Saturday, 30 August 2008

#28 - Phantoms of Fear

In Phantoms of Fear, you play either (according to the back page blurb) a 'humble' Wood Elf, or (according to the introduction) a Wood Elf who's inherited magical and fighting powers from your parents, and has been named 'Defender-Shaman of the Tribe'.

So whichever of these you are, it's your job, as decreed by yourself in a dream, to rid the forest of an evil army being put together by Ishtra the Demon Prince.

Dreams are a big part of PoF, and despite sounding like some crazy gimmick, they actually work quite well - more on that later.

I rolled 9/18/12 and a dream/magic 'power' rating of 11 - not too bad. Starting without provisions made it easy to choose a Potion of Strength. Apparently as a Wood Elf, you're quite confident of being able to find food as you go - unfortunately, the player is human and has read 27 previous FF books in as many weeks, and isnt' so naive.

Straight away the book threw me into a dream - should I walk down the nice, calm forest path, or the evil, twisted one? It's a dream, it can't hurt too much I thought, and went down the dark one. That's something cool about PoF, as far as I discovered, dying in a dream doesn't leave you dead for real - at least for the most part. You can feel free to try things a bit scarier, riskier.

So anyway, after wandering off and almost being killed by squirrels while trying to steal their nuts (told you I should've brought food), I find seven packs of provisions, but not before battling a giant. Stupid elf.

I head north until a creek and bog forces me southwest. Night falls, I crash in a hole in a tree. Of course it belonged to someone else, whom I inevitably had to kill, 'cause that's what you do when you sleep in someone else's bed in FF.

The further west I go, the more skittish the animals become. Somehow, my character thinks this is a good thing - yeah, the same character who thinks the gods speak to him in dreams, names his sword ('Telessa') and kills people who own the beds he sleeps in, like some kind of evil Goldilocks-bear.

I see off some wolves with a fire spell and swordplay (sorry, 'Telessaplay') then it's nearly night again. I don't like the look of any of the caves, so press on throught the night, offsetting the two stamina point-loss with a large eight stamina-point breakfast. Just then, an unearthly wail spread across the land, accompanied by a strong gust of wind - but, according to the text: "fortunately you were breathing out, so none of the blast entered your lungs." Wow, this is going to be easier than I thought - a sorcerous gust of wind passes so quickly and weakly, I'm unaware of it cause I happened to breathe out at that exact moment.

Heading into the evil forest, apparently I can no longer use spells - wow, I only got to use one the entire book, and it was to scare a wolf. I'm feeling distinctly underwhelmed by the use of magic in PoF, but what the hell. I'm sure if I'd headed east or south to begin with, the complete wrong direction, I'd be using it loads. And wasting my time - though I'm sure they wouldn't have had such a 50/50 decision so early on!

I follow a trail leading to holly bushes, which I climb under. As I'm coming out the other side, someone stands on my neck and tells me to lose the sword. Hmmm. I do so, and he lets me up - an insane barbarian. Apparently I can tell he's insane because he is so unkempt and dirty, but has a perfect, immaculately carved double-headed axe. Maybe he's just got Aspergers? I suppose that didn't really exist in the '80s. We go to his hut and sit down. I tell him who I am, and he laughs. Fuck this I think. I grab my sword. kill him, drink my potion and look around. Nothing to take, except his axe. Maybe it's magic? Who knows.

I head further west, and am circled by six Dark Elves. Shit. I try to make a break for it, but they attack - a new one every four attack rounds... somehow, and my dice aren't usually this kind, but I survive it... with four stamina points left... lucky, lucky rolls. But a fucking mean fight to stick in the middle of this adventure! I assume it's avoidable somehow, but jebus.

I come across the tunnel to the underground, which is a good sign. I feel like I'm actually doing quite well for once! Now this is where the book really does something quite innovative and cool. You're able to switch between the dream world and the real world at will by subtracting/adding numbers to the paragraph you're on, and continuing on wherever it takes you. It works too, at least the part of it I got to experience.

A Sphinx tries to trick me, but I'm no fool. I head down the correct path and see a troll fighting an orc. Once they're done, the troll comes for me... and I come out of it with a single stamina point.

Hmmm... to the dream world! Alright! A way to complete this adventure with only a single stamina point. But...

My body in real life wanders into a narrow passage, and the large axe I pinched off the crazy guy hits the sides, alerting the denizens to my presence... and I'm killed with a volley of crossbow shots, invisible or now.

All in all, a good read. The dream elements were implemented really well, perhaps at the expense of the magic side of things a bit. The fights seem a little unfair - the odds are stacked against you with random dice rolls - but that's what dream are like, right?

I can't imagine what I would've thought had I gone east or south to begin with though! The freedom seemed well done, the way I went at least. Recommended. If you go west or north.


TheWycliffe said...

I haven't read this one yet. The cover is pretty shite.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the cover IS pretty shite, I forgot to mention that in the post. It's like some kind of snot demon.


Rowan Lipkovits said...

While we're discussing the shiteitude of this book's cover, it might be worth bringing to your attention another website I discovered about the same time as you began this spree, alternate titles for FF gamebooks based on interpretations of their cover artwork. This game's cover is at the end of the stack.

Anonymous said...

The magic rules are pretty much wasted in this book because you hardly ever get to use it, most of those situations where you do get to use it are pretty unimportant. At best they may help you avoid a fight or two. In fact, if I'm not wrong, if you are on the "optimal" path through the book you don't need to cast a single spell (as in, you probably won't reach a situation where you are asked to use a spell).

I do like the "dream" aspect of the game, though.

You have to face the 6 Dark Elves, but it's possible to "even the odds" by obtaining a companion on the way, which makes the fight much easier. As in the case with most FF books, the companion doesn't last very long, but at least he does serve a purpose, gameplay-wise. Unlike, say, Mungo.