Red Fox, £4.99, ISBN 0-09-938530-9
The Caverns of Kalte is the third gamebook in the Lone Wolf series, following Fire on the Water. You don’t have to play the gamebooks in order, but it is always fun if you do. This review contains some spoilers for the previous gamebook, however, so do not read further if you want to remain unspoiled.
So, where we left off, you, as Lone Wolf, had destroyed Darklord Zagarna and that useless clown had perished for being so foolish as to stay put outside Holmgard when he could have pursued you and destroyed you himself. Since then, the enemy forces had been driven back to the Darklands and you are slowly rebuilding the Kai Monastery. The rest of Sommerlund too are slowly recovering from the invasion.
A year has passed before Sommerlund receives news that Vonotar, the magician that sold out the Brotherhood of the Crystal Star and allied with the invading horde, had in the recent months fled to the icy wastes of Kalte up north. He had since then brainwashed their Ice Barbarian leader, assumed control, and is currently no doubt plotting something. With vengeance burning in your heart, you volunteer to travel to Kalte, seek a way to infiltrate Ikaya the ice fortress, and bring Vonotar the Traitor to justice.
There is a time limit to the campaign as eventually the ice reaches will spread for the winter and make it impossible for the ship which brought you to Kalte to remain waiting for your return. But don’t worry, the time limit doesn’t really come into play – you don’t have to keep track of the passing of time here. Meanwhile, do try to get your hands on the Kaltesphere because it is the best Special Item you will find in a while that will function both as a torch and a means to start a fire.
For a setting that can be pretty bleak and monotonous as it’s all ice and more ice everywhere you see, The Caverns of Kalte manages to provide you with several routes to get to Ikaya. Having some Special Items do help make your life easier, but there is no one true way to success here. Instead, you will need a combination of luck and items to tough it out to the end. The bestiary is pretty diverse and interesting, and some of the landmarks are pretty memorable, all of which contribute to make this campaign a little more interesting than a typical trek-in-the-icy-waste dungeon romp.
Joe Dever’s depiction of Vonotar the Traitor is worth a mention. I’m struck by how the poor dear is depicted as a wizened hunchbacked old coot while everyone good in this campaign is depicted as good-looking and what not. Could poor Vonotar be merely someone who did what he did because he was suffering from an inferiority complex? Poor darling, maybe all he wanted was someone to love.
The whole campaign passes quickly and I have to say that the whole thing doesn’t stand out as much as, say, the previous gamebook did. It is hard to pinpoint directly why this gamebook doesn’t stand out, because it is a very playable and decent entry into the series. I guess it’s just that there are better gamebooks in this series and this one rests squarely in the middle of the pack.