Puffin Books, £3.99, ISBN 0-14-034947-2
Siege of Sardath takes you to the densely forested regions of Grimmund and Sardath, in the shadow of Freezeblood Mountains. The Forest of Night separates Grimmund, your home town, from the nearest town of Sardath.
Well, as it turns out, the Forest of Night is literally cutting off Grimmund from Sardath in this campaign as travelers are attacked by Giant Spiders and other horrific monsters. The Council is thinking of burning down the Forest of Night, but because you are a tree-hugging ranger that have clearly been spending too much time with Elves, you angrily shout down the suggestion. Burning down the Forest will destroy the balance of nature! You will venture alone into the Forest, therefore, to locate the source of the problems. No doubt, the others will pray that you get eaten by Giant Spiders. As part of the balance, of course.
In this one, since you are a ranger, you get to use a bow but you can only have a maximum of 6 arrows. Oh joy, maybe that’s part of keeping the balance too. But apart from this, the gameplay system is typical of that of the Fighting Fantasy series.
Siege of Sardath is an interesting campaign, that is pretty obvious. Mr Phillips’s treatment of Dwarves, Elves, and Dark Elves is far more imaginative than Ian Livingstone’s, for example, and this campaign is full of memorable characters and interesting scenarios. Unfortunately, this campaign is basically pitting you against Mr Phillips. Your character is supposed to be a skilled ranger, but you have no skills or even clues as to the correct decisions to take in any particular situation. In other words, you could have easily been a Dwarven drunkard or a tree-humping Elven serial bunny killer, it doesn’t matter the least. You have to collect things, note down numbers associated with those things, and pray that those things are vital when you’re not trying to figure out puzzles and mazes that seem more random than anything else. In other words, you have to figure out the correct script set by Mr Phillips by making random decisions until you finally stumble upon the right path.
The premise is there and there is ample promise as well in Siege of Sardath. A little more meticulous planning in the campaign design would have helped deliver that promise.