Saturday, March 14, 2015

Game 179: The Forest of Doom (1984)

The Forest of Doom
United Kingdom
Penguin Books (developer and publisher), based on a book by Ian Livingstone
Released 1984 for Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum
Date Started: 12 March 2015
Date Ended: 12 March 2015
Total Hours: 4
Difficulty: Easy (2/5)
Final Rating: 19
Ranking at Time of Posting: 36/176 (20%)
Raking at Game #431:  126/431 (29%)

The Forest of Doom is the second and, I think, last Fighting Fantasy gamebook adapted for the computer by Penguin Books. Even more than The Citadel of Chaos, it illustrates the missed opportunities associated with adapting a gamebook to a computer game.

The book is about the same size as The Citadel of Chaos in pages and entries.

The backstory casts you in the role of a wandering adventurer looking for fame and fortune. One night, a wounded dwarf named Bigleg collapses near your camp outside the Forest of Doom. Before he dies, he tells his story: he's a subject of King Gillibran of Stonebridge, who desperately needs to unite his people against some trolls. The dwarves being an ornery lot, they'll only follow Gillibran if he can assemble the four bronze "rune talismans" that belonged to the kings of old. Bigleg's party had managed to find the talismans, but they were ambushed by an "assassin thief" from another village; the thief, in turn, was killed by the goblins of the Forest and the talismans were scattered among the area's denizens. Before dying, Bigleg tells the adventurer to take his 30 gold pieces, visit a local mage named Yaztromo to get outfitted, find the talismans, and bring them to Stonebridge.

Below is a map of the titular Forest, taken from the Fighting Fantasy web site. The map doesn't exist in the gamebook, but the author, Ian Livingstone, clearly worked from a map because  all of the directions correspond perfectly. I've drawn a red line indicating the path that you must take to win the game:

The game and the book diverge in the successful path, I should add. In the book, your quest is to find the Hammer of Stonebridge, and you only have to find two parts. In the game, you have to find four runes, and they're in different places than the pieces of the hammer in the book. Thus, unlike The Citadel of Chaos, the text of The Forest of Doom differs slightly between the book and the game, although overall the encounters play basically the same.

Combat is unchanged since Citadel of Chaos.

As you explore the game, you can never backtrack and you can never go south. Thus, while it's possible to hit every encounter on the east/west roads by going all the way in one direction, then going north, then going all the way in the other direction, there are a bunch of places where you have to make a decision about which north/south road to take, causing you to miss a host of interesting encounters along them. Moreover, if you don't follow specific roads, you won't find the four talsimans, and you'll lose the game when you reach Stonebridge. (There are otherwise only a couple of immediate deaths in the game, and you have to do something really dumb to reach them.)

This is the kind of gamebook choice that we might call a "moron test." Sure, I'm going to attack the ultra-powerful wizard who's trying to help me!

You can understand why this has to happen in the book--kind of. If the book allowed you to backtrack, it would have to store multiple entries for each location depending on whether you'd previously visited. Or, it would occasionally have to say something awkward like, "Have you been to this location before? If so, turn to entry 59; if not, turn to entry 123." This, admittedly, wouldn't have been so bad. But the book came up with a different solution that I'll talk about in a second.

I know the four talismans are scattered randomly in the forest. Why do I "dismiss" the path to the south?

In a computer version, on the other hand, there's absolutely no reason not to let the player flexibly explore the entire map. It should have posed very little programming challenge, and it would have turned an on-screen book into a reasonably fun, if small, text adventure. The programmers showed some flexibility in other areas, so why not in this one crucial area?

But wait--it gets worse. At the end of the book, if the player reaches Stonebridge without the two parts of the hammer, the book gives him to the option to return to the beginning. He has to make a luck roll. If he fails, he gets slaughtered by hill people. If he passes, he goes back to Yaztromo's tower with all his equipment and gold, and he can purchase new items and set out again. If he found one part of the hammer the first time, he can make different choices the second time and find the other part.

Purchasing items at the beginning of the game.

The game offers the same thing, but with one crucial difference: if you make your luck roll, you escape the hill people, but you lose your backpack and all but 5 gold pieces in the process. This forces you to start completely over, in a position worse than a character starting the game from scratch. Why change the one thing that partly redeemed the linear nature of the book?

Explain how this is "lucky."

