FF3: The Forest of Doom

Jane Aland
Robert Clive
Per Jorner
Demian Katz
Frank La Terra
Simon Osborne
Chris Page (spoiler - true path)
Ethan Richerson
Phil Sadler
Laurence Sinclair
Jason Smith
Bryan Spargo
Aaron Thorne


[Jane Aland]


The Forest of Doom is the third Fighting Fantasy book, and Ian Livingstone's first solo book as an author. Unfortunately though it's inferior to both The Warlock of Firetop Mountain and Citadel of Chaos. The one good aspect about Forest of Doom is that by setting it in the open air of a forest Livingstone has manages to break away from the 'dungeon quest' format of the first two books, but in almost every other aspect the book is weak. Firstly it's far too easy (this one took me only 5 attempts to complete), most of the options are limited to using a certain magical item or not, and the book lacks the multiple red herrings and opportunities for sudden death that made The Citadel of Chaos so tough to complete. It also has few memorable encounters and is badly structured, entirely lacking any big climactic villain to confront. Mediocre Fighting Fantasy by numbers, The Forest of Doom hasn't stood the test of time very well...




This is another of those game books where you jump from numbered text passage to passage to complete a mission like a novel version of a Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game.

Being easy to pick up, you start at the beginning at reference number one and then you're directed to different parts of the book, depending on which paths or decisions you take in your adventure. The goal is to win and get to reference 400, which is the end. It's quite clever really.

The 'Forest of Doom' is a good book but is just too easy. As the other reviewers have pointed out, this one is set in an open forest, rather than the usual underground maze explorer adventure that many other books follow.

You're given the mission of having to find an important object that's disappeared into a dangerous forest called Darkwood. This means that you have to enter the forest and explore around, moving from reference to reference within the 400 passages in total.

I think that this book is good, but it isn't the best in the whole series of books overall. It's interesting, but when compared to other books like Deathtrap Dungeon, Island of the Lizard King or Return to Firetop Mountain, it's just average.

The main reason for this is that it's far too easy. Some other books are hard and I think this could've been better if the writer had made it tougher and more unforgiving than it is. I think the easiness of this book is the only real weakness; the rest is a good idea.

If it were harder and more of a challenge that could keep your attention longer, I'd give it four stars. But I'll give it 3 instead.

My favourite bit is the crypt, it's quite spooky!


[Robert Clive]

I like this book. It's well paced, well written, you have an interesting mission to complete. The illustrations are excellent!

In addition to this there are plenty of varied encounters. It has an epic feel in the way you get to travel UNDER the ground as well as through the forest itself. However, there's one thing I didn't like. My main problem with this one is the it's just too easy overall! You can get through the book without too much fighting. This in itself isn't bad. However, you get given too many provisions! Add to this the option to return to the forest and try again right at the end. If the option to return to the forest at the end was left out, some of the opponents were beefed up a bit OR the starting provisions were reduced, this book would be perfect :-)!



[Per Jorner]

Oddly enough, it wasn't until I re-mapped this a couple of years after playing it for the first time that I actually got any sense of being in a forest. It could all as easily have happened on a stretch of brushland or in a dungeon with neat, straight tunnels. I guess that means you have to look out for Ian Livingstone's brief, concise descriptions or you risk missing out on the context. It could also be taken to mean that in this kind of gamebook, the context doesn't really do much except determine what flavour of encounters you'll come across. Or maybe it just means they don't have proper forests in England.

Forest of Doom features a "broader" map than in any other book I've played, with several branching and rejoining paths, sort of like the first half of Warlock of Firetop Mountain times two. It even reuses the "river as halfway point" idea, but with multiple crossings. Encounters happen neatly along the paths, and all of it is eminently mappable; the most confusing element you'll find is stuff that happens only if you travel in one particular direction on an east-west trail. The encounters are typically brief "fight or flight" scenarios or the equivalent thereof. The book doesn't try to trick you like Citadel of Chaos, but instead presents the valid options upfront.

Also the shopping list is short and simple: you only need two items, with a third required to get at one of them. Getting through the forest itself is pretty easy, with few truly intimidating enemies (and certainly no ranks of unavoidable Skill 10-12 enemies like those that haunt later books). Hence, if you start mapping right away you may be able to finish the book in just a few attempts. I never knew if the option to traverse the forest again with the same character should be taken seriously, although the various pieces of jewellery you can amass seem to have been intended to let you replenish your stock of magical items at Yaztromo's. Of course, it seems downright silly that the forest should repeatedly reset itself to contain the same monsters and same items. For one thing, you can increase your Attack Strength indefinitely, making combat a formality. And how would you explain to the dwarves arriving in Stonebridge for the third time with three shafts but no head? (That was an odd sentence.) It would have been a good idea to at least put a few Hill Trolls at the finish as a final obstacle, trying to stop you from reaching Stonebridge with the hammer (makes sense, right?), and of course axe the possibility of going back.

