on 19 November 2010
Well, I'm almost to the end of my second playthrough. So what do I think?
First, the good! and lots of it, too!
On the technical side of things, the adventure is extremely well written, descriptive and makes little effort to cater for 'dumb kids' as so many books (and TV for that matter) aimed at young audiences do these days. Instead it treats the younger reader as they should be treated - like young, educated adults. Green writes with confidence and with a clear focus on the bigger picture. As for the adventure itself, well, if like me you love Fighting Fantasy to death you still won't have played anything quite like this before.
Most Fighting Fantasy books stop when you die.
This is where Night of the Necromancer begins.
*Be warned, there are some spoilers ahead!*
The adventure starts off with you dying after returning from a three year crusade, and then rising from your body as an ethereal spirit, seeking answers and revenge on your callous killers! Unlike I have read in some other reviews, I disagree that Jon Green is so keen to show off all his ideas he throws them at you all at once. In fact, I found quite the opposite - some of the coolest stuff in the adventure is kept from you for ages, some until about half way through and some nearly until the end! One thing you will find out straight away is that it is very hard for you to actually 'die' in the book, as of course you are already dead. For every combat and STAMINA reducing situation, there is an instruction to turn to paragraph 100 whilst noting down a specific paragraph number for later. Paragraph 100 begins your journey to the afterlife, and your attempted escape from it. Every time you get here, you become a little bit closer to ultimate death - sort of like having 'lives' in a computer game. when you return, you go to the section number you noted down as instructed at the time of your death. It must have been a real headache to figure it all out, but it really does give players weak on initial scores a chance to succeed, or at least see more of the adventure. Seriously, I marvelled at the sheer work that must have gone into all the permutations to get it right and bug free, which so far in my reading it has been.
**BIGGER SPOILERS! OK?**
Much later on, you may arrive (depending on your choices) at situations where you more or less come to a dead end. During these times, you can - with a successful roll of the dice - call upon hitherto unmentioned 'powers' that manifest themselves as long as you are in spirit form. For example, the ability to walk through solid objects such as closed doors, the ability to float and fly around, sometimes covering immense distances. Once you've successfully called on this ability once, you note it on your adventure sheet and can use it at will. But there is one trick left up your sleeve that Green makes you wait an eternity for (although the adventure sheet does somewhat give it away). You can take control of physical bodies, sometimes dead and sometimes not so dead! This of course throws up all kinds of permutations in gameplay, as you can do things that you can't as a ghost and likewise any spirit abilities you have cannot be used whilst you have a host body. It is testament to Green's dedication to writing this adventure that this (with the help of using codewords you write down - a Jon Green staple) all appears to work flawlessly, and must have taken some serious play testing to get right.
And now, on to the bad stuff:
At times, the writing can be a little over descriptive. I love atmospheric writing, but it does feel as though some of this atmosphere has been shoe-horned in because the author liked a particular phrase, yet couldn't quite make it fit comfortably into the text.
The only other downside to the adventure is that it is hub-driven, which reduces replayability because you can pretty much go anywhere you please in one playthrough. By hub-driven, I mean this: A village called Sleath you visit early on has you standing in the village square (the hub). From here you can visit five different places, returning to the town square after each one to choose to visit another. Both the inner and outer sections of Castle Valsinore, where the majority of the action takes place, are written in exactly the same style. some of the places are good, some of them are bad. After one full playthrough you'll know which is which and never visit the bad ones again. This seriously hampers replayability, as you will essentially be reading the same straight forward 'book' over and over again, which is the opposite of what Fighting Fantasy is all about.
Anyway, allow me to stop waffling and summarise!
Fighting Fantasy Fans: This adventure is like no other that you have played. It really offers something unique, more so than Green's epic masterpiece 'Howl of the Werewolf'. It is solidly written and has something that a lot of gamebooks lack: A genuinely gripping story. you really do want to get through and find out what the heck is going on, and why you are dead! It also benefits from all of the author's excellent and unique ideas mentioned above.
First Timers: If this is your first foray into gamebooks and into Fighting Fantasy in particular, I'd still have to recommend Howl of the Werewolf or one of the early classics over this one. It's that different in terms of gameplay, abilities, stat tracking and rule-sets. Once you've got a couple under your belt, return to here and see just how far the formula can be taken.
