This is a guest post by Borislav Traykov – currently a member of the Gamebooks group in Facebook, looking forward to start his own blog about gamebooks.
I would like to feature Sturmberg – the first and titular short gamebook from the 3rd “Hero: The Calling!” collection of short gamebooks. You can read a bit more about the series in general and a short introductions to each gamebook on the blog post dedicated to the series.
For this post I wish to translate the reviews on Sturmberg from the book’s page on GoodReads.com.
A fragment of Slavy Ganev’s review in his blog (Bulgarian only):
In the first short gamebook in the collection you are a young doctor in the remote little village of Sturmberg in the vicinity of Weimar, Germany. A series of brutal murders committed in one night will force you to do a hasty investigation and find the culprit. Out of the three stories in the collection, this one offers the most interactivity. The mechanics of the game are like a well-oiled machine, ticking without a hitch. During the investigation around the village the reader finds various evidence pointing to the culprit of the crimes. At the end you have the opportunity to lay down your findings and make conclusions based on them to the rest of the villagers and to do what must be done. The combinations of evidence vary and can lead you to several different endings. There are at least 7-8 ways of finishing the gamebook thanks to the diverse evidence materials which you find at your disposal. However, only one of those endings is the true and satisfactory one. I did not tire until I reached it.
The tangled mystery from the beginning of the story gave me hopes for a grand finale, but things turned out to be simpler than I expected. Kudos to Sycamore Bright for piecing the different elements of the story. He has put in a lot of effort for sure in order to make this gamebook enjoyable.
A fragment of Branimir Sabev‘s review in his blog (Bulgarian only):
(Branimir is also the author of the third short story in this collection – The Well)
The story begins on a winter evening somewhere in a remote German village with you taking the role of Doctor Thomas Eisenhoff, who at that time is drinking wine in front of the fireplace – sweet! Your fun however is about to be spoiled because someone is killing village people on this evening. Who and why – you will have to uncover the answers to these questions yourself amidst the chill of the night, the blizzard, the clues and the blood on the snow … a wonderful crime story which I liked a lot.
A fragment of Borislav Traykov’s (that’s me!) review:
The atmosphere of the story is superb. I got that oppressive impression of a cold dreary winter evening that has gripped the small German village of Sturmberg, tucked away in the forests. Everybody here thinks that they know everyone else well … or so they think. Everyone has secrets here. The protagonist may try to play the part of the big hero, but he is really just an academic – a doctor with unenviable physique. Only his resourcefulness and reason can help him.
I honestly admit that during the first and second playthrough, my guesses and clues just about turned up to be correct … and it was on the third play-through that I managed to actually reach the true ending. As a reader-player, I was very pleased – each one of my attempts was building on top of the previous ones as I was learning from my mistakes during each playthrough.
The only weakness of Sturmberg for me was the protagonist – apart from being a doctor with some refinement, appropriate for the time and place, I could not feel neither his anxiety for being in that situation, nor his trepidation for seeing a whole string of murders. Last, but not least, I couldn’t feel his confusion at the fact that the uneventful and dull life in the village was just an illusion – a thin sheet of ice with deep and murky waters beneath it.
The rest of the characters in the gamebook appealed to me though – their actions and reactions were believable and held my interest.
A cool crime investigation with an amateur in the lead.
“The way down” is a secret bonus short story – no gameplay – that can be unlocked only by reaching Sturmberg’s true ending. In short, it contributes to answer a few questions that were left unaccounted for, and gives a peek of a few more interesting characters. Finally, the short story bears a worldly moral about greed and avarice.
At the end of this guest post, I would like to mention that Sturmberg is the only gamebook in the third “Hero: The Calling” series that has its own illustrations. They are the work of the talented Bulgarian digital artist Svetoslav Petrov.
- The image of cover photo of the book is taken from the publically available feature article on knigi-igri.bg
- The images of the internal illustrations are taken from the publically available in-depth review of the book on bigboxgamers.com
- The translation of the name of the book is purely my own interpretation – I have not checked it with the guys who have published the book.