Monday 27 April 2009

The Chronicles of Arborell: Windhammer

As I've mentioned before, I hold solo games very close to my heart. I've got a stack of Fighting Fantasy books I pick up time and again and when I get chance (not very much at this time, damn university dissertation) I hop into a T&T solo. However, if you don't own any of these and would like to do some soloing, then look no further than The Chronicles of Arborell.

I don't know how many of you will be familiar with Arborell, because it has been on the net for a while but I've never heard anyone mention it. Basically, it's a series of free online gamebooks, novels, short stories and diary entries that together spin an epic fantasy tale. There are a few short stories up at the moment and the gamebook Windhammer, as the Chronicles are a work in progress. But from what I've read and played of it, I know it's going to be something spectacular.

In the end there will be three main gamebooks that tell a big chunk of the story, Windhammer being the first of these, and then 11 smaller gamebooks that either tie in with the larger ones or come before them chronologically, outlining the history of the story. Each core gamebook will have a companion series of novels and there are a few novellas already available that tell the stories leading up to the gamebooks.

Windhammer is the only core gamebook available at the moment and can be either downloaded or played online. It is 600 sections long, which is a fair amount, but compared to the other two big books, it's nothing. The second, Earth and Stone weighs in at 1250 sections and the third and final book is The Jotun War, totaling a whopping 2000 sections: that's a lot of game. Bear in mind that almost all of these sections are around a page long, containing amazing description and story-telling to rival other fantasy novels, you're getting quite a lot of bang for your no buck.

Here's the blurb for Windhammer:

In a world on the brink of annihilation a condemned man is given one chance to save himself and his people. Sent by his sworn enemies on a mission to find a legendary fortress, he must delve deep within its labyrinths to restore the one power that can save them all. Through the wilds of Arborell and the dark corridors of Stoneholme, it is only cunning and skill that will keep him alive. In the world that is about to unfold you are that hero, and it will be your choices that will determine your ultimate destiny.

The fighting system is really similar to Fighting Fantasy mechanics, roll 2d6 and add your combat points; do the same for the enemy and dock points off endurance (health) depending on who won and by how much. However, there is an added depth to the game with the inclusion of skills like Bushmastery and talents such as Beast Slayer, which give you advantages in certain situations.

It's a great game to play on a rainy day, curled up on the sofa with a mug of hot chocolate. If you're like me then you'll find yourself eating up the vast and interesting history of Arborell.

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