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Scorpion Swamp: Fighting Fantasy Gamebook 8 (Puffin Adventure Gamebooks) Paperback – 27 Sep 1984
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Hardy adventurer that you are, you haven't ever been known to quail at a little danger. But you're no fool. You've always been far too wise to risk entering the dreaded Scorpion Swamp, infamous for the tangle of treacherous paths which criss-cross its slimy depths. The creatures that live in Scorpion Swamp have given rise to the most nightmarish legends.
But now Scorpion Swamp holds out the lure of treasure and glory - and the choice of serving three wizards, each with a mission. YOU cannot resist the challenge!
Two dice, a pencil and an eraser are all you need to embark on this thrilling adventure of sword and sorcery, complete with its elaborate combat system and a score sheet to record your gains and losses. Many dangers lie ahead and your success is by no means certain. Powerful adversaries are ranged against you and often your only choice is to kill or be killed!
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To sum up, I appreciate the flaws with this particular entry but please give it a go and enjoy it as an alternativel to the others. It may be flawed in its execution but it is never dull. And you can't say that of Starship Troopers.
It is more Dungeons and Dragons orientated in that your character can choose to complete three different missions within the swamp; a choice of good, neutral or evil. If you serve 'good' then you seek a magical plant within the swamp, the neutral misson involves traversing and mapping a route through the swamp and if you opt for the path of evil you seek several magical amulets. This is a very different approach to what came before. It has the huge advantage that you get three adventures in one book, meaning good value for money. Although this sounds good the reality is that your missions rarely change what happens within the swamp and most of the adventure is quite similar with only the start and end being particularly different.
This adventure also utilises magic. It is a reasonable system and works quite well. It's main advantage being that it is different to any use of magic elsewhere in the series because the spells are divided into good, evil and neutral categories. What quest you select decides what spell categories you can choose to use from.
'Scorpion Swamp' was also innovative by having a fully open plan adventure (it still probably remains the least linear). The ability to travel entirely which direction you want and to re-visit locations gives the reader a lot of freedom. Sometimes this works very well but often it means you will end up returning to a clearing with some corpses and nothing to do there. That can get a little tedious.
Most of your opponents are creatures you might expect to find in a swamp but the author has done a good job of making them as varied as possible. There is no main villain and few of your opponents are that challenging statistically. The only exception being a demon that you might meet outside the swamp if you're very unlucky. There is a good selection of wizards though and they too are either of good,evil or neutral orientation. One of the best bits of the book is that they react differently depending upon your disposition.
One of the biggest problems with this book is that it is far too easy. Most readers will probably complete it first time. There is little difference of difficulty between the missions either. It might have been better if one was much harder to provide a bit more game play.
It's a reasonable adventure that has tried a few new things, none of which have been completely successful, but have fared okay. It is quite enjoyable to start with but soon becomes very tedious if you complete all three missions. There is a lacking in atmosphere and it doesn't quite draw the reader fully into its world. This is more to dip into rather than become immersed in.
(side note: At time of writing this review the Amazon picture of the cover has IAN HOFFER written on it in black felt tip pen. Ok, whatever. Back to the review)
Unlike in almost all other FF books, Scorpion Swamp employs a mechanism whereby you can retrace your steps. This is great because I hated the feeling of being railroaded down one path just because of a single arbitary turn-left/turn-right decision earlier on. Unfortunately the layout is a big grid. You go from clearing to clearing, all of which a somewhat the same just with different stuff in.
Another innovation in this one is that you can have one of three missions based around one of three sorcerers, one good, one evil and one neutral. You get magic gems which allow you to cast spells and the choice of spells depends on the wizard. Nice.
I found it pretty easy to win which was a refreshing change from the previous books.
I didn't like the artwork. Really not up to the standard of others in the series.