The book features the idea of "spell items", which never really appealed to me, especially with all the paperwork needed before you can get going. You have only a vague idea what to expect from the items when you buy them, but you're always prompted for them whenever they can be used. For each item this is maybe just once or twice in the entire book, so you're unlikely to use most of them unless you already know what to expect.

Lastly, the illustrations don't contribute to any deep, dark forest atmosphere, instead they are often horrible. Just take a look at the Catwoman, for crying out loud. At least the Shape Changer - one of the few original and cool monsters in this book - looked great on Iain McCaig's cover (one of the very best, I think).

Rating: 5/10


[Demian Katz]

Plot Summary: You encounter a dying dwarf and decide to finish the quest that he gave his life attempting to complete: to enter a dangerous, monster-filled forest in search of a precious hammer that the dwarfs of Stonebridge need to fight off the trolls that threaten their home.

This book is really quite typical of the early fantasy-themed entries in the series -- it's relatively plotless, it features minimalistic writing that's extremely short on dialogue, and it doesn't do anything particularly unusual with the core rules. Really the only thing that distinguishes it from the past two adventures is the fact that it's set in an outdoor environment, which makes a nice change from the claustrophobic dungeons of its predecessors. Unfortunately, despite the mild novelty of its setting, the book isn't all that memorable. Apart from introducing Yaztromo and the dwarfs of Stonebridge, it doesn't contain much that I'd consider terribly imaginative. Of course, the less-than-thrilling story could be forgiven if it were supported by great gameplay. Alas, that's not really the case here...

The adventure is highly item-driven, which is something of a trademark of Ian Livingstone adventures; unfortunately, though, it's not done very well here. At the start of the adventure, you can purchase a wide variety of magic items, and this part of the game is roughly equivalent to picking spells in the previous adventure, though it's more tedious since you have to pay different amounts of money for different items. What I found really disappointing, though, was the way that these items are ultimately used. When you come to a place where you can use an item, you are asked if you have it. If you do, you use it successfully; if not, something bad happens (though rarely something fatal). This isn't very exciting -- I'd much rather be given a list of items to try and have to figure out which one works; that would be more suspenseful, and it would also offer the potential of multiple solutions to certain problems. As things stand, encounters are either boring or frustrating, with little middle ground.

Another major problem with the book is the way it loops back on itself. If you reach Stonebridge without both parts of the hammer, you have a chance of going back to section one, restocking with Yaztromo and starting all over again. I definitely like the possibility of a second chance (and third chance, and fourth chance...), and it's a nice way of balancing the fact that you have basically no hope at all of finding the hammer on your first try. Unfortunately, this leads to all manner of continuity problems, since the book doesn't even try to address the possibility that you've already slain monsters and taken treasures. This leaves the player wondering how to handle things the second time around, and it interferes with the realism of the book. The problem couldn't really have been fixed without greatly increasing the size of the book, but that doesn't change the fact that it detracts from the reader's experience.

Perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh -- although this book isn't particularly exceptional, it's also far from being a disaster. It's a fun diversion, and it seems free from errors as long as you can suspend your disbelief about the whole looping thing. Its art isn't bad, either. In fact, compared to some of the unplayable, broken garbage I've encountered during my time as a gamebook collector, it shines like gold. Within the context of this series, though, it's average at best and rather seriously flawed at worst. It's not a classic, but it's worth playing if you're a completist (or have nothing better on hand).


[Frank La Terra]

"Never judge a book by its cover."
Obviously the person who coined that term had just read Forest of Doom. I mean, just look at that cover! A horrible lizard thing (and as you will find out, it's actually a shape changer!) tearing through its clothing, ready to rip you apart! My god, this must be the greatest adventure ever, right? Right?
Actually, no.
Let's go through the checklist:
It's way too easy (the ending lets you go back to the start if you failed?).
The text is dryer than chicken left in the oven for 6 hours.
The encounters are boring.
The forest makes no sense (for a forest of doom there sure are a lot of people in it!).
The quest has no sense of urgency. What-so-ever!
No end boss or big baddie to overcome.
Did I mention it was boring?
The plot, what little there is of it, involves dwarves who have lost their hammer that for some reason they need to unite the tribe or something to fight trolls or some such (you would think getting attacked by trolls would be enough to unite you but what do I know about dwarfs really) so these two stupid dwarfs decide to walk into the Forest of Doom with this important artifact but get killed by goblins who then.... ZZzzzzzz.
Huh, oh. Well, at the start you meet a stereotypical old wizard who sells you some junk that should have no use really but of course does and you can.... ZZZzzzzzz.
Did I say this book was boring?
Gameplay: 2
Story: 1