Like The Citadel of Chaos, the game has you start by rolling skill, stamina, and luck statistics. Where Citadel has you select from a list of spells, Forest has you purchase a variety of magic items from a shopping list given to you by the wizard Yaztromo. It consists of things like a Potion of Plant Control, a Ring of Light, garlic buds, and an Armband of Strength. Each item works once and most of them are necessary for solving various puzzles. After you make your selections, you make your first decision about whether to go west or east.

My character sheet in the midst of one of my attempts.

The first talisman is one move to the west, one to the north, and a decision to investigate a hut. The hut turns out to be occupied by a witch who tries to knock you out with some herbs. If you don't have a Headband of Concentration, you get knocked out and wake up outside with none of your food, having lost the opportunity to get the talisman. If you do have the Headband, you survive the knock-out drugs, but the witch's servant hurls a chair at you and you have to make a luck roll. If you fail, you get knocked out, lose your food, and miss your chance at the talisman. Only by having the headband and making the luck roll is it possible to win the game.

Finally, where the book gives you clues like "If you have the Headband of Concentration, go to Page 73," you get no such help from the game. Unlike The Citadel of Chaos, where the player had to choose to use the right spell at the right time, in Forest, the game automatically employs the appropriate item if the player has it. Thus, if you don't have the right item when you need it, you don't even know what the right item is.

The other talisman-based encounters are a bit easier, but in general, The Forest of Doom is a lot more punishing than The Citadel of Chaos, but even weirder, The Forest of Doom game is a lot more punishing than The Forest of Doom book. What makes me a little angry is that it doesn't have to be this way. The Forest of Doom could have been a fun game. The encounters are more interesting and less goofy than Citadel, with a couple of mini-dungeons to explore, some creative enemies, a few actual role-playing choices, and a lot more combats. It would have been nice if you didn't have to skip 3/4 of them on the one path that weaves through the four talisman encounters.

A "moral" role-playing option. Of course, if you go to help, you end up getting an item stolen from your backpack.

I do, however, feel compelled to undermine my argument with one possibility. I said that the game, if you make your luck roll, dumps you back at the beginning with only 5 gold pieces. I'm 95% sure that the game also returns the talismans, if you found any, to their original locations. However, there's a weird encounter with a group of bandits right before the endgame. It's weird because a) you can skip it by paying them 7 gold pieces, a paltry sum by that point in the game; and b) if you choose to fight, it's a relatively difficult fight with five consecutive enemies, but it results in almost no reward: two measly gold pieces. Part of me wonders if the bandits don't turn out to have any talismans you might have lost in the last game. I can't check because I can't get the game to work if I'm returned to the beginning. It gets stuck on a continuous "loading" screen.

If you manage to make it to Stonebridge with all of the talismans, the dwarves take you to their king, who shows the runes to his people and speaks about their forthcoming victory over the trolls. He gives the reader a gold winged helmet and a silver box with dozens of jewels and gems.

It is slightly refreshing to find a game in which my only goal is to become wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.

A full GIMLET is hardly necessary, as it's the same game engine as The Citadel of Chaos and you can read my scores there. I'd maybe given this one a single extra point for "encounters and foes" and reverse the "magic and combat" and "equipment" scores I gave to Citadel, since this game has no magic but does have a slightly more advanced equipment system.

If you're interested in more about the plot of the game, I've given three detailed summaries below. The first is what happens if you always choose the first option; the second is what happens if you always choose the last option; the third is a full walkthrough for the game. There are some other gamebook derivations in 1984, but I'll wait to experience them, as I'm a bit burned out by the sub-genre. Next up we'll have some more Tunnels & Trolls.


Always choosing the first option

Went left at a crossroads. Helped a guy free his leg from a bear trap, but he turned out to be a thief who stole all my gold [I could have chosen a random item instead]. Kept going, saw a goblin sitting on a log tossing a rune to himself. Attacked immediately. Goblin turned out to be a shapechanger with relatively high stats. Defeated him in combat and found that the rune was part of the illusion. Ate some mushrooms on the ground and found my skill and luck swapped [but they were the same to begin with, so no big deal]. Sat in a chair to rest; turned out to be a Chair of Life Draining, and lost 4 stamina points and a meal. Attacked by a wild boar. Killed it with no injury to myself. Took a gold ring from his nose, which automatically translated to 10 gold pieces. Gained a luck point from this, but was already at maximum.

