It is no secret that I enjoy the Destiny Quest series of gamebooks by Michael J. Ward. I’ve reviewed the previous two entries, The Legion of Shadow and The Heart of Fire, each getting high marks. So it’s a no brainer for me to review The Eye of Winter’s Fury, Book 3 of the series.
When I read the blurb, the concept sounded familiar: A prince traveling into the frozen north for a chance to save his kingdom, and losing himself in the process. The story idea is similar to Warcraft 3 and its expansion The Frozen Throne by Blizzard. But that is where the similarities end.
If you want the short version of this review: yes, get this book. Read on for a more detailed look.
The Eye of Winter’s Fury starts with all guns blazing. Or maybe, all arrows flying: Betrayed by those protecting him only to be saved by a demon prophet. Then dying from the northern elements and returned to life by a spirit bear. As the Crown Prince to the throne of Valeron, Arran doesn’t have an easy life. Or un-life, for that matter. And the story doesn’t pull punches. The only person I’ve seen put their characters through more is George R. R. Martin.
Elements of Norse mythology have been pulled into The Eye of Winter’s Fury, further enhancing the world. It’s fun to see bits of stories that I’ve heard and read in another form.
And the storytelling is top notch. Michael has done great work writing and refining the story. After the work I’ve done with editing some of my writing, I can appreciate how hard it is.
Michael has done a remarkable job balancing the game system. The concept has not changed since the first book. No reason to change something that is working well. The equipment is dolled out regular enough that you never feel underpowered.
One addition is a new set of skills: Death Moves. These are abilities that you are able to use after you defeat an enemy. So it is really only useful when fighting multiple enemies, which you will be doing a lot of. It’s an exciting addition, and they add a new layer to the combat system. Two that I have obtained with my rogue help me whittle the remaining enemies down. In one battle, I was able to win in three rounds with no damage to myself.
Another fun addition is the use of vehicles. In the first act, there is a dog sled race that you are able to participate in. You buy your sled, lead dog, and some extra equipment, and can then participate in the races.
The rules use the same system for skill checks. You are given a stat to roll against, for instance a Toughness of 9. Then you roll two six sided dice (2d6), and add in your current Toughness value. If the result is equal or higher, you succeed. If not, you fail.
It’s a simple concept, and works great. From my flipping through the book, I know there are some more opportunities in Act 2 for more. I look forward to it.
Yes, I’m only through the first of 2 Acts. Even with the shortened Act structure, the action and story is as fast paced as the 3 Act structure of the previous books. Maybe more so.
While I wish the book had 3 Acts, it doesn’t suffer. Michael fit everything in that needs to be there, and more. That is a testament to his writing ability, as well as the gameplay testing that went into the book.
As for only being a bit more than half way through the book? Yeah, I take a while to work through these. I can say with assurance, though, that this is a worthy addition to the Destiny Quest series. It may even be the best yet.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Destiny Quest series will be viewed in the same way that the Lone Wolf series is in the future. It is an excellent series and people will be playing through them to read the story again and again. Michael J. Ward has proven his ability to write a compelling tale that is worthy of a novel, but contained in a game form.
Unfortunately, the series has been put on hold for now. While gamebooks have seen a resurgence, they are still not as popular as they were in the 1980’s and 90’s. That being said, I’ll be keeping an eye out for Mr. Ward’s future projects.
Again, The Eye of Winter’s Fury is an excellent addition to the series. You won’t regret the purchase.
I want to add that I was given a copy to review by Michael J. Ward and Gollancz. These are my opinions as a fan, nothing more. Thank you to Michael and Gollancz for the copy of an excellent book.