Red Fox, £4.99, ISBN 0-09-998420-2
We are seventeen gamebooks into the Lone Wolf series, which says a lot about The Deathlord of Ixia that it ranks among one of the toughest gamebooks in the whole series. The Deathlord sits at the same table as Zakhan Kimah and the Chaos-master when it comes to villains that make you feel like tearing your hair out in frustration.
Okay, as Lone Wolf, you have protected the world from having to face the resurrection of Darklord Vashna, but Lord Rimoah, your unofficial slavemaster, tells you of dire news at the start of this campaign. The powerful Deathstaff wielded by the villain in the previous gamebook somehow ends up in the undead claws of the Deathlord of Ixia. The Deathstaff has freed him from his prison-tomb (he was imprisoned by the Elder Magi thousands of years ago) and now he is poised to unleash his legions of undead monsters upon the world. Of course, the Elder Magi can’t come along with you – they have to fertilize their gardens or something – so you are once again on your own in a quest to save the world.
The Deathlord of Ixia is definitely not meant for newcomers to this series, because even with all stats maxed out, a veteran Lone Wolf player will struggle against the Deathlord himself. In a campaign where random mooks have Combat Skill points above 40 and the legions of undead are immune to all forms of psychic attack, this campaign eats newcomers for free.
This campaign also sees you pulling off some dishonorable, if practical, stunts, like hiding while your crew get slaughtered by undead fiends. For Sommerlund and Kai! Meanwhile, despite having saved the world at least ten times over, you are still so easily “shocked”, “awed”, and “stunned” by what you see. Joe Dever’s pedestrian writing style is really showing here. My favorite line in the entire gamebook has to be this one on Section 347:
However, when you come to within a few hundred feet of them, your presence is revealed by the aura of goodly light your body radiates on this plane of existence.
Eat your heart out, Edward Cullen!
Also, the number of times you are asked whether you have Kai-alchemy will make you wonder whether Banedon will be more suited for this mission, heh. (Seriously, is Magi-magic, like Lord Rimoah, utterly useless or what?) But all that pales when you meet the Deathlord himself. His Combat Skill is a charming 60.
The Deathlord of Ixia has a charming zombies-gone-steampunk vibe and atmosphere, but the lackluster prose, linear campaign, dubious reliance of a handful of core Grand Master Disciplines at the exclusion of many other skills, and overblown difficulty prevent this one from being anything more than average.