I'm not in favour of gamebooks rewarding incompetence (except in T&T's Solo for the Intellectually Challenged, where having nothing but bad-looking decisions with unexpected but sort-of-logical outcomes is the point). Not in Midnight Rogue, not in Lone Wolf book 5, and not here.
That was my biggest problem with the time loop as well. But that can arguably apply to many FF choices, including W!: being explicitly warned that your legs are tiring but the correct choice to be waiting for the 4th guard comes to mind (ignoring the hint from the previous book), and I seem to remember Talisman of Death being virtually impossible to get through without intentionally dying in at least one spot, although it's been years since I had the book so my memory may be faulty. And Freeway Fighter (or whatever the Mad Max theme one was called) had a couple of spots where obviously sensible fuel choices resulted in insta-death.
Ultimately I have a bigger problem with VIK being useless and the entire series coming down to a single roll, but each to their own - I can be equally happy with either playthrough.
being explicitly warned that your legs are tiring but the correct choice to be waiting for the 4th guard comes to mind
I don't think that's quite the same. In that situation you're weighing up two risky scenarios - that there are more guards at the door vs your legs not being able to support you any longer. Plus, as you mention, you can find a hint in Book 3 as to what to do.
I seem to remember Talisman of Death being virtually impossible to get through without intentionally dying in at least one spot
It's quite possible to beat the book without dying.
And Freeway Fighter (or whatever the Mad Max theme one was called) had a couple of spots where obviously sensible fuel choices resulted in insta-death.
Yeah sometimes FF authors kinda ignore their premise - you can't retain fuel in Freeway Fighter by sensible driving; you can do every subquest going in Spellbreaker despite the urgency of stopping Nazek before Skekka's moon etc.
Ultimately I have a bigger problem with VIK being useless
I wouldn't say he's useless since he can help you get a spell line if you missed one and he (or at least his friend) can save you from being pressganged (in fact if you're playing as a warrior, he's the only way to get out of that situation). True, if you know what you're doing, you don't need him, but he's very useful for players who don't know the book so well.
Not sure if this counts as a situation that rewards idiocy, but I generally let myself get pressganged despite Flanker's warning and rely on VIK to save me as I can never remember (let alone work out) whether to pull or release the cord.
All fair points. I do remember *some* unsatisfying aspect of the "true" path in Talisman of Death - maybe you get captured or something? I remember at the end of a long sewer tunnel or something?
In any event, my two main factors for the time loop remain VIK and the single Water Serpent roll. Agreed, VIK isn't "useless", but Flanker is still useful even on the true path, even if you don't need him. You don't even encounter VIK on the true path, which just seems a waste. And the single Water Serpent roll, with an item in the books that guarantees success? Come on - you HAVE to get it! And the only way to get it is to pick the wrong rune first. Which means you need VIK's time loop.
But like I say, it's not clean, so I can live with or without it.