Sphere Books, $3.99, ISBN 0-722-17910-3
The Renegade Lord is the first gamebook in the Falcon series, and you may also have heard, or played, that very old computer game that was based on this gamebook. Don’t worry, you can be honest with yourself here – we’ll all dinosaurs here and we won’t tell the cool people out there.
It is 3033 AD and the world, of course, is an unpleasant place. Time travel is all the rage, but we can’t have everyone meddling with the past, can we? That’s why we need people like you. You are a recent graduate from the Academy of the Temporal, Investigative and Monitoring Executive (TIME) Special Agents, and your codename is Falcon. You are special, because you are born with the Powers of the Mind. As you may have noticed, in the future people apparently like to use words that begin unnecessarily with capital letters in order to make these words seem special. Anyway, back to your powers – you are an empath who can do that Jean Grey thing and control people with your thoughts. The TIME people give you a Psionic Enhancer to boost your powers and teach you how to attack people with your mind. Oh, and you are a martial arts expert as well. Jean Grey Van Damme – that’s you in a nutshell. Oh, and you’re hot too, as you may learn when you probe the mind of one of the TIME Lords and discovers that he is imagining you in Greek costume…
Now that you have graduated from the Academy with flying colors, it’s time for your first mission. One of the six Lords of TIME has turned rogue and is now using time travel to meddle with the timeline of the planet Kelados. You have to stop this villain, whose identity you do know of yet, before he succeeds in altering the past and screwing up the present as we know it. Yes, the TIME folks are clucking like panicked chicken over what seems like an internal problem, and they send a newbie to clean up the issue. That’s standard procedure, really! With your time machine and your weapons at your side, what can go wrong?
Gameplay is pretty standard and simple, needing only two dice and a pencil to keep track of things in this campaign. You have your standard stats such as Attack Modifier (which helps determine how well you kick someone’s rear end), Evasion (helps you avoid attacks), Endurance, and the mental equivalents of the physical attack and defence modifiers. You will also need to keep track of the alphabets that may be present in the entries you turn to, and they will be converted to numbers later on, so you may want to keep a calculator at hand too. As for combat encounters, it’s the standard rolling of dice, adding or deducting the score based on the relevant modifiers, and doing some subtraction. It’s all pretty basic, the gameplay, so you shouldn’t have problems getting the hang of it even if you are a novice to gamebooks.
This campaign requires you to look into each of the six TIME Lords, and this necessitates traveling into the past and reliving Earth’s more notable historical moments. The plot is very tortuous and convoluted, but it’s tortuous by design rather than due to any ineptness on the authors’ part. The plot is not the strongest one around – tortuous plots rarely are – but the storytelling element is still strong and enjoyable due to memorable, if somewhat stereotypical, secondary characters and a campaign that is centered around logical decision-making instead of hacking and slashing your way to victory. The awkward names and the initial jargons take some getting used to, but the payoff is worth it. The difficulty level is just right – it’s challenging without getting in the way of fun.
All in all, The Renegade Lord is a very entertaining and challenging campaign that hits all the right spots.