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4.1 out of 5 stars15
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 9 August 2012
So after a long gap we finally have another new Fighting Fantasy book, this one with a novel premise... in theory. A zombie horror survival fighting fantasy book does sound interesting doesn't it? Moving carefully through the city, scavenging for supplies and trying to avoid unnecessary combat. Sounds fun, right? Sadly that is not this book.
After starting with a superficially unusual premise (your a mythology student on earth, walking the globe (goodness knows where a student would get the money for that....) trying to find real monsters) you find someone captured and trapped in a dungeon by the usual crazed, evil megalomaniac who is trying to raise a zombie army to take over the world (Of course!). You get out of the dungeon and start exploring the castle, raiding every room you can for items, and fighting off zombies you come across. And if that still sounds different to a normal Ian Livingstone book in theory, it sadly isn't in practice. You pass through many right/left corridors (at least unlike the awful Eye of The Dragon you are often hinted at a difference between them, though often you will have to pick blind), go into various rooms, loot it for every item you can (with the usual this item will be used once to get another item and if you miss out on one of many items, you are going to die somewhere down the line), and fight off any zombies you come across. And you do this again, and again and again.
It might have been interesting if you had to play the risk/reward aspect, trying to avoid as many zombies as you can, while getting as many useful items as you can, but you HAVE TO kill EVERY Zombie in the book or you will get a bad ending at the end of it. If you miss even one, he'll find where you live and zombify everyone. And theirs over 200 zombies in the book (though at least divided into various sized groups), scattered in various places, some that would be fairly stupid to enter in a normal Fighting fantasy novel. Adding to the annoyance, aside from the right left thing the book is very, very linear, making multiple playthroughs extremely repetitive. You WILL explore the same rooms and sections ad Nausem, until you get up to the bit where you died, and get just a little bit further. It does not help that there is an awful lot of trial and error in this book, with several sources of damage that are hard to avoid if you don't know there coming, and a few instant depths scattered around (though at least less ridiculous ones than Cyrpt of the Sorcerer or such), which doesn't help when you are expected to search everywhere or miss out on a vital zombie or item, causing you to lose the book later, or get to the end and find out you wern't able to get all the zombies and thus you die horribly, and your quest was a waste of time.
These two things make the book quite crushing to playthrough, and after a few attempts it will soon feel like a chore. Left,right, grab, stab oh I died, guess i better do the same thing again but go left at the next junction instead. The linearity also means that a given path will be long, but given the structure of this book will have little variety.
The writing of this book is fairly standard for the series, but extremely drab. The descriptions are minimal but do not evoke any feeling or much atmosphere. Its very much not what I would expect from the man who wrote Return to Firetop Mountain, and its going to seem especially dull if you read it after Night of the Necromancer, which was a much better book in just about every area. Frankly considering his experience and the better writing in his other books, I wonder if he just didn't put his heart into this one, or if its a very very old book he wrote shortly after Eye of the Dragon (it shows an evolution over Eye of the Dragon, but doesn't compare favorably to most of his other works, either in writing or gameplay).
Combat tries to be innovative, and while its novel for a little bit, it soon becomes, very, very, very repetitive, samey and fairly mindless. Their is no Skill or Luck stat, the only stat you role is Stamina. This is good in the sense this book doesn't need a skill of 10-12 to have a hope of beating it or that you can die because one luck test went wrong, but it does diminish the variety of the book. Your weapon deals a certain amount of damage,1d6-2 for the dinky pocket knife you find early early on, 1d6 for most melee weapons, 1d6+2 for a pistol and ammo, and 1d6+5 for the lovable Boom Stick (aka shotgun). You need to find ammo to use the guns, but thats very easy to get in several places, and once you ammo the book assumes you have an unlimited quantity of it.
While choosing to walk right and left, and raiding everything that isn't nailed down (and some things that are), every so often you will run into a group of zombies and have to fight it out. To do so you just roll your damage, kill that many zombies, then the remaining zombies deal 1 stamina damage to you, and you roll again, possibly killing them all. You will have to do this A LOT, and if you miss even one small group of zombie, or the odd zombie hiding in odd places YOU LOSE THE BOOK. Also given the books structure, no matter how smart you are, you will die a lot by trial and error and have to keep doing these fights again and again and again.... and it will very soon stop being fun. Its also quite easy to die by luck, even if you find the best weapons, and if you die by luck, back to the beginning and get ready to go through the gauntlet all over again!
As you can see my biggest problems with this book is that its immensely repetitive, and all the faults and niggles synergise to make a much worse experience. The trial and error gameplay is confounded by the linearty of the book, meaning you will and walk the same rigid path again and agains, broken up by repetitive combat against similar foes(this book has next to no human enemies, and very few "exotic" zombies to spice things up) again and again. And you will have to do all those fights each you lose by luck, trial and error or a simple human mistake. And you WILL notice the bland writing on every attempt.

