I talked about gamebooks a few months back here, and mentioned the title Destiny Quest by Michael J. Ward. I’ve been slowly making my way through the adventure, and I’m finally ready for a verdict on this book’s Plot & Gameplay. So, what is it? Read on!
So, plot first. You begin with no knowledge who you are. Heck, it’s never mentioned if you are male or female (it turns out, you are exactly what you want, in that regard). I’m still not exactly sure how you lost your memory, but in the end it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have a future in front of you. A young knight has been slain, and he has tasked you (before he died) with finding a man named Avian Dale to start a new life. Things are never that simple, though, are they? There are always things beyond your control, terrors that are unleashed upon the world. For you, it is the Legion of Shadow.
Plot wise, this is an excellent book. I have enjoyed the story and how things have played out with the various twists and turns. The only complaint that I might have, is that the story starts a bit slow. The first act is all about you as an adventurer, trying to find out where Avian Dale lives, and getting to him. The main plot, though, is about the Legion of Shadow and trying to defeat it, if possible.
I will add, that because of the style of the book, it doesn’t read like a normal story. It almost reads like a tv series, with a whole lot of small stories that link up to create a larger story. The book is split up into 3 Acts, and each Act has multiple Quests, each Quest being a story unto itself. There are a few where a decision you made in an earlier quest will affect the story of a later quest, but not many. I do wish there was a bit more of that, but, it would make the book a lot larger, so I will forgive that.
Now to gameplay. I’m classifying two main aspects to the gameplay: puzzles and combat. I’ll touch on puzzles first.
There aren’t a ton of puzzles, but enough to keep you guessing, and some of them are quite challenging, and well worth it. I won’t go any further than that, as I don’t want to spoil them. Suffice it to say, if you’re into puzzles, be sure to pick things up, you never know what you will need. As for combat…
Combat is the main pull of this game. There are some books where there are a lot of puzzles and little combat. Destiny Quest leans the other way with more combat. This could be problematic if the combat wasn’t well-balanced or challenging. Not the case here, though. The combat system is balanced and challenging! It’s well explained in the book, but let me give you a quick rundown:
- Speed Phase
- Damage Phase
- Passive Phase
You roll 2 dice each for you and your enemy. Add in your Speed score, and whoever has the highest attacks.
Roll 1 die and add that to your damage stat (Strength or Magic). Subtract the Armour score for the one getting attacked, and that is the damage done.
If there are any passive abilities in play, calculate those now.
Of course, this doesn’t include abilities. There are 4 types: Speed, Combat, Modifier and Passive. I already mentioned the Passive: these are abilities that will trigger once a certain condition is met. One that I use a lot in my current build is Bleed: If your damage dice/damage score causes health damage to your opponent, they continue to take a further point of damage at the end of each combat round. This damage ignores armour. And just to show you that they aren’t all damage related, here’s one for the Inquisitor Career, Cleansing light: Automatically heals the hero for 2 health at the end of each combat round.
Speed abilities are ones that you use in the Speed Phase. These abilities can allow you to roll another die, or add to your speed score, or your opponent’s Speed score. Webbed is a good example: This ability reduces the number of dice your opponent can roll for attack speed by 1, for one combat round only. You can only use this ability once per combat.
Combat abilities are ones that you can use in the Damage Phase. These are abilities that damage your opponent. Take, for instance, Cleave: Instead of rolling for a damage score after winning a round, you can use cleave. Roll 1 damage dice and apply the result to each of your opponents, ignoring their armour. You can only use cleave once per combat.
Modifier abilities change a stat, or let you change a roll. They can be used in any Phase, you will most likely use them in the Speed or Damage Phases, though. Charm is a favorite: You may re-roll one of your hero’s dice anytime during a combat. You must accept the result of the second roll. If you have multiple items with the charm ability, each one gives you a re-roll.
With well over 100 different abilities to play with, combat never gets old. It is a lot of fun to try to determine what abilities would suit your character and play-style the best.
Speaking of character, this gamebook is a Role Playing Game, with stats and all. As such, you have different Paths and Careers that you are able to choose from. There are 3 Paths that you get to choose from: Warrior, Rogue, and Mage. If you have ever played any fantasy RPGs, you know the archetypes. If not, a quick rundown, from the site:
- Warrior – The warrior is a master of weapons and armour. Although slow in combat, the warrior compensates for this with mighty strength and a hardy endurance.
- Rogue – The rogue is a master of speed and deception. Whilst weak and vulnerable in longer fights, the rogue excels in exploiting weaknesses and avoiding damage.
- Mage – By studying the arcane schools of fire, lightning, frost and shadow, a mage can command devastating spells and summon fiendish monsters.
From here, you get to pick a Career, limited only by the Path you chose. For instance, a Warrior could pick the Ranger Career, or the Inquisitor. Rogues have an Assassin and Pickpocket. And Mages get to pick from Pyromancer and Alchemist. And don’t let my poor wording fool you, these are only 2 options for each Path. There are more available, I’m just not going to spoil them. Each Career gives you 2 more abilities for your character.
The last thing I want to mention is that this game is like an MMO for many reasons. There are a lot of quests, tons of loot, and epic bosses that are tough to beat. The last one, and potentially most controversial is the lack of death.
In most Choose Your Own Adventure style stories, death happens, frequently. This isn’t a huge deal in most cases because you learn that you need certain items, or need to take a different path. There are 2 reasons for this book to not have death: 1) there is actually a plot/story reason. 2) this book is so big, it would be a huge setback to suddenly die. And if you are at the final boss, to only die and need to start over? Not something I would want to do. I’d probably want put the book down.
In the end, it doesn’t end up mattering to me. While it might be fun to have death, if you really want it, make some home rules. And, if you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t keep to those deaths that much anyway. I always kept a finger or two in previous entries, and I’ll admit to doing so in The Legion of Shadow of well.
I am HIGHLY recommending this book. If you enjoy Choose Your Own Adventure or gamebooks like the Fighting Fantasy, Fabled Lands or the Lone Wolf series of books, you will enjoy this book. If you are a fan of MMORPG games, you will enjoy it, if you can manage to pull yourself away from your MMO of choice.
And this isn’t the end of the series, only the beginning. Mr. Ward has stated on the site for the book, here, that the book has been picked up by a publisher, which means we will be seeing a second edition next year. This edition will include all current downloadable content that he has released on the site, as well as the last one that is not out yet. He is also working on Book 2: Heart of Fire, so more Destiny Quest goodness is on the way.