Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 18:32:47 GMT
hynreck: _________________________________________ Le talisman de la mort is a book I've own since a was young, part of those mystical first few I owned, in fact, but one that, for all my efforts, I couldn't remember the story no matter how hard I tried.
Which must mean that back then, I didn't played it a lot. Because it was bad? Can't remember. I remember that I didn't have a hard time with it, but that probably because you can easily get away with cheating in that one.
Now that I've played it again, the Wizard edition, I find myself torn. I certainly enjoyed it enough. At first, I was a bit put off by all the apparent LOTR stealing... Start in Moria with hordes of... okay, no Goblins or Orcs, not yet anyway, but Black Elves and "They've got a Cave Troll" and look over there! A Balrog! - Nah Sir, no Balrog was ever mentioned. But! Never mind. Greyguild was a lot of fun. A weird place where fashion victims resides, but still. And then it's off to Mount Doom and an overall story arc that's tie together yet feels like a patchwork of ideas that would have benefit from a longer series.
Now I think there was a book or series that used materials from Orb and it's denizens, some of you guys will fill me in, but I don't know about those, never read those. So in the end the book feels unfinished. You meet a lot of interesting characters, get involved in elaborate set-pieces, learn about fairly detailed background informations that are never fully used or used at all. Surely, greater plans were elaborated for characters like Tyutchev, Cassandra, Thaum or even Hawkana. They all have interesting parts to play, but ultimately don't amount to much in the grand scale of things. There's no final epic battle against Tyutchev and his girlfriends (yes Thaum too) at the summit of Star-reach. Instead we are treated to Smaug #19. It's all great fun but you wonder why the authors bothered to set up such nice villains to have them left on the wayside later on. Of course, unless they planned more FF adventures in the world of Orb, with perhaps the same hero.
Were they re-used in The Way of the Tiger or something? Seems a shame otherwise!
For the cover, for once, I prefer the new cover by Martin McKenna over the original. It's basically the same, but I would go for the darker, more realistic Ringwraith of the two. Those dudes might be leftovers from LOTR, like Greenspine mentioned, even being as far as totally avoidable in the main story, but still, they deserve to look like they came out of the movie, at the very least.
For the inside illos, most are nice, some are a bit weird, but overall they left me neither hot nor cold. One very good thing, though, is that the original edition is jam-packed with illos! What I mean is that, compare to that edition, my french copy is missing so many illos it's not even funny anymore. Seriously, I think I stop counting after ten. From all my french copies of FF, this one is so far, and by far, the one missing the most illos from the original. So, on that side of things, playing Talisman of Death again was a real treat. A pure discovery, in a way!
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 18:33:34 GMT
greenspine: _________________________________________ Tyutchev, Cassandra and Thaum do reappear in The Way of the Tiger, but Hawkana's too dead to return. Tyutchev also appears in the appallingly-written third book of the Virtual Reality Adventures series, and there's a possible interlude on Orb, featuring a cameo by Lord Min, in Falcon book 4.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 18:33:58 GMT
hynreck: _________________________________________ Thanks for the info, Greenspine. I'm only really familiar with The Way of the Tiger series, but I'm wondering if I ever seen Virtual Reality and such. Mind you, the name of the series were in french, so I need to find the translation first. Maybe I'll go look on Wiki when I get a chance. I'm bound to find a clue...
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 18:34:48 GMT
greenspine: _________________________________________ The original title of the Virtual Reality Adventures book that features Tyutchev is The Coils of Hate. Almost certainly the worst in the series, so you might also want to look into the ones that don't have him in, as some of them are very good indeed. But this is getting massively off-topic.
What do people think of the way Talisman of Death allows you to call on the All-Mother for help even if you've never been told you can do it? Did the authors fail to make it clear that only those who had learned the correct invocation should be able to get away from the Tyutchev/Cassandra/Thaum fight, or did they mean for any player who got that far to be able to appeal to a divine power they might not even have heard of? Does the French translation say you must know about her to be able to call on her?
