|Series:||Fighting Fantasy #8||Translated Into:||Adskoe Boloto [Адское Болото] (Russian)|
La ciénaga del escorpión (Spanish)
Le Marais aux scorpions (French)
O pântano do escorpião (Portuguese)
Sasori-numa no meiro [サソリ沼の迷路] (Japanese)
A skorpiók mocsara (Hungarian)
Der Sumpf der Skorpione (German)
V bažinách škorpiónů (Czech)
|Author:||Steve Jackson (United States)||Illustrators:||Duncan Smith (original artwork)|
R. Courtney (American cover)
|Release Dates:||September, 1984 (original)|
March, 1985 (American edition)
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|0140318291 / 9780140318296 (original)|
0440976766 / 9780440976769 (American edition)
|Number of Endings:||20, not counting death by Stamina loss or bad Luck.|
|Summary:||You've acquired a magical ring which allows you to detect evil and always identify north, so you figure it's time to make a map of the unmappable Scorpion Swamp; of course, the patronage of a mage adds further incentive....|
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|It never ceases to amaze me that the first book in the series not written by Steve Jackson or Ian Livingstone was written by a different person also named Steve Jackson. In any case, I'm glad that the American Steve Jackson did manage to get involved in the series, as he's a good gamebook designer and this is one of my favorite adventures. Unlike most books in the series, the design here is completely non-linear. You can wander through the swamp in whatever order you want, even revisiting old locations. This freedom of movement is made possible by the book's wonderful mapping system -- each area is explicitly numbered and its exits clearly defined, making it both fun and easy to create an unambiguous map of the swamp. Things are further enlivened by the introduction of spellcasting (though in a different form from that found in Citadel of Chaos) to the gameplay.
The challenge level of the book isn't very high, and this has been the source of quite a few complaints over the years. Personally, though, I think the fact that the book provides three distinct quests to finish more than makes up for the ease with which any single quest can be completed. The difficulty is scalable -- while it's possible to play as safely as possible and stick to the parameters of a given mission, there's nothing to stop someone looking for a real challenge from trying to complete the conditions of multiple quests at once or even to map the entire swamp inch by inch. This sort of flexibility is a rare and wonderful thing, especially in this series, and it makes Scorpion Swamp something special.
Although its story and writing aren't as notable as its gameplay, even in this area, I think this book is a respectable entry in the series. The usual Fighting Fantasy minimalism is in place, but there are plenty of odd encounters that stick with the reader (the swamp's Masters, the three mages, and even weird beasts like the crab grass are all worthy of note). As usual, the text is greatly enhanced by excellent artwork, though the original British cover is remarkably poor considering that it was done by the same artist as the far superior interior work. Small complaints aside, it just doesn't get much better than this, at least in the realm of plot-light fantasy adventuring.
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|Scorpion Swamp had some initial promise it never lived up to. First off, rather than having the same quest in every session you can embark on one of three different quests with a different alignment. Also, magical spells are a part of your arsenal as they were in Citadel of Chaos. The problem is the book isn't very engaging. It's a dungeon crawl in a swamp. None of the mystique that saved Warlock of Firetop Mountain from a similar fate is to be found. Maybe if the series had been around a little longer and more authors had experimented with tweaking the system first, the approach taken in this book could have been made more engaging. As it is, Scorpion Swamp isn't the book I hoped it would be, and I don't recommend it.|
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to Brett Easterbrook for the second British cover scan.|
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