The campaign takes place in Ban´e wich is a fictional "idyllic place". The main character is a young peasant called Mechalpuco who lives in a small village.
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He is taught by a wise old priest Hadutz.
One day the gringos conquer Cordoba, the greatest city in Ban´e and quickly occupy almost the whole Ban´e including a town called Omu. Hadutz has heard rumors about it and is quite concerned. So - Hadutz decides to visit Omu with Mechalpuco and they embark on a journey. So the story begins...
I really hope you enjoy it!
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Mechalpuco, The Peasant (MTP from now on) is a very recent upload, at a time when the Blacksmith is seemingly at a low ebb. Finally, we have a good campaign to play.
MTP takes place in a steamy new world jungle, around a idyllic fictional location known as Ban'e. Well, it may be fictional, but no longer is it idyllic. A race called the gringos has recently annexed the heart of the region, the teaming city of Cordoba (Spanish?), and is looking at conquering the whole of Ban'e. Mechalpuco, a simple villager in one of Ban'e's less effluent villages, does not know of any of this -- nor that his life is in danger.
But one day, whilst walking through the jungle, he encounters a strange, intoxicating smell that makes him feel lightheaded. Of course, many plants give off scents, but none like this one. Feeling that something otherworldly is at foot, he races back to his village to explain to the local wise man -- Hadutz.
Hadutz is unable to give a satisfactory explanation, but he clearly knows more then he is letting on. But other matters are on the priest's mind: namely, the nearby village of Omu. Omu has a new leader, a man named Umu who Hadutz suspects is controlled by gringos. He decides to leave for Omu to find out what is going on -- and he wants Mechalpuco is accompany him. Plagued by doubts, the two set off on the long walk to Omu, unaware of the dire peril that they are both in.
On a gameplay level, MTP is both fun and intriguing. The scenarios are devided between RPG, B&D, and FF. In the first scenario you must get Mechalpuco and Hadutz to Omu to speak with Umo. I felt relief as Hadutz blasted a bunch of menacing gringos out of the way, and terror as Umo killed Hadutz and threw me in the dungeons. Hmm... I'd better not give anything else away, but its way better then most campaigns where it's obvious in which direction the game is heading and you can predict things before they happen. MTP keeps the player guessing, and that's what I like about it.
As the campaign progresses, a lot of the mystery starts to wear off, as Mechalpuco and Chocolatl (???) gather an army to liberate Cordoba. But still you wonder if Mechalpuco still has a part to play in the unfolding saga. And besides, having a mystery remaining at the end of a campaign would be absolutely awful -- unless the author had promised to make a sequel. Still, I found the ending a little flat.
However, one thing that negatively affects playability is the constant crashing. My computer is pretty sound, and rarely crashes even on the biggest maps... but I had to restart AoK at least eleven times to play the campaign from beginning to end. Crashes could occur when I did any of three things: starting a game, winning a game, and saving a game. It was a small matter to restart, but having it crash at the most inconvienient moments nearly drove me to insanity. At one point during the second scenario, I was so absorbed by the action that I forgot to save it until a crucial point. Just then I remembered, and hastily tried to save. And guess what happened? CRASH! And since I hadn't saved up to that point, there was nothing left to do but to redo it all from scratch. D'oh!
For this: I dispense a 4.
MTP, although it has solid gameplay, relies on concepts and ideas that have been done dozens of times, and invents little that is new. Its just move unit X to location Y and destroy building Z. I'm not saying its bad, just not very creative. During the last scenario you have to search the area for help, which was not bad in itself. But it took so long to find that help that I confess I used marco/polo to search the map.
The atmosphere was good -- at the beginning. But as you play through the campaign it wears off -- REALLY wears off. The scene may be set for a sequel, but its fairly obvious what plot the sequel will have: "Defeat the army of evil gringos". Lets hope the designer still has an ace or two up his sleeve.
For this: I dispense a 3.
Neither too easy nor too hard. In the words of Baby Bear, MTP is "just right". You need some skill to win it, but you will never have to resort to cheating if you follow instructions.
