Saturday, 13 September 2008

#31 - Battleblade Warrior

Despite the awesome cover (a Lizard Man riding a pterodactyl?!), I didn't go into Battleblade Warrior expecting much; perhaps because of the title, perhaps because I'd no recollection of this book, or perhaps because of the disappointing book it follows.


But what a surprise! Battleblade Warrior is a fun, interesting and well-paced read - and I'm not saying these things because I had my first victory since book #15, though that didn't hurt! There's a lightness of touch with Marc Gascoigne's writing that embraces not so much the absurd, but the inherent oddness of a world which accomodates so many different civilised species (as opposed to Earth). One of my favourite sequences in Battleblade Warrior was disguising myself as an Orc in order to avoid trouble, but finding myself in the midst of an Orc funeral - which involved ceremonially biting the deceased and partaking in Orc hooch, which by all accounts was NOT good (a loss of several stamina points, two days before my hangover and skill level recovered).

So anyway, your mission is to retrieve two holy artifacts, the Eye and Arm of Telak, in order to defeat an army of Lizard men which is threatening not only your village, but the entire world (of course). Your god comes to you in a dream, delegating the job to you.

There are a few differences with your run-of-the-mill FF gamebook - you're limited to four meals at once, and you're only allowed to eat one at a time - they've obviously been following me closely - and there's no mention of skill being limited by the initial level. Not to worry, as drinking Orc absinthe lowered mine, and it was otherwise untouched.

So heading off, I decided to try and sneak out at night, while the army beseiging my village might be otherwise occupied; a group kindly took me at my crazy-dream-word and launched a suicide attack in order to distract the Lizard Men from my sneaking. 

Tip-toeing through the Lizard Man camp, I eventually came across a stable of giant lizards, unguarded. Doing my best Obi-Wan impression, I tried to outrun my pursuers, till one of them shot my lizard with an arrow. I ran for the trees and met a man with a sabre tooth tiger and more importantly, a plan.

We decided to set a massive trap for the Lizard Men using a substance he called 'Flashpowder: Sulis Vitae from Sardath'. What he had MacGyvered was gunpowder! A group of ten Lizard Men approached, and we blew them sky high. The book told me I felt ill-at-ease with these tactics, but fuck what the book tells me, I was thrilled it worked!

So a night or two later, my friend daubs me in bad make-up and I pass through the orc funeral, as mentioned earlier. I collect more food (I can't believe I was worried about a lack of provisions when this adventure began - if I didn't have a limit, I'd now be carting a supermarket trolley's worth with me) and soon enough, a hot companion. Okay, I'm just assuming she's hot, as this is fantasy, and she's a she. 

We wander through the woods, and are captured and strung up on stakes like Jesus. Except on the fourth day, we're still there, and she's dead. I'm rescued by a trader, whom past giving me a comfy bed for the night, refuses to help me as I've nothing to trade. Bastard.

I head one, crashing in the forest, only to be awakened by a swamp monster. Shiat, my first roll-dice fight of the book, and it's against something with a skill of 10! 

Lucky dice rolls get me through easy, and I head on. Eventually I find Laskar, who tells me the Arm of Telak is a blinged-out sword, but he has no idea what the Eye of Telak looks like. Great. Oh, and he's too old to go finding them himself. Fuckin' awesome. Then he gives me a lantern and a rope, and tells me to descend into what, going by the illustration, is one fucked-up and destroyed looking place to find them, and he'll meet me on the other side.

To cut a long story short, and to leave at least some suspense for any would-be readers (or not really), I came out the other side with the sword and a smattering of jewels, any of which could be the supposed eyes. Well, one of the jewels actually came in two pieces... so I thought yeah, that's them - wedged them into the appropriate gap in the sword's hilt, and what do you know! I'm on page 400.

Page 400!

I couldn't believe it - the FF books have gotten harder and harder over the last 10 or so, for better or worse - but in perhaps the most enjoyable book since Robot Commando (remembering I don't have my childhood fave Midnight Rogue on hand), I pulled out a win. 

But this site tells me this was the only gamebook Marc Gascoigne wrote.  Really?! Damn. Highly recommended.

And not just because I rolled 12/18/10.

5 comments:

Deb Clague said...

You just don't see book covers like that anymore. :)

Anonymous said...

Delving deeper into the Wayback Machine's cache of that site, not the only Marc Gascoigne book (though the only FF gamebook)

http://web.archive.org/web/20050406004808/http://www.fightingfantasy.com/ffauthors.htm

strom-z said...

I was rather disappointed with this 1, the story seemed generic, it wasn't that much fun.. just forgettable, really

Jetman123 said...

"You feel ill at ease with these tactics"? /Really/? What is with this Fantasy Gun Control thing that some authors just keep going into? What is so strange and unnatural about gunpowder? The Europeans had it by 1241 - the middle of the middle ages - and let me tell you, they didn't feel "ill at ease" with anything.

Early gunpowder was fussy, unreliable, dangerous to work with, and firearms COULDN'T beat proper armor. I don't see why there's this constant air of "unfair destruction" around it in fantasy fiction. Gunpowder weapons are pathetic and good only for niche uses until much, much, /much/ later in their development.

Anyway. Rant aside... I'm reading backwards through Fighting Dantasy, and I have to say, I'm really enjoying the series. It's making me want to go out and pick up some of these things, because there were always gamebooks in my school's library, but they were always damaged or incomplete. I was always interested in this kind of thing!

dan duran said...

As a Kiwi, I'm all for gun control... but in a gamebook, bring it on!

You can get a lot of the books now as Android and iPad apps, and there's a company - Tin Man Games - making original ones too.