FF40: Dead of Night

Greg Galon
Per Jorner
Phil Sadler
Laurence Sinclair
John Stock (spoiler - trap)


[Greg Galon]

Ooh, another strange one. Okay, let's see what we have here... your parents have been abducted by the Demon Prince Myurr, and you, as a Warrior-Priest, must cleanse the land and defeat him to reclaim the joys of being united with your parents. At first glance, it certainly seems like "Ho-hum. Another three Goblins that I've killed. Oh, and look! (suddenly you get excited) It's a brand new car! oh crap, it's just 5 GPs. Throw 'em on the pile."

But this book is certainly no ho-hum adventure. You are playing with forces you cannot understand. This book takes you on a wild ride where you need not tackle only the forces of Evil but also the Neutral forces, whom Myurr has tricked. There is only one path, and it is a narrow one, to follow in this book, so you can claim all special artifacts needed to defeat Myurr in his grotesque Demonic castle.

Beautifully illustrated, well written, and with challenges to rival the best of 'em, this book certainly cannot be underestimated. Myurr is not another "Warlock of the Firetop Mountain" (which I beat in about an hour). His traps are so subtle that I often took the wrong route, knowingly, just to see how my character dies. Good traps always rate highly on my scale, and so does horror/shock value (which I why I really enjoyed both "Vault of the Vampire" and "Revenge of the Vampire", which some people thought could have been done better). The maze of staircases in Myurr's castle took me forever to figure out. And just to top it all off, there's a great big monster at the top! Just to help you a bit, you get special skills to choose from. While it isn't necessary that you choose the right ones, it does help... it helps a lot!

I enjoyed this book immensely.

Rating: 9.0/10


[Per Jorner]

Superheroes often have secret identities to keep villains from going after their families, but you don't often see the same thing in fantasy: Hubert the saintly knight sneaking off the battlefield to doff his armour and reappear as a lowly scribe. Still there are days when saintly knights probably wish they did that a little more often, especially when some demon king makes off with their parents.

Actually this is a good FF to attempt if you've just watched Tim Burton's not-very-faithful filming of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: dark skies, fog and scarecrows are all part of the scenery. The setting and range of enemies are different from usual and I liked the approach, although upon winning I felt slightly disappointed. Sword of the Samurai would make a decent analogy: detailed and flavorous encounters make the book seem short, then you get whisked around a bit, and at the end there's an anticlimactic boss fight.

The difficulty level averages out OK, too easy if anything. Battles are fair or avoidable, and there are ways of boosting your character. For killing you off the book instead relies heavily on "bogus alternatives" that lead to peril or instant death. This is not "arbitrary", it's "treacherous" - we're talking demons here! A couple of traps took me by surprise in a good way, and the fatalities are often suitably gory. My niggle is that it doesn't feel a lot like puzzle solving, whether you pick the right option or not. I would recommend new players to try out new paths in each game and sample as much of the atmosphere as possible rather than try to optimize your performance on one path, as the roads and villages are much more entertaining than what happens after Dunningham. Hopefully, in the end you'll think my rating is too harsh.

The teleportation maze is an utter waste of paragraphs. This is even more of a folly as there are at least two places which look as if they were written as to desperately save a section: 120 and 224. The final battle is not very exciting with all options laid out in one long paragraph and a "turn to 400" for winning; rather there should have been one paragraph for arch-villainous gloating and then three separate branches for fighting, using items/talents, and destroying stuff (interlinked if necessary). Again cutting the maze would have allowed for this.

Notez: This is my first encounter with the art of Martin McKenna and I can see why he's a fan favourite, though I personally rate Nicholson and McCaig higher; there's just a tad too much ink in places. My favourite illustrations are those for paragraphs 1 (but where's the mist?), 42 (nice beard, hat and teapot) and 240 (just neat all around). The Evil stat didn't make much sense to me, or at least Evil is not the right name for it, seeing how you gain points by defending against attack or destroying demons. "Taint", perhaps? "Neutrality" is another ludicrous concept as presented (unless of course "good" and "evil" are just words - but the book itself constantly tells us otherwise). Surely "searchlight" is an anachronism? When the book says "roll one die a maximum of X times", does it really mean you get to choose, and if so, can you choose not to roll at all? When you're escaping the Sorcerer's prison and stepping through doors, one of the phony references begins with "Your vision grows hazy as you step through the door", which is potentially misleading. I assume paragraph 348 is trying to say the big fat sword's bonus should not be restricted by your initial Skill. Finally there's a rather big - but essentially harmless - bug: if you like you can go back and forth between Stanford and Axmoor in a great loop!