Overall this book isn't flat out awful, but I find it very hard to recommend, unless you have read and adored his other books, and you have read Night of the Necromancer, Howl of the Werewolf or Storm Slayer, all of which are a good deal better than this book. I'd say I'd recommend this if you like Ian Livingstone books, but this really isn't one of his best. Return to Firetop moutain was frustrating and had similar trial and error elements, but was a lot more engaging than this book and had far more interesting encounters. So I guess I can only recommend it if you can't find anything better (in the new series or old series), and have either read better fanmade books like Outsider or Midnight Deep, or are bothered that you can't read those on the move. If you like zombies and horror, Island of the Undead does it much better(though in a fantasy setting), and even that book isn't considered a masterpiece. I guess if you have the hunger for a Livingstone book and your standard aren't too high it WILL fill it but not much more... although at least its better than Eye of the Dragon.

Edit: To people downvoting this or insisting it deserves 4 or 5 stars, what scale are you using? Would you honestly give this book the same amount of stars as Legend of the Shadow Warriors or Moonrunner? Or Citadel of Choas? Is this book even as good as 3 star fighting fantasy books?

Edit 2: Stormslayer and Island of the Undead (which feels like this book, if it was a bit better) are my baseline for a 3 star FF book. It is not as good as those, and by a long shot, but distinctly better than my baselines for a 1 star ff book (Space Assassin, Eye of the Dragon and Star Strider)
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on 22 August 2012
Ian Livingstone was always the master at the plot where the hero must infiltrate the dungeon/fortress/castle, etc and slay the evil wizard/sorcerer/demon, etc. I was never much impressed with his efforts in the past to stray from this . Thus when I heard that his thirty anniversary book was to involve zombies in the modern day I was sadly dissappointed (what! no Allansia, Old World or Khul). Despite my initial prejudice, and obvious flaws with the book, I found, to my pleasant surprise that I quite enjoyed it.

The main problem with Blood of the Zombies is that it doesn't really feel like a Fighting Fantasy adventure, despite a few fan indulgent references that are a little amusing. This is mainly because Ian Livingstone has dropped one of the greatest of strengths of FF - the fantasic combat system that made FF stand out from its competitors in the 1980s. Instead we are offered a very basic system based entirely on the roll of the dice (I was unfortunate enough to roll two consecutive double ones and went instantly from perfectly healthy to dead). This is the only thing that makes the adventure difficult. It is certainly not challenging on the brain and the path through the castle is relatively simple (and a little dull). Dice rolls aside, you should be able to complete this relatively easily.

The book also feels more like a computer game adaption (most likely due to Ian Livingstone's later career) than the other FF adventures. It also has far too much unnecessary equipment which is a pain to keep writing down every attempt at completing the book.

Despite the above criticisms though this book is somehow quite enjoyable and a welcome addition to the series of FF adventures. Its much better than Eye of the Dragon (Ian's previous and quite shoddy effort a few years ago) and is quite acceptable as an anniversary special and an effort at trying something a little different.
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on 2 April 2016
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on 6 August 2012
I bought this out of nostalgia - I'm old enough to have played the original FF books when they first came out. This is just as good as I remember, and even has a few features that have improved. Firstly you don't need dice - the pages have random pictures of two dice at the bottom of each page so you can just riffle the pages to get the dice rolls you need. Secondly, zombie combat is simple, meaning less note taking.

The plot is great and the action is super - you wake up chained up in a Zombie infested castle, needing to escape and kill as many zombies as you can.

BIG BIG thing though - there are spaces on the adventure sheet to record your battles, and particularly the total quantity of zombies you have killed. Don't ignore need to count your zombie kills and if you don't do it, you're going to be frustrated come the end of the book. For this reason i gave it four rather than five stars....