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 18:36:38 GMT
hynreck: _________________________________________ I'll check my French edition for the answers and will come back to you about it. For the original, though, I think they did fail making it clear. First time I came across the options, I had no clue what to do. I tried to recall what I read in the library and wondered if it counted as legitimate or not. I wondered if the author meant I could just do it like that... My first thought was: No, there is no way I'm supposed to know that. I'm a stranger in their lands, how could I? So I looked at the option where you think maybe you're good enough to take on all three on your own, knowing I would die. (pretty cool death by the way) Then I went back and told myself, screw the author, they didn't make it clear, so take that. And I called on the only one I remembered, which was the all-mother, very convenient indeed. But I felt like a cheat, of course. Well a bigger one than usual!
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 18:37:26 GMT
hynreck: _________________________________________ Okay, I checked, and it's exactly the same in French. They ask you to take a note of it, then forget about it. Out of the blue you are ask about who you want to call.
Now I think there was a book or series that used materials from Orb and it's denizens, some of you guys will fill me in, but I don't know about those, never read those. So in the end the book feels unfinished. You meet a lot of interesting characters, get involved in elaborate set-pieces, learn about fairly detailed background informations that are never fully used or used at all.
That's actually what I like most about this book - it makes Orb seem more real and rich and adds to the fact that you're someone just passing through this world.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 18:42:42 GMT
hynreck: _________________________________________ Thanks guys, knew you were invaluable source of info!
Kieran, just in case: I don't hate the fact that there's load of info, I like it in fact (felt at times closer to Lone Wolf... and I'm a big fan) but it still makes the book feels unfinished regarding some characters' implications in the story. Like I wrote, I'm torn with Talisman. Some stuff's great, others are... puzzling.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 18:44:25 GMT
oakdweller: _________________________________________ My reviews of the first ten books have come in a fairly rapid stream, as I wrote them whilst my membership was still pending. (So all I needed to do was proofread/edit them before posting). From this point on I'm writing the reviews as I go, so they will probably come in fits and starts from now on, whilst real life stuff such as work, family, other leisure pursuits jostle for my attention. There are also many books that I haven't played for ages, so I need to replay first to review them properly. I will at the very least be able to review books #11 - #13 this bank holiday weekend.
Oh, and I've just realised that I should've given a warning that my reviews may (and probably will) contain spoilers. Most people on this site have probably read most of the early and republished books anyway, but - just to avoid ruining even one person's fun - here's a...
It took me quite a while to get involved with Talisman of Death as a child. I think that the fact that I wasn't overly enamoured with Bob Harvey's illustrations played a large part in distracting me from the sparkle of the text. (I enjoy his work a lot more now though).
This is the first book that I've had to replay to refresh my memory of it. It didn't take long before it all came flooding back, especially when I visited the Red Dragon tavern. Tyutchev and Cassandra are great arrogant, bullying villains, made all the better by encountering them three times in different circumstances and locations. The humour within the text is also more apparent in this one, especially the insult that you can give to the barman on paragraph 11, "You fat pig, pour me a drink before the sight of your squalid pus-ridden face makes me vomit". I wonder whether or not Jamie Thomson has been tempted to use this line in real life... Another bit which made me titter was the faux pas of offering the Hogmen dried pork.
I really enjoyed the structure of the game, sending you to a variety of locations before you reach the portal. The section in the town is by far the largest and manages to avoid coming across as a City of Thieves mini-clone, despite the involvement of a Thieves Guild. You are not punished too severely for exploring the town as you wish, leaving just a few minor traps here and there. (I particularly loved the weird red book that you can find in Greyguilds which is "bound in multi-coloured scales". I'm a sucker for bizarre - or even just slightly quirky - artifacts in fantasy settings). I've played this book three times to prepare for this review (the first two times I died in combat...) and was pleased with the way that each time I entered the town I was presented with different scenarios which didn't make me feel that I was straying from "the one true path". On my first visit I helped some thieves rob a jewellers, which was an unexpectedly 'naughty' thing for a traditional FF hero to do. On my second visit I didn't even get to meet the thieves until later as I was taken straight to Hawkana after pretending to be deaf and dumb (great option that!) On my third visit I was not expecting that much variation, but I encountered a skeletal minion with a rapier, an homage to The Island of Doctor Moreau and a sage who asks me to show him a jade rose (another beautifully quirky object) if I want to have dinner with him. All of these encounters were totally different from my previous two attempts. I'm not sure whether or not all three of these paths can lead to victory, but looking at my partial map it certainly seems so.