Went north at a junction. Reached the bank of a river near a waterfall. Walked down to base of waterfall. Couldn't see through sheet of water; took a chance and walked through it. Found myself in a cavern, where I was attacked by a fish man. Killed him without taking injury. Found nothing of value and left.

Camped behind some rocks. Awakened by a growl at night; attacked by werewolf. Killed him with loss of 2 stamina. Slept rest of the night, collected my belongings, and left. Went north at a junction. Fell into a bear trap with a wooden stake. Had to test my luck. Was lucky; missed stake but still fell to bottom at loss of 2 stamina. Used boots of leaping to get out (this happened automatically; I didn't have to choose it like I did for the spells in Citadel of Chaos). Came upon a rock with a sword sicking out of it and tried to pull it free. Passed skill test; got enchanted sword.

Went west at a junction before Stonebridge. Reached a hut by a pond; investigated, found it uninhabited. A vase on the porch rattled and was filled with an "eerie blackness." Dropped it on the ground, which released an earth elemental that caused an earthquake and destroyed the house; I lost 2 stamina and 3 luck. Kept walking into forest. Encountered a "catwoman" and fought her, killing her with no loss of stamina. Collected gold studs from her ears, bringing my gold piece total up to 20.

Found dwarf sitting on the side of the road. Struck up a conversation. He turned out to be Trumble, a dwarf from a village competing with Stonebridge, searching for the runes himself. This caused me to lose 1 luck point. Chose to attack him. Killed him with no loss of stamina (my high initial score plus the enchanted sword were doing a good job here). Found a corked bottle in his backpack. Drank it; turned out to be a health potion and I got 3 stamina back.

Heard stomping through the forest. Bravely faced it, and found myself fighting a forest giant. Killed it with no loss of stamina. Found brass lantern on his body. Rubbed it and a genie apeared. I told him of my quest, and he told me to search the giant's boot. I found a bronze talisman and got 1 luck point back. My inventory was full and I had to leave something behind, so I left the garlic buds, assuming that if I met a vampire, the holy water I was still carrying would do the trick.

Further down the path, attacked by "death hawks." Killed them with no loss of stamina. Found a silver band on one of the hawks' legs that said "death awaits you"; left it behind. Found lair of large creature and saw something glittering; investigated more closely. Attacked by wyvern. Failed luck test, was hit by blast of fire, lost 4 stamina points. Killed it in combat with loss of 2 stamina. Ate a meal to get some back. Found a gauntlet, a gold ring, and 10 gold pieces in his lair. Tried on gauntlet; turned out to be Gauntlet of Weapon Skill. But I didn't want to leave another item behind and my skill was already pretty good, so I left it.

The last encounter of the game is completely unnecessary.
Kept walking. Accosted by three men and a woman who demanded 7 gold or three objects. I gave them 7 gold. Continuing on, I reached Stonebridge, having failed the quest with only one talisman. Made choice to circle back around to Yaztromo. Attacked by hill men on the way back. Lost everything and ended up worse off than if I started a new game.


Always choosing the last option:

Went east at initial crossroads. Found a talking crow atop a signpost; he wanted a gold piece for his advice, but I ignored him and kept going east. Came to trees bearing strange fruit but declined to eat them. Later, heard voices in the trees but ignored them. Then heard growling in trees but ignored that, too. Went west at a crossroads and north at the next one. Attacked by pygmies with blowpipes. Passed 2 luck tests and neither hit me. Pygmies ran away and I declined to give chase.

Attacked by swarm of bees and decided to fight rather than jump into water. Killed them with loss of 2 stamina. Reached bank of a river and decided to cross it by swimming and holding my backpack above the water. Crossed safely. Camped, attacked by three wolves in the night. Killed them with no loss of stamina. Collected gold-studded collar from one of them.

Came upon a hut but kept walking. Also ignored a boulder rocking back and forth. Went east at a split. Ignored a friar who was heading my way. Ignored building covered with ivy. Ignored wyvern's lair (the first time I came upon something from the first track). Assailed by bandits; refused to give them anything and killed them with loss of 4 stamina. Bandits had nothing but 2 gold pieces on them.

Arrived at Stonebridge having failed with no runes.


