Lone Wolf, Book 1: Flight From the Dark
Flight From the Dark is a game book written by Joe Denver, illustrated by Gary Chalk, and first published in 1984 in both the UK and USA and later re-printed with various changes in 2007. It is the first book in the Lone Wolf series. The story in Flight From the Dark describes the destruction of the Kai Monastery and the invading armies of the Darklords and the journey of the sole remaining Kai student to Holmgard to warn the king.
I read my first Lone Wolf book around 1990s. It was my brother's copy of Lone Wolf, Book 2: Fire On the Water. I really enjoyed it, but I felt like I was missing out on not having read the first book which I briefly saw, but never got a chance to read it. It wasn't until the early 2000s when I found Flight From the Dark in a used book shop that I got a chance to read it.
I own a 4th edition US mass market book and have read it many times and beaten it through various routes.
- This is a great introduction the to Lone Wolf game world. You learn about the various Kai disciplines, the allies, the various monsters of the world, etc.
- As game books go, this functions quite well. The combat system is effective enough, random elements are invoked, but not overused, and there are enough choices to get a lot of replay value.
- I like how there is a coherent plot. If you're at an event you can take part in it, but if you chose a different branch that put you near it, you hear it going on, but can't affect it. Also, your decisions have long-term consequences. So, if you don't rescue someone, you won't have an important item later in the book.
- I appreciate the illustrations, not only of key scenes in the book, but also of the basic items and weapons.
- It has all the usual failings of the format. A lot of them, like the clunkiness of using a book, pencil and paper, etc. are easily fixed with a computerized version, but others, like the combat system, and having to re-read the same sections dozens of times, are more endemic.
- The initial character setup is a bit too random for my taste. Your combat skill, endurance points, money, and starting equipment is all random, as is the weapon you're skilled in if you choose the discipline. This means, poor luck when creating your character pretty much guarantees failure later in the book. I prefer fantasy role-playing games where I get to choose what my character is like and ones that give players and equal chance from the beginning.
- Combat is a bit too simplified for my taste. Most battles, though largely influenced by your starting values, are random. The author occasionally alters combat based on choices made just prior to it happening, but that's about it.
- In order to give the book more replay value, death is frequent and often unexpected. It think it took me a couple dozen attempts to reach the end for first time, which meant a lot or re-reading the same pages over and over again.
- There are several branches where one option is objectively better than the other. For example, early in the book can kill a Kraan, and are faced with the option of searching its corpse (which yields a free weapon and clue) or not, then both options lead to the same page. I prefer branching plots where you have to weigh the pros and cons of a branch without one being clearly superior.
- A large plot branch near the end of the story is completely optional and the route to get to it makes little sense to follow.
- The Kai Disciplines are used unevenly throughout the book. Mind over matter is only used three times, while sixth sense is used nine times. Others are not very useful, like hunting. Hunting is only referenced once in the book, but it also lets you skip eating meals. However, it's rare to run out of food, and, even if you do, you only lose 3 endurance points. Compare this to healing which is referenced twice, and heals an endurance point every numbered page. So, if you can't eat, in three more pages, you'll heal back the lost endurance anyway.
- I'm not a huge fan of Gary Chalk's illustrations of faces. They're a bit too cartoonish for my taste.