Knight Books, £3.99, ISBN 0-340-37789-5
Usurper! is the third gamebook in the ninja series The Way of the Tiger. The plot in this one, however, is almost entirely unrelated to that in the previous two gamebooks.
You, Avenger the bad-ass ninja, has single-handedly slain Yaemon, the murderer of your late foster father, and saved your god Kwon the Redeemer from a fiery barbecue. After making your way to your home in the Isle of Tranquil Dreams, you have barely rested before you are sent back to the Manmarch. You see, you learn from the Grandmaster of the Dawn that your father was Loremaster Szeged, the ruler of Irsmuncast-nigh-Edge. Eventually, he too died to Yaemon, and now, it is time for you to travel to that great city to reclaim your birthright. Irsmuncast is currently ruled by a despotic tyrant referred to here simply as the Usurper, so you will have to take him down.
When the campaign opens, you will given a choice to learn one of two new skills. One allows you to read people and detect motives, another skill is pure offensive in nature as it increases your damage. If you ask me, given the nature of this campaign where you are attempting to dethrone a king, it’s pretty obvious which skill is more useful!
But first, you have to get there, heh. This campaign offers two paths for you to take once you reach the Manmarch. There is an easier path via Doomover, but you know your enemy Honoric is alive and Doomover is his HQ. Another path reunites you with your friend Glaivas the Ranger-Lord, but that route takes you through the Walls of Shadow and City of the Runes of Doom, places ruled by undead under the service of the vile god Death. This is definitely the more enjoyable path, heh, as you may remember how difficult it is to tangle with the minions of Death in the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Talisman of Death. Both paths offer items that will help you in the final confrontation in different ways, and there is no true path here, so feel free to explore both paths.
The second act is an interesting one. You can catch your breath as you arrive in Irsmuncast, but now you have to covertly visit and recruit various allies in the city to fight on your side once you’ve defeated the Usurper. Irsmuncast is a melting pot of culture, with factions of good, neutral, and evil alignments co-existing uneasily here, so finding allies is not as clear cut as you may imagine, especially when it comes to neutral factions.
The final fight is insane, let’s just say, but the beauty of this gamebook – the whole series, actually – is that the difficulty is smoothly integrated to become part of the fun and challenge. Usurper! is full of amazing magical moments. From a deadly duel in an arena to a struggle with a demon just before the gates of heaven, this one offers no shortage of excitement. There are many moments where you can die, of course, but these fatal moments are often the result of bad rolls or bad decisions on your part. You’d probably die several times, but trust me, you’d have fun. This is, after all, another excellent gamebook in this amazing series. And you get to be Overlord at the end of the day. How cool is that?