on 14 September 2006
This is one of the few truly surreal gamebooks. Its plot â" an adventurer obtains an artefact which contains the entire universe and teleports the player to various random and unusual locations through space and time, pursued by otherworldly demons â" provides a leitmotif connecting a series of scenarios and mini-adventures. Unlike similar attempts (the Lone Wolf Dazhiarn novels come to mind), it really does give a constant feel of otherworldliness â" the scenarios include the player being cast in a chess game, confronting gods on horseback in a world of dreams, visiting a library in limbo populated by bespectacled dragons and practical-joking archivists, reasoning with a âaelogic dogâ, helping the bearer of a talking harp in a world of pig-men, and in theZiggurat World itself, which features a living doorway, insectoid bulls and soldiers who wear black glass to entrap flying centipedes. Other scenarios provide variety with fantasy, horror and sci-fi themes â" a haunted mansion, two different futuristic sci-fi scenarios, an apocalyptic future of the adventurerâ(tm)s own homeworld, an underground cave of elves, a skeleton army and so on. Some of the scenarios contain tricky puzzles and some interesting reflections on the nature of belief and the effects of scientific reasoning on the world (one character literally disenchants magic items).
Itâ(tm)s a clever book, genuinely non-linear and very replayable owing to the complexity, diversity and depth of the scenarios. Typically the rewards of the scenarios have to be attained by finding a âaegoodâ path through to the end, as opposed to simply surviving or escaping. Many of the situations are intriguing and have numerous non-lethal outcomes, leaving the player wanting to return to each particular world to find out where s/he went wrong.
My biggest criticism with the book as it stands is that it can be finished successfully with very little gameplay (a player with good stats can beam straight to the Ziggurat World and bypass the world-hopping entirely, and still win). The maze â" the most challenging aspect â" is inessential to completion and itâ(tm)s nearly impossible to attain its benefits, rendering it superfluous. Because the choice of âaeworldsâ depends on luck (even/odd rolls), the attempt to collect all seven portents is pretty much doomed. The book is intriguing enough that I wanted to replay and explore it even after âaebeatingâ it, but I feel it would have been even better had the world options been chosen and the maze section necessary for completion.
This is still one of the best Fighting Fantasy books in my opinion, a truly immersive gaming/reading experience which keeps the reader coming back for more.
on 17 February 2013
The main strength of this Fighting Fantasy adventure is the originality of its concept. There is no other book in the FF series quite like it. The reader embarks upon a mission to flee through the space/time multiverse in an effort to protect a magical sphere from the eponymous spectral stalkers. In reality this isn't as exciting as it might sound. It often means that the reader jumps from world to world and scenario to scenario with no real method. The episodes feel very disjointed and thus the storyline becomes a weak linking of random events. In essence the plot is little more than the common 'find the evil wizard and kill him'.
Many of the scenarios you can encounter are varied with intriguing premises and interesting characters. Quite often it feels as though various encounters are too short and that places could be visited for longer. It seems a shame that some good ideas and situations are so brief. Although there is a fair amount of variance between places that can be visited they do seem to be predominantly fantasy based and much is still set in various time periods of Khul. Due to the different areas there is definitely much scope for re-reading.
Unfortunately the book is very easy and no matter how you teleport around you should still be able to complete the adventure. It is even to miss out most stuff and take a short route almost directly to the end. This lack of challenge does limit how much you may wish to revisit the adventure.
Even though there are many interesting and enjoyable characters to meet they only feature very briefly and the main villain, Globus, fails to stand out from any game book wizard.
This adventure relies on its concept rather than a strong storyline. It can be exciting and is often well written and atmospheric. There are some imaginative ideas but there is a lack of the cohesion and involvement that characterise some of the best gamebooks.
on 15 September 1999
This book was a very good read. It compares with the early ff books such as Citadel, Warlock, Creature of Havoc, Trial of Champions.
Using a slightly different format, using the 'Aleph' you travel to different worlds, picking up relevent items whilst running from the Stalkers.
If you like the FF books get this one.