CotP2: The Warlock's Way

Ray Holt


[Ray Holt]

I have to admit, that the two Clash of the Princes books had completely slipped my mind until I read the Andrew Chapman interview on this site. This spin-off just didn't seem to get the same attention as Steve Jackson's Sorcery! series, despite having the distinction of being FF's only foray into multi-player gamebooks. Indeed, Fighting Fantasy were not the only gamebooks to experiment with a multi-player system: at around the same time, Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson were producing the Blood Sword series, and Joe Dever had his Combat Heroes books. The idea never really caught on. So it's sad that I can't tell you how well this system worked, as I've not been able to find the companion to this volume, and try out the two-player experience for myself. The question is - how well does it stand up as a solo adventure?

The answer, I'm pleased to say, is tolerably well. The first difference between The Warlock's Way and a normal FF gamebook hits you in the character creation stage. Lothar (the Warlock of the book's title, whom you play) gets a reduced Skill score (one dice plus four), but also receives a Magic Score. This small difference makes a distinct shift of balance - suddenly, the enemies are all that little bit better at fighting, emphasising that you are a mage and not a Warrior. The magic system works extremely well. Lothar receives a number of magic points and a list of battle spells, which he can use in combat. Lothar receives no other spells per se, but is often given the option to spend magic points to achieve particular feats - flying across a river, rotting bonds to escape and so on. It slots nicely into the gamebook format, and I'm surprised it wasn't picked up more often in the FF series.

The story's plot is fairly flimsy: Lothar and his brother, Clovis, are heirs to the throne of Gundobad. To decide who will be King, they are sent to recover a Sacred Gem - whoever gets it first, gets the throne. No one in Gundobad seems to have spotted the obvious flaw in sending both heirs off to almost certain death, but it's all just an excuse for a good, old-fashioned treasure hunt. The book has no linear plot whatsoever, but this isn't a hindrance. Lothar travels over a huge area, progressing from one encounter to the next with nothing whatsoever to link them together. Yet, far from making the book feel patchy and disjointed, this adds a pleasantly epic feel. Given that - as a solo adventure - you don't get all of the 500 paragraphs, Andrew Chapman and Martin Allen do an excellent job of making the game feel quite lengthy, so you don't feel short-changed if you don't have the companion volume. The book isn't without its flaws, however - there's a real lack of description in some of the encounters, as if the authors were trying to push you through in the least words possible. Also, there are some lengthy mazes, in which the player is repeatedly confronted with little more than the choice of left or right, over and over and over again. This is frustrating, and makes the middle part of the adventure a waste. Still, while the single-player aspect may not be an outstanding FF adventure, it's pleasant enough and a little different from the norm. I wish I'd been able to test this out with its companion volume, as the Multi-Player aspects look quite interesting. Lothar and Clovis (the Warrior, of The Warrior's Way) are given Status and Action scores between them, which change depending on which actions they take, so that - by taking one action in your adventure, you can affect the other player's. Better still, this is different from the other multi-player books I've named. Blood Sword was purely co-operative, and Combat Heroes more or less "Deathmatch", Clash of the Princes offers the chance of both heroes co-operating even though, ultimately, they are in competition.

There are various points at which the players can split up or meet up, so you still have the whole solo adventure at your fingertips (in which case the two players are just in a race to get to the end first), but by far the most interesting encounters occur when the pair are travelling together. This gives the players an opportunity to double-team enemies, or choose who will take a particular action, As Lothar as the magic, and Clovis is (presumably) better warrior, this would make for an interesting compliment of skills. So, I think this would be well worth trying with two-players, but if - like me - you can only get hold of one volume, it's still worth having. An unjustly forgotten corner of FF history - it's just a shame it wasn't better exploited.

RATING: 7/10 (Single-player)