Something that irritates me about scenarios with huge battles in them: they are often very one-sided. The player has a super-powered army with all of the upgrades, whilst the enemy has a much weaker army without any blacksmith techs. Its things like this that normally upset the balance of otherwise good campaigns.
MTP doesn't fall into this pitfall -- rather, it takes the reverse. YOURS is the army that lacks blacksmith techs, and must fight against a superior army. This is not a balance problem, but one that forces you to use your brains. In those crappy RPGs where the player starts with a unit that has 1000 HP and 100 attack, now that is a balance problem. It also doesn't hurt that your main character is a villager, a unit that has practically no attack capabilities whatsoever.
During the third scenario (an FF in which you must raze a camp of enemy gringos) I started off by throwing all of my men into the camp at once... which of course led to my defeat. The next time, I attacked in a different spot, the gringo knights just took out my archers while my infantry was decimated by gringo archers... again I was defeated. Eventually I figured out a strategy where you lure enemies out of their palisade shelter and slaughter them in small groups, bit by bit, until you win. This tactic worked, and I was victorious. Having to try three times is not a balance problem -- it was purely my own fault. I had been spoilt by playing those cheap RPGs I mentioned above.
For this: I dispense a 5.
The engrossing, detailed maps of MTP are enough to keep you hooked for ages. Wander around decaying jungle paths, enter huge cities, all the while watching out for gringos and wolves. The map size is large, but the author's attention to detail doesn't flag in any part.
Admittedly there are few tricks used, but that is not important. Scenario designers often think that the measure of a campaign is in whether or not it has original map gimmicks and tricks, but nothing could be further from the truth. All the map tricks in the world thrown together would look absolutely repugnant if no thought was given to placement and appropriateness. In most cases, simply having a detailed, intricate map is enough.
For this: I dispense a 5.
As I've said, the storyline peters out near the end, but is overall decent. It seems to follow a "rags-to-riches" theme, where a humble peasant rises to fight a menacing threat. The instructions are clear and precise, sufficient for a campaign like MTP. It still could have been a bit more clear on some points (like whereabouts to look when you are told to search the jungle for help) but its otherwise OK.
For this: I dispense a 4.
MTP is both fun and challenging, while not being too complex. This should be just the thing for novices who have not played many campaigns -- just so long as the constant crashes don't make you throw your computer out the windowm first. Save often!
PLAYABILITY: Some quests were exciting, some interesting, some mysterious, some moderate; but all of them involved a lot of walking through sometimes thick forest. The villager unit is too slow, and it makes it a little boring for the player after a large amount of walking. Although you have made sure that there was something interesting for the player ("beautifulest" map design and mysterious voices) it would help to have a faster unit. I understand that Mechalpuco is a messenger, a guide of a sort, but it would be better to be able to complete some tasks by only bringing a servant or a soldier to a certain area. You could also make the map a little smaller.
The unheard of map design caused crashes in the game, that were also pretty annoying; I hear that too many GAIA units cause that, again reducing map size would help.
I experienced one little bug: if you go on the "Farm" when helping Xalacho (?) with his farm, you recieve the message that the diplomacy with the Gringoes has changed to "enemy" and afterwards the Gringo walks away from Xalacho's house.
Many quests and the mysterious aura of the game helped to create a serene atmosphere that drew me in. The map design and the story have also contributed to the score. Overall I think the campaign lacked action and haste; mostly it was relaxed and quiet. 4-
BALANCE: The game was quite easy to beat, especially in the first scenarioes, but the gameplay picked up after a while as the Gringoes were slowly pushed back. In the first scenario there was an issue with the fighting, which I could not describe in my first review of the Demo. Let me try again now: the player hopes to beat the garrison of Omu (or any army ultimately) with one blow in a good hand-to-hand fight, Mechalpuco's village only has several houses which keeps the player from building up a large force, restricting him to hit and run tactics with the strong archers that are recieved before. Let the player build up enough men to take the base out in a strategical fight, but do not let him have too many soldiers. 4
CREATIVITY: The map design was very creative. The subject was very creative. The many different ways that were used to defeat the enemy at various situations were also creative. In the second scenario