Top positive review
3 people found this helpful
Straightforward dungeon adventure
on 9 August 2012
The Golden Dragon series are similar to the Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf series, featuring a story/game split into parts, where the player's choices and dice rolls determine the outcome. The main difference from the better-known series is in the combat system, which uses only one statistic, Vigour (Endurance/Stamina). Dice rolls are used to determine combat outcomes, but the outcome is set by the text (e.g. a roll of 2-5 means the monster hits you, 6-12 means you hit the monster). Since the rolls usually favour the player, this is rather like playing a Fighting Fantasy book with a very high Skill score. The gamebook also uses Psi (magic) and Agility scores, which are both rolled at one dice plus three (hence 4-9). Since they are tested with rolls of two dice, rolls are difficult to make about half the time. This doesn't affect the experience much, as rolls of this type are rarely made and usually only to compensate for bad choices.
Like most gamebooks, the story is like a puzzle. The player's success will probably depend on finding the right items. It is easier than most gamebooks I've encountered, for three reasons. Firstly, it doesn't generally rely on luck. It does not require success in difficult combat situations, difficult dice rolls, lucky blind choices or the right selection of which random items to keep. Unlucky choices are usually survivable, and missed items don't generally mean later death. Secondly, most of the choices are surprisingly intuitive. In contrast to many gamebooks, doing the sensible thing usually pays off (with a couple of exceptions). Thirdly, the combat situations are rarely "to the death", and can often be avoided. It is also considerably shorter than most gamebooks, at 300 sections (compared to 350 for Lone Wolf and 400 for Fighting Fantasy). This brevity and simplicity means the gamebook is unlikely to survive more than a few runs at the hands of a seasoned gamebook reader. This said, it's fun to read, with lots of items to collect and some unusual scenarios to negotiate. My main criticism is that the structure is too linear. Most choices lead back fairly quickly onto the main pathway, which limits replay value.
As a story, the narrative is basic but functional; it's a typical dungeon crawl, with nearly all the action taking place in the crypts below the vampire's house. The atmosphere is somewhere between the pervasive creepiness of a horror gamebook and the standard D&D-style fantasy scenario. Many of the adversaries are undead or horror-themed creatures such as bats, witches, zombies and skeletons, but there are also fantasy villains such as a hobgoblin, and many scenarios based on magical illusion or hypnosis. There are also pockets of serenity within the dungeon, the survival of which is really rather mysterious. I feel the vampiric horror atmosphere is more effectively conveyed in Fighting Fantasy: Revenge of the Vampire, which creates more unusual and challenging situations and adversaries while remaining within a horror atmosphere throughout. However, this is a worthwhile gamebook to read/play, particularly as a casual read which will not take weeks to solve.