Game walkthrough:

During character creation, prioritize luck, as you'll need to make an initial luck roll in witch's hut. Skill is important but not as important, since all enemies will have a much lower stamina total than you, and eventually you'll wear them down no matter how bad your skill. There are also plenty of ways to restore stamina and find items that improve your skill. If you roll a skill of 10 or higher, you'll breeze through the game.

At Yaztromo's, take the Headband of Concentration, fire capsules, Potion of Plant Control, Ring of Light, Rope of Climbing, and the Net of Entanglement. Leave yourself at least 3 gold pieces and 2 empty inventory spaces. Buy a healing potion if you want to hedge your bets.

The most crucial decision in the game.
Go west at the first intersection, then north. Look through the window of the hut. Enter and draw your sword immediately. The old woman will try to knock you out with some herbal chloroform, but your Headband of Concentration will save you. Her servant will toss a wooden chair at your head and you'll face your first luck test. If you fail and get knocked unconscious, start the game over because you can't win at this point.

Assuming you pass and the witch flees, search the hut. Pick up the book under the table and receive Talisman #1, a luck point restored, and the Eye of Amber (which you won't need).

At the intersection, put your hand in the hole if you don't mind losing a stamina point in exchange for a magic helmet that gives you an extra strength point in combat.

Go east at the junction. You'll get attacked by a treeman and lose 1 stamina, but your fire capsules will save you. East at the next junction, then east again. You'll automatically go north. You get attacked by tangleweed, but your Potion of Plant Control takes care of it.

At the river, start a conversation with the centaur and give up the 3 gold pieces to get across the river. Attacking him accomplishes nothing and trying to cross on your own means you lose 1 provision.

You camp and are attacked in the night by a giant spider. Nothing to do but fight it. With a skill of 7, the worst that happens is you're evenly matched (or +1 if you got the helmet).

The next morning, go east along the new path and enter the cave. You'll find a sleeping cave troll with a leather bag nearby. Try to creep up and take the bag. If you fail the luck test, the Net of Entanglement will take care of him. Otherwise, get out and find the Rune Talisman #2 and a small brass bell; it's a quest item for a friar, but you won't be meeting him if you want to win the game.

West at the next junction, then west again. Ignore the well unless you want to explore a little side dungeon where you can fight some gremlins and get some treasure (it doesn't hurt anything but doesn't help, either). If you do that, you'll eventually return out of the same well. Keep going west until you can go north.

You'll come to a mud pool. Don't toss a coin in or you lose 1 luck. If you've taken any wounds, rub some mud on them for 4 stamina points healing. Continue. You'll get attacked by a pterodactyl, with no choice but to fight him. His skill is 7, so at worst you're evenly matched.

Follow the arrow when you're finished with the bird, and you'll reach a cave entrance. Your Ring of Light will disappear here as you use it for illumination.  You'll find a medallion worth 5 gold pieces. Next, your Rope of Climbing fulfills its destiny to get you safely into the cave. Climb down.

At the first tunnel intersection, the safest option is to eat the (you may get some screwed up text here; it doesn't seem to hurt anything) green-topped fungus. It will restore 4 stamina points if you need it. Attacking the workers reveals that they're clones of some sort and gets you nothing. The red-topped fungus is poison.

Continue on to the first alcove. Look inside the barrel for a magic shield that will give you +1 to attacks. Open the wooden chest for 8 gold pieces, Rune Talisman #3, and a point of luck. If somehow  you've taken a lot of damage in combats and your stamina is low, this would be a good time to eat some food to restore it.

Keep climbing (the only option) and ignore the next alcove; it has an unnecessary battle with 4 clone warriors that gives you nothing. At the top of the stairs, you're attacked by a fire demon with a flaming sword. He has a skill of 10, making him pretty tough, but even if you started low, you should have an effective skill of 9 by now, and you have far more stamina.

Once you've killed the fire demon, don't put the crown on your head or sit on the throne. It leads to one of the only "bad" endings where you become the new king of the clone warriors. Instead, climb out the roof.

One of the few scripted "bad" endings to the game.
Head east the next time you can make a choice. You'll find a gold piece and get 1 luck point if you need it. The dwarf that you encounter next is an enemy, from a rival clan, also searching for the Rune Talismans, but he doesn't have any. Starting a conversation with him will cost you 1 luck point, although you learn his story. Attacking him (either immediately or after the conversation) will give you a health potion that restores 3 stamina; if your skill is low enough that you actually NEED it, you'll probably lose more than that fighting him in the first place. The safer option is just to shove him off the log and keep going.

