by Joe Dever, fantasy (1988)
Red Fox, £4.99, ISBN 0-09-951400-1
This is it. The Masters Of Darkness, the final book in the Magnakai phase of the Lone Wolf series, sees the final showdown between you and your archnemesis, Darklord Gnaag. As the twelfth gamebook in this series, this one is best played in order instead of as a standalone campaign, mostly because the bonuses you get after playing the previous gamebooks will benefit you considerably here.
After your triumph in the Daziarn in the previous campaign, The Prisoners Of Time, you return to Magnamund via the Shadow Gate of Toran. You find yourself face to face with your old friends, Banedon and Lord Rimoah, who proceed to welcome you and tell you of dire news.
You see, eight years have passed in Magnamund since you fell through the Shadow Gate of Torgar into the Daziarn. Emboldened and inspired by your "death", Darklord Gnaag has since then intensified the assault on the other lands of Magnamund. In the past, Darklords cannot breathe in clean air, so they can only exist in the polluted wastelands of the Darklands. This severe limitation on their mobility is lifted when Gnaag unveils his greatest creation - devices called Tanoz-tukor that allow the Darklords to venture beyond the borders of their lands and personally lead their armies. These devices are all linked to a powerful machine called the Transfusor located in Helgedad, the capital city of the Darklands.
Your mission, therefore, is to find your way to Helgedad and destroy the Transfusor by detonating it using a Crystal Explosive devised by the Elder Magi. A ship will take you to Aarnak, a coastal city in the Darklands, where a spy for the good guys, the Slavemaster, will liaise with you and arrange for your safe passage to Helgedad. It sounds like a good plan, but as you can imagine, everything that can go wrong does go wrong - spectacularly - leaving you stranded on the shores of the Darklands thousands of miles from Aarnak. Oh boy.
The Masters Of Darkness is a pretty linear campaign, but it also affords enough flexibility to allow you to have some degree of options when it comes to reaching Helgedad. There will be some epic encounters with enemies to remember, some difficult choices, and some dramatic moments as this campaign plunges you into the dark, sinister, beautiful, and terrifying nightmare steampunk lands of evil. The end result is a thing of beauty: a campaign with excellent storytelling elements and great build-up to the grand confrontation with Darklord Gnaag. From scurrying for your safety and the sense of helplessness you will feel during your initial excursions in the Darklands to the breathless excitement when you come so close to snatching victory from the fly-like trap of Darklord Gnaag, the whole campaign plays out like an epic saga for the ages. The replay value isn't much considering the linear nature of the campaign, but you'd most likely want to visit this one again a few more times, if only to savor just how good this campaign is.
The Masters Of Darkness is easily the best gamebook in the series up to this point. It's a worthy conclusion to a great epic saga of a series, truly a remarkable one for all purposes. You don't have to play any more Lone Wolf gamebooks after this one, because it is really that fabulous.
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