Contrary to expectation, you start off with the 'big prize' of the adventure, unlike previous books where you have to find it/them and charge on to the end. Even more unexpected is - and I did give a spoiler warning remember... - losing the Talisman as an unavoidable(?) part of the quest. Forging an uneasy alliance with the Thieves Guild to reclaim it adds spice to an already enjoyable romp.
The only complaint I have is that there are too many high-skilled essential fights. It must be very difficult indeed to complete the book with a SKILL score of less than 11. This is the only book that I can think of which provides you with ten provisions at the start where I have actually run out. However, I can usually forgive a FF book for having a few hard - or even ultra-hard - encounters if it is innovative and manages to draw me in with interesting encounters and believable worlds. In this case, forgiveness is given.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 18:45:47 GMT
hs5ias _________________________________________ This book draws on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game and its setting of the World of Greyhawk for inspiration. This gives Orb a rather different feel to the Titan books.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 18:47:03 GMT
vagsancho: _________________________________________ (The next opinion is based on the fact that the 3 temples are all visited and that we test the power of the talisman after being persecuted by the 6 spectres of Death):
This book is simply fantastic! Awesome background. Very good ending. Fantastic presence of the influence of the gods. the feeling of visiting the 3 temples (Mother-of-all; the fearfull Kyrinla, and the temple of Death) is something special. The possible conection of our real world with the world of Orb is brilliant. A masterpiece from Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson. This book is probably in my Top 5!
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 18:48:32 GMT
vagsancho: _________________________________________ There is a flaw in this amazing book. In the very last end, after defeating the Red Dragon, appears the Portal - The only way to save the world from Death Goddess.
But we should have been given a choice: To enter the Portal; or to throw the Talisman throw the Portal and remain in that strange world for which we were kidnapped.
Some FF fans prefer to disregard the references to Earth in the Background section and make out that the hero of this adventure comes from Titan. One of the parts without giants, dragons, demons, warlocks or sorcerers, presumably, as the Background points out that, unlike your home, Orb houses all such beings.
If I were in a contrary mood, I'd create the potential for a continuity error at the beginning: if I get resurrectably killed in the city, I will get sent back to just before I was transported out of the Rift, my stats all restored to their Initial levels, but it is possible to lose a little Stamina and Luck prior to that moment. I shan't do so, though, because I intend to avoid even the temporary deaths, and that Stamina and Luck could prove crucial at some point.
So, wait like a Duel Master player, get great chunks of exposition from the doomed adventurers. I have to wonder why my employers chose to send me into the Rift, rather than let the party teleport out one of their number and have me hook up with that survivor above ground, so I'd have a companion with some knowledge of the region, and we'd be able to cover each other's backs. Unless they're all so tediously noble and self-sacrificing that they'd have just stood around saying, "No, I insist, you get away!" until they'd all been eaten.
Anyway, I get the Talisman and the 'Get out of the Rift free' card, and for the third time in a very brief period I find myself somewhere I wasn't a moment ago. Making the wise decision of heading for the forest, I rapidly get out of sight of potential pursuers. An encounter with a She-Wolf and a Druid ends amicably, and I evade a dozing Basilisk with ease. The next incident is a little more peculiar, as I don't recall any version of Beowulf in which Grendel is part old woman, part squid. It's not a necessary fight, but I got into it anyway to remind myself of how the unlikely beast is described.
Next up I meet more warrior-women, and if I want to retain my weapon (stop sniggering, you at the back) I shall have to fool them. The whole business of pretending to be a survivor from an ambushed caravan gets a bit silly: two of the places I can claim to be from got momentary name-checks while the adventurers told me about their quest, so I'd need to have a mighty good memory to have any real chance of remembering them. The other is suggested by the Captain as a trick question, as if it's an everyday occurrence to encounter armed warriors with no local geographical knowledge whatsoever wandering around on the moor. I mean, do the Police in Essex regularly ask suspicious characters if they've just strolled across from Plymouth? Mind you, the un-PC alternative of pretending to be deaf and dumb has its own odd aspect - what kind of reasoning leads the patrol to conclude, "Well, if this adventurer could talk and hear us, we'd have to disarm him, but as he can't, he might as well keep his sword,"?
