Fire on the Water

Fire on the Water – Conclusion

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Yeah, I’m back.  Apologies to my tens of fans, but :

  •  My client got ABSOLUTELY hosed in Court on Monday, and I was so upset that I couldn’t get it together to do an entry.  I kept having to remind myself that jumping up and yelling “But Judge, you’re just WRONG.” wouldn’t have helped.
  • On Tuesday I was watching the Australian team draw 1-1 with Japan in a vital World Cup qualifier.

So – Fire on the Water.  I have thoughts!

 

As I’ve mentioned earlier, this was the first Lone Wolf book I ever bought, and I can still remember that the first time I played it I died on the carriage to Port Bax because I didn’t have enough Gold Crowns for the ticket, stowed away on the coach, and got murdered in the night while sleeping in a barn.

(The 2nd through to about 10th attempt I got killed because I didn’t have the dratted Magic Spear and got killed by the Helghast).

There is a real difference in the construction of the first two Lone Wolf books.  Flight From the Dark is geared around there being many, many possible routes to take to the capital.  This makes for a tremendous level of replayability, as each option is explored, but means that the actual (successful) journey from the Monastery to Holmgard can be quite short (in playing time).

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By contrast, Fire on the Water truly feels like an epic journey, although one where there aren’t a massive amount of different options as to which path to take.  Sure, you can take different choices in such places as Ragadorn and on the path through the Durenese forest, but Lone Wolf generally hits the same story beats every time – the initial ship, the shipwreck, the coach journey, the Tarnalin etc etc.  Once you know that it is best to pick Animal Kinship as a skill, and are careful to avoid getting killed on the coach ride, the adventure isn’t actually that hard, with only a modest number of combats.

I’m never fond of the instances where Joe Dever, seemingly for laughs, puts in a 10% chance of instant death.  This happens on the ship (when the mast can land ON YOUR FACE) and also when escaping the Helghast with Rhygar.  While, I suppose reflecting the vagaries of life (death?) in something which is meant to represent a ‘game’ it achieves nothing more for the honest player than a frustrating return to the beginning.

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I mentioned this in passing in the comments section, but Dever really makes it pretty clear that this series is aimed at males.  Over the 700 sections in the two books so far, I don’t think that a single female character has made a meaningful appearance.  Viveka is given a much bigger role in the novel adaptations, but I don’t think she even gets a line in the original gamebook.  The Way of the Tiger series was much better at meaningful roles for both genders, with Gwyneth, Cassandra and Foxglove being considered real fan favourites.

I suppose I am treating the strengths of the book as being so self-evident that I’m not giving them enough mention.  The story is gripping, the ‘road trip’ with the whodunnit is one of the most memorable sequences in gamebooks, the stakes are high and the conclusion is epic.

Let’s put it this way – after reading this book first, I went on to buy another 13 of them!

 

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7 thoughts on “Fire on the Water – Conclusion

  1. So, it may not be apparent in this book, but how do people feel about the Sommerswerd completely dominating when it came to combat to the point where JD had to put convoluted reasons to make it a disadvantage in later books? After some thought, maybe the Kai artefact could have been an amulet or wand that does nothing but Darklord zapping – it would have opened up more scope in later books to have a magic version of each weapon, an item that damages undead more and something that protects from magic. And what about people whose favourite weapon isn’t a sword? It felt nice to obliterate those zombies, but I remember a certain point in book 11 and thinking that it was actively a problem. Also, it didn’t even protet against magic at the end of book 11. But we’ll just have to wait for that bit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Completely agree with you about combat imbalance. As I’ve mentioned to Fenrir, this also makes the selection of Weaponskill a bad bet, since there is a 60% chance of a non-sword specialty rendering the skill useless. One possibility would be only letting the ‘magic’ of the Sommerswerd work in say 3 combats per book (or maybe 12 rounds of combat), with the character being able to choose when the CS bonus was applicable.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Another thought may be to ‘max out’ the CS bonus to, say, 20. This would negate the massive disadvantage of an initial ‘low’ CS bonus, and meaning that combats could be crafted to be fair opposition for a CS in that general range.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry about Monday. For what its worth I had an effective way of dealing with a problem at work which saved my employer lots of Money but on Monday I was told I couldn’t do that anymore. Making it more frustrating was that over time I had convinced TWO LAYERS of management how good this was but the next just sent down the Slam Order. Frustratingly I could be handing out hundreds of euros of compant money a month and they wouldn’t notice anything, but when I’m doing the right thing I get slammed.

    No, that doesn’t make you feel better. Just wanted to say I too got overridden by those whose power exceeds their understanding that day. Without going into confidential details I hope you’re able to arrange some sort of appeal.

    Regarding football I am so ignorant I don’t even know was that good or bad but it was obviously an acceptable excuse for a delay in posting.

    Can’t argue the conclusion. Although I usually hunted Helghasts so combat was more deadly for me ( I already needed a good CS to survive Flight and the Gourgaz). Slight funny, most of our covers didn’t have Lone Wolf on them so as my sister and I both played them I convinced myself LW’s gender depended on who was playing (like WOTT). I remember being furious at some point in The MagnaKai where it was unavoidable that Lone Wolf is male. The Next series was clearly unavoidably male and that contributed to my losing interest.

    Re Sommerswerd : as I played from the start I was used to it but I get the criticisms of it unbalancing the game. Frankly I always liked being able to proudly say “YES” everytime I was asked if I had it. I think a simpler soloution would have been to just give it to everyone after Fire and plan the fights accordingly.

    Hope you’ve got your winter clothing ready.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lone Wolf’s maleness is, alas, established even before the Magnakai series. Zakhan Kimah refers to you as ‘he’ in section 200 of Shadow on the Sand.

      The references to bad stuff happening on the Monday before this post was written reminded me that I had a traumatic experience on a Monday not that long ago. A quick check in my diary revealed that it was, in fact, the same Monday. Weird coincidence.

      Liked by 1 person

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