Kingdoms of Terror

The Kingdoms of Terror – Conclusion

So – how about those Kingdoms of Terror, eh?

The Kingdoms of Terror.jpg

First, I want to make it VERY clear that I am grading these books on a very steep curve. When a series is touted as (and it has been) the finest gamebook series ever, it then has to be prepared to accept criticism of flaws that would be forgivable with a lesser series of books.

First, you would have thought that, after introducing the Sommerswerd in Book 2, Joe Dever would, by book 6, have been fully aware of the difficulties in game balance caused by that +8 to Combat Skill bestowed by possession (or not) of the MEGASWORD.

The start of the Magnakai books, or, if you will, the ‘Season 2’ of Lone Wolf, would have been an ideal opportunity to address these difficulties.  We’ve talked before about this, but in the ‘Background’, it would have been so easy to simply state that ‘as part of your adventures’ Lone Wolf has taken possession of the Sommerswerd, with the consequent effects on your Combat Skill.

When you think about it (which I spend waaay too much time doing), by definition, according to the continuing ‘story’, Lone Wolf HAS to have obtained the Sommerswerd (or else Zagarna would not have been defeated), so it would have been logical, as well as sensible, at the commencement of the ‘Magnakai’ adventures, to treat it ‘as read’ that the Sommerswerd was part of Lone Wolf’s arsenal.

Aside : And just how many commas could I work into that last sentence, hmm?

This, in turn, could have ensured that the combat sections of the book were balanced, rather than being, comparatively, a walk in the park for Lone Wolf, where his most serious opponent was……..a door.

 

Image result for lone wolf kingdoms of terror

And speaking of balance, that archery tournament was seriously out of whack.  That seems to be acknowledged, with Altan’s combat skill actually reduced in subsequent printings to a (slightly) more manageable level.

My opinion on the final ‘insta-death’ is fairly clear.  In fact, I’ll address this more later.

With regard to the ‘story’ of the book, I didn’t consider that there was an overall narrative that was compelling.   The story really didn’t have a consistent ‘through-line’.  The first half really dealt with Cyrillus and Roark.  However, after the death of Cyrillus and the fight with the quasi-zombies, neither were relevant for the remainder of the adventure, as long as you remember to avoid the city of Amory.

Then after the first half, in a matter reminiscent of Shadow on the Sand, the adventure essentially resets after Lone Wolf reaches Varetta.  The whole ‘meeting with the astronomers’ sequence isn’t really handled brilliantly.  As I said during the regular posts, both the book and Lone Wolf assume that the first set of people he speaks to are completely correct, and that any opposing view is absolutely without merit.  There isn’t even a nominal ‘choice’ as to whether you accept that these guys are on your side!

Image result for lone wolf kingdoms of terror

The ‘final’ sequence in the sewers / tunnels beneath Tekaro is, with respect, handled badly.  For starters, there is no real ‘build-up’ about a deadly foe lurking in these tunnels, waiting to munch on unsuspecting Kai Lords.  I re-read the section before writing this review, and there are a number of insta-deaths where you are basically informed that you’ve run afoul of some monstrosity known as the ‘Dakomyd’.  Now, without being horrible about Joe Dever’s choice of names, the above term doesn’t inspire fear or worry in and of itself.

Between the encounters with soldiers, healers, etc etc there was ample opportunity to sow the seeds of intimidation concerning a possible encounter with a fearsome beast.  As constructed, it just seems like a ‘final boss’ was inserted in the book to make the final approach more difficult.

And, speaking of the Dakomyd, with regard to the final choice, I have no issue with the final decision being a life-or-death one.  But I very strongly consider that there was no real way to decide which choice was the right one, and it became dangerously reminiscent of an Ian Livingstone-esque “Go east and live, go west and die” choice.  Joe Dever frequently states that his gamebooks were specifically constructed to reward the player who paid attentions and made considered choices.  There were several examples where this wasn’t the case.

And, although I took advantage of it, the “Any 2 Special Items” bug, where you could effectively buy a horse for a couple of trinkets, was awesome to enjoy, particularly right after a previous incarnation of Lone Wolf had been killed while ‘borrowing’ a horse.

OK – what now?

Actually, I’m going to write a post on an aspect of Gamebooks that I want to give further consideration before moving on to….Castle Death.

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “The Kingdoms of Terror – Conclusion

  1. I understand that sometimes insta-death are a necessity: the gamebook should not be too easy, by the way I know it’s really hard to “let the reader know in a subtle way” the correct choice.
    Sometimes (being also a game master) I wonder if the authors honestly believes to give us hints about the right choice… and he fails!

    Speaking about ista-death in Lone Wolf, I remember clearly those in “The Dungeons of Torgar” (probably that’s why I prefer the more forgiving Freeway Warrior series)!
    But first onwards to Castle Death!