Rating: 6/10




This is one of the better of the original Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. As with all the series, the book is a second-person multiple choice adventure in which the reader takes on the role of the main protagonist and has to fight monsters, solve puzzles and make successful dice rolls to solve the adventure. The player-character has a considerable back-story, being a specialist demon-hunting Templar seeking to rescue his parents. In genre terms, the book is set firmly within the usual Fighting Fantasy world of Titan, but is basically a fantasy-horror title. Nearly all the villains, adversaries and situations involve demons or undead, though with few exceptions, they are more atmospheric than disturbing or frightening. It is mostly a trek through populated country besieged by enemies, reminiscent of the Lone Wolf series but with more horror overtones.

As a game, this gamebook is of a reasonable level of difficulty, can be completed by a character with fairly low statistics, and is challenging and multilinear enough to be highly replayable. As well as the standard FF mechanics of skill, stamina, luck, provisions and gold pieces, the player has to keep track of an "evil" score, which starts at zero and rises with callous actions and the use of certain skills, and must choose three from a list of seven demon-hunting skills, ranging from healing and meditation to protection and invisibility spells. (While one of these skills is highly advantageous, none of them are necessary for completion, but all have uses and give advantages such as allowing one to avoid certain risks or combats). The book is structured around a series of different segments set in different locations (the villages on the map at the front of the book), which can be visited in various orders or not at all depending on the route taken; each village, and some of the paths, involve a self-contained mini-scenario which must be solved/beaten either to avoid death, gain advantages or clues for later, or avoid amassing "evil points".

The variety of routes, combined with the choice of skills, leads to considerable variety and substantial replayability. There are a number of paths to victory - missing a clue or item is not usually fatal if the player has high skill or luck scores or makes good/lucky choices - and since finding certain items (such as the demon-slayer sword) is not essential to success, there is still plenty to explore even after the first victory. There are a couple of structural weaknesses, the first being that the author failed to close a loophole which allows repeated visits to locations one has already dealt with, the second being that the character follows a path northward regardless of whether or not the reader has found out where the target location is. Also, though the route taken can be one of several, the beginning and end sections are always the same. One frustrating aspect is that the final section in Myurr's fortress consists of quite a long bottleneck of linear-connected sections, many of which contain risks of instant death (at least four separate choices of this kind exist, none of them patently irrational or bad), so it is quite common to successfully reach the tower only to be suddenly killed.

As a book, the scenario is passable but simplistic. There is an overall story of an attempt by the demon prince Myurr to come to the earthly plane by means of sorcery, in which Myurr has captured the hero's parents who must be rescued and the summoning stopped. Most of the story, however, consists of a discontinuous series of encounters in each location, some of which yield useful outcomes, others being mainly perils. Although structurally distinct, the different segments nevertheless retain the coherence of a single atmosphere and area, and are interrelated - for instance, one will later encounter damage caused by the demon army one may have encountered earlier. In fact, given the structure, the book hangs together surprisingly well. Still, it does not have an overall narrative, even on the optimal course, and consists rather of a series of mini-scenarios. For example, as the player-character you might be found trying to keep yourself and the villagers alive for the night while under assault from Moon Demons; defending a farmhouse from skeletons; killing an evil necromancer; destroying a Land Blight, an organic fortress fuelled by human lives, by closing its maw and destroying the gem at its centre; preventing a demonic resurrection; dealing with a plague-town; reaching and destroying a massive searchlight-like eye (obviously modelled on Sauron from Lord of the Rings, but far less powerful); trying to survive a poisoning and corpse-robbery plot, and so on.

Game mechanics aside, the book also does not stand out for its originality. The villains are quite predictable and one-dimensional, there are no real plot twists, few variants from the standard list of fantasy creatures, and the book seems much more generic and stereotypical than, for instance, Legend of the Shadow Warriors, Phantoms of Fear or Beneath Nightmare Castle (not to mention Castle Death or The Coils of Hate). So while very playable, I didn't find it especially engaging.


