“Asuria Awakens” is the last offering in the Gamebook Adventure series by Tin Man Games. Written by the well known gamebook blogger Stuart Lloyd and beautifully illustrated by Tony Hough, it tells the story of an investigator from Orlandes city hired by the Grand Duke to investigate the whereabouts of an emissary in the remote Orlandrian coastal town of Casporur.
Stuart Lloyd, as I mentioned, is a pretty well known member of the gamebook community. He is not only the main contributor to the “Lloyd of Gamebooks” blog, one of the best known gamebook blogs there are, but also the author of quite a lot of free gamebooks, either as entries of the Windhammer Gamebook Competition (his entry for this year is the interestingly named “Isaac Newton: Badass Ninja Crimefighter“), as mini-gamebooks for Fighting Fantazine, as entries in his “Legend of the Wayfarer” series, and so on and so forth. In fact, his works are so numerous that it’s hard to follow their track.
I have read a lot of Stuart’s articles in his blog, and I respect a lot his opinions as a blogger. But, since I played the first entries in his “Legend of the Wayfarer” series, I must confess that I didn’t like him as much as a fiction writer. It probably wasn’t the best place to start reading Stuart’s work; after all, “Legend of the Wayfarer” is conciously designed as a “beer-and-pretzels” kind of gamebook (if such a thing can exist), with very little in the way of background story or character development.
“Asuria Awakens”, on the contrary, oozes background story. What starts as a simple investigation, gets more sinister the more we delve in. We discover Casporur, a city that hides awful and dark secrets, where people are scared and superstitious, awaiting – and fearing at the same time – the return of a lost god called Asuria. We finally discover the true nature of that “awakening of Asuria”, and the story turns into a mix of lovecraftian horror and “invasion of the body snatchers”. I don’t want to say much more about the story to avoid spoiling it, but I can only say that I am truly impressed. After reading this gamebook, I have a much higher opinion of Stuart Lloyd as a writer, and I will certanly read his other gamebooks with much more attention.
Structurally, this gamebook has some other interesting things to it. I liked the way in which Stuart mixes the traditional “convergent” structure with a “free roaming” structure in several places, like the castle or the streets in Casporur. Also, the length of this gamebook is quite impressive as well; I felt it could easily be twice the size of any other Gamebook Adventure I’ve played.
“Asuria Awakens” is not without its problems, though. I feel that the very particular kind of humor of this author (refreshing in many places) felt out of place at some points, when the story was getting darker and more sinister. Also, the ending section of the gamebook, when the “ultimate evil” was destroyed and we only had to return with this information to the Duke, felt a little bit over-stretched. I think the story could have ended before that and this gamebook wouldn’t have suffered for it.
In any case, this is a fantastic gamebook, one of the best I’ve played in the Gamebook Adventures series. For those who love their fantasy gamebooks with a hint of horror, I cannot recomend it highly enough.