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Arkham is in danger (again). Three different cults are warring to fulfill a prophecy and ensure that their god is the one that rises and rules the world. The only thing standing between them and Arkham is you. And in The Darkness Over Arkham, you really are the protector of Arkham. Jonathan Green has crafted a choose-your-own-adventure book with a twist. Can you make the right choices and save the world? Or will it all end in doom?

[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Aconyte for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of this book contains some spoilers!]

Choose-your-own-adventure in The Darkness Over Arkham

I have reviewed a few other choose-your-own-adventure game books from Aconyte in the past (She-Hulk, Deadpool), but this is the first Arkham Horror gamebook. I’ve always liked how they upped the ante by making it more involved than just “pick a number”. There are many different paths to choose from, but dice rolls, items acquired, and attributes affect what happens. This turns a simple book into a game and makes it more exciting. 

In The Darkness Over ArkhamGreen adds another twist. Instead of starting off with a single character template, there are three different characters you can choose from. Agnes Baker is a waitress, Nathaniel Cho is a boxer, and Rex Murphy is a reporter.

The different characters all start out with different stats, strengths, and weaknesses that affect gameplay. This means that if you choose different characters, you’ll get different options and play, even if you make all the same decisions. This extra level of nuance made the reading extra fun. Trying to decide which character would be most helpful in which circumstances was both fun and (at times) frustrating, but always interesting.

Some books are great for relaxing with. You can sit down and just space out with them. The Darkness Over Arkham is not one of those books. This is a book you choose when a) you have at least thirty minutes to devote to reading, and b) want to be very actively engaged. In other words, when you’re in the mood to play a game, not just read. 

Fantasy Flight Games/Aconyte Arkham Horror The Darkness Over Arkham
The Darkness Over Arkham is the first Arkham Horror investigators gamebook from Aconyte/Fantasy Flight Games.

Preparation and best tactics to play while reading this game book

To play The Darkness Over Arkham, you need to have a six-sided die (I used Google’s roll a die), paper and pencil (I used my note app, but also ended up writing in the book for some of it, so I still needed a pencil). The pencil and paper help to keep track of the different items you pick up and your ever-changing attributes. 

In The Darkness Over Arkham, each character starts out with a certain level of willpower, intellect, combat, health and sanity. These base levels go up and down during the reading depending on what you encounter and how those encounters go. In addition, you have to keep track of major abilities, major weaknesses, and other abilities and weaknesses. Plus, you can pick up items as you go, and you’ll want to remember them. 

Not to mention, there are many different puzzles to solve throughout The Darkness Over Arkham. There are codes to crack and mazes to traverse. It was way easier to solve these puzzles when I wrote directly in the book. Sure, then it was already solved the next time I came thorough, but that just saved time since the answer was always going to be the same.

Of course, you could totally cheat and just choose what you want to do without actually playing the game. But that would defeat the entire purpose of reading a book like The Darkness Over Arkham. It’d be like playing Monopoly and giving yourself all the money and properties right off the bat. Totally pointless and not much fun.

Personally, I loved the level of surprise that the gameplay gave to the read throughs. I could make all the right choices, but chance had a huge say in my outcomes (I’m starting to think that Google was rolling a 3 sided die, not a six!).

And if that wasn’t enough to keep you occupied, there are two more, let’s call them, achievement lists to work on while you play. There’s the secrets checklist and there’s the super-secrets checklist. The secrets checklist is a list of secrets that you come across as you read. There’s no way to know where you’ll find these, so the only way to check off the entire list is to play over and over, choosing different paths each time.

The super-secret checklist is a little different. The secrets mostly include finishing the game with different status, item, and ability combinations. There are other types of super-secrets, but they all are related to gameplay as opposed to just reading a certain section. Getting all the secrets and all the super-secrets is definitely a long-term project that will take tons of read-throughs, but the feeling of accomplishment when you check off the last one will be worth it!

Many different endings, not so many different outcomes for this Arkham Horror book

The Darkness Over Arkham has over twenty different endings. And in true Arkham style, only a handful can actually be called happy endings. A couple more are kinda neutral endings, not good but not quite bad. The rest are decidedly bad. Even though I love happy endings, I understand with this series why so many of the stories ended in doom. Even if I thought I did everything right, the eldritch powers often won. But since Arkham is a horror series, that makes sense.

What bothered me more was that even though there were over 20 different endings, a lot of the endings were virtually identical. I actually had to flip back and check the first time because I thought it was the same ending I had already gotten, but it was on a different page.

This cut the number of different endings way down. Sure, technically there were over 20 endings, but it felt like there were only about 5 different endings because so many of them were nearly identical. I felt like this was a bit of a cop out, and I didn’t like it. Green has written plenty of different books for Aconyte, so I know he’s capable of writing good endings. I just wish he had written a few more for The Darkness Over Arkham.

Final thoughts on The Darkness Over Arkham by Jonathan Green 

Even if I feel like the endings could have been improved on, I really liked this latest offering from the Arkham Horror line. The story was engaging and exciting, with mystery and adventure everywhere. Jonathan Green does a great job keeping things interesting.

I also really liked having the smaller puzzles to solve. They were like having mini-games within the game, and who doesn’t love a good mini-game? I thought having the three different characters to choose from at the beginning also really improved the adventure. It made the game play even more customizable and added a level of planning to the game that is missing when you just always start off with the same stats. 

Now, this The Darkness Over Arkham probably isn’t something you’re going to just grab off the shelf to kick back with. And it’s certainly not a quick five-minute read “here and there when you squeeze it in” book. What I really see this book being good for is rainy days. Or maybe for vacations, especially say, camping or the beach. When there are days when you just can’t go outside, and you need something to distract you. It would be perfect for that.

I could see multiple people playing together too, making decisions together as they read the pages out loud. I actually think that could be a lot of fun to do. Almost a simple version of Dungeons and Dragons where everyone is the same character. 

Rating: 8/10

Jonathan Green’s The Darkness Over Arkham is now available where books are sold.   You can also find a preview and other information on Fantasy Flight Games website. Are you planning to check this book out? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord. 

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Luna Gauthier

I've always been a bookworm and fantasy is my favortie genre. I never imagined (okay, I imagined but I didn't think) that I could get those books sent to me for just my opinion. Now I am a very happy bookworm! @Lunagauthier19 on Twitter

Luna Gauthier has 220 posts and counting. See all posts by Luna Gauthier