 11/20/8.

My copy's the same as the one above. I'm only a few issues away from #23, Masks Of Mayhem, which I don't have yet. I picked up Legend of Zagor last week, as it's a part of the recent re-releases, but not due for play in my list just yet. I have to check if MoM is part of the new series and if the local Borders has it.

All in all, I felt Demons of the Deep to be a bit gimmicky without the distinction of being any different to the older classics, and a little contrived. It wasn't silly, it wasn't ridiculous, it was just a little blah. Lets hope Swords of the Samurai, as non-Allansian as it sounds, is a little better.

I took a look at some of the later books, in their reprinted versions at Borders and noticed something I'd completely forgotten - the later books have a totally different font. Awesome. But honestly, I remember, at least in my head, the ones with the cooler font being better: maybe in 20 or so books, taking away the ones I can't get a hold of, I'll be able to report on the truth of this.

Saturday off. See you all again in 10 days or so.


Deb Clague said...

I'm going to miss this blog when you complete your run. Good luck finding those missing books.

Ed said...

Minor spoiler: you actually get more of a Skill increase if 'the fish-dude' beats you at swordplay.

Gamebook Fanatics said...

This looks like one of those books where you're just unlucky enough to miss all the good things. This is actually one of the easier books to win, mainly because there are many ways to beat the pirates (but like I said, you just seemed to be unlucky to have missed all of them).

You need the Black Pearls to reach the best ending, in which you don;t just defeat the pirates but also steal their ship for yourself. But there are other tools (hint hint ;)) you could have used to kill them or destroy their ship for revenge. This is one of the few books where you have multiple successful endings (with varying degrees of success).

And there are plenty of entries where you just survive and go back to Blacksand without getting revenge (the Dolphin is one of those that could have just taken you back home). But once you reach the pirate ship, the book assumes you want revenge at any cost.

And again, this is one of the books where you have quite a lot of freedom in choosing your path to the final destination. Quite a few interesting diversions can be found, like the fish-guy you fought (yes, you gain more skill bonus if you lose to the guy); getting the chance to cure a fish-faced princess from a magical slumber, Sleeping-Beauty-style; make deals with a Dragon; and getting a certain magical item that allows you to turn into liquid temporarily. You also appeared to have missed quite a few opportunities at getting more Black Pearls early in the game. I think you're just plain unlucky in this game. :)

Anonymous said...

ok this comes a bit late in the day.

but in the books you are ALWAYS, unless specifically told otherwise (as in Crimson Tide, for example), to assume your Initial values can NOT be exceeded by the humdrum occasional +Skill bonuses, whcih are meaningless. They are meant only to counteract any penalties you might already have sustained, NOT to raise your skill beyond your starting values as you said.

Your playthroughs are refreshing because you've obviously gone through them 100% honestly, but frankly speaking we all know these books are meant to be played through thoroughly, hunting down the optimum paths, getting all the "waypoints" checked, etc.

You are seriously not getting your money's worth if you don't investigate more thoroughly than you seem to.

Gamebook Fanatic said...

^Hey, the skill-boosts he mentioned from the Fish-guy duel ARE supposed to take his score above their initial values, as specifically mentioned in the text, so I'm not sure what you're talking about....he already knows those rules you speak of.

Aussiesmurf said...

I really enjoyed this book, with more of a 'sand-box' feel, along with the different paths to success.

It was certainly handy being dropped off the boat at the start right at the underground city!

I certainly enjoyed the replayability, and several of the characters were interesting personalities (and more than sword-fodder).

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