1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 September 2012
In 'Armies of Death' you adopt the role of a nameless hero who having escaped the terrors of Deathtrap Dungeon and won the Trial of Champions (both nods by the author to previous successful books of the Fighting Fantasy series) uses the fortune in gold you have amassed in order to assemble an army to destroy Agglax the Shadow Demon and his forces of the undead which threaten the land of Allansia.
You set off from you home along with your forces of warriors, dwarfs, elves and knights, the remains of your fortune (a mere 700 gold coins), provisions and weapons, with the aim of recruiting additional warriors willing to fight for your cause or some other means to destroy the dread Demon.
Whilst Armies of Death utilises the typical dice based combat system of the majority of the books in the series, and the attributes of SKILL, which represents your ability to injure opponants, overcome obsticles, anticipate threats and avoid traps, STAMINA, which reflects your ability to endure damage, and LUCK, which represents your good (or bad) fortune; the book also introduces elements of resource management by the way of gold - which is used to acquire weapons, artifacts, guidence or advice - and troops, which you use to engage in large scale battles against the forces of the Shadow Deamon.
The book rewards exploration, curiosity and risk taking. You can ignore or bypass potential diversions - elect not to enter a ramshackle pet shop, the mysterious cave or an isolated cabin - but there is usually a point to such locations and a substantial hidden reward that will assist in your quest to destroy the evil threatening the lands if you brave the tasks located within, be it a useful item, a magical weapon or even just a peice of sage advice from a wise man. Additionally, the book rewards the reader for emersing themselves in the role and acting how you would expect a would-be world saviour to behave. Acts of bravery, inspiration and tolerance will be rewarded where as selfishness, greed and ignorance rarely will be.
As for criticisms, the book presents the reader with the same irresistable paths to instant death that most of the books in the series do, capitalising on the typical role playing fans incapacity to ignore or leave any item behind. Kill a Goblin and get offered the opportunity to take and wear his necklace and I would call you a liar if you suggested to me that you would refuse such a tantalising opportunity to take a potentially crucial item in your quest and instead leave it behind. So yes, you WILL take every single item the book offers you, and whilst sometimes that item might prove important and useful more often than not it will simply reanimate in the light of the full moon and kill you! Never mind though as this is why god invented fingers so that you could mark all of the necessary pages in order to back track on your bad decisions! Equally though it is often the case that a mundane, apparantly useless of somewhat too-expensive item might work out to be the key to your quest.
The story of Armies of Death isnt the equal of some of the greats in the Fighting Fantasy series, such as Deathtrap Dungeon, Sword of the Samurai or Appointment with F.E.A.R, but its solid and entertaining enough and fans of the gamebooks shouldnt find themselves dissappointed by the experience.
on 28 October 2012
Although other Fighting Fantasy books sometimes give you allies or a small crew to interact and fight alongside, this is the only one of the series where you are given an entire army to control (I'm not sure if this has occurred in any other gamebook series either???). This single reason makes it one of the most original adventures and, as such, one of the more enjoyable as you are doing something quite different to normal.
However, the 'big battle' the whole book builds towards doesn't occur until the latter stages. Any combat your troops might get involved with until this time are minor 'skirmishs' involving a combat system more basic than the standard one-on-one combat. It is when you reach the final battle that this book comes into its own. The battle, rather than just relying on chancy dice rolls, involves the reader in making strategic decisions. Tactics must be applied in response to the ebb and flow of the battle making the reader actually feel like the general. The varieties of troops, although they have some influence, don't play a massive role, most just making up the numbers. But there are a few speciality warriors and individuals that you can recruit that tend to be incredibly useful.
The bulk of the book is concerned with amassing troops and useful items on your way to confront Agglax's army. Much of this results in typical Ian Livingstone elements and scenarios. The adventure runs almost as a greatest hits of the author. There are plenty of references to Fang and the Trial of the Champions, the city of Zengis is reminiscent of Port Blacksand (written in a similar manner), the Star Stone caves function as a miniture Deathtrap Dungeon, the popular Shapechanger first introduced in 'Forest of Doom' makes an appearance and there is a mention of Yaztromo from the same adventure. All this is filled with quality writing and characterisation and adds to the fun on the way to the climax.
Agglax is perhaps not the most impressive of leading villains but he isn't bad. The most intriguing thing about him is the fact that he turns out to be working for Sith. This adds to the threatening renown of this Demon Prince that never actually appears but lurks behind the machinations of several events in the FF world (see 'Curse of the Mummy' and 'Tower of Destruction' for good examples of this).
This adventure also stands out from others of the series ('Sorcery' not included) because it is the only one where you potentially play the same character you might have played in a previous book. As a sequel to 'Trial of the Champions' it might well be intended that you play the same adventurer even though this is never clearly defined. If this was the author's intention it is the only time we see what life is like for an adventurer after completing some life-changing quest.
This is a great adventure the plays on all Ian Livingstone's strengths whilst also offering one of his most original additions to the format. There should be enough here to interest and entertain any gamebook fan.
on 26 July 2011
A direct successor to TRIAL OF CHAMPIONS, in this ARMIES OF DEATH gamebook you hire an army of Warriors, Dwarves, Elves and Knights with your prize money, to defeat the amassing undead army of Agglax the Shadow Demon.
This gamebook by Ian Livingstone, originally published in 1988, expands the standard Fighting Fantasy rules with the inclusion of Skirmish Rules for army combat, which is quick and exciting. Beautifully illustrated by Nik Williams and with 400 paragraphs, this is a first class adventure, partially due to the fact you are leading an army rather than adventuring solo. Well written and with plenty of combat (both solo and large scale), this excellent gamebook is well worth a read!
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2005
Basically, your mission in this game book is to personally lead an army of soldiers on a crusade to crush an evil sorcerer-warlord on the loose called Agglax, the Shadow Demon!
As in the typical Ian Livingstone fashion, you need several items to complete this book, so the path to victory is extremely thin. In fact, in some instances you have to go against your instincts to be victorious.
As you travel through the various cities, you realize that everything is important. In addition to finding more soldiers, you also need to pick up several items that are necessary later on in the story.
All in all, its very good. There are some really clever ideas in the book. Nik Williams' illustrations are very good and bring a lot to the story. The passages are well written and there's lots of fighting.
on 1 May 2011
This one is bad. I started it today and it's just so badly written, I can't help but think Ian Livingstone was too bored to do another one. The descriptive language is merely functional, with little or no finnesse and it seems that some of the choices are designed to 'trick' long time fans of the series. The 'skirmish' battle system is rubbish, and consists of merely rolling a single die and consulting a chart. I can't even be bothered to finish it. Reading it feels like a chore.