|If you go down to the woods|
Being the third FF book in a combined Wizard/Puffin collection, there's nothing too spectacular within the ruleset here. In fact, the only extra to the original 3 stats is the potion choice returning from Warlock; that of Skill, Stamina or Fortune. It's pretty amazing how Ian and Steve touched upon near-perfection with their first books as far as the the rules were concerned; simple but effective combat coupled with the use of luck made for an easy-to-use and enjoyable gamebook system. Later books dared to expand upon the system and make it more complex, with varying degrees of success, but there can be no denying that the FF system is what made it such a good worldwide seller. My stats for Forest of Doom were my best yet:
Skill 11, Stamina 19 and Luck 12 (FINALLY!!!) With Luck finally for once on my side and a legendary name such as Robert Baden-Powell for my warrior, it was time for the introduction.
|Heck, if this Cat survived a crossbow through the chest,|
a Dwarf of famed high constitution should be able to!
|Surely a contender for the most useless map|
in all history?!?!!?
Realising that the mapping skills of Dwarves leave alot to be desired, Robert treks off to Yaztromo's tower. Some half a day later, he reaches his destination. It is very much of note to point out that the reader can die in as little as 2 paragraphs in Forest of Doom should they be foolish enough to attack Yaztromo. It it also very much of note to point out that I am not foolish enough to do so. That and the memory of my younger self's failures to complete this book, that is! Following Yaz up the stairs, I am reminded that he is one of the few true recurring characters, featuring in most of Ian's books. He is, in every sense of the word, an FF legend. Resisting the temptation to ask him for an autograph, I follow him upstairs and go shopping. With Bigleg's money I make some potentially life-saving purchases:
- Nose Filters
- Rope of Climbing
- Ring of Light
- Potion of Stillness
- Potion of Anti-Poison
- Holy Water
- Armband of Strength
- Fire Capsules
- Garlic Buds
|With this you can fell an Ogre from 10|
paces! All for only 1 GP too, a true bargain!
|Solid advice Horace, much obliged|
I choose the former, winding up at a waterfall. Time to practice my rowing skills. Unfortunately, Robert's chance to win his watersports badge go up in smoke as the boat leaks, ruining all 10 of my provisions. Bugger. I set up camp for the night and start dreaming of that silky brown fox again. Double bugger. Next thing I know a Werewolf arrives and wakes my up asking whether I have some marshmallows he can roast on my fire. Triple bugger. Robert dispatches of the Werewolf but gets bitten on the arm. Without any belladonna, I sweat (quite literally!) on good fortune prevailing to stop me from dying due to this were-bite. Thank Libra my luck score was so high for once! In the morning I trek further north-east as the option to go west is still mysteriously non-existent. Before long good fortune smiles upon me once more as an arrow aimed at me by a Wild Hill Man misses my head by a matter of inches. Seething with anger, I launch myself upon him and his companion. Seriously hacked off, I hack off their arms to teach them a jolly good lesson, and steal their silver key. (Hey, without arms they weren't going to use it anytime soon)
|Always be nice to clergymen, they bite.|
|Don't fuck with holy water,|
especially if you are one of the undead.
Gillibran is suitably grateful for the return of the warhammer and gives me a golden winged helmet worth its weight in gold. I also get a silver box, but unlike the one in the Ogre's cave this box is full of valuable gems and jewels. The book never tells me whether the Dwarves defeat the Trolls, I like to think they did though, otherwise getting this hammer back will have given them all false hope. To be quite honest, I couldn't really give a shit; I just got rich and more importantly, actually COMPLETED an FF book. I seem to remember claiming the day I won an FF book to be a national holiday, but here we have a problem. By the time I finish writing this entry up it shall be the 4th July (Happy independence day to all my American readers) although I actually finished playing this on the 3rd. Therefore, I conclude that both days shall be a national holiday for each of my readers from now on! For once, if you want to play through Forest of Doom yourself my journey through the book shall prove most useful:
That only comes to a grand total of 79 paragraphs, which is less than 25% of the lot. That's the least I've read yet whilst being my only success. I guess there were a few off the beaten track encounters I skipped, but it's interesting to see how few paragraphs can be visited to win. The fights aren't exactly overwhelming either:
Sting Worm - Skill: 8 Stamina: 7
Ogre - Skill: 8 Stamina: 12
Goblin - Skill: 5 Stamina: 4
Werewolf - Skill: 8 Stamina: 9
First Wild Hill Man - Skill: 7 Stamina: 5
Second Wild Hill Man - Skill: 6 Stamina: 4
That Goblin is not the easiest combat in the book either, there's some Gremlins with truly laughable skill scores of 4 and 3 respectively. There are also no encounters with monsters of skill higher than 10, which suggests the early FF books were focused on easy combat. Despite everything you've read so far, the next feature may surprise you...