[Simon Osborne]

I have to immediately disagree with most of what has been said. I liked Malcom Barter's atmospheric and slightly eerie illustrations, portraying a very English-styled fantasy world. I often enjoy walking through wooded areas of this fair and green nation, and areas such as the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire certainly appear to be the major inspriration for the b+w illustrations in this book. Of course, Ian McCaig's fantastic cover (the first FF cover to not be re-vamped) is fantastic and very memorable. Upon simultaneous publication with Citadel of Chaos in March '83, I'd imagine this got more (initial) interest simply from the cover.

The subject matter is also something I'm rather fond of. No wizard-slaying here: the quest is not one that will save the world or change the universe. I happen to think that's rather a coup in gamebook design terms. Also, it isn't set in a dismal dungeon - I dislike dungeons as a setting because I think they're too obvious. The game is further enhanced by the introduction of Yaztromo (a Gandalf rip-off, but a good name!), his tower, and his weakly magical artefacts. OK, so they only work once, and each can only used in one place in the book - surely that's an inherent limitation of gamebooks over role-playing. I liked the bizarre magical items, and I think most (all?) can be used in the book without having to buy it to complete the book. That's fun.

As for memorable encounters, Quinn the strongman; the Hunter; the Shape-Changer; the Thief; the Clones... I found most of the encounters memorable. As for the feeling that the individual encounters aren't linked - quite right! Travelling through a medieval forest would probably throw up a number of encounters, none of which would be linked to the others. Perhaps some things seemed out of place (Demian mentioned the Clones and the Gone / Hammer-head) but this is always the case with gamebooks. Why were the three keys to Zagor's chest scattered throughout his dungeon? What was a storekeeper doing in Firetop Mountain? Why was there a Boathouse in Firetop Mountain? Why is Balthus Dire killed by sunlight? Why is there a secret passageway leading to the Black Tower's pantry? I thought the encounters in the previous two books seemed just as isolated as the ones in Forest of Doom; but in a forest in the wilderness, the encounters are more likely to be. That's how it seemed to me, anyway.

As for mapping, I found it easier to map that Firetop Mountain or the Black Tower. Of course, your initial draft will be inaccurate - it always is! :) Keep adding bits here and there until you have a rough idea of where all the paths lead, then draw it up neatly and voila! An accurate map of Darkwood Forest.

Of course, the idea of a vast plain within Darkwood always seemed a little odd to me. And the paragraphs suffer from Livingstone's early tendancies to gloss over what's happening quickly. These things aside, Forest Of Doom is my favourite FF of the first 3. (Actually, the first 4, but we haven't got that far yet...)


[Chris Page]

The Forest of Doom is in reality a lot different to other books. Your quest is simply to find two pieces of the legendary dwarfish hammer and deliver it to Stonebridge. However the real problem with this book is that it is way too easy. There's no really challenging monsters or sections in which you need a certain object or you die. In fact flicking through the book I found just FOUR instant deaths. Four? Two of these involved getting killed by monsters when you made a wrong move, one involved not having the complete hammer at the end of the book and even then you have a second chance and one right at the start when frankly you couldn't care less as you would have turned just three paragraphs so you may as well keep the same initial scored and change your actions. Any good book should have more than four so why isn't it. In fact the two pieces of hammer are fairly easy to find. One you find almost at the start and the other is locked in a crypt but you need a few objects to actually get your hands on it but even if you didn't have these objects you needn't worry as I'll explain in a minute. In other words they are very easy to find.

But what if you don't have these objects? Not to worry because if you reach Stonebridge the book allows you to go back to the beginning and start again. Without actually starting the book again. You see when you reach Stonebridge you can go back and take a second look. And then a third and a fourth. At least you have to test your luck to see if you survive.

To cap this all off there isn't even a proper evil final bad guy like there is in all the other books. On the other hand I guess if this were real you would always have the option of taking another look but while this is realistic, it is unchallenging. I completed this on my second go and had no difficulties writting a solution.But the storyline is generally good and there are some interesting moments which save this from complete obscurity and there are worse out there, perhaps I've only looked at the bad side - it is easy and you won't complain when you find yourself not dying at every turn but there should still be something to keep you challenged a bit longer. I can't recommend this as I would other books due to it's simplicity. And those who do already own it, have you noticed it says "race against time" on the back when you could clearly take ten years trying without breaking the rules of the book.

