4 Gamebook Series That Are Perfect for Open-World Video Game Adaptation

Updated on November 5, 2018
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Geek, gamer, writer, graphic artist. Yong’s favourite movies and games are those that allow him to enjoy the world from his bedroom.

1. Choose Your Own Adventure

Choose Your Own Adventure. The most famous gamebook series.
Choose Your Own Adventure. The most famous gamebook series. | Source

Let’s begin with what is hands-down the most famous and successful gamebook series ever. In publication since 1979, and chiefly written by Edward Packard and R. A. Montgomery, the Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) gamebooks have entertained generation after generation of young readers worldwide. To date, over a few hundred million copies have also been sold. What makes the series doubly remarkable is that unlike later series, the CYOA books operate on incredibly simplistic mechanics. The reader does no more than select which page entry to go to.

With so many titles published and all sorts of locations and time eras written about over the years, it seems inconceivable to have an open-world video game based on the series. At best, only a few titles or characters could be featured. Yet, aren’t all CYOA titles connected by the same trends of unpredictability and macabre surprise? (Trends often unavoidable in order to facilitate sudden endings, might I add) From a broader point of view, all CYOA titles could be said to have happened in the same universe, perhaps even at the same time. It could all involve the same protagonist, a hapless soul dumped into a myriad of adventures by a superior life form.

Here’s a suggestion. The very first CYOA title was The Cave of Time by Edward Packard. This itself could be the basis for a spectacular adventure involving tens of worlds, all connected by the “cave.” From Mayan ruins to ghostly manors, to galaxy trekking star cruisers, you hop between these worlds in your grand quest to … defeat something. Would that make for a spellbinding open-world game? Would that mesmerize gamers for hours? I strongly believe so.

2. Be An Interplanetary Spy

Targeted at younger readers, the Be An Interplanetary Spy series is closer to being an interactive comics series.
Targeted at younger readers, the Be An Interplanetary Spy series is closer to being an interactive comics series.

One of the oldest gamebook series, and with only twelve titles, Be An Interplanetary Spy was published by Bantam Books from 1983 to 1985. Intended for younger readers, all twelve titles were illustration-based and filled with puzzles and mini-games. Typically, a “Spy” story involves resolving some sort of intergalactic crisis or mystery. The spy is also always gender-neutral in all stories. On top of belonging to an organization that is a both a police force and an intelligence agency.

While every story is stand-alone, some characters do recur throughout the series. In the final books, the Spy is also promoted, reaching level 3 before the series abruptly ended. To me, these features laid the groundwork for a galactic open-world video game series, one revolving around missions issued by the Interplanetary Spy Agency. Seasoned gamers will also immediately see how a quest-giving system could be easily implemented here, with a main storyline progressively revealed through events brought about by the completion of key quests. As for locations, the twelve titles provide more than enough exotic venues to satisfy even the most demanding gamers. A Be An Interplanetary Spy open-world game series could potentially contain a scope that rivals the legendary Mass Effect game series. The only limitation here are the stars.

3. Blood Sword

The Blood Sword gamebook series highlights racism and conflict stemming from religious differences. These elements make it perfect for modern video game adaptation.
The Blood Sword gamebook series highlights racism and conflict stemming from religious differences. These elements make it perfect for modern video game adaptation.

One of the most complex gamebook series created because of its multi-player and character class mechanics, the Blood Sword books take place in the world of Legend, a fantasy world conceptualized by authors Oliver Johnson and Dave Morris for their Dragon Warriors role playing game. What’s memorable about Blood Sword, and the world of Legend in extension, are the many historical parallels within the stories. Legend is a medieval realm embattled by the conflict between crusaders of the “True Faith” and the Ta’ashim people. The overarching quest of Blood Sword is also to reassemble the eponymous sword before Judgment Day. These elements work together to make Blood Sword one of the more matured gamebook series ever written. In its time, it was a great stepping stone for young readers moving onto heavier literature.

With Johnson and Morris also having written six books to extensively explain the gameplay and lore of Dragon Warriors, Legend is a world perfect for open-world video game adaptation. Under the right hands, a Blood Sword game could potentially surpasses Bethesda’s Skyrim in terms of intricacy and lore. In fact, Bethesda itself is probably the most ideal developer for a video game series based on the Blood Sword series; they have long since proven themselves masters in the genre of medieval fantasy. Under their hands, I’m confident the troubled realm of Legend would be both magnificent and poignant. Needless to say, it would be an addictive realm to indulge in as well.

4. Lone Wolf

Map of Northern Magnamund and Book 1 of the Lone Wolf series. Imagine being able to explore this open-world!
Map of Northern Magnamund and Book 1 of the Lone Wolf series. Imagine being able to explore this open-world! | Source

I save the best for last, so to speak. Second only to CYOA in fame, the late Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf gamebook series serves up one of the most complex and developed worlds ever written for the gamebook genre. Magnamund is in many ways the equal of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth or Ed Greenwood’s Faerûn, be it in terms of geographical variety or historical color. With Dever’s protagonist also a cross between mystic monk and religious paladin, the entire series has a flavor that’s starkly unlike many other fantasy games or books. This offers all sorts of possibilities whether for gameplay or for storytelling.

Personally, it puzzles me as to why a full-fledged Lone Wolf open-world game has not already been made. There had been various video game adaptions over the years, including one as recent as 2013, yet none of these offer true open-world gameplay that does justice to the possibilities of Magnamund. Perhaps it’s due to copyright and financial issues. Or maybe Dever and his associates were keener on getting the last three unpublished titles out in print first. Whatever the reason, I’m keeping fingers crossed that it wouldn’t be that many more years before we finally see a game permitting free exploration of Magnamund. This is one fantasy realm I’ve been waiting for a long time to discover at leisure. I am also confident that if such an adaptation is ever made, it would be nothing short of dazzling.

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    © 2017 Kuan Leong Yong

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