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Literature / Portal of Evil

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Get him, Fido!

Portal of Evil is the 37th entry of the Fighting Fantasy series of Gamebooks, written by Peter Darril-Evans.

Between the great Khulian cities of Zagoula and Neuburg, lie the Cloudhigh Mountains and a long stretch of wilderness left untouched by men... until a rich vein of gold was discovered. Soon, the region was overrun by prospectors, adventurers, rogues and ruffians of all sorts looking for the precious metal, but something more sinister was unleashed. Miners are vanishing, strange, antedeluvian reptiles have appeared, and the workers are afraid. The rich miner Gloten has promised a rich reward to whoever can solve this nightmare and save his community of Kleinkastel. Having heard of the fabulous reward at stake, you've decided to challenge the mysterious woods and unexplored mountains to find the source of those odd events and put an end to them once and for all.

The book follows the same rules as the standard Fighting Fantasy adventure, but features an highly unusual setting which recalls to mind the Old Western stories, as well as dinosaurs being the main enemies encountered.

Portal of Evil provides examples of:

  • An Aesop: The pursuit of materialistic gain as an end in itself is corrupting, and draws otherwise good and decent people into committing evil deeds. Lampshaded in the successful ending, where your character balks at the offer of a large quantity of gold as a reward for destroying the portal and bringing peace to the region (what did they think caused all the problems in the first place?).
  • Affably Evil: The brigands you encounter on your way south are rather jovial, and even offer you a chance at getting your sword back in a duel against their best swordsman.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Averted with the Goblin Envoy you can meet near the beginning: if you save him from the Giant Spider chasing him and feed him he will be grateful and asks you to seek the help of the Wizard on his behalf. If you happen to have his letter, you can access the Wizard's Tower safely.
  • Anti-Hero: Your character: not at the level of Seas of Blood, but he still has the chance to commit theft multiple times across the story.
  • Antagonist Title: Guess what you need to destroy to win
  • The Atoner: Dirlin, Horfak's associate, will help you out if you release him from his cell. The fact that the Portal's magic turned him into a bear did factor in.
  • Big Bad: At a first glance, Horfak is the one sending Slave Warriors and dinosaurs to take over Khul one tract of land at a time. However, it's soon clear that the Portal itself is the evil entity fueling his powers.
  • Book Ends: The story starts with you encountering a transformed human and a woman and helping them out. Near the end, you need the help of another transformed human and a woman to defeat Horfak.
  • Chekhov's Gun: You can acquire two caged birds to take with you, which will save your life when you walk into the Portal.
    • Also the helmet you get from making an offering to the Mad God, which has a forward-facing mirror on top. A strange-seeming gift, to be sure, until that turns out to play to the villain's Achilles' Heel.
  • Combat Tentacles: The test of courage you have to undertake in Kleinkastel involves a Saltsucker, a large octopus-like monster who cling to your body with these. Luckily, it's mostly harmless, but will attack you if you panic.
  • Cool Horse: The Wizard provides you with a magic horse who, despite not being a Pegasus, will still provide you a nice and fast passage to Kleinkastel.
  • Creepy Centipedes: On your way to Horfak's stronghold, you encounter a giant hostile centipede (possibly meant to be Arthropleura, given the prehistoric setting) in a canyon, which you can either escape from or fight.
  • Death by Materialism: Surprisingly in these adventure there are many bad ends which are caused by your own greed.
  • The Dragon: Technically speaking, Horfak is this to the Portal: the Portal on his own cannot do much, except exterts its power over people crossing it, but Horfak provides it with people to turn and use the power of the Portal controlling him to launch his invasion of Kush.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Portal. Yes, the Portal. It irradiates an aura of evilness and those who crosses it are either brainwashed into loyal servants or transformed into prehistoric animals.
  • Enemy Civil War: On your way south you may run into a small army of Troglodytes fighting some Goblins near their sacred idol, and you can choose to join the fray. Unfortunately, the Goblins won't be so grateful for your effort.
  • Enemy Mine: Beyond the Portal, you can meet a tribe of natives, the People, who will join you against Horfak if you prove yourself.
  • Evil Gloating: Horfak engages in some when you barge into his throne room about his plans for the future. Amusingly enough, even the narrator states that you're actually a bit annoyed by his talk.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: When the narration describes the settlers rushing to Cloudhigh Mountains to prospect, it includes "robbers of all kinds, from desperate outlaws to clerks and lawyers".
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Horfak. Good Gods, Horfak... His skin tone is compared to a rotten vegetable, his head is grotesquely swollen and his features deformed and bloated. Apparently it's an effect of the Portal's influence, and even he isn't aware of his mutation, and suffers a Villainous Breakdown if he sees his reflection.
  • Fate Worse than Death: If you try to defile the altar of the Mad God, the man-ehm, the God himself will show up, trap you and transform you in one of his many eyes, forcing you to see for him for the rest of your life.
  • Forced Transformation: A plot point: those who cross the Portal without the proper equipment are either transformed into Slave Warriors or, if their will is high enough, transformed into prehistoric animals and released in the wild. Surprisingly enough they retain their intelligence. Most of the victims were transformed into dinosaurs, though Dirlin was transformed into a bear and, in a game over, you get transformed into a giant scorpion. However, if you cross the Portal with at least two other animals, the magic fails.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Horfak, along with his associate Dirlin, was just a prospector looking for some gold. Then he unearthed the portal, crossed the treshold and became the fearsome, zombie-hiring warlord bent on world domination he is now.
  • Giant Spider: On your way south you can encounter a truly gigantic, bull-sized tarantula slowly stalking a wounded Goblin.
