Book Review: DestinyQuest - The Legion of Shadow / Author: Michael J Ward / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now
Back in the ‘80s, the popular thing for young geeks-in-training to do was to not just read books, but read Fighting Fantasy books; non-linear novels where the reader had to choose the direction the story went in by making choices and turning to the pages those choices guided you to. Over years, videogames and the like sprung up to distract gamers from these odd little books, and they declined in popularity. However, the fanbase never really went away, and the appeal of a book that is also a game is still out there. Destiny Quest: The Legion of Shadow is part of the new generation of adventure game books, and a very welcome one it is.
Game books have certainly grown up – for a start, Destiny Quest is a beast of a book, coming in at an oversized 650+ plus pages, which may come as a shock to fans of the Fighting Fantasy novels as they were fairly slim volumes. The format has also changed; rather than dealing with a single, long running quest, the player chooses his quests from a map in the middle of the book. Should you fail in the quest, (perhaps by taking the wrong path or losing a battle) you can restart the quest whenever you wish.
The game elements are simple, but there are a lot of them. Essentially you roll dice to fight monsters and keep track of changes to your character. Various magic items modify your abilities, and skills and powers can be picked up during the game. If you actually play the game elements (rather than simply skipping past them, otherwise known as cheating), you’ll find that the character becomes very powerful quite quickly. The quest format means you can pick up and play, though (unlike other gamebooks) Destiny Quest lacks any sort of random number generator, so you may have problems playing this on the bus. It does feel more like a game than a book in parts, though this doesn’t make it any less fun.
That isn’t to say there isn’t an ongoing narrative; there certainly is, and it’s a rather fun tale of invading armies, magical powers and ancient secrets. It’s filled with nice touches; the fact that there is an in-story reason for your characters constant deaths (and if you play it properly, you’ll die a lot at the start). Despite being more game than book, the main plot is the sort of fun you demand from this sort of thing. It will make a great blast of nostalgia for the older gamer, and the younger geek may appreciate an exciting fantasy game that doesn’t require batteries or friends.