Friday 30 November 2012

Gamebook Friday: Stormslayer

Can you believe it's over three years since my sixth Fighting Fantasy gamebook was published? I can't. And yet inevitably, as with other books of mine, some people are only just discovering it for the first time.

If I'm honest, Stormslayer has received some mixed reviews since its publication. Sci-Fi Online loved it, giving it a grand 9 out of 10. The Fantasy Book Review also gave it a storming 9 out of 10. On Goodreads it (currently) scores a healthy 4 out of 5. (Mrs Giggles hated it, but then that's par for the course.) In some cases, it's the art that people have had the most issues with (although I still love the picture of the Eye of the Storm).

The book has never received many reviews on Amazon but for a while it was averaging 4.5 out of 5. However, a new, lacklustre review has recently gone up

This isn't the best of Jonathan Green's contributions to the Fighting Fantasy series but, as usual for him, it is a fabulously detailed, well written and constructed adventure which creates a viable world capable of immersing the reader.

It possesses all the traits of his other books - the imaginatively conceived monsters and villains, the heavy investigative element, the variety of areas that can be visited in numerous orders for different effects and a main villain heavily defended by powerful minions. Although these things are intelligently constructed by Green, his style and approach are becoming more familiar and, as such, easier to predict. If you are used to Green's previous adventures you will probably be able to guess at how to act within certain scenarios.

Many of Green's adventures rely heavily upon a certain theme and this book is no exception, taking elementalism as its focus. Elementalism, which of course frequently appears in gamebooks, has previously been utilised to great affect within 'Island of the Undead' and 'Return to Firetop Mountain'. These adventures relied on linking elementalism with some form of necromancy though whereas 'Stormslayer' combines it with a steampunk influence. This leads to the inclusion of 'weapons of mass desctruction' style machines. As interesting and inventive as the giant flying fish machine is it does feel a little anachronistic as it glides like a spaceship over the surface of the fantasy world of Titan. And, despite many original ideas within this book, the fish machine and your pursuit of it feels a bit like a copy of 'Tower of Destruction' at times.

Some of the steampunk fusion creatures are novel and interesting and others a little amusing (brass monkeys in a cold environment for example) but I found the main villain, elementalist Balthazar Sturm, to be a bit weak. He comes across as more of an irritating and spoilt child than as a devious and dangerous villain.

There are a lot of extra rules included that all seem to work quite well (which is not always the case within the FF series). Keeping track of the days of the week and how they effect the elements within the scenarios is fairly effective. Some of the items to be found also react very well with the various environments and show a lot of thought. However, I have never been a fan of the idea writing codewords down on you adventure sheet and this book makes this process particularly tedious and a little confusing.

This book, like many of Green's , can be a little tricky. This is mainly to do with taking the right directions and visiting the right places in the right order. This can be quite frustrating and it is entirely possible to mess up you adventure from you first choice of direction. A lot of the trials can be overcome with logic and reason but a lot of this book also relies on the trial and error approach.

There's plenty positive in there, but there's plenty I would disagree with, naturally, especially about the steampunk elements seeming anachronistic (what about the Brass Golem from Blacksand?) and the final race to board the Eye of the Storm being too similar to Tower of Destruction.

And with regard to the last point, it seems to me that some people have forgotten that gamebooks aren't supposed to be completable on the first go, just like video games. How many times have I died in Skyrim in the last few days...? And let's not forget that the book has inspired some awesome fan art!

Anyway, if you've not read the book, or it's been a while since your last read through, isn't it time YOU gave Stormslayer another go?

1 comment:

Zanafarr said...

You have made better books when compared to your other works, but that doesn't mean Stormslayer is at all lacking in gamebook terms. It's a solid and very memorable, enjoyable adventure. My blog playthrough on it ( contains some of the best memories I have of the 'new FF' series, along with Howl of the Werewolf :)