  • Gold Fever: The source of all the troubles. In addiction to the usual bad things a Gold Rush causes (banditry, thieves and more), two prospectors digs out a Portal of pure evil and transformation.
  • Hollywood Acid: The Igneolite devised by the alchemist Alduraz is a powder that, when ignited, liquefies rock and turn everything into a smooth surface. You must use it to seal the chamber of the Portal at the end and destroy it.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Two notable examples:
    • The Elven Warrior on the coracle leading to the Wizard's island: you don't even see the stats of your opponent,but as you slash at him, you get wounded while he heals with each strike. Once you're too wounded, he will apologize and leave the boat to take his place, hoping that someone else will come across and repeat the process.
    • When you're thrown to the T-Rex, you don't even get the chance of fighting it, you're just roughed up by the beast and, if you're still alive, you automatically leave through a crevice and make your getaway.
  • Hot Blade: Used against you: if you employ Alduraz's sword to free yourself from the tank, the blade will overheat the liquid and boil your arm, hurting you.
  • Informed Species: The "Spinosaurus" you encounter in the very first paragraph: it has a backsail, but doesn't look like a crocodile, nor has a body adapted to water, and it's around the same size as a human. And that's without going into the sharp-toothed, carnivorous Ankylosaur or the one-horned Oviraptor...
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • When you're mugged by the bandits, if you're short on money the chief will be incredulous, claiming that adventurers such as you are usually packed with money and stuff.
    • When Horfak engages in good, old fashioned Evil Gloating, the narration point out how annoyed you are by his rant and allows you to subvert Talking Is a Free Action and show him a mirror/the Mad God's Helmet.
  • Large and in Charge: Horfak is a towering behemoth of a man, though only his personal bodyguards are bigger (and one of them is a Cave Giant-Orc hybrid!)
  • Lost World: Oddly enough, one which is not underground but in a parallel dimension, accessible through a portal.
  • Mama Bear: The Triceratops you fight is just protecting her eggs, and you have no choice in the matter.
  • Meaningful Name: The queen of the local Wood Elves is named Lignea, feminine form of the latin Lignum, which means "wood".
  • No Name Given: The Wizard is the only character in the story to not get a name.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The Troglodytes in this story are massive humanoids with some sort of long bone-plate crest on their heads.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Oddly enough, the story has a couple of endings where you do not actually die, just find yourself in a rather shitty predicament from which you will eventually come out, but your mission is still over.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The men of the Margrave may as well be honorary antagonists, though they're technically the good guys, but will often be in your way.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The Slave Warriors are zombies in all but in name: apparently still living, they're stiff and deformed, have no sense of compassion or mercy, are tireless and have been subjugated by the Portal's evil influence. There's a clear distinction nonetheless; you can get a magic Ring of Zombie Warding from the wizard that works on them, but only kind of.
  • Overly-Long Tongue: The Stegocephalian have an excessively long tongue covered in sticky slime, which it will use to ambush you forcing you to fight with your skill reduced.
  • Physical God: The Mad God, as you find out if you decide to profane his altar.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Horfak is a powerful combatant, but doesn't seem aware of how much he's been changed by the portal. If he finds out, thanks to you showing him a mirror, he freaks out and faints, the power of the portal then having to take over his body, which makes him a lot less formidable.
  • Science Marches On: As mentioned before, most of the dinosaurs are rather dated in appearence and looks, so do not expect any feathers.
  • Sea Monster: With all the dinosaurs running around, you couldn't miss the chance of figthing an Elasmosaurus in the river.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Portal was buried in the mountains, but reopened by Horfak, free to pour its dark magic again.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: If you encounter the giant ape and try to reason with it, your crude attemtps to dialogue are rewarded with a flowery speech from the big ape itself, funnily enough.
  • Sheathe Your Sword: While there are plenty of fighting, there are also many situations where your sword won't help you and not fighting is the best course of action. To visit the Wizard you must throw your sword away.
  • Sore Loser: Gloten, unfortunately for you: at one point you can fight him in a friendly match, but if you win he'll be sour and force you to compete in the tournament anyway.
  • Talking Animal: Right at the start of the adventure, you encounter a Spinosaurus which can talk! Justified, however, it used to be an elf before he was forced through the titular portal
  • Too Dumb to Live: When Gloten leaves you alone in his private chamber, you're given the chance to... yes, try to open up and pillage his secret stache of loot. At least he doesn't have you executed if you're caught red-handed, that's something...
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: After the first encounter you can either head for Kleikastel or go south and look for the forester Gartax and get information, seemingly a one-or-another choice. Except that if you choose the former you miss half the informations and items you need to complete the game.
  • What Have I Become?: Upon seeing his own reflection, Horfak will suffer a Villainous Breakdown and force the "Portal" to hijack his mind and turn him into a much-less formidable Slave Warrior.
  • What the Hell, Hero?
    • Gloten will call you out if you are caught stealing from him red-handed.
    • The narrative will call you out if you commit burglary to obtain money.
    • The People will get angry at you if you asks for help in dealing with the Triceratops, and will force you to fight it with a shortsword.
  • Zerg Rush: If you didn't prepare the Igneolite to deal with the Portal, a horde of Slaves will attack you, leaving you no escape.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The troops of Horfak are, essentially, zombies, though in order to produce more of them he needs people to be dragged into the portal. Still, he plans to form an entire army of them to conquer Khul, and these guys are overall effective.