FF39: Fangs of Fury

Nicholas Campbell
Per Jorner
John Stock
Steven Taylor
Will Turton


[Nicholas Campbell]

The Citadel of Zamarra, on the south-west coast of Khul, is under siege by an alliance consisting of Ostragoth the Grim and the Evil Wizard Jaxartes. Normally, the six Stone Sentinels which guard the Citadel would have warded off any advancing force with their fiery breath - fire which originates from the Fangs of Fury, a volcano which is also home to a strange religious sect - but the flame within the volcano has been extinguished, and the Sentinels are unable to defend the Citadel. You have rather unwisely volunteered to find a way through the siege lines, head north into the mountains, and relight the Flame within the Fangs of Fury, using the magical Torch, so that Zamarra will not fall to Ostragoth's army.

Let's ignore the fact that the Fangs of Fury isn't really a volcano (at least, not like the volcanoes here on Earth), and concentrate on the other aspects of this gamebook. It's fairly non-linear, and there are many ways to complete it successfully, which means that once you have completed it, you can explore another route if you wish. There is a mystical religion involved; most of the later Fighting Fantasy gamebooks have one, but I found the one in Fangs of Fury quite intriguing. For unknown reasons, their followers (who are known as Wazarri) cannot mention its name, or a curse will be bestowed on them. Their symbol is a cube, and their beliefs and artefacts are based around this. Throughout the gamebook, you may be told to look out for White Cubes in the illustrations - a clever addition that makes playing the gamebook more interesting. The religion also uses an alphabet, known as the Alphabet of Talin, which resembles semaphore. Every good gamebook has to have a code of some sort!

That said, Fangs of Fury has its flaws as well. It took me nearly 20 attempts to complete it, thanks to all the different routes that one can take, but in fact, it shouldn't have taken as many attempts as that. At the start of the game, you are wearing a bracelet which glows when a wall of the Citadel is breached, and if all fourteen walls are breached, the Citadel falls to Ostragoth's forces and you have failed. However, even if you take a very long route through the book, it's highly unlikely that this will happen. It would have been more challenging if the Citadel had only seven or eight walls. You are also given four Black Cubes (another Wazarri artefact) which protect you against fire, and you can collect more on your journey to the Fangs of Fury, but you will almost certainly end up getting far more of them than you actually need. It would have been more challenging if there were fewer opportunities to collect them.

Finally, there isn't much in the way of combat, and most of the opponents you fight are fairly unchallenging (Jaxartes is probably the toughest single opponent in the entire book, but even he has a SKILL of only 10). You also never have to fight more than one opponent simultaneously, which is strange. At least it means that you can complete Fangs of Fury with relatively low Initial scores.

Overall, I think Fangs of Fury is a satisfactory gamebook which is unfortunately let down by a series of flaws which make it much less of a challenge than it could have been. It's worth playing, but the relative ease of the gamebook may be off-putting.

Rating: 7/10


[Per Jorner]

OK, now I've finished an FF in two attempts without cheating at all. Boo hiss. Still, it was pretty funny, with a diversity of locations, some puzzles (not very sophisticated) and a perilous final stage (in the end I had 5 Stamina and no Provisions). All things considered I was positively surprised, since Luke Sharp doesn't generally seem to get the best reviews. His style is a bit choppy ("You are in a room. There is a chair. You can smell onions. A dragon slaps you around with a trout (deduct 2 points from your Stamina)."), but not bad, and every so often it works to his advantage. David Gallagher is similarly not the most talented of the FF art crew, but he gets the job done.

The plot: bad wizard threatens good wizards - common soldier breaks siege to deliver whatzit to legendary place - stuff happens along way - bad guys turn up every now and then. Back to basics, you could say, and there's _much_ of it. When I won the journey didn't seem short, and yet I missed out on most of the contents. Sharp saves paragraphs in several ways, one of which is to include the results of a roll, good and bad, in the same paragraph as the roll. Another is "mock path choices", where you choose between this and that, but "this" turns out to be only one paragraph deep, redirecting you to "that" after a fight, a roll, a find or something else. I'm not complaining, actually, as it's a very economic way to add extra detail that pops up on repeated playing, and an adventure of a hundred brief encounters tends to feel richer than one of twenty more detailed ones.

Good tings: I liked the run-ins with various Wazarri; it's usually a good thing in a gamebook that you get to meet and rely on friendly people at times and don't run around saving the world by your heroic lonesome. Strange as it may sound I also liked the "portrayal" of the main character: someone who's out of his depth and goes with the flow a lot, but isn't a mindless grunt either. Running away from nasty critters and to the rescue of innocents felt just as natural. It was a good idea to make the player chase illustrations, as it were, although the random aspect involved spoils it somewhat, and the relation between scoring and payoff isn't exactly linear.

Bad tings: You're never told what the Furnace/Flame is or looks like even when it's right in front of you, and there's no explanation for why sticking a key in the right lock will ignite it (unless it's an ignition key... ouch). The final "puzzle" with the locks is stupid (imagine what kind of classic FF1 would have been if it hadn't really mattered whether you found the right keys or not), and the paragraph you should turn to does not tell you it is the correct one as promised, although it's pretty clear unless you really are guessing. Paragraph 330 is another good example of being free to act on very specific information that may be known by the player but not the character. Ditto for the code snippets. There's also too much time (in the first game that I won I spent only 6 of the 14 time units), too many Black Cubes (got 20 and used up 1) and too many ways of regaining Stamina (six points just for sitting around in the woods?). Paragraph 5 is seemingly missing an instruction to treat damage as illusory.

