Macmillan, £5.99, ISBN 0-330-33614-2
The War-Torn Kingdom is part of an ambitious gamebook series called Fabled Lands. Designed to be similar in many ways to an MMORPG game, you will “live” out your adventures in a world of fantasy and magic. Instead of an overlying mission arc, you will, like ordinary folks too, take up mini-quests, get a job, buy a house, and even obtain a ship to sail off to faraway lands and trade. Basically, you can do a lot of mundane things here except making whoopee and doing other naughty things not sanctioned in a PG-rated gamebook.
Gameplay-wise, this one offers a familiar system using die. There are predictable stats like Stamina and Defence. There are also six other stats to worry about – Charisma, Combat, Magic, Sanctity, Scouting, and Thievery. All are self-explanatory, I’m sure. Depending on your chosen profession for your character, the six stats will range from 1 to 6. The professions available are: Priest, Mage, Rogue, Troubadour, Warrior, and Wayfarer. Troubadour is a Bard by another name, while Wayfarer is your Tracker/Ranger type. As you succeed in your quests, you will collect money, rank points, and some codewords that will help you keep track of your progress.
Sounds good? In The War-Torn Kingdom, you will explore and wreak havoc in the lands around the kingdom of Sokara, a place torn by civil war. As you can imagine, there are plenty of opportunities to have fun in such a place. As with the other gamebooks in the Fabled Lands series, you could very well end up leaving Sokara for places in other gamebooks, only to come back later at another date, therefore this campaign is best played when you have the other gamebooks close at hand. In this one, you can do quests as mundane as retrieving a wild boar’s horn to as grand as scaling a mysterious mountain to discover a mythical land.
So, how is this gamebook like? Well, it is like an MMORPG game, although the format excludes the usual tedious experience-grinding prevalent in such games. Therefore, you will need to have plenty of patience for note taking, mundane and apparently tedious tasks, and ample time to spend because this series is one long time sink. Speaking for myself, I find the whole thing pretty fascinating and interesting, although I have to play this one in small doses due to how much time it consumes. It can be strangely addictive as I keep going and going, eventually losing track of time. The replay value is tremendous as there are options available only to some classes or followers of a certain deity, therefore ensuring that no two campaigns are similar.
The War-Torn Kingdom is an ideal starting point for the series, because it is designed for low-ranked adventurers to level up while getting an ample challenge in the process. Those who start out in other gamebooks, particularly the later ones in the series, may find this one a breeze as their ranks and stats are high enough to wade through this one with eyes blindfolded and hands tied up. Then again, this gamebook is the first one in the series for a good reason.