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1.6. Rise of the Runelords: Spires of Xin-Shalast (Pathfinder Legends) Audio CD – January 31, 2015
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This is the sixth and final instalment of the Rise of the Runelords audio plays. You’ve no doubt memorized my reviews of each of the previous five instalments, but I’ll give a capsule overview anyway. Each of these is a relatively short (45 minutes to an hour) adaptation of one chapter of the adventure path. The voice acting, sound effects, and music are top notch. The audio plays dramatize the key moments of the adventures, but this isn’t anything like a novelisation or an audio book in the traditional sense, so you shouldn’t expect to find a room-by-room account of each dungeon or that every fixed or random encounter will be depicted. Because there’s no third-person narration, what’s happening in the combat scenes can be rather vague and confusing. And, they’re pretty pricey considering their length. This adaptation of Spires of Xin-Shalast has all the strengths and weaknesses of the other chapters. It’s a satisfying conclusion to the series, and if you enjoyed the previous entries you’ll enjoy this one as well. I wouldn’t complain, however, if someday this epic story received a true novelisation like it deserves.
The audio version of Spires of Xin-Shalast starts in media res, with the adventurers in the frozen Kodar Mountains fighting yetis and looking for the Vekker Brothers’ cabin. Valeros, Merisiel, Harsk, and Ezren are the protagonists for this chapter, with Harsk getting a starring role and Ezren providing excellent narration to tie scenes together and provide background exposition. I thought the haunting of the cabin was extremely well done—quite effective (and ghastly!) in portraying the cannibalistic horrors that befell the Vekkers. In fact, I like how it’s handled here better than the more scattered and inferential presentation in the actual written version. On the other hand, the attack of the wendigo falls flat and doesn’t amount to more than “just another monster.”
I was really curious to see how the audio version would portray the legendary Xin-Shalast, City of Greed. Unfortunately, I don’t think it does the setting justice. I knew it would be hard to try to describe the exotic cyclopean wonders of such a lost city of gold, but most of the city itself is skipped past in favour of battles against some generic giants. If you’re keeping track, you won’t see anything about the Hidden Beast, Ghlorofaex, Shahlaria, or any other elements in this adaptation. Even in the depicted battle against Leng Spiders on the slopes of Mhar Massif, the creatures don’t receive the creepily uncanny description they deserve.
Karzoug is depicted as the nearly the lone inhabitant of the Spires of Avarice (there’s no Khalib, Ceoptra, Viorian, etc.), but the battle against him is exciting and suitably epic. The voice acting for Karzoug is strong, and there are enough elements of the final fight (like his using wail of the banshee and the vulnerability of the soul lens) to make it recognisable. And after the battle, there’s a nice little epilogue in Sandpoint. And a coda that reminders the listener that Karzoug was just one of the seven Runelords—and the others are stirring!