I remember from the old forums that Deathmoor didn't have many fans, but I've never really got the dislike of it. There's quite a few fun monsters and encounters, it's action-packed without having loads of tough fights and has some very well designed segments (Baron Den Snau's mansion for one). Yes, it does have a lot of instant deaths but there's generally a logic to avoiding them. It also has some very evocative writing in places - "as the sun sinks in fire under the ocean" is well above standard FF writing. And the writing is coupled with some excellent Russ Nicholson artwork. My only real problem with it is the complete lack of a dramatic finale.
Interestingly there seems to be a few video game references in it. The kidnapped princess plot is very Mario and 2 plumbers named Oiram and Igiul show up. Also there's at least 2 segments where you have to leap from platform to platform. Since Robin was one of the series' editors, he probably knew better than anyone that video games were killing gamebooks' time in the sun and I wonder if he put these elements in Deathmoor to acknowledge that fact?
Another one bites the dust! Before starting this book, I was aware that Deathmoor wasn’t a fan favourite, so I was a bit apprehensive but, perhaps because of those lowered expectations, I found out that it wasn’t so bad after all, but you have to scratch the surface a little. Not that it turned out to be something of Shakespearian magnitude or a monumental piece of work like Creature of Havoc, but still. First thing first though let’s start at the beginning.
Those illustrations by Russ Nicholson. I’m a big fan of his, so it goes without saying that I enjoyed his work here. The millipede and Pool Crawler gets a special mention (I think those are their names) as well as all the things that decomposes in the night. Nicholson is a master of textures, and is particularly good at doing rocks and… putrefaction. Just take a look at that ghoul waiting for you at the top of that hill. Nice. All that being said and done, I thought that his crowd shots were a bit lacking. Nicholson might be a pro when it comes to draw monsters of the repulsive kind, but he doesn’t seems very comfortable drawing attractive people, especially women.
Talking of repulsive: that cover. You have to wonder what the hell happened. I was all but ready to call it a WTF cover after finishing the book, on the account that I hadn’t met anything looking like such a scene anywhere in there, but flipping through the pages at the end, like I always do, I noticed that there is a creature, called a Cradoc, that fits that description, but without all the swamp orcs running around. I’ll be the first to admit that it is a hard creature to conceptualise, if you are making do with what’s described in the text alone. So, perhaps another subject matter could have been tackled, one more representative of the book (and easier to do). As a simple example: something gloomy and atmospheric like, let’s say, just a sweeping vista of the marshes, with a thick layer of mist and undefined shadows; the wraiths perhaps, moving in and out of view.
My first thought about the book itself was that, aside for a fairly ho-hum story, very akin to videogames at the time (as pointed out by others on this forum, Deathmoor comprises a few "hommages" to the genre with platform elements and a hidden reference to Mario and Luigi), was that it felt rushed. I doubt that Robin Waterfield actually thought he would ever write another FF by that point and so perhaps was taken short by the news, without a good subject matter, rushing to meet dateline. Sections are straight and to the point, light on descriptions and left, often, feeling a bit disconnected from each other. On second thought though, perhaps this style of writing was, in part anyway, due to the concept of being lost and disoriented being prevalent in this book.
It’s the technique employed, after all: being able to reach certain numbered sections from multiple locations, even though they often don’t make sense geographically speaking. It’s a cartographer’s nightmare: it works fairly well in the marshes, but I was more bummed by it being employed inside Arachnos’ lair.
While this trickery might seem unfair at first glance, it is balanced somewhat by the fact that most of the necessary items are not obligatory. They are helpful, but there is always a way around them, if you didn’t manage to grab them in the first place, with the exception of one unless I’m mistaken. Even the 3 keys to Arachnos’ lair are not necessary, a fact that I discovered with a bit of surprise, though getting in that particular way will require some work and quite a bit of luck if you don’t know the book like the back of your hand.