[Phil Sadler]

Let me start by saying that this is my favourite non Jackson-Livingstone book, it also contains my favourite interior drawings! Not a bad start :)

This is a horror story, make no mistake about, it's full of Zombies, Demons, evil and well, you get the idea! So, holy water at the ready, read on...

The first thing you will notice about this title is the (IMHO) the rather poor cover, featuring the Demon breaking forth from the ground. A nice idea, but not the greatest of implementations. The next thing you will notice is that, unlike just about every other FF book to date, you actually play a character who has a name! Demon-Stalker to be exact (Bob to his friends). I'm not even sure if that's a good thing, but it's certainly different.

After you've got used to the above shock ;) you will notice that, not only do you have a new stat to monitor (Evil) you also have varying talents to choose from. These things really make the book feel markedly different from the more usual FF fare, and will even help with replay value.

The Aforementioned Evil stat must be taken care of, because the higher it gets the more likely you are to succumb to the dark mutterings of hidden, shadowy things. A very interesting stat and one which, to my knowledge, has never been copied. A pity. The also aforementioned talents you may choose from are an intriguing array of Demon-battling and soul-saving abilities, such as Banish Undead, Holy Circle and Speak Demon. These will make the book at least slightly different every time you play.

This book is not only exciting it is also very fair, with hardly any powerful monsters ranged against you and, not only that, there aren't too many tedious fights to begin with.

All in all, an excellent book full of eyebrow-rasing situations and memorable moments, not to mention a few terrifying decision (which are rarely too harsh even if you choose the wrong one). Wonderful stuff which rivals even House of Hell as "Best FF Horror Book"!

Rating: 10 out of 10


[Laurence Sinclair]

In a dark world, you are a ray of hope, a Demon Stalker, but now you face your greatest challenge as the Demon Prince Myurr is gathering his forces to invade and conquer the world!

This book has a truly dark atmosphere, filled with Undead and Demons at every turn, and the real feel of an archenemy sending his minions to delay you while you track him down. There is despair across the land, warbands of Orcs roaming and slaying, as well as monstroud Demonic crossovers into the world, horrific organic buildings and plagues. This book contains some of the sickest death scenes of any FF, but they are used sparingly, only when needed, and you are not excessively punished for exploring.

You choose from several special skills to help you in your adventure, and help you they do: none are essential for success, and neither do you need to gather artefacts to defeat your foe. A sharp sword and quick wits are all you need, as well as impeccable morals, for you must see to it that your EVIL characteristic does not rise too much in this adventure, or you may tip the balance of power that Myurr himself is trying to unsettle.

The book develops a less fantastical world around the proceedings, while paradoxically expanding on the Demonology that was merely touched on in previous titles. For once you have a history, and at least a title by which your foes can curse you as you foil their evil schemes, and you can truly get involved in the story. It is, after all, your own parents who have been kidnapped, as well as the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

This is one book that atempts to mess with the standard FF formula but manages to get away with it, by dint of being dark and dangerous, which is just how I like my FF.

Rating: 9 out of 10


[John Stock]

Right then... our first FF Review is of book number 40, Dead of Night. This was sub-author Stephen Hand's first attempt at an FF (with Jim Bambra) and is really quite good indeed.

The book is set in a remote country area of Gallantaria near some small villages. The player is a Demon Stalker and his biggest rival, the demon prince Myurr, has kidnapped his parents. The said demon is also massing an army in the northern hills and attempting to wipe out the local populace with several things beforehand.

The writing is excellent and so are the illustrations. The cover pic is rivalled only by that of Slaves of the Abyss in my opinion. Hand & Bambra's traps are quite subtle - I remember getting poisoned when I tried to sneak through Myurr's Land Blight (a huge chemical weapons factory of sorts) through a pipe. I didn't expect that at all! Another time I failed to take some people's warnings seriously and ended up with this absolutely delicious description of my fate:

"Death by Demon-Plague is one of the most painful demises known to mankind, but it is also mercifully swift."

So when you finally complete this FF, which is one of my favourites, you will deserve a good drink.

MY RATING - 8.8/10