I love how there's no option to just walk past him. You either have to kill him or shove him off the log, but you can't just keep on walking.
You'll reach a couple of junctions where you have no choices. When you hear the heavy footsteps coming, don't hide; face the enemy, who turns out to be a forest giant. Fight him (he has a skill of 9; at worst, if you got the loot above, you should be evenly matched). When he's dead, make sure you rub the lantern--it's the only way to win. A genie will come out and tell you to search the giant's boot, giving you a luck point and Rune Talisman #4.

Next, you'll have an unavoidable fight with 3 "death hawks" with laughably low skill, especially since it's the last necessary combat in the game.

You come next to a clearing next to a wyvern's lair. You can investigate the lair if you want--you'll have to pass a skill check to avoid his fire breath, then defeat him (Skill 10) in combat. When you kill him, take the gauntlets--they add anther point of strength in combat--but don't put on the ring; it's a Ring of Weakness. Anyway, you don't need the extra combat help, so you can just keep going.

In the last encounter of the game, you're confronted by four bandits who demand 7 gold pieces or three items from your backpack. Unless you want to fight them (four in a row, at Skill 8) for role-playing reasons, it's easier just to hand over the money, which you have plenty of. Either way, after the encounter you proceed to Stonebridge for the endgame text and reward.


Further reading: We've explored the connection between CRPGs and gamebooks in one, two, three postings about Tunnels & Trolls: Crusaders of Khazan. I just blogged about the earlier Fighting Fantasy gamebook adapted to the computer: The Citadel of Chaos.


  1. I think the biggest issue these sorts of children's entertainment have is that they were cranked out by adults who didn't really care. They had deadlines to meet, things to do, and who cares if a work for kids is crap or not? Nobody who matters will ever read it.

    All they're doing anyway is latching onto a bandwagon. The D&D fantasy thing is huge, there's a lot of room for copycats and inferior products. Once it was shoved out the door nobody ever thought of it again until it came time to get a couple extra bucks with a computer game version.

    There was a lot of this drek in the 80s and I played a lot of these. I systematically missed out on tons of stuff that I know now are classics. I heard about them, saw magazine ads and reviews, maybe even saw someone playing, but I always ended up with what I recognize now as quickly-produced junk.

  2. "Have you been to this location before? If so, turn to entry 59; if not, turn to entry 123."

    This becomes an oft-used tool in the later, less linear books.

    1. Oft-used? I only know of one book, Scorpion Swamp, that included branches like this in any relevant amount, and to the best of my knowledge it remained the only one. The later entries from Steve Jackson (the "other" Steve Jackson) also follow the traditional structure, although they still allow for vastly different routes, alternate solutions for various problems and so on. But the "Fabled Lands" series do this excessively, to the point of including checkboxes in the books so you could keep track of where you'd been. Well, the producers of these computer versions would probably have you track those checkboxes offline and then choose the corresponding paragraphs on your own...

      I never really liked "Forest", by the way. Simple structure, nondescript encounters with no real relation to each other (the mushroom cave being one of few exceptions), no sense of advancement. It's just over suddenly. Next game, please.

    2. There was a great series called "Fabled lands" which were not only non-linear, you can pretty much choose your own goals (trade, explore etc.). With them you ticked a box at certain points and if you visit them again, you go to different pages or skip paragraphs. Its quite effective and it makes it even stranger that they havent used somethiung similiar here.

      (And another noteworthy thing: Each book covered a land in the Fabled lands" if you intended to cross a border it said something along the lines: "If you go there, please read Book 2 paragraph 10)...

    3. Fabled Lands was pretty much a basic computer game - sort of thing you could make easily with Twine or something now - in book form, with the codewords the players where told to write down after encounters serving as the "flags" that let it remember what you had done in previous encounters. It works pretty well, not only do your actions alter specific areas, but it lets you bump into characters you have met earlier in other locations and have them remember you and things.
      There's a javascript adaptation of all the books that got published availible, which has the blessing of the original authors, which is pretty neat -
      It keeps track of the dozens and dozens of codewords and things for you, which probably makes it a lot more fun to play - I never had these particular gamebooks as a kid, but imagine keeping track of everything would have been a serious headache. Definetly worth a look though, it's a fun read and an interesting look at how far gamebooks where pushing the limits of the format to try to keep up with computer games
      - Bobbledog

    4. Yeah. Fabled Lands java app is mindbogglingly huge as it combines a few books together and you can go back and forth each location.