Aside from that, I found that, contrary to Keith Martin, Waterfield brings back the instant death sections with a vengeance. The book’s got plenty of nasty death throughout and an overall mean strike towards it’s characters. Take for example the fate of a simple working class hero: Arachnos’ Ogre smith ending dying in agony after falling in a trough of molten metal. There are gross deaths like drowning in a tunnel full of maggots and there are painful (and sometimes equally gross) deaths like being impaled from all sides by spikes protruding from the walls of a tunnel to the classic: the wraiths treat you to a particularly gruesome death; probably involving some eating on their parts, akin to being torn to pieces by a horde of ravenous zombies. And then, there’s little stuff like having your close friends’ hacked limbs form the word WAIT, all that in the introductory background…
And before closing, someone’s got to tell me about those puzzles. Not the last one, I understood what it was, but the diagrams and codes. The one at the entrance of Arachnos’ lair left me scratching my head and the code stolen from the Baron was nearly just as bad: all I could think of was that it was meant as a rough guide to Arachnos’ lair when you first step into Deathmoor. Overall I enjoyed this book quite enough. It’s not very memorable though, which works against it, especially compared to all the great books that came before. But it certainly isn’t a shipwreck, so, if you can find it, it’s not a bad way to kill off the time.
Even the 3 keys to Arachnos’ lair are not necessary, a fact that I discovered with a bit of surprise, though getting in that particular way will require some work and quite a bit of luck if you don’t know the book like the back of your hand.
I've never managed to get the 3 keys and win, the only times I've managed to beat the book is by taking the sneaky alternate path. I've just never managed to find the helmet on the 3 keys path.
And before closing, someone’s got to tell me about those puzzles. Not the last one, I understood what it was, but the diagrams and codes. The one at the entrance of Arachnos’ lair left me scratching my head and the code stolen from the Baron was nearly just as bad: all I could think of was that it was meant as a rough guide to Arachnos’ lair when you first step into Deathmoor.
I've never worked out what the heck that note in the Baron's lair's all about either. Since you only get a 1 in 6 chance of obtaining it anyway, you would have thought it would be a bit more helpful.
Good to know I'm not alone being puzzled... Unless my memory (or knowledge) is way off, the way I remember it is that you get the 3 keys before the lair,
Otus' key is invisible in the stand of oaks, you need to talk to the dying medicine woman in outpost (or something?), next it's the one kept by the dead prince in the barge, you have to go west in the marsh and need at least one piece of gold to be taken there by a sort of ferryman, then it's through the Flintskins country and have either to steal it or be without the A medallion, though it's not clear if you are safe wearing it under your clothes... The helmet is found in a few places inside the lair.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Jan 4, 2014 18:57:23 GMT
From TUFFF (a year later, 2012)...
I am not a fan about this book. For me, it has one of the lowest scores among the 43 Fighting Fantasy books I have already read (11 in a scale 1 - 20). it's very difficult to me to feel just a little of the "atmosphere", the "environment" of this book. The final goal is little motivational for me (the rescue of the princess). The evil enemy (Arachnos) is very weak and very bad described. Most probably, the worst job from Robin Waterfield, in my opinion, miles away from his really very good Fighting Fantasy book: Masks of Mayhem.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Jan 4, 2014 18:58:58 GMT
It's very difficult to me to feel just a little of the "atmosphere", the "environment" of this book.
I was like that when re-reading Daggers of Darkness. I remember it being great, and the playability and non-linearity still is, but the childish style of writing and simplistic, emotionless encounters just don't draw you in.
The last of my TUFFF playthroughs included in the back-up I found:
This was the second atypical-looking FF book I got alongside Spellbreaker. None of that tiresome 'world in peril yet again and only you can save everyone from the EVUL villain' stuff, just a kidnapped Princess in need of rescuing. Oh, how delighted I was when it turned out that the kidnapping was just one stage in the EVUL villain's plan for world domination. Though I didn't find that out on my first attempt, as I failed to acquire the letter and wound up dooming poor Princess Sommerswerd.
This is not among my favourite FF books, but the author's previous one went up in my estimation when I attempted it for this challenge, so I shall endeavour to keep an open mind as I try it again now.
The use of the old-school rules, right down to the choice of potion at the beginning, comes as a pleasant change from the recent multitude of variations - even the largely traditional Return to Firetop Mountain dispensed with Provisions (not that that's particularly unusual for one of Ian's later books). Not that I have anything against variants in principle - some of my favourite FFs deviate from the original standard - but sometimes it's good to get back to basics (no support for any political party should be inferred from my use of that phrase). And how does my experienced adventurer look? (Dice). O, che sciagura! Ciao, principessa!
It is a promising set-up. The young Princess abducted by sickos who write messages with her friends' hacked-off limbs, the quest given to your rival because you didn't arrive in time... As I recall, it was the 'lost in the fog' sequence that killed my enjoyment back in the nineties, but there's definitely some good stuff before that.
