by Ian Livingstone, fantasy (2003, reissue)
Wizard Books, £4.99, ISBN 1-84046-429-1
Forest Of Doom is different from the previous two "Slay A Sorcerer In A Creepy Castle" books in the series in that this one sees you, the hero, wandering around a supposedly deadly forest this time around. The plot is very simple: you stumble upon a dying dwarf, Bigleg, who manages to tell you of a dire plot before he croaks.
The dwarves of Stonebridge have lost their famed warhammer, and because of this... well, apparently the loss of the warhammer prevents their leader from marshaling the dwarves to repel some invading enemy horde. Those dwarves are quite the miserable lot, aren't they? Sitting around not doing anything just because a lousy warhammer is missing? Still, it is the thankless lot of the hero to help people, even those stupid ones, so you are now going to locate the warhammer. It isn't easy - the warhammer was stolen by an eagle belonging to an enemy dwarven clan, but the eagle was shot down by two goblins who proceeded to separate the warhammer into two. So yes, now you need to locate the handle and the head of the warhammer. Have fun!
Despite the presence of many, many trees all around the place, this is definitely a dungeon crawl, and one that doesn't make much sense at that. For a supposed creepy danger-infested forest, Darkwood Forest is surprisingly populated by random people who typically do not have any business being there. For example, why has a young man set up shop in there, waiting for people to arm wrestle him? Do people generally walk through Darkwood Forest daily? And then we have the monsters, which are so ridiculously named that I don't know whether to laugh or cringe. The author tags "Man" after everything, so we have Tree Men (really), Fish Men, and what have you running all over the place. Unlike in later books, there is no credible ecosystem here. The whole setting is just a patchwork of combat encounters with little attempt made to incorporate them into a coherent storyline. Some of the scenarios, like the one with the Fire Demon and the fungi, could have been interesting if the author has made some attempt to give me some background information. Instead, this is just some brainless hack, hack, slash, slash campaign.
Design-wise, there is nothing really too hard here, with the toughest challenge being having the patience to wander around in this hack-and-slash lackluster campaign to locate the two parts of the warhammer. Also, if you fail to locate one or even both parts, you are given the choice to start again. However, there is no attempt made by the author to deal with continuity. Does this mean that enemies that were killed previously will remain dead? Logically, this will be the case, but then again, this is a gamebook, so one can never know.
On the bright side, the illustrator Malcolm Barter must be commended for giving the monsters, humans or otherwise, pretty realistically depicted pubic hair. I've never seen anything else like his illustrations in other gamebooks in this series.
Forest Of Doom is an unsophisticated, brainless, and forgettable campaign. You may derive some fun here, but I doubt you will remember much of the campaign once it's over and done with.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
Search for more reviews of works by this author: