Red Fox, £4.99, ISBN 0-09-944460-7
The Kingdoms of Terror is the sixth gamebook in the Lone Wolf series but it is also the first gamebook in the new phase of the series. You see, in the previous gamebook Shadow on the Sand, you as Lone Wolf had discovered the Book of the Magnakai, which allows you to learn long-lost secrets of the Kai Order and therefore lets you access to knowledge that will allow you to better yourself and rejuvenate the Kai Order. You are now no longer a Kai Warrior, you are a Magnakai Warrior.
And yes, there is a difference, heh, although the differences tend to be quite cosmetic in nature. You are now given access to a whole new set of Magnakai skills, which are actually upgraded versions of the old Kai skills with new names. However, you start out picking only three out of the ten new Magnakai skills available, which can make the campaign a pretty tough one depending on your skill selection. If you are pragmatic and realize that you will be encountering people in urban areas as opposed to monsters in the wilderness, you may opt to pick related useful Magnakai skills instead of survival-based ones, but take note that you will need some combat-based skills to obtain some very good Special Items that will be useful in this as well as later adventures. So have fun picking!
There are also Lore Circles of the Magnakai, which are groupings of several related Magnakai skills. If you manage to pick all the skills in a Lore Circle, you get some additional bonuses to your Combat Skill and Endurance Points as well as additional boosts to the skills in the Lore Circles. Cool, huh? Also, you now can use a bow and if you have Weaponmastery to go along with the bow, things can get really sweet in ranged combat.
Naturally, the boost in your Magnakai skills also mean that the enemies here get a boost in their stats as well. From this gamebook onward, you have to really consider whether you want to take the Sommerswerd with you, if you have it, because from this point onward, that sword can be a liability as well as an advantage.
Apart from all these things, the game system remains the same.
Now, the plot. In the three years since you discovered the Book of the Magnakai, a temporary peace has descended as the Darklords war among themselves, each wanting to be the new leader of them all. You have managed to learn what you can from the Book, hence your new Magnakai skills, but you realize that you now need to recover seven Lorestones, long-lost magical gems containing “great power and wisdom”. While no explanation is given as to how these Lorestones are lost in the first place – history is littered with careless people, alas – you know that there are seven of them out there and you need to locate them all.
In The Kingdoms of Terror, you seek the Lorestone of Varetta. Varetta is a city that lies in the heart of the Stornlands, a name given to the principalities and city-states that are constantly warring with each other just south of Sommerlund. This campaign is very interesting in that it is nothing more than a series of encounters that are barely related as you make your way down from Quarlen to, eventually, your final destination. There is hardly any big final boss here. The combat encounters aren’t too tough, although you should be aware that there are some wonderful Special Items here, like the Silver Bow of Duadon, that are pretty tough to obtain unless you just happen to have all the correct skills and bonus-conferring Special Items with you (or you sort of cheat a little and replay the gamebook with all the correct skills and Special Items after you have worked out how to meet the conditions to obtain these items, heh).
No, what makes The Kingdoms of Terror an excellent gamebook is the storytelling element. The world building is superb, as is the illusion of non-linearity offered by the campaign. From the sights to the sounds, every scene comes to life here. While I’m not a fan of Joe Dever’s prose, he manages to put everything together here excellently. From the arguing mercenaries in Quarlen to the dramatic encounters with the deceptively weak Roark of Amory to an amusing but potentially fatal encounter with a taxidermist, there are plenty of places to explore and interesting people to meet. This makes The Kingdoms of Terror a pretty good gamebook to replay several times until you decide on the perfect combination of three Magnakai skills you wish to pick and carry on in subsequent adventures.
The five oogies here therefore come with a caveat. If you enjoy story elements as well as combat elements, then you may agree with my final score of this gamebook. Otherwise, subtract one oogie. Still, you won’t be missing out on this one if you are a fan of this series, will you?