Thursday, 5 February 2009

Wiz #21 - Eye of the Dragon

Ten years after the initial series ended, the first all-new FF gamebook of the Wizard series (so named for the series' new publisher) came in the form uninspired, cliche-ridden Ian Livingstone dungeon crawl. So much for the second coming of FF.

It doesn't start out bad - the instructions are perhaps the most basic used in 60-odd gamebooks, which led me to believe the story would be Eye of the Dragon's calling card. But in ditching the later Puffin entries' use of extra statistics and complex anti-cheat mechanisms, Livingstone made perhaps the most meat-and-potatoes, typical and pedestrian gamebook of the entire brand.

You're an adventurer down on his luck in Fang for the annual Deathtrap Dungeon competition, which I gather is something like Christmas for them, when some guy called Henry Delacor tells you of a solid gold dragon worth "about" 335,00 gold pieces sitting in a dungeon beneath Darkwood Forest. Delacor wants his share though, so he makes you drink a slow-acting poison to ensure you return in 14 days - and you drink it with barely a thought. He gives you one of the statue's emerald eyes, and tells you to find the other before touching the golden dragon. Err, okay.

I arrive at the entrance to the dungeon and proceed to make a series of random 50/50 decisions that veer from blindingly obvious to completely random with few, if any exceptions. Should I search the hut before entering the dungeon? Of course, you dolt. Should I bust the mirror causing me extreme pain? Of course, you idiot. Should I wear the necklace with the snake skull I found in the room with the Medusa? Err, probably not. Should I scoop out coins sitting in an abandoned fountain that doesn't grant wishes? Hell no. 

Other times, it's more like - there's a person. Do you attack them, or run away? Do you talk to them, or run away? It's a door - do you open it? It's a chest - do you open it? There's no context, apart from the fact you're in a fucking dungeon full of meanies. 

Perhaps the most ridiculous scene was when I found a playing card with a smiling Queen of Spades on it - do I pick it up? Well, firstly, do I know anything about magic playing cards? Is there some kind of experience I can draw on here? Did I once hear something in a pub, or from an old Wizard mate? It's a total crapshoot. Lucky, I live, unlucky, I die. Or suffer horribly. 

For the record, I didn't even test my luck a single time, as far as I got. Weird.

Anyway, on killing a goblin and taking his chainmail, I realised that keeping the writing and rules mind-numbingly simple probably isn't the blessing I initially thought it was. The chainmail added one to my skill, but I was still at my initial. This means it would be advantageous to wait until I was hurt enough to lose a skill point before wearing the chainmail. What's wrong with adding to my attack strength, particularly when I have to fight a snake witch with a freakish ability to roll fives and sixes?

Yeah, I was killed by the snake witch, despite having a higher skill and stamina. Being an Ian Livingstone book though, I can only assume it would have happened sooner or later. I'm glad it wasn't the two-headed troll Delacor warned me of though - that thing was easy, and Delacor is a wouss. 

You'd have just as much luck winning this book flipping a coin at every choice you have to make.

Kind of sucks this is where I've run out of books! Well, there's still the Sorcery! series, but the baby is due these next seven days or so... I'll be taking a break, I think. If you want to know when the next entry is made, sign up to the RSS if you haven't already, or join the Fighting Dantasy Networked Blogs feed on Facebook

If I acquire any that are left, I'll do those in time too.

So until then, or Sorcery! #1, I'm out of here!


Gamebook Fanatic said...

the instructions are perhaps the most basic used in 60-odd gamebooks, which led me to believe the story would be Eye of the Dragon's calling card.

Heh, I wasn't expecting much, personally, when I read this book, but even with my low expectations I ended up feeling cheated of what I paid for it. I didn't expect much from the story, because that had seldom been Ian Livingstone's strong point (not that he's never turned out a good one on occasion, of course). Now, if Steve Jackson had been the one writing, that'd be different....

And the obvious/basic/random encounter choices you brought up, was exactly what I commented about Forest of Doom. Even as early as Book 3, I felt that a design like that was almost a step back from the first two books. To turn out a book like this after so long, especially for a supposed "revival", is just unforgivable.

Anyway, kind of sad it has to end here, at least temporarily. Now I'd have one less entertaining site to read for my weekends. Hope you manage to get the rest of the series soon. :)

Paltogue said...

All the best Dan. You'll be missed - the reviews have been great.

Marcus said...

It's my understanding that this book is actually a rehash of the adventure seen in the 10-year anniversary book - however as I don't own Eye of the Dragon I can't tell you exactly :P


Paltogue said...

Not the 10th Anniversay Yearbook, but Dicing with Dragons. You can read more here:

Ed said...

Indeed, part of the reason why it's so basic is because it's expanded from the first adventure Ian wrote after his bits of The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.

This version does lose whatI considered the best aspect of the original Eye of the Dragon, an Instant Death that makes use of the slow-acting poison 'sub-plot'.

Thankfully, this is the worst of the new titles included with the Wizard reprints.

foadiron said...

A terrible, boring book, full of pointless combats with stupidly weak opponents, silly luck tests that only take a few stamina from you even if you fail them, and, mistakes. Yes, just like some other books, this one contains some good old errors which make it difficult to map or complete.

Ho hum.