      It would've been better if it remembers them automatically instead of having you to still click on the pages though.

  3. These books were unforgiving, but if your parents didn't buy you an NES, they helped to pass the time well enough. It's unfortunate that it was these early-in-the-series books that got adapted, as the authors were still tinkering with the playability formula and later entries were more sophisticated in their mechanics ... if not necessarily any more forgiving. (Inkle has been having a good run with Steve Jackson's Sorcery! books, though they have admittedly added a great deal to them.)

    Both Citadel of Chaos and Forest of Doom have been adapted into mobile gamebook apps by modern developers (Big Blue Bubble and Tin Man Games in 2010 and 2013, respectively) -- it would be interesting for you to compare and contrast the digital adaptations and see what lessons the adaptors have and haven't learned in the three decades since these original conversions came out.

    I don't recall your mentioning in the entries -- these adaptations were released for the ZX Spectrum and the C64... I presume you were playing the latter version?

    1. If you look at the summary at the top, you'll see that Commodore 64 is in bold text (indicating that's the version he played). It's easy to miss slightly subtle things like that, though.

    2. The app store wanted like $6.00 for the FF titles. I'm not usually very cheap, but it seemed a bit of a ripoff for a "game" of such limited playability. Judging by the screenshots, it's still the same linear gameplay, with all the text intact, but with nice graphics accompanying each encounter.

      Yes, I played the C64 version. MobyGames has screenshots from the ZX version, and it seems to be identical except for the opening screenshot.

    3. It depends on how you conceive of the gamebooks, a bit. $6 is too much for a game that could have been in done fairly easily in Twine; it's fairly close, though, to the cost of an ebook of equivalent length (though quality of writing may differ greatly.)

    4. " It's unfortunate that it was these early-in-the-series books that got adapted, as the authors were still tinkering with the playability formula and later entries were more sophisticated in their mechanics ..."

      Only a few of the Fighting Fantasy line where actually written by Jackson and Livingstone - despite them all having their names on the front covers. The actual authors had their names hidden away inside. Most of the good ones - and there are some really good ones, in terms of using the format well and in writing and ideas - where by other writers. All the more recent reprints, and computer games spin offs, have been only of the Jackson and Livingstone written works - wether for reasons of copyright or profit or pride I couldn't say.

    5. Aha, I skipped past the header information and went straight to the juicy prose paragraphs. Mea culpa.

      SPOILER WARNING: Firetop Mountain aside (which has been adapted many, many times, almost always in a non-gamebook format for some reason), most of the updates (barring, as earlier noted, Inkle) indeed offer a distinctly 1982-vintage play experience with updated bells and whistles. (Considering that it would have cost ~$5 to buy the book new at the time, $6 doesn't seem too usurious, but I appreciate the notion that 30 years ought to deflate the cost of a play experience somewhat. But all that turd polish don't come cheap!)

      Bobble, you make a good point. I gather typically the contracts only cover a first printing or a few years and are then subject to renegotiation, and only the big names have the clout to still have the renegotiated contract fee be worthwhile. (Or it could be vanity and feuds: when RA Montgomery relaunched the Choose Your Own Adventure line under ChooseCo, it was notably heavy on his own weird tales and conspicuously light on the books by Edward Packard who only invented the format!)

    6. Actually, every darn game in that era were unforgiving. Anybody ever beaten Wizardry or Rogue in the first week of playing/ever? Anybody ever won Smoking Gun or Gradius 1 on the NES on their first try/ever?

      That said, in those days, before Gameboy and smartphones, the only mobile digital entertainment we have are Game & Watch and Casio Handhelds. Else, you are left with analogue ones like board games and game books.

      If you were, like me, a sad sack of socially inept organic mass mildly resembling a human being, no one's gonna play board games with you (other than fellow sad sacks) when you could be out gallivanting and doing what cool kids do.

      So, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books are your best friend on the road.

