I am not typically big into gamebooks. I love the concept and appreciate how influential physical gamebooks have been over the decades in shaping video games. I also really appreciate just how well the gamebook experience translates digitally to touchscreen devices, making it easy to carry around dozens if not hundreds of books in your pocket with niceties like animations, auto-bookmarking, and lots more. Arguably, due to their ability to be even more interactive than a physical book, digital gamebooks have just about spun out into their own distinctive type of game. I love and appreciate all of these things, but I just don’t personally get sucked into gamebooks all that often.
However, Knights of San Francisco, a passion project from solo developer Filip Hracek that launched on iOS and Android this week, has well and truly sucked me in. It has you playing as an amateur necromancer exploring a far future version of San Francisco, in a world that is filled with Orcs, Goblins, and other fantasy-based creatures. You’re in search of your brother but, seeing as this version of the world has pretty much gone to hell, you’ll encounter all manner of strange characters and engage in combat with deadly enemies on your journey. The game utilizes a dynamic combat system and Natural Language Generation software to give the game unique and unexpected behavior, as shown in the very clever trailer below.
It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to “beat" Knights of San Francisco, but as with many games of this ilk, it’s not about the destination but the adventures and memories you make along the way. Due to how dynamic the game can be I’ve already had plenty of memorable moments with just a few playthroughs, some of which ended very abruptly after things went horribly and amusingly sideways out of nowhere. That’s one aspect I’ve always loved about roguelike games. Also, being a California kid who has spent significant time in San Francisco in his lifetime, it’s really cool to be exploring this alternate future version of this iconic city.
Like I said before, I’m not a big gamebook person, but I’ve been extremely pleased with my time in Knights of San Francisco so far. Probably I should try to play more gamebooks? It features well-written dialogue, interesting characters, an amazing environment to explore, and plenty of wacky moments waiting to happen. It’s also an incredibly well-designed app with a clean interface and some really cool illustrations to help paint a visual picture of your text adventures. It’s one of those apps that just feels good to use. If you too are craving some adventure that’s a bit out of the ordinary, I can highly recommend visiting the world of Knights of San Francisco.