Rating: 6.5/10


[Ethan Richerson]

A disappointing read. I had fonder memories of this book from childhood.

To best put it, this book is... tedious. You play a sword for hire, wandering the Northlands. You run into a dying dwarf who asks you to retrieve his village's hammer so they may fend off the trolls. The hammer is in the Forest of Doom. You set off, following his map, buy magic items from a wizard in a tower at the beginning of your quest, and are off into the woods. I made a map of my routes, found the items necessary eventually, but basically just quit the book. It was that boring for me.

There is very little characterization, encounters take place too quickly, writing is bland. The book basically consists of: picking myriad paths, fighting, finding an item, repeat. This is the most disappointing gamebook that I have read since I returned to reading gamebooks. Granted, that is partially due to my having fond memories of it, rather than having no memories of it. Eventually, I just put the book down. There is so little motivation for your character and you don't really feel a part of the world. To me, when a gamebook not only fails to excite you about discovering what will occur next, but induces you to quit reading, it is a poor one.

The book is incredibly basic. As well, not nearly enough logical choices are offered, and far too often, the author makes decisions for you to bypass possible routes. There are also often very dumb, illogical choices presented.

On the plus side, there are a few interesting encounters within the forest. Unfortunately, they last not nearly long enough, and are few and far between.

It is with regret that I cannot recommend this book unless you are brand new to the world of gamebooks. Perhaps then one might enjoy it.

Rating 1-10: 4


[Phil Sadler]

This is the easiest book in FF history and, if it isn't, I don't know what the hell is. This is a very strange fact because this it is penned by Ian Livingstone, who is not renowned for the ease of his books or, it must be said, the fairness of his combats. Don't worry though because a new-borne baby could complete this adventure within 2 or 3 attempts. To truly give you an idea of how unchallenging the book is I completed it without losing any stamina at all! Admitadly I had a skill of 12!!

Ok, so it's easy (I hear you cry) but there must be other things to say about it! Well, it certainly has one of the greatest covers, is a nicely written book that is set in a relatively different place from the usual FF fair (a forest) and the premise is also different (you're off to save a town - not the whole damn world)! Having said that, some of these good points could also be billed as bad points as well: the forest is just too darn nice and friendly!

It feels like a walk in the park ;) add this to the fact that saving a small town, although different, is just not as good as saving a big country.

There are quite a few items to collect but hardly any of them have much in the way of essential status. In fact, there's only really a paltry two items that you absolutely need! Add this to the fact that many of the combats and situatons can simply be avoided, you have a book that is just far too fair and forgiving. The exact opposite of which can be leveled at many of Mr.Livingstone's later adventures!

Did I mention that this book was easy? Well, just to make sure, you start with either a luck, skill or stamina potion and 10 provisons. Too make matters even worse (or better depending on how you think about it) there are quite a few items and locations that can boost your stats (even your Attack Strength, which is practicaly you initial skill).

To wit (I've already admitted that my character was powerfull) I started the book with 12/18/11 and finished with 12/18/10! I didn't even need to adjust my skill, stamina or provisions even once! Also, what was the point of the gold coins you had, I had to make a total of one reduction and one additon!

Even if you somehow ignore all the bad points above, the book still isn't especially memorable, probably because there isn't much at stake, rarely a dangerous situation and... it's just far, far too damn easy!!

Overall grade: 5 (out of 10)


[Laurence Sinclair]

Ah, doom. In the entire English language it is possibly one of my favourite words. Not to mention, a god DAMN, cover! Indeed, going by first impressions alone this book is simply awesome, but one must dig a little deeper than that.

You have a mission thrust upon you by a dying dwarf. Retrieve the hammer that can unite his people against the Trolls, or all is lost. The only problem; it's in two pieces, and they are somewhere within the Forest of Doom, Darkwood.

This book introduces the concept of money, and the procurement of items. Steve Jackson gave us magic, Ian Livingstone gave the same thing in a different form; magical charms and potions bought from Yaztromo the wizard. It's an ignominious introduction for a character soon to become a regular in the FF series, a mere purveyor of trinkets, and creator of frogs. While his stock may sound exciting, the fact that none of the items has any form of description makes choosing what to buy almost completely down to chance. In The Citadel of Chaos, at least we were told the general effect of each spell.

Luckily, no items are essential for success in this adventure. What you buy may help you out a little, but you can get through with just your sword and an attitude. This is early Livingstone, before the success of Deathtrap Dungeon turned him into a creator of lethal stories that required a full shopping list of items to finish. Some lament the loss of the freedom that this book offered, but personally I'm glad that Ian saw the error of his ways.