    PS: Dakomyd as a name isn’t so bad… well not the worst name in Lone Wolf, I think! ^^’

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    1. Freeway Warrior more forgiving? I have yet to survive any of them, whereas I’ve beaten the occasional Lone Wolf (and the odd Fighting Fantasy for that matter) on the first attempt.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I found #1 quite difficult (a friend of mine said it was frustrating), but maybe I was lucky, especially when generating the stats! #2 and #4 were quite easy (especially if you got some useful items from #1). #3 is hard (few healing items, but in #2 there are lots, so you can begin with a full bag),

        This doesn’t mean that I did not die lot! I found #4 che easiest one but I died so many times during the hospital part (no safe combination? You die! That was really sadistic!).

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  2. I’m responding to this with a real computer rather than the low level tablet which means i can copy and paste quotes but not do smiley faces 😦 Such is progress.

    “I am grading these books on a very steep curve”
    Lone Wolf and Way of the Tiger rightly are among the top gamebooks. Other series are unlikely to arouse such passion (or attempted defenses) so its quite right to grade them on a steep curve so long as we remember the sheer fun we had playing as kids.

    The next five paragraphs were about the Sommerswerd (and one paragraph had SEVEN commas, do you not realize that unless we do more to conserve the limited amount of comma’s left in the world we will end up being forced to write using only short sentences???) I suspect there will be more complaints about its affect on game balance before the Magnakai series is finished. The very fact that there will proves that all your complaints are justified. Honestly I have no idea why Joe Dever didn’t just assign it as part of your equipment from book three and I cannot justify the ommission. That said it made no great impression on me as a child as I started from book one anyway and was more focused on the story I was playing out to be bothered that I was Chuck Norrising my way through the game world.

    Re: Archery tournament … Well, you know Tim you/we can’t win them all. If we come upon it, look at our stats and think “Nah, I can’t win that” then we still have a choice of two other interesting encounters we can have instead (I actually like the Armoured Assassin one quite a lot, and not just because Divination becomes useful for a change). The flaw is that because the bow is such a draw most players never try the other options, so yes, it could have been handled better (maybe make the Bow not quite so powerful so we’d be more inclined to think what we wanted to do this time).

    “With regard to the ‘story’ of the book, I didn’t consider that there was an overall narrative that was compelling”.
    Looking up Dakomyd I came across this comment:
    ” I like some diversity – like the journey to the Stornlands. That was great partly because LW’s enemies weren’t (all) Naar servants but just common people living their lives. Though some were evil and some were good they didn’t attack/help you (just) because you were the last of the Kai. Who knows, maybe Dakomyd was placed there by the forces of good to guard the Lorestone.”

    This diversity is part of the, to me, appeal of and the uniqueness of Kingdoms. In the other books Lone Wolf’s quest is totally tied in with the events happening around him. Here though they’re not. Lone Wolf is on a quest, along the way he’s passing through a world that’s getting on with its own business. There are corrupt guards, acolytes of Vashna (its … interesting to find the way to meet them) thieves, busy bodies, merchants out to get sozzled, thieving mercenaries etc and with the exception of a few intellectual fanatics most of them don’t care who you are so long as you don’t get in their way. This is made more ironic by the fact that you’re on a quest that will decide the fate of the world. Even the lack of Darklord influence is explained by the UnCivil War in Helgedad. Think of when Rand Al’Thor tries to get the Seanchan to agree to his plans on the grounds that he’s going to die to save the world only to be told to get on with dying as that’s his job, their job is to rebuild the power of the Seanchan empire.

    Consequently while there’s some things we have to go through there’s others that we can choose to face or not bother (which partly hankers back to the sheer volume of choice we had in Flight from the Dark.

    Its also part of what we all disliked about the mini-adventure which tried to tie in the anti-Wolf intellectual’s with Roark. It was going against the idea that Lone Wolf was making his way through a land where he might be the hero of his own stories but there were lots of other stories going on around him as well.

    Re The Astronomers. “both the book and Lone Wolf assume that the first set of people he speaks to are completely correct”

    Well… if you don’t meet them first then you’re dead. If you’ve played Chasm already then you know that Gwynion is on your side. If you don’t then … well, yes. There could have been more options (like the opportunities in Flight to run away from people actually trying to help you).

    “Between the encounters with soldiers, healers, etc etc there was ample opportunity to sow the seeds of intimidation concerning a possible encounter with a fearsome beast.”
    In fairness, not only would the Ogryns tell you that there was something nasty in the sewers but the fact that the city was surrounded by ten thousand warriors but there was no massed assault of an open door just below the city wall strikes me as quite ominous enough.

    “I very strongly consider that there was no real way to decide which choice was the right one”
    Re The Dakomyd. Well, while its true that I highlighted several clues I’d say they came under the heading “Hindsight is always twenty twenty”. But Marco’s comment above is also very appropriate.

    Look, I take on board the criticism’s but I have to say that I always found the ATMOSPHERE of the war-torn Stornlands and Lone Wolf’s grimly riding through to try and get on with his quest as quick as he can to be utterly compelling and it remains a book I very much enjoyed. But I do think that on my next play through of the series that I’ll be beefiing up my opponents once I have the Sommerswerd just to add extra challenge.

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