I'm sorry to say that Swordplayer didn't really do it for me. I could see it really appealing to a certain type of player, but that type of player is not me. It's a dungeon crawl, basically, and... I'm tempted to say that dungeon crawls are just not for me, but the truth is more just that I'm exceptionally picky about what I like in dungeon crawls.
It's not that I don't like combat, or that I don't like dungeon crawls, or that I don't like stats and numbers. I do. I can spend hours poring over game numbers. I make spreadsheets. I spent longer designing my party and my character progression for NWN2: Storm of Zehir than I actually spent playing the game!
But gamebooks are not the best platform for that. Let's just be honest: you don't have the assistance of a computerized system. The player has to read and comprehend and remember the ENTIRE ruleset. You're limited by keeping numbers small and dice used comprehensible, and in this day and age, no one wants to sit around calculating all their own results, not when we have computers so readily available.
So gamebooks have to bring something new to the table. It's good if a gamebook can provide a good game. It's very good. But there's simply limits to what can be achieved. With any game, it's important to understand the core gameplay in order to maximize player enjoyment. With a first person shooter, the core gameplay is shooting dudes in the face. Or maybe sometimes blowing them up. That's basically it, you jump around, you shoot and you don't get shot. It's straightforward--but if you start imposing other factors... say a fancy graphic for displaying whatever your character is holding, but that fancy graphic slows frame rate on some computers to delay the all-important shooting and dodging reaction time--that's going to diminish player enjoyment of the game, because it diminishes the players ability to engage in the core mechanic.
My point is this: The core mechanic of gamebooks is not hack and slash. No system of dice rolling for combat, no matter how good, is going to make hack and slash become the core mechanic of gamebooks.
The core mechanic of gamebooks is making choices that affect the outcome of a story. For this to work, you need two things: 1) A story. 2) Choices.
Like the holy grail of the first person shooter core mechanic--i.e. shooting dudes in the face--you don't want to do anything in a gamebook that interferes with that core mechanic of what a gamebook is and what players enjoy about it.
Swordplayer does have a story. It's a somewhat cheesy, overblown tale of a swordsman who wants to prove himself to be the best, and is willing to put himself in grave danger to do so--because he thinks he can. You have a character motivation, you have passion, you have high stakes. It's not "realistic" exactly, and it's certainly cliche, but it does present many of the aspects of a good story.
Sadly, it all seems to be just a device to get the protagonist into the dungeon. And once you're in the dungeon, the game devolves to a bunch of Which Door choices (not really choices) and a bunch of fights. The fights are innovative, certainly--I've already addressed under "Ravages of Fate" the potential that I think can be brought to the table when multiple sections are devoted to one fight. The problem is that the dynamism is overly simplistic. You're given one choice: Attack or Defend. If you choose the wrong one, your stats don't matter at all--you either both lose fitness or both don't take damage. But there's absolutely no clue or hint as to which is the correct choice and which isn't. It's effectively a a "Which Door" choice all over again. You might as well be rolling dice.
I eventually quit playing because of this mechanic. When what I do as a player doesn't have the slightest effect on the outcome of the game, there's no incentive for me to keep playing. In all the (admittedly short) time I spent playing this game, I don't think I encountered a single real choice. It was just "which direction do you go" (which admittedly is slightly more acceptable in an explicit dungeon crawl than under other circumstances, but still not ideal) and "do you attack or dodge." To which my answer, after seeing what attacking and dodge meant, was simply, "no."
The author clearly put a lot of thought into this, and it shows. There's a lot of potential in the mechanics. The writing is good, when it has a chance to show itself, and it's probably an excellent dungeon crawl. I just have very little patience these days for choices that aren't choices. If the combat system were revised to give the player actual choices, I would try again.