Ето кратко ревю от тук (www.goodreads.com/review/show/6015878731) - извинявам се че е на английски, искаше ми се да стигне до повече хора, а ми е мъка да го превеждам или пиша втори път на български (който иска - translate page в goodreads ще помогне). Много би ми било интересно да чуя мнението на хората, прочели книгата, ама май нямаме такива в България?
“Metal Heroes” is a remarkable gamebook, both considering size, genre, mechanics used and overall design and user experience. In it you become a rock god and help a metal band from its forming to gaining considerable worldwide fame. Besides the band management, which is centered on improving personal skills, mastering new genres, composing songs, making gigs and gaining fame/fan-base, there is a parallel storyline with urban / heaven-n-hell fantasy, which brings us the main antagonist and his minions.
The gamebook is lighthearted, style > story, though I wouldn’t go as far as defining it as a comedy (which is actually good, I was a bit afraid it might be too comedic). It offers different difficulty levels, but still I’d rather recommend it for people, that like complex gamebooks – first the rules even in the easiest difficulty might be overwhelming for more casual players and second – I think a lot of the gameplay and hence consequences of many choices will become irrelevant for people, playing on the “Pussy” (lowest) difficulty.
This is definitely the gamebook that was the longest read – not just because it is nearly 800 pages, but because you read a big portion of them and there is a lot to do outside the reading (namely gigs, but also song writing and other choices and a bit burdening character sheet management). I am pretty sure it took me longer to read than the whole “Blood sword” series, which I’ve just re-read prior to reading “Metal Heroes”. I’d say one needs a week or two, reading several hours per day.
The illustrations by Fufu hit right on the spot. I loved the concept of having comics panels, instead of single illustrations. They are stylish, show interesting elements and are good in conveying the emotion of the scenes.
Overall, this is a great gamebook. It has many awesome things, quite a few that could have been better in my opinion and none that I find significantly irritating or frustrating. I would define it as an obligatory read for hardcore gamebook lovers AND for people, that play rock or are rock-geeks, knowing the rock history and people from A to Z. It is also highly recommendable for people, that are decent rock fans – you will get most of the references, know most of the groups and characters mentioned. For people, who don’t know what genre of music Sepultura plays or who is Lemmy Kilmister, well, you wimps and posers ? will definitely miss out a lot of the references, scenes and even the logic behind part of the choices – so I am not sure whether it will still be an enjoyable ride, but you will definitely not get the full-bodied experience. This is a gamebook, primarily aimed at rock fans.
Further down I will go deeper in analyzing the game and there might be minor (only minor, I’ll do my best to avoid it) spoilers, so if you are not interested in that or haven’t read the book yet and minor spoilers seem scary to you, here is the warning.
So, literature. First, the English translation seems great to me (though I am not a native speaker) – it is very fluid and stylish. The characters are well fleshed out and charismatic, though they don’t get a lot of development during their journey. The style is cool, lighthearted, there are good jokes from time to time (but for sure they are not the “meat” of the book).
The part of the story, centered around the band and its growth was the best one for me. All the situations and difficulties seemed very believable and were quite interesting to solve. The mixture between the gameplay and literature here works well. I am not sure what chapters were added for the Kickstarter edition, but at one point, probably after chapter 8, which is a bit after the middle, it started to drag a bit and lose direction. I am not sure which chapters were added in the Kickstarter edition, but it might have been better in the shorter version. This is partly due to the gameplay as well, but I will write more on that later.
The fantasy part didn’t work as well for me. It started pretty nicely, but for the first half of the book, it was too underdeveloped and didn’t go to anything significant. In the second half of the book it speeds up, it builds the tension and establishes what the finale will be, but then takes a step back and sends us to several predominantly unnecessary chapters with another concert, a trip back in time and others, that dragged so much for me at this point, having all the gameplay elements maxed out and eager to jump into the final battle. These are not bad chapters by themselves, but really felt out of place.
And then comes the climax, completely on the fantasy side – it was not bad, but not to great either and I couldn’t help feeling it too familiar, being a fan of Tenacious D. It was a bit struggling to define whether it should be funny, epic or threatening, the mixture not always working well. There was one twist that was also way too familiar and we’ve all seen it in LotR already and I can’t help but wonder why was it inserted at all. The final chapter sometimes tries to be too goofy, sometimes scary, there is some wacky heaven-n-hell lawyer’s stuff thrown in that didn’t quite work for me and other stuff.
The gameplay part is also very interesting to talk about. I will speak primarily about what could have been better, but that “negativity” (I dare to call it “constructive criticism”) should not mislead you, overall MH is good or at least decent on gameplay side.