Anyway, I trick them and get a lift to Greyguilds-on-the-Moor, where I have to choose between two what-it-says-on-the-tin streets. I pick Store Street, as I like to browse around the charity shops in a new town. I've got a number of gamebook bargains that way. Nowhere seems to have any cheap copies of Magehunter, but a bit of name-dropping gets me a very reasonable offer on magical chainmail and safe passage out of the city (offer only valid certain days).
All of a sudden a skeletal entity starts hassling me about the Talisman, claiming that it's stolen goods, or some such nonsense. Death evidently has a very efficient bureaucracy, as my name is printed on the relevant forms (well, coffin). Nevertheless, I'm not going to go handing the Talisman over to some undead functionary just because he claims it's his. What if he were a con artist, and the real Death turned up asking for it later. It'd just be so embarrassing. Anyway, I forcefully express my reluctance to hand it over without some trustworthy proof of ownership, and head off to the library in case they have any withdrawn stock on sale. That's how I got my copy of The Buccaneers of Shadaki. No luck on that front, but I do find out a fair bit about the locality from a set of scrolls that'll probably be adapted into an award-winning drama when Orb develops TV.
By now the librarians are doing that throat-clearing thing, so I head back out and, owing to the lack of adequate street lights, tread in something a good deal nastier than dog dirt. Death's bailiffs turn up, demanding the Talisman, but then another bunch of warrior-women turns up, and they confiscate it for being liable to cause an affray, then head back to the station, leaving me stuck in a man-trap.
Enter one convenient friendly local who releases me, offers free bed and board, and provides some handy advice when I explain that I have to steal an incredibly valuable item from the local law enforcement agency on account of a promise I made to a bunch of complete strangers.
Next morning I bypass an opportunity to be as rude as the editors would let Smith & Thomson get away with, and enter a local hostelry with a view to seeking the services of some Legitimate Businessmen. Buying a drink with money I'm sure it's possible to have lost before getting this far into the book, I introduce myself to a suitably shifty-looking bunch and discreetly enquire about obtaining the assistance of individuals less disreputable than the local Conservative Association. I impress them enough that they tell me about the non-booby-trapped entrance, and then in breeze the authors' favourite NPCs. I slink away because I've read The Coils of Hate and recognise that carelessly killing off one of its more prominent characters several years too soon will only make it worse.
Except that Tyutchev's a touchy so-and-so, and takes offence at my attempt to leave him to harass innocent Ninjas in his own time. The subsequent fight is a little sloppily handled, as it's sort of implied that I'm supposed to hit Cassandra until she goes away and then turn my attention to Mister Probably-Only-Carries-A-Bastard-Sword-So-He-Can-Pretend-He-Thinks-He's-Being-Insulted-And-Start-A-Fight-Any-Time-Someone-Mentions-It, but there's nothing to indicate that I can't ignore her and just hack away at Tyutchev until his Stamina drops low enough for the authors to bail him out. Which is what I do. He goes crying to his god, who unsportingly intervenes with an earthquake rather than scorning him as a pathetic wuss who deserves to get his teeth kicked in for picking a fight with someone too tough for him.
Heading back to my new friend's pad, I get offered a bit of easy cash by characters from Shakespeare and H.G.Wells, and I accept because I know that the actual payment is going to be something more useful than more cash. Just don't tell the Orb branch of PETA about my involvement in animal experiments, okay? Further sloppiness ensues when it comes to dinner with mine host. Anyone who's lied about having an invitation isn't going to be deterred by the book asking 'do you have proof of the invitation?' when they don't have to recall a numerical inscription or convert a name into numbers, but can simply lie again.
