Friday 8 April 2011

Destiny Quest 1: The Shadow Legion

Destiny Quest is that rarest of rare things, a new gamebook. Penned by Michael J. Ward published by Matador. Combat is very Fighting Fantasy, with Speed instead of Skill, then variable damage by dice-roll, modified by equipment with an armour factor reducing it.  However, after a combat your health/stamina/hit-points return to full, and the rules state that if your health/stamina/hit-points go to zero, then just return to the map and choose another quest. You cannot die.

Now, if Gamebooks were D&D, I can imagine the grognard-o-sphere scoffing about the kids today, their sense of entitlement to win, and their inability to deal with losing, having to have everything handed to them on a plate, being molly-coddled.  Not only that, but (bear in mind I'm still playing through chapter 1) the narrative drive is essentially about levelling up, getting better equipment,  and creating ever more powerful character builds. Promoting  munchkinism and min-maxing over flawed characters? blashphemy! But this isn't D&D, and there aren't any gamebook aficionados who'd seriously argue that Ian Livingstone's random insta-death, impossibly hard monsters, and start again from the very beginning because you didn't find the right keys, gems or body parts at the very last encounter is actually a better way of writing gamebooks, but then Ian does have an OBE.

What's in your backpack? Destiny Quest 1. limited edition dice, trading card and booze.

Structurally, Destiny Quest is a little different from most game books, being a largely unrelated collection of colour-coded, combat orientated scenarios threaded together by a map. Because the scenarios can be played in any order, although you're advised to take the colour coding into account, else you won't have tooled up properly to defeat the monsters, there doesn't appear to be any path dependencies (i.e. requirement to have picked up object B from location X to progress) requirements. Nor does there appear to be any scenario where decision making is more important than combat, however this observation should be taken lightly, as at 400 pages, this is a probably the largest single gamebook I've ever seen, and I have only just started Chapter II.

The episodes themselves, one contains the immortal lines 'you must fight the turnips as a single enemy' and a nice riff on Little Red Riding Hood. This kind of folksy, fairy-tale influenced, grimy low level stuff is just what I love, it's the weird muddied heart of the Realm of Zhu. The writing is superb, gripping, action filled, atmospheric stuff, Ward really knows how to put you into a scene. Many reviews I've read comment on how hard it is to put the book down, and just play one more quest. Rather than game mechanics or geeky enthusiasm for a new gamebook, I put this entirely down to how well the prose is written. 

Final criticism, the cover. It's pink. I've no idea what people were thinking. Teenage girls are off reading The Twilight Saga and the infinite gothic romance clones it has spawned and boys have been trained that pink=girls-stuff. Come on, it can't have been that hard to have had a dark blue cover. I'm sure sales would have been improved no-end in the 12-16 year old market.

Damn, I seem to have written a review. Have to write up some drinking exploits next time.

Destiny Quest is available from Amazon, and also as a Signed Collectors edition with two limited edition loot cards from Ward's eBay shop . I got special DQ dice with mine too, but can't see that on ebay right now.


  1. Looks purple to me.

    And very big.

  2. Nice post Zhu! Just added a link to it at the DestinyQuest forums.

    Had to laugh at your desktop photo - it's almost identical to the setup on my desk, except for different beer and a pint glass full of ice (I know, I'm sorry - bad equatorial tropics habit I know!).

    I quite like the purple/pink cover and green title but I get where you're coming from. Aren't kids these days more emocore though these days? :-)



  3. Hey, thanks Andy. must sign up to the DQ forums some time. Glad Michael didn't take any of my opinions the wrong way.

    Dr Bargle, let's just say the levels of magenta in the CMYK are closer to Slaanesh than Khorne. And yes, it is biggun!