Written by Keith Martin, art by Tony Hough
So, Night Dragon. This is the 52nd book of the original Fighting Fantasy series, and you can tell that because it loads up several pointless little scores that it wants you to keep track of, like honour, nemesis (how aware of you the enemies are) and time. I don't think the book's actually going to need all three of these, they just strike me as extra busywork. Anyway, I roll up stats and am told that a dark elf has asked to meet me in the city of Blacksand (which as any Fighting Fantasy reader will remember, is like Ankh-Morpork but without the friendliness). He then tells me that there's an ancient dragon who's going to wake up and eat the planet or something, and a bunch of the other less-evil dragons are having a meeting to decide how to stop it. He asks me to go and save the world from this ancient, evil Night Dragon before it slays us all with a pie in the face.
So before I can say to the dark elf "Wouldn't it be more useful for you to go and make a king aware of this so that he can raise an army or something", I'm off on a quest to save the world again. I wouldn't worry too much. If 'World of Warcraft: Cataclysm' has taught me anything, it's that evil world-eating dragons can be easily handled by a time-travelling orc and a group of ten random strangers. The dark elf has given me enough gold to catch a nearby ship off to the north, so before long I'm sailing away off to the chilly north. Almost immediately, we are attacked by a large eel-type creature called a Greel, who kicks my ass with a pie in the face.
I'm... going to stop doing that pie in the face thing now. It's stupid. And I'm confused. Did a giant rampaging ancient dragon from before the dawn of time hire some assassins? Anyway, the body has a plaque on him with the word 'Endimion', so I flee the room and head out into the town, aiming to find out what this name could mean.
This wildly tentative series of detective hooks does pay off, because we're able to find another dark elf who's arrived with the ship, and... the split second I meet him, he's assassinated by a robed goon. The elf babbles about Frost Giants and tells me to go to a pass far in the north-west. And here's where I start to hate the book.
I try to leave the town, but the book tells me that I need a pass in order to leave. Rather than just asking me if I have the pass, it instead tells me that I need to know the NAME of the pass, and that I need to convert the name of the pass to numbers in order to move to the next paragraph. I don't know the name of the pass, so the book sends me back to the tavern.
So there you go, I'm stuck in a time warp. Death by throwing the book across the room in annoyance, I'm afraid. Seriously, it could all have been resolved by just pointing the reader
to the paragraph after you leave the tavern murder scene, but NOPE. To be honest, I feel sorry for the poor dark elf contact, being doomed to be murdered by robed assassins over and over and over again, for all of time.
That's another thing about books at this point in the series, the editors just didn't give a rat's arse.... Now I do admit, I could rather simply keep playing over and over and over until I stumble across the name for this pass that I'm supposed to find. But at this point, why should I? If the book itself doesn't care, then why should I?
Fighting Dantasy's playthrough in the hopes that I can pick up something that I've missed. And, finally, I decide to just cheat. Seems that I did indeed entirely miss the pass, and I quickly read through the rest of the adventure without it. The challenge on this really seems to ramp up a lot.
By the end of the adventure, you're fighting the titular night dragon who is by far one of the toughest monsters I've ever seen in a Fighting Fantasy book (with the possible exception of Legend of Zagor). Even though you do start the game with a rather slight skills boost, it'd still be a massively challenging fight. And then, to top it all off, the dragon's head does weird things... Which, let's face it, all dragon's heads should do weird things.
Aside from the rather massive editing gaff that seems to have caught me, this is a damn challenging book which feels suitably epic. I really would have liked to have seen it fixed up a bit before being released, because then it would have been a real gem. It's nowhere near as broken as Revenge of the Vampire, and from what I understand it's entirely possible to play through the entire book without falling into the same editing hole that I did. But still, it happened to me.
Guess you could say I ended this book with pie in the face. A-ha, ha ha... sorry....