«Lords of Nurroth», by the Australian publisher Tin Man Games, written by Dylan Birtolo and wonderfully illustrated by Simon Lissaman, is the latest offering in their «Gamebook Adventures» series, set in the world of Orlandes. In it, we take the role of a thief stealing an important document for a mysterious member of one of the powerful ruling families in Nurroth.
A lot has been said about the way in which Tin Man Games try to replicate the exact same experience as the old gamebooks of the eighties. And there is a lot of reason to that statement. For instance, in every one of our choices we are told to go to «page 86» (when there is, of course, no need to number the virtual pages). We roll dice to calculate our physical capabilities, and to pass combats and obstacles, and those dice are shown rolling over the pages. In this sense, Tin Man Games’ gamebooks are always reminding us of their source inspiration.
But it would be unfair to consider these stories «clones» of the Fighting Fantasy books just because of that. There are several important differences. The setting, the world of Orlandes, is a much darker fantasy world than the Titan of Fighting Fantasy. Those were stories of high adventure, and usually – except for some interesting exceptions like «Seas of Blood» – we played the part of the «good guy» defeating an «ultimate evil». In the world of Orlandes, not everything is black or white. Our characters are not as good, the world is a world of corruption, there are no «good kings» or «wise magicians» sending us to missions. Also, I feel that the «Gamebook Adventures» series is much more coherent as a whole. Where gamebooks like «Island of the Lizard King» felt more like a collection of encounters and situations with a «final boss», the stories of Tin Man Games have a much more developed world, and the encounters and locations always make a sense in the overall story.
«Lords of Nurroth» is set in a moment of great political turmoil in the city of Nurroth. Our character is a competent thief, who gets paid by the rich to retrieve important objects from the house of their enemies. So it was a matter of time that he would get involved in some very important affairs. The document he is hired to retrieve, and the decisions he takes, can change the political landscape of Nurroth forever.
One of the things I liked most in “Lords of Nurroth” was the several different “good” endings. Usually, in Tin Man gamebooks, there’s just one way to “win” and several horrible deaths. Here, the decisions we take about the document we have to retrieve – if we give it to our first contractor, or send it to the original addressee, or even if we destroy it – will have deep consequences on the story. I detected a slight influence of “Game of Thrones”, with the background story of powerful families making alliances and plotting to take control over the city.
Apart from that, it doesn’t change the formula of Gamebook Adventures that much. It is an enjoyable gamebook, competently written and beautifully illustrated, that will not win new fans to the genre, but will surely satisfy those who want a bit more of Orlandes.