The Crimson Tide by Paul Mason

Posted February 3, 2013 by Mrs Giggles in 2 Oogies, Gamebook Reviews, Series: Fighting Fantasy / 2 Comments

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The Crimson Tide by Paul Mason

The Crimson Tide by Paul Mason

Puffin Books, £3.99, ISBN 0-14-034555-8
Fantasy, 1992

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Hold the time of the month jokes, folks. We’re all grown-ups here, no? The Crimson Tide takes place a few years after the events in Black Vein Prophecy. You play a different character, by the way. This time around, Maior, the character you played in Black Vein Prophecy, has become the new ruler of the Isles of the Dawn, but things are far from fine. You should know. You are a 13-year old kid who see mercenaries kill your father and drag your mother along with other villages to be slaves of the new king. You may be a simple farmer, but now you want to avenge your father and rescue your mother.

Yes, you’ve read right: you start out as a 13-year old kid. That means your initial Skill and Stamina scores are terrible (only one die each) but because this campaign spans years, you will get to increase the Stamina score as you become older. The rest of the gameplay system remains unchanged.

The Crimson Tide is a very diverse campaign in the sense that you are given plenty of options as you go along. Unfortunately, the diversity of options can be deceptive as there are many instant deaths and failures in this one. Because you start with low stats and the author doesn’t take that into consideration when creating stats for the villains and monsters, you are going to have a really tough time even against random mooks especially early in the campaign. It doesn’t help that your Skill score will remain low throughout the campaign. This gamebook is considered one of the toughest in the Fighting Fantasy series for a good reason.

The payoff isn’t really worth the effort you have to put in this one. It is disheartening enough to know that Maior turns out to be a weak ruler after all the effort you’ve put into Black Vein Prophecy, but here, there are not enough memorable scenes to make it worth the pain of playing this campaign. After a while, the combat encounters become tedious, the instant deaths are annoying, and the lack of clear-cut answers dampens the mood.

That’s not to say that The Crimson Tide is boring. It’s actually quite interesting once you get to the happy ending and work backward to figure out the story. The question is, though, whether you should torture yourself with this campaign that makes Jonathan Green look like a benevolent fairy godmother.

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Mrs Giggles

Woke based diva at Hot Sauce Reviews
Loves boys that sparkle, unicorns, money, Lego, chocolates, tasty buffets, video game music, and fantastical stories.

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2 Responses to “The Crimson Tide by Paul Mason”

  1. Finding the hidden reference number in this book is damn tough. I suppose you don’t need to have completed the clue to figure out what the “another option” is when the moment comes. I think completing this clue is Paul Mason’s way testing the player’s preparedness. To form the clue you need to have achieved several things around the Isles of the Dawn. I have a certain respect for this idea, it’s different, but it could be better. The Crimson Tide of course follows on from Black Vein Prophecy, which I agree is a “4 oogie book” at least. I think Paul Mason again created an adventure that was different from the FF norm(he did Black Vein Prophecy with Steven Williams), but not quite as good. I think I’d give it 3 oogies(or 3 stars if you’ve trademarked the oogies), but I think it’s fair to say that the book isn’t for everyone.

  2. For all the faults in their works, I think authors like Paul Mason, Stephen Hand, etc were needed in the series because they took risks and kept the genre from going too formulaic and stale. One issue that the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks never get right often, I feel, is to balance difficulty with entertainment. Either it’s too difficult without cheating or having a spreadsheet or it is too easy.

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