I think the first two chapters will be toughest for the players to get through. There are many choices that don’t lead to gameplay or significant storytelling effects that some call “fake” or “irrelevant”, and though the simple concept of expressing yourself and reading a different event, though not meaningful, is often enough for me, I know readers disappointed from that and it hits a bit hard in these first chapters and that’s even how the very first choice in the book is. The second problem are the rules. Though I like the approach of giving them step by step and it was done well in Swen’s other gamebook, “Rider of the Black Sun”, here the things are way too segmented and the constant jumping back and forth just to read sometimes only a few lines of something I wouldn’t even call a rule makes both learning the rules and immersion in the story very segmented and damaged. This approach was useful in RotBS as you learn new rules when starting new chapters, but here learning a new one on each two sections – in my opinion it is just tiresome. They should have been in less in number and larger in size chunks. What I liked, though are the “in-character tutorials” the old rock god gives you – similarly to a PC game, pop-ups with some tips, mixed with jokes, worked well.
The gameplay gets really good from the third chapter on. The gigs are kind of “combat-like” mechanics, that check the skill, repertoire, fame of the songs and the band chemistry in a cool system, which brings enough diversity in every new gig and is interesting to strategize over. Making such a long game(book) though always poses some balancing threats and here it is not the best. I played on third difficulty (from 4 altogether), but pretty quickly, around the middle of the book, I already maxed out what I needed and that undermined the gameplay heavily. First, some skills, especially Brian’s, are overpowered gamechanger. Second, band chemistry is a bit much, it was always near the maximum value in my playthrough and that undermines the skill checks – I usually won more than I needed to spent. Finally, I unlocked enough songs and maxed their fame (which is the main goal for a good player here), I couldn’t unlock two of the genres and ended up with the composing (song points) part useless – neither needing, nor being able to unlock and develop more songs and to advance their fame. Thus a lot of the goals/rewards of the gamebook felt irrelevant in the second part. In the case of song fame stars, there is a clearly visible snowball effect, which leads to most of the gigs easily won and then receiving more rewards continuing to snowball further. If the book was shorter, this would have been less of problem, as this maxing out would come near the end, but now it was a bit after the middle for me, stripping the tension from the system side of the gameplay part (there are still interesting choices, though). I would have ended up with 18 fan-base (if 12 was not the maximum) and this seemingly main parameter of success is also easily undermined in the finale by few points of band chemistry (and I had plenty).
I wasn’t very fond of the integration of the CDs into the gameplay. As you play, to get some choices right, or simply for immersion, you are sometimes instructed to play a song from a disc and “listen attentively”. For a rock-themed gamebook it sound good, but actually many times it would be significant inconvenience to me and at all times I didn’t enjoy interrupting the reading (even though I listen to rock/metal and would listen to the songs included in those CDs that came with the KS). Imagine lying on the bed with half a dozen character sheets, dice, pen around you, having to stand up, turn on the PC and play a track, listen for one exact word in it and then go back to the bed. It is not fun for me and I stopped doing it after the first few tracks. Some may enjoy it, but it should have been left optional, not as a gameplay element.
There are other minor problems, like inconsistency of codewords, sometimes having a place in their own section (“Road to glory”), sometimes marked on the pages (a wicked practice that should be forbidden both because many players dislike doing that and because it needs you to clean that up for re-reads) and sometimes items are obviously used for that purpose. There is definitely inconsistency about the “influence” and point of view system – initially you need to spend influence to make the band members take one decision or another and later on that is completely forgotten and you straight-out decide everything for them and influence becomes something you use for magic tricks… The mechanic to go back and read something you’ve already read is unnecessary and skippable, though at least not irritating (yeah, I know what happened and the flashbacks aren’t glorious or showing you something you’ve probably missed – they are just… there).
Finally, about the design of the character sheet and overall the book. It is at the same time masterful and thoughtful, but also too bulky. I like very much the splitting in chapters and that they are visible on the side of the book. Parameters and gameplay text are very cleanly presented and it is impressive how the character sheet use different style for every single parameter – attributes, their connection with ego, fuses, romance, special skills, which chapter should you go to once you want to recheck rules about a skill or an item – awesome. Yet, this could have been on few pages less if it wasn’t so generous in presentation and it was quite burdening to watch at 4 sheets at the same time when having a gig.
So, style is king here as well and it trumps usability, but I think it is worthy. The “Repertoire” sheet could have had two additional columns (for needed roll value and combined score), that would need some updating from time to time, but overall make resolving gigs faster, as you don’t need to jump all the time back and forth between this sheet and The Band sheet. Finally, having checkboxes for numeric values that are constantly changing doesn’t work for me, as I pen, instead of pencil and rubber and thus an empty box to write the latest value works better for me (song points, band chemistry, items).
So, that’s about all, overall very cool, I dare to say “epic” gamebook and unless you can read in Bulgarian, very different from everything you’ve read (we already have one for developing rock band here from back in the 90’s, which has some similarities). It has so many components, many of which awesome and deserves the 5 star rating and even though few elements are not great, there is a lot to love about it and it is easy to see that few others can be compared regarding how much work and love is put into them.
Give it a try!
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