The illustration of the torn handkerchief isn't as clear as it could be. Has anyone ever actually identified the villainous plumbers' associate because of it (or even twigged what it's supposed to be without the benefit of hindsight), rather than because the way you get to find out his name is just convoluted enough that it has to be significant? It's quite neatly done, but a little bit too obvious.
Anyway, the establishment in which I choose to drown my sorrows (somehow without having to actually pay for any of the drinks) just happens to be the same one where Mr Torn Hanky is partially name-dropping, as well as being the one that my Buddhist-toothed nemesis has chosen for the purposes of celebrating his getting the mission. His taunts show him to be no John Cleese, while my ripostes show that Oscar Wilde has nothing to fear from me. Nevertheless, this juvenile banter suffices to get me into a gamble with him, and I promptly prove myself to be just as adept at the game as that trainee thief who bumbled his way to success back in book 29. Still, here I have the chance of a rematch (at least until I run out of money or fingers), and in the end I only have to stab myself twice before my opponent discovers that he's been putting his winnings into a pocket with a hole in, and is forced to give me the white hat to cover his debts. My talent for jabbing pointed objects into my hand has not gone unnoticed, either, and the crowd's acclaim provides a low-key segue into the revelation of the rest of old Has-To-Wipe-His-Nose-On-His-Sleeve's true identity. Much as I'd like to think that my response to the landlord's demand that I pay for a spot of French polishing is a blistering tirade of painfully incisive wit, the pre-pinfinger banter suggests that it can't be much above the level of, "Your furniture sucks, you ugly git! "
Still, I am now the Designated Hero, and with Princess Excalibur's life depending on me, I promptly head for another pub. Regrettably, I choose the wrong one, and end my evening by playing Wheel of Fortune rather than Pin the Blame on the Sniffing Guy. And then, to finish my miserable day off, I am accosted by a couple of Politically Correct aquatic anthropomorphs. "Oh, oh, 'Pelagine', oh aren't we grand? 'Fish person's not good enough for us, eh?" Despite being thick-skinned enough to only take half damage, they don't appreciate my sense of humour (not that I can blame them, considering the sub-playground 'hilarity' I inflicted on my equally unfunny adversary), and make many cutting jabs at me before I narrowly beat them to the punchline.
The next day I get seemingly random stuff I remember to be potentially useful from the market, then go down to the docks to try and get some random sailors to solve the kidnapping for me. They insinuate that the local sinister Baron is even worse at Pinfinger than I, so I decide to call on him. On my way, I run into a horde of scavengers bent on selling me drainpipe insulation, and have to turn them down very forcefully.
Saying I've come to heal Kylltrog is unlikely to convince the gatekeeper to let me in, so I bribe him instead, and go for a quick snoop aroound the grounds before making for the house. After spotting what may be one of the Knights who say 'Ni!', I blunder over a tripwire and alert an Ogre guard. The geographically specific nature of the animals I'm given the option of impersonating piques my curiosity and, on the grounds that my character probably knows Khulian geography better than I, I sneak a quick look at the map in Titan. It's like being in Iran and having the choice of emulating an elephant or a Thomson's gazelle, so I pin my hopes on the Ogre's dimwittedness and pretend to be a person who presumably has some good reason to be clodhopping around the Baron von Muahaha's estates in the middle of the night. Alas, he's too thick to fall for it, so I wind up doing a rather more effective impression of the Grim Reaper for him.
As the subtle approach hasn't worked, I head straight for the mansion. The Baron is waiting for me, and his poisoned sword renders futile my having gulped down some Provisions and a Potion of Fortune before going in to confront him.
This book could probably be one of the best in the Fighting Fantasy series. I remember reading the background story before starting the adventure and I thought to myself "this is indeed a good premise, the hero arrives late at the meeting with the king, and he delegates the task of saving her daughter to another hero. Wow! Hold on! The ideia that there's another hero, like us, trying to get the same objective could be interesting. And this guy (Fang-Zen) is not that well intentioned. So... we have somehow, to intercept this guy, probably confront him in a fight, and then go on to save the princess. Well... it was promising indeed. But only promising. The book is in fact a desappointment, the narrative colapses and throw us in a quest that lacks interest. Our rival is no match for us and we can slay him right in the beginning of the book (something that could keep our interest till the end). Nevertheless the book isn't bad. But it's not great.