I still think FoF is a good little book with lots of nice touches and humourous details. It's simply packed chock-full with stuff, at least as much as Creature of Havoc with its extra paragraphs. Not everyone should be so lucky as to win in the first one or two games, and even if you do there's still replay value; just get out there and make all the wrong choices! Good luck trying to find the Elf-wings, or the ancient mariner and his dinner, or the pool in the forest...

Rating: 6/10


[John Stock]

Never volunteer for anything in the army. Never. Not once. Problem is, you already have and it's too late to go back now. Furthermore, you've volunteered to go on a highly secret mission, which should be avoided like the plague.

The mission is to reignite the six stone sentinels which guard the kingdom of Zamarra which is under attack from the Ostragoth/Jaxartes alliance. And the way to do this is to plungs the Torch which controls them into the heart of the Fangs of Fury volcano. Furthermore, you must do this quickly because of the Bracelet which has been attached to you, and will kill you automatically once the 14 walls of the citadel have been breached.

For once, the "race against time" concept coined by Luke Sharp actually works! While you can get to the end with time to spare, more often than not you will be killed by the Bracelet near the end. Thankfully, Luke Sharp here isn't so trigger-happy as he was in Daggers of Darkness.

Another good feature is the stick-man code, however it is marred by its great resemblance to British Semaphore.

However, as always, there are gripes. One of which is the questionability of the plot. How many volcanoes have fireballs at their cores?! Anyone who took a Geography lesson knows that volcanoes have magma at their centres and only erupt when the pressure of magma underneath is great enough to blow their tops off! Another gripe is the ending. Too "potted", if you ask me. By that I mean it's too concise and abrupt. Maybe Luke was tired. Oh - and the book is too easy! When you realise that the cyphers are basically British Semaphore and you clock up the huge numbers of ways to win through (no key? lockpick. no lockpick? bash the door in.), you'll see what I mean. So to sum up - Nothing special.

MY RATING - 6.4/10


[Steven Taylor]

Before I start the review, I would just like to point out that I have always been highly critical of this book. It's just too stupid and ridiculous to believe. You must take a magical torch and light it from the flames within a volcano. That's just bloody stupid! Volcanoes are created from molten rock and lava from the earth's core, not fire! I learned this in Year 9 geography. If this concept wasn't implausible enough, wait until you enter the volcano itself and see how the flame is rekindled, it's completely ridiculous.

Putting the stupidity of it all aside, my other main complaint is that it gives you too many chances to win. If you don't have the key, you can use lockpicks. If you don't have lockpicks either, then you can smash the locks. It's just too forgiving. There are too many black cubes lying around, and there are too many citadel walls. If you want a real challenge with this book, start with only seven citadel walls and take only half the black cubes available every time you find them, you'll find its still possible to win through.

Putting the negative aside, there is an awful lot to do in this book. Even after you have completed it, there is still heaps more stuff to do and areas to explore, so it does provide some interest after completion. Most of the stuff you see and do is interesting (check out the demented giant), and on the whole, the book is quite good.  Its just a shame about the faults I mentioned above.

Rating: 7.0/10


[Will Turton]

Fangs of Fury is a lovely little gamebook dealing with a near unexplored region of Khul. Although there is a map, it doesn't help in the wide perspective. Along with Gorak (FF30) and Kazan (FF35) which are nearby, Fangs of Fury brings in Astragal the Wizard. Astragal is the equivalent of Yaztromo or Nicodemus and seems to save the South West of Khul from destruction continually. In this book, the city-state of Zamarra is being assaulted by the mercenary army of Ostragoth the Grim and his wizard friend, Jaxartes.

His army is on the brink of destroying the walls of the city and killing the Wizards of the Mage Order. The Great Dragons on the walls of the citadel are not destroying the attacks. For some reasons, these 'magical dragons' have lost their ability to 'flame grill' the attackers. The fire for them resides in the Fangs of Fury, a mountainous place some considerable distance away. It never explains why the source is there however, something I'd like to know.

You are a lowly soldier in the Zamarran Army and you have to break through the enemy lines and make your way to the Fangs of Fury. There are many ways in which you can reach the area and all of them are filled with engrossing references and important events. If you are really unlucky, you have to undertake a sub-quest to regain your Torch, needed to re-kindle the flame in the Fangs. Also, you must not dawdle. Really, if you do, you will suffer a painful death as the Wizards have fitted you with a bracelet that glows every time a wall of Zamarra's citadel is breached. When they all have been breached, the Wizards will die and therefore, so do you.

This is a DO or DIE quest, quite literally.

You also have to pay attention to David Gallagher's illustrations however and look out for the White Cubes, which are important for the final stage of the adventure. I found this to be an ingenious idea which forced you to spend time looking at the drawings which I must say are very good. You meet all manner of creatures in the adventure including the strange Dragonmen that hoard masses of treasure.

The adventure is written by Luke Sharp and I believe he is better at writing fantasy as he does here than Science Fiction (as in Star Strider). The only fault I can find is that it can seem very long-winded at times, which can put off some people. It should not however for this is a good gamebook and deserves to be republished along with the majority of the rest of the series.

Score: 8/10