The encounters in the book are more of a generic fantasy variety rather than the bizarre and sometime disturbing creatures that populated the first two books. This could be because it is set out in the open, where more natural creatures are bound to be encountered, but I had trouble finding any form of 'doom' in this forest. Even if you reach the dwarfs without the hammer, you can walk around the forest to look again!

I cannot fault the writing of the book, merely the fact that it follows a style merely not to my taste. If you like open and forgiving books that have a solution for every problem, then this is the book for you. This, more than any other, holds true to the promise that anyone, no matter their stats, can get through the book. For me, however, it just lacks any challenge, or even a sense of urgency. The dwarfs seem to be in no rush to get their hammer back, and this contradiction of the storyline is what really got me. A little consistency would be nice.

Rating: 3 out of 10


[Jason Smith]

The Forest of Doom is the third book in the Fighting Fantasy series; written entirely by Ian Livingstone. You play the part of a 'Sword-for-Hire' adventurer, wandering around Allansia. One night, while you're settling down by your camp fire, you stumble across a dying Dwarf. With his last, dying words, the Dwarf tells you about the theft of the Dwarf King's great Warhammer and his quest to retrieve it. While being flown south from Stonebridge, the Hammer was accidently dropped into the sinister Darkwood Forest.

The stage is set for you to enter Darkwood Forest, attempt to rescue the Warhammer; saving the Dwarven town of Stonebridge from disaster and raking in a huge 'collect fee' for your trouble. The only clue you have to it's whereabouts, is that the Hammer was divided in two by two Goblins, who then went their separate ways. This only adds to your difficulties!

This book is quite well written. Being Ian's first solo attempt at a FF book, it is original, exciting and interesting. Also, it's the first FF book to feature that old softy we've all come to love/hate: Yaztromo the Wizard. The only criticism I have is with the general ease of the book. The Monsters that (frequently) try to maim you could of been slightly stronger. The object of your quest could also of been made harder to find.

Saying this, the book is good. The puzzles, traps and creatures you encounter are engaging and varied. You get to explore lots of different places above as well as below ground. You uniquely get the option of entering the forest again if you fail your quest first time around (but look out for Hill Trolls), making the book a satisfying read.

Rating: 7.0/10


[Bryan Spargo]

With the third gamebook in the Fighting Fantasy series, "The Forest of Doom," series co-creator Ian Livingstone presents readers with a straight-forward adventure in which the quest is simple: retrieve the 2 missing pieces of the Hammer of Stonebridge.

This being his first solo book in the series, Livingstone delivers a decent offering, but ultimately fails to match the success and creativity of the series' first two offerings, "The Warlock of Firetop Mountain" and "The Citadel of Chaos."

While "Forest" is written well, presents some interesting and unique encounters (including the introduction of the wizard Yaztromo to the series), and closes with an impressive final passage, the book suffers because it is far too easy to solve. Since there is no final enemy to defeat, the other encounters during the adventure should have been made sufficiently more difficult to compensate for this.

However, Livingstone failed to do so, oversimplifying the adventure to a fault. With the book not presenting much of a challenge, there is also not much of a willingness to play through the adventure a second or third time.

"The Forest of Doom" is entertaining and fairly well written, and deserves to be read at least once, but it lacks any sort of knockout punch.

Overall grade: 6.5 (out of 10)


[Aaron Thorne]


In The Forest of Doom, you play an adventurer who is wandering through the "northern borderlands" near Darkwood forest. You come across a dying dwarf, who was on a quest for a magical warhammer to save his village (conveniently on the other side of the forest). Being the stout-hearted fellow that you are, you decide to complete his quest for him and save his village. Thus you enter the forest, looking for the hammer.

This gamebook is really a maze. There are many paths through the forest, but only one is correct. You are allowed, if you make it to the dwarf village without the hammer, to go back around to the beginning and start over again with the same character, though this isn't without risks. I found the combats to be a little too easy, for the most part, and too numerous. The writing is also too terse; some additional "flavor text" would have been nice to actually tell you what Darkwood forest looks like, smells like, etc. I had difficulty actually immersing myself in the fantasy world due to a lack of such cues.

The book is challenging enough, though this is due to the way that things have to be done in a very specific order, and it will take you a while to figure out what that order is. One thing that annoyed me related to the ability to restart the quest again if you failed to get the hammer the first (or second, or third, ...) time through: you have to fight all the creatures over again. This really doesn't make sense from a story-telling perspective, and should have been dealt with. This is a major flaw in my opinion, and is in large part responsible for the three-star rating.