If you were to pose as a developer / writer of a digital adventure book on a message board and you asked people how they'd improve the genre as a whole, you'd undoubtedly get some varied advice from fans.
None of that advice, however, would suggest adventure books can benefit from free to play trappings.
Yet here we are with Narborion Saga, a free to play digital game book from Liber Primus Games.
There's an easily-digestible story in between its pages, some difficult choices, some fights, some poor grammar, and the option to zip through the quest if you trade your mundane real-world cash for in-game gold.
Same old story, but different too
In Narborion Saga, you step into the breeches of a young squire who's sent on a quest by the king's beloved daughter. Turns out there's an evil that needs to be put down, and a deity that needs to be rescued.
You take up arms and hit the road. Your journey is time-sensitive, and your path full of dangers and temptations. As is the case in most adventure game books, you need to make choices that ultimately affect the outcome of your trip and the attitudes of the people you meet.
Will you help an old man in need, or rush past him? Will you stop to accept the invitation to a wedding party, or will you do the responsible thing and press on?
Most of the story stuff on-tap is basic sword and sorcery fare, but interestingly, the choices you make don't always lead to obvious outcomes.
Sometimes you'll convince yourself you're doing the "right" thing, only to discover morality isn't always met with a reward.
Moreover, the goddess you're asked to save, Cattyrose, is genderqueer. That's a nice hit of representation that livens up a pantheon consisting of the usual golden gods.
Pay the bridge keeper
But even though Narborion Saga's story has some small but welcome twists, it also has a problem - grammar and spelling issues galore.
The script badly needs someone to give it a once-over. Even character names aren't always consistent: I spotted at least one incident of Cattyrose being referred to ask "Cattyroze."
The Game Over screen asks you if you'd like to "challange" the game again, which rubs a lemon over the sting of loss.
In fact, getting a Game Over sucks heartily because you need to start your journey from the very beginning. You can use gold to buy bookmarks that send you back to a specific point if / when you die, but gold is hard to come by.
The meagre amount you do earn is also what goes into buying weapons, armour, and provisions. So your choice is essentially between buying bookmarks or riding into battle near-naked, which leaves you vulnerable when it comes time to roll up a battle with some bandits.
Of course, you can buy gold with cash. Narborion Saga obviously isn't the first game in history to offer in-app purchases, but something about seeing them in a text-based fantasy game really puts a damper on the intended whimsical mood.
All told, Narborion Saga isn't on the same level as a Choice of Games title or a Fighting Fantasy adventure. The prose needs a bit of polish, starting all over after a death sucks, and the free to play formula has never been so out of place.
But if you're a digital adventure book fanatic, its story is still engaging enough to be worth a download. Narborion Saga is supposed to be the first title in a series, so there's lots of time for Liber Primus Games to find its footing with this saga.