Into The Jungle (Dungeons & Dragons: Endless Quest), by Matt Forbeck
This book serves as a reminder of the immense difficulty of creating compelling choose your own adventure stories. After all, such stories depend on a variety of matters, including the compelling nature of the hero as well as the variety of results that can be found within the book. Unfortunately, this book fails on many of the levels where one would hope to find compelling reads. By and large, the results of the reader’s choices in behavior are nearly all disastrously bad, and the hero himself is in many cases nearly entirely useless (which does not help matters). After all, given the promise of the cover that “you are the cleric,” it is rather distressing to know that the dwarven cleric one happens to be is not apparently skilled enough in healing to be a compelling cleric, nor is he good enough at fighting to be a good battle cleric. Whether fighting against jungle creatures or hordes of undead, the hero is pretty much useless and lacks any kind of knowledge about where he is or who he is supposed to be looking for or how he is going to get back home, all of which are important in ensuring a positive outcome to his quixotic quest.
Like many choose your own adventure books, this one has a particular storyline in mind and allows the reader to make various choices about how to respond to dilemmas, in most cases with both solutions being fatal. In this story the reader serves as a novice dwarven cleric who is sent to a jungle land he does not know in search of a legendary explorer and fellow Harper who has a powerful ring. The dwarf quickly finds himself over his head, involved in a town where he is faced with the choice of who to lead his expedition into the jungle, deadly jungle creatures and zombie armies, people who are friendly but whom the hero lacks the skill to heal, and the lure of gambling. In the vast majority of circumstances the character will meet some sort of inglorious end through impoverishment (or wealth) or having met some sort of enemy horde of creatures or beings who is simply too strong. Even the happy endings of finding work that has a purpose lead the character to be stranded in this forsaken wilderness area and unable to return home. Overall, this book is a major disappointment.
Let us hope at least that this book was merely a negative first impression to a series that is much better in its other volumes, because there are books that have heroes who are rogues, wizards, and fighters as well that are a part of this series and this may simply be the worst of the lot. After all, it would be a terrible thing if one had a hero who was a rogue who lacked abilities in stealth or thievery, or a wizard who did not know how to read spells, or a fighter who lacked fighting ability to the extent that this hopeless cleric cannot heal. Far from being a compelling hero, this cleric is like a Leroy Jenkins who is simultaneously a clueless tourist and a squishy incompetent. Even if one, by chance, can find a relatively positive ending to this quest one winds up stuck on this jungle planet and unable to return home, or a failure in one’s original quest, all of which leads one to believe that just like one should never fight a land war in Asia, one should never send an incompetent dwarven cleric to a jungle-filled land in search of someone he does not know.