HOW MUCH FIGHT WAS IN THIS FANTASY?
|This seems like the illustration with the|
most love put into it.
Illustrations: I love the cover featuring the Shapechanger; It looks like a reasonably menacing lizard-esque creature waiting to rip the reader to shreds. The interior drawings vary in quality in my eyes; some look nice and detailed whilst some leave a bit to be desired. The Wyvern doesn't look particularly good and the attention to detail on those Wild Hill Men was also poor. The drawing of the Fire Demon seems badly shaded, although the aforementioned Gremlins look good.The Ogre is also excellent and earns the honour of being my featured illustration. In my eyes there's a real mixed bag here. 5/10.
Monsters/other NPC encounters: Hmm. There are a few NPC meetings here, such as Quin and a not-so-powerful 'wizard' named Arragon. The problem is that none of them are really interesting in any way, offer nothing to the story (although meeting Quin is essential to getting that magical dust) and have no development to their character whatsoever. Even Yaztromo is not particularly interesting in this adventure; credit however is due to introducing him, he does become possibly the most interesting and certainly the most developed NPC within the whole of FF. The monsters on offer are mostly traditional fantasy fare, with no real unique encounters in Darkwood. That's not necessarily a bad thing; everyone loves a good tale featuring Goblins, Trolls and the like, but none of the monsters are presented in an interesting scenario. 6/10.
Storyline/Plot: The Dwarves have a warhammer. They've lost it. They need it to unite themselves in one effort against the Trolls, who we assume they are at war with or something. You couldn't care less about this unless you can earn money out of it. That's about it; you learn what plot there is at the beginning of the adventure and nothing more. None of the encounters along the way develop and expand this plot, which leads to a slightly frustrating story, as there isn't really one. Not every FF book needs a plot, granted, but I feel there could have been more made of the story behind this one. The encounters seem slightly false and forced too just to get the reader to use all their items; Why would a couple of Wild Hill Men own the key to a crypt with a Ghoul inside it?! It's not the best fantasy tale, this. 4/10.
Difficulty: Well, it's my first successful FF venture. That alone doesn't make it easy, although quite frankly I think Forest of Doom is. None of the fights are particularly hard at all and I never even used half the items I bought off Yaztromo at the beginning. There's also very few instant death paragraphs, with the best two being if you foolishly attack Yaztromo right at the beginning and an amusing one where you transform into a Fire Demon! You need that silver key off the Hill men, the dust of levitation off Quin and that's about it. Getting lucky like I did with the choosing of which path to take is obviously helpful, but this isn't the hardest FF by any stretch of the imagination; a few lucky dice rolls in combat and this can easily be done with the lowest initial stats. 4/10.
Seal of Approval: Part of me really wants to invite that Seal back again for Forest of Doom in honour of it being my first FF I completed. To tell the truth though, I didn't really enjoy this one as much as you might expect. The whole book feels disjointed; it doesn't really flow, seemingly being just one random encounter in the forest after another. There's nothing in here that makes you sit back and think 'Wow, that was really awesome!' But then I think that this could be the only FF I ever do complete; how absurd would it be not to have the Seal of Approval in that case?! I think the deciding factor is a decidedly massive flaw with the gameplay in Forest of Doom; namely what happens if you get out of Darkwood without both hammer pieces. If you don't have both parts the Dwarves send you back around the edge of the forest back to Yaztromo's tower, where providing you pass a luck test you make it back alive. Fine, great, you get to go back in and try again, surely that makes it even easier to succeed? But there's a massive problem with the narrative here. Yaztromo has mysteriously forgotten who you are, as have you he. Quin will have forgotten who you are, and will somehow have got his dust back. That Werewolf has resurrected itself.... need I go on? The book doesn't account for the fact you may have come across many of the encounters on your first or maybe even second pass through Darkwood, resetting everything. That is frustrating beyond belief and all I can say is I'm glad I had both pieces first time around; I don't think I could have coped with replaying the same encounters just because I'd missed a hammer piece. For that reason, it is with no real regret that I do not award the seal this time.
|No Seal this time, this guy ate him.|
What Forest of Doom could have done with is what you see above; some real bite to it. Without it, it simply wasn't that great - Sorry Ian! The only recent update in the FF playthrough family features Marsten going berserk and causing havoc, although I would also highly recommend and nudge you all to check out the ever interesting Stuart Lloyd's blog, currently featuring a look at the fine divide between making a Gamebook challenging whilst keeping it fair and interesting to play without getting frustrated by it; Crypt of the Sorcerer I'm looking at you here! The moral learned from Forest is highly important should you require aerial transport anytime soon; Never entrust the movement of your sacred warhammer to an Eagle.
NEXT TIME ON
May Your Stamina Never Fail...
I leave this world far behind and delve into my first FF sci-fi book, attempting to overthrow an evil plot and become the Sky Lord...