    7. Tin Man Games usually discounts older titles when a new FF game comes out. The adaptations are quite good and also add maps to the games (this is very convinient for forest of doom).

      Big Blue Bubble versions aren't legally available anymore though, so you would have to search around to find them, and i don't think they were only released for iOS (so jailbreak is mandatory).

  4. The local council changed its name to greenwood forest as forest of doom was too insulting to the shapeshifers and hill people. It used to be called forest of certain death so they really used to complain back then.

    1. Yaztromo tried to block both name changes as they were bad for business.

    2. IMHO, Forest of Doom sounds like a tourist trap. The last tourist is still trapped in there since 3 decades ago.

  5. "it's a quest item for a friar, but you won't be meeting him if you want to win the game."

    Man, so much terrible game design. It hurts. :(

  6. Not necessarily. The general idea at the time was that the reader should not be able to solve the book on the first try; if he did so, not only was there no sense of accomplishment, but also the book hat lost its entertainment value far too quickly (as it was "solved"), right? Therefore, those minor accomplishments were introduced to mask wrong paths as possible true paths. Who would deviate from a way where you were obviously accomplishing things?

    In "Citadel", there are two items with which you can bypass the Ganjees, an inevitable encounter right before the bad boss. However, one of them is just such a mask for a wrong path, as you can only acquire it by missing another section which contains vital information. While this possibly does not qualify as "good" game design, I'd say that, rather than "bad", the more appropriate opposite is "evil" here...

    (And it's not like adventures, probably the more closer related genre anyway, were much more forgiving at the time.)

  7. Wow... I was on Steam and... there's actually new version of this?

    1. It's the same engine that's on the iOS and Droid versions. It's still just a gamebook, but with nice graphics and animated dice rolls and such. It has a certain retro kitsch value, but I don't understand why you'd play something like this on a computer instead of a real RPG.

    2. There are many reasons to play this instead of an RPG. For starters, it takes much less time, and that's one of the reasons that i barely play RPG's anymore.

      Besides, i guess these games/books might be better compared to the stuff Telltale does nowadays, since they're barely RPG's.

    3. I thought Telltale only does Adventure games? Anyway, I agree with both of you.

      If I want to have something light, I'd play Lone Wolf (the kick-ass remastered version also on Steam) or one of the Fighting Fantasy games.

      If I have at least half a day to spare, I'd jump into a full-blown CRPG for my kicks.

    4. Well, Telltale games are about choices and (sort of) consequences...

    5. Aside from a couple of poker games, Telltale has only ever made adventure games and interactive movies. None of their games resemble RPGs in the slightest.

    6. I compared their games to CYOA/FF books, not RPG's.

    7. Whoops, that you did. Apologies for the mistake.

  8. The Fighting Fantasy gamebooks were also translated into German as "Abenteuer Spielb├╝cher" (Adventure Game Books). I had about twenty of them -- unfortunately I sold all but one about ten years ago. The one I didn't sell is "Forbidden Forest".

    I recently played it with my six-year old son, and he loved it :) He also got quite lucky on the first play, rolling high stats and finding many items that increased his skill. We had to do the forest three times before we found the second hammer part, but we actually didn't have to cheat.

    And I, too, enjoyed it for the nice encounters, although it really is unfair in that it often punishes "good" actions, like freeing a tortured man. I really liked the possibility to replay a different path when you fail. And I liked the whole weird and large "magic mushroom cave" bit which is completely unnecessary to win.

    So I'll have to defend these game books a bit -- yeah, they could have been done better, they are horribly unfair at times, but these were the eighties and back then I was happy about every little bit of interactive fantaay. And my six-year old still is. (Of course, he'll be spoilt by computers soon, I already introduced him to "Rogue" and "Ultima I" :)

    But yeah, there's really not much sense in adapting it "faithully" to the computer.

    Speaking of which, I was highly irritated by your "right path", evading all hammer pieces, until I read on and realized they changed the main quest -- which makes no sense at all. Especially when just adding the possibility to freely explore the map would make a decent little text adventure.

    Chester, I really love your blog. I don't follow it regularly, but in times of depression, reading it is one of the very few things that gives me a little joy and helps me get through. I especially value your humor and your humanism that shines through. You're a great person, and I wish you and Irene all the very best for ever :) Thanks a lot.

    1. That's very kind of you. Thank you for continuing to read and comment.


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