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on 12 August 2012
This return to the FF world was great fun - but with much of the frustrations of some of the earlier books.

If you have never played them then they are great fun for teenagers and will make it easier for them to get into reading in an enjoyable way. If you like Zombies and role play then this may be for you, although there are notable mentions for a couple of alternative books released before B.O.T.Z - firstly 'How to survive the Zombie Apocalypse' by Max Brailler - no dice play and written in a tongue in cheek 'laddish' way (not enough choices though) and also Risen: The Zombie Survival Game by Craig Earl. This was a much more mature effort and included the dice play and much more interesting moral choices to make.

All in all, these three books all offer something to the genre and in an age where video games rule they are a good option to get back into books!
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on 2 January 2015
So I dithered over buying this. For ages. And ages. I wasn't sure about the almost entirely non-FF ruleset. I wasn't sure about yet another zombie thing. But...

...I was completely and utterly wrong. This is one of the finest gamebooks I've read in years. Now, I was playing the Android version, rather than reading the book, but the story's the same so this review is valid. The book is fast paced and challenging (there are a number of instant death scenarios, and some one-wrong-decision will kill you later). Ian's writing is really top notch and the artwork is absolutely splendid.

I completed it on two attempts, not bad at all really. Several hours of fun each go.

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on 27 March 2016
very loved item
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on 19 August 2012
after so much waiting, it's a hudge deception that book. the adventure sheet filled with a single statistic ...
The castle is described so terrible, the heros is very quickly lost in the endless corridors which straight left or right has no end. In addition it is an OTP (One true path : if you miss a zombie is finished)
More like the Eye of the Dragon (Also one of the worst book) the hero is stuck with a real wheelbarrow objects much only serves to complete the worksheet adventure.

Book to forget. I return to my Howl of the Werewolf, there is a very good book! (Jonathan Green is a the top !)

Where is the Livingston of the marvelous "Island of the Lizard King" or "Deathtrap Dungeon" ? Maybe lost forever ... :(
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on 10 August 2012
I can't believe it's nearly 30 years since I ordered 'The Warlock of Firetop Mountain' via the Puffin Book Club at school and waited what seemed an eternity for it to arrive. It was the first book in the mega-selling Fighting Fantasy series. I wasn't a big reader but these books got me reading and the fifth in the series, City of Thieves, taught me the word 'infamous'. For a series of books that some people felt weren't 'literature', how good was all that for a nine-year-old boy?

While a lot of time has passed since, I've never forgotten the series so when I heard the legendary (round certain circles anyway) Ian Livingstone had written a brand new adventure to celebrate the anniversary, I just had to get a copy. It didn't disappoint - there's plenty in it for an old adventurer like me but the series has also had a bit of a modernisation with a streamlined combat system making it an even more all-action experience than before.

If you're new to Fighting Fantasy, one way to think of it is like having an computer game in a book. The books are written in the second person - you are the hero, you have defeat the monsters, which in this case are zombies... and lots of them. And this book is tough, real tough. I never got anywhere close to finishing first time. But that make getting that bit further the next time all the more satisfying for it. I loved it! So, do yourself a favour and get a copy now. You won't regret it.
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on 8 August 2012
'Blood of the Zombies' celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series, and I must say it couldn't have been better. You play as a student of mythology who is kidnapped and imprisoned within Goraya Castle, home to the insane megalomaniac Gingrich Yurr, who plans to unleash an unstoppable horde of Zombies upon the world. Your mission is to escape from your prison cell and destroy every single last Zombie.

As a gamebook for the present-day, 'Blood of the Zombies' does not use the traditional SKILL and LUCK attributes to determine your character. Instead, you must rely on your STAMINA, using a DAMAGE score to keep track of how many Zombies you kill in every Attack Round. This makes the narrative challenging, as you must be resourceful with the limited number of Med Kits you find scattered throughout the castle, to counter damage dealt by remaining Zombies.

As you progress through the narrative, the numbers of Zombies steadily increase, resulting in a spectacular showdown nearing the end. The puzzles themselves are rather straightforward to solve. You have a diverse arsenal at your disposal to defeat the Zombies, but guns are the best choice. Fortunately, the text specifies you have unlimited ammunition after you find some, so don't worry about running out.

A thrilling adventure from co-founder Ian Livingstone. I recommend any fan of the series to check it out.
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