Everyone: You're in for an incredible ride where you not only cheat death, but where you benefit from it too! The story is gripping, the way the Fighting Fantasy formula is used is inspiring and the whole experience is unique to the series. If this was the last Fighting Fantasy book ever written, we would be ending on a high. Jonathan Green's second best book after Howl of the Werewolf, and one of the best Fighting Fantasy adventures ever written. Just leave it a year before you play it again ;)
on 29 October 2012
This is a strong addition to the Fighting Fantasy series. It is one of the darkest and most intriguing of the range. This is mainly because you spend the adventure dead. It is a breathtakingly original idea for a gamebook which makes it stand out from those before it. Even so there are obvious connotations with 'Black Vein Prophecy' where, although alive, you start the adventure from inside your sarcophagus.
This is an unusual adventure as your initial quest is a murder investigation in which you were the victim. The task of finding clues and information means the storyline is gradually revealed at just the right pace. This slow reveal to what has happened is reminiscent of 'Black Vein Prophecy' and 'Creature of Havoc' but is done significantly different to either.
Many of Jonathon Green's adventures are focussed upon a particular theme; ie, elementalism, lycanthropy, demonology, pirates, Egyptology. This time he focuses on necromancy. It is applied in a unique way though as it is your character that must learn the ghastly magic of the undead. The abilities and skills you can learn make for a very varied and enjoyable adventure. The ability to travel intangibly through walls, for example, makes quite a change to how you usually investigate a castle.
It is a difficult adventure but there are several paths to eventual victory, convoluted as they are. It is a dark, gothic read with an uncomfortable feel to it that draws in the reader. It is drenched in atmosphere, continually dark, misty and eerie. The uncertainty in what you are and what you can do adds to this.
Perhaps not quite as well written as 'Howl of the Werewolf', there is enough uniqueness to make this adventure stand out.
on 31 March 2010
Jon Green is now an established name in the Gamebook community. An author of no mean competence, he has (amongst other achievements) produced some celebrated titles in the long-running Fighting Fantasy series.
Night of the Necromancer is a tale that centres around the bloodthirsty murder of a proud knight in the kingdom of Ruddlestone. Slain upon returning from a crusade, the adventure concerns his spirit's quest for vengeance, determined to learn who ordered his death and to exact a fitting revenge upon them. It soon becomes obvious, however, that his own death is the least of his concerns...
Green's device of placing the adventurer as a Ghost is decidedly novel, and adds rather than detracts from the quest's theme. It is an excellent premise, combining acquired skills (the ability to control objects in much the same way as a Poltergeist, for instance) with solid storytelling - making for a creative tale with a great deal of reader/player involvement.
Green is also keen to strike a balance between appealing to older and younger audiences. This doesn't suggest that he is unsure of who to aim the book at, but indicates his capability as a writer to craft a work so as to be of interest to a broad spectrum. As a result, Night of the Necromancer is a book that can easily be enjoyed by teenagers and adults alike - the common element required for all generations is an imagination!
As a result, at this bargain price, Night of the Necromancer is certainly worth consideration, both to Fighting Fantasy fans and also anyone curious of the gamebook concept. Whether it is your first or just one of many, this volume doesn't disappoint.
on 17 May 2010
Night of the Necromancer is the latest Fighting Fantasy Gamebook by Jonathan Green who has written a few others. You play a soldier returning from a crusade who is murdered on his way home. So as a ghost you need to solve your own murder. The game is set in one night searching for the one who ordered you killed!
As you progress as a ghost you gain certain skills like 'Poltergeist' - moving objects by shear will, 'Shade' - being able to become invisible when the locals don't want to see a ghost appearing in front of them and 'Spirit' - the ability to fly. There are other skills and with them you can progress through the game.
Green as always in his books loves his Codewords. They are tags or markers in the story, spelt backwards, to indicate you have achieved something. I always find he relies on them to heavily and it starts to get boring.
However, the plot as usual is complicated and it will take quite a few attempts to solve the gamebook.
A good solid plot with a unique angle gives this book an added boost and becomes a good addition to the series.
on 22 June 2010
Night of the Necromancer is an exciting experience with the original and creative twist of becoming a ghost from the start of the book. Being a ghost opens up the option to learn ghost abilities, which can create hilarious situations, but being a ghost is not just advantages, since you of course also share the limitations of ghost. I generally love when one is put in the shoes of something completely different than normal, and experiencing this quest through the eyes of a ghost gives a unique experience, that should not be missed.
Personally I loved the riddle challenges that one can experience, and it is a great feeling when you reason out the correct answer. The fact that death wasn't necessarily the end (since that you are already dead), meant that I had very little frustration, and so I find that the experience is not hold back by the difficulty. This is not to say that it is without challenge, as when you die as a ghost, you only get the chance to get back into the real world, and there aren't unlimited "continues".
Overall, I would highly recommend Night of the Necromancer, well worth the purchase.