Another night's rest, and before attending my appointment I accept an invitation to drink sherry with the doesn't-sound-remotely-dodgy Mortphilio. Un-unexpectedly, he turns out to be another of Death's cronies, and sets his creepy undead pet on me. When that fails, he ingeniously animates the dead from whose bones his home is constructed, and less ingeniously allows me to escape. Escape to the local headquarters of his boss, no less, where I watch the summoning of a bunch of Tolkien's leftovers to seek me, and they promptly fail to notice that I'm right there in the temple with them. This bunch couldn't organise a dig-up in a cemetery. Pilfering a magical helmet of quick-thinking (which they probably use when they need one of their number to rise to sub-moron level), I resume my interrupted journey, cunningly tell Fat Tony and his boys the truth, and the heist is on.
Back in the mid-eighties, Talisman of Death was singled out for criticism by overreacting Evangelicals for its gruesome disembowellings and depiction of Black Mass-esque rites. Completely missing the really dubious part: during the robbery, it best serves your interests to acquiesce to cold-blooded murder. Sure, you lose 1 Luck for letting Lord Min slit the old servant's throat, but the alternative involves a fight and a Test your Luck, so you wind up 1 Luck down anyway, and risk failure or having to repeat a chunk of the adventure besides. All right, so I doubt that anyone who's read ToD progressed to slicing open people's gullets in real life, and if they did, it's going to be the consequence of far more complex issues than 'they read about it in a gamebook and WENT OUT AND DID IT FOR REAL!' but I do still feel a little uncomfortable about this incident. So I choose the more complicated route, and only kill in self-defence.
Not that Hawkana appreciates my restraint, and after getting badly singed I retaliate with the Spell of Agonizing Doom that the mad scientists gave me in lieu of payment. It's not lethal enough, though, and the dice are not as kind to me against her as against the superior opponent I defeated in House of Hell. I never managed to win an Attack Round before my Stamina ran out. Should have scoffed more Provisions before setting off.
Post by cyranotheswordfish on Apr 5, 2015 21:25:18 GMT
I have to admit that my revisit to #11 - Talisman of Death left me somewhat cold. It was only the second Fighting Fantasy gamebook that I ever read and always seemed to epitomise how I felt a gamebook should be - simple but reasonably heroic premise, a consistent feel, but with a good smattering of slightly more exotic encounters and detailed, but not too stylised, writing. I guess my tastes have changed with regards to the final point, as I never really managed to connect with the book this time through - I now seem to prefer books that offer a deeper atmosphere or a more unique experience.
By the way, I'm no longer playing through the books with whatever character fate gives me - I'll re-roll the dice until I get a proper hero! I did at first wonder if the greater ease provided by the system was marring my enjoyment, but playing through some books after this one showed this not to be the case (I'm working through a small backlog of review-playthrough-reflections at the moment.)
Anyway, I didn't find my playthrough actually unenjoyable - I particularly liked raiding the temple of Fell-Kyrinla with the thieves' guild and the temple containing the Dragonsbane spear was interesting, if brief, to explore. Sadly, though, the rest of the book felt a bit like just going through the (admittedly inherently quite enjoyable) motions.
I completed it on my first try, thanks to my refusal to start without a strong character and the book sending me back to a 'save-point', rahter than killing me off, when I thought I'd try leaving the city the wrong way. Regarding the checkpoint system, are there any instructions anywhere that tell you to turn to paragraph x if you die in combat? I've not seen any, though I can be rather unobservant sometimes, and it seems a bit odd to me that if, say, the Dragon at the end kills you with it's fiery breath because you missed a certain item, you get a second chance but if it kills you in regular combat, which, depending on your stats, could be pretty likely, that's it.
Anyway, the random number generator told me to do 29 - Midnight Rogue afterwards - still doing alright from it, though I've now learnt to expect disappointment where I didn't see it coming.
Somewhere nearby, someone invented the criterium "replayability" to classify the Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks. I did never identify myself with that criterium. For me all books are 100% replayable. Having said that, i played Talisman of Death for the first time more than 20 years ago... and i loved it.. but this is probably the unique book that every single time i play it i like it more.
I had a huge crush on Lillantha when first playing this. Pity her chainmail was useless, because of the chronic ineptitude of Fighting Fantasy editors. I wasn't remotely interested in Hawkana or Cassandra. That shows good taste in Fighting Fantasy NPC ladies, I should think.
Crushing on NPCs is possible with Talisman of Death, because even the minor NPCs are unusually well written and memorable by Fighting Fantasy standards.