I have recently gushed and fanboi’d over a brand new book in the legendary Fighting Fantasy series, Assassins of Allansia. It is deserving of that praise, like the series in general. And yet …
The Port of Peril is also freshly released with new cover and new Art, and also by Ian Livingstone, master of the craft. Like the new Art in Assassins of Allansia, the illustrations in Port of Peril are of a noticably different standard, compared to the Art of Yore.
It is more related to the style of contemporary video game animated art than to old drawings of, say, the legendary patron Poomchukker from Scorpion Swamp, or the dead orc from the Caverns of the Snow Witch, to name just two memorable examples.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing … as tastes differ, obviously, and fashions change. It is certainly not bad, just different.
The text itself follows the usual style of Ian Livingstone, namely, you have to collect lots of seemingly uselsess stuff, like several jars full of odd materials, some of which will suddenly become terribly important in later confrontations.
What is different in Port of Peril is that it feels very … easy. It is almost a railroad to the finale, where whenever you get in danger of straying from the path, something happens that nudges you back on track. Or maybe you just die. Either way, the correct way leads through maybe 85% of the book content (gut feeling estimation). There are even long text blocks full of exposition along the way that take some decisions for granted and read a bit like they are targeted for a very young audience, and I succeeded on the first go. Not because I am so awesome (see Assassins of Allansia, where I failed 5 times), but because there is almost only one possible way to go.
In stark contrast to that “easy mode feel”, in the end my success hinged on one die roll, that came up with a 5. Had I rolled 4, I would have lost. And on the finishing line as well. Almost like the drastic decisionmaking in City of Thieves, but much more arbitrary. That feels oddly unsatisfying to me.
Still, the book has a lot going for it; especially a nice tour through half the lands of northern Allansia, and tie-ins to the other books that come by the bushels, with numerous opportunities to meet unforgettable characters from Forest of Doom, City of Thieves, Island of the Lizard King, and several others.
It is just a bit …. simpler.
But it belongs into the overall story arc, right between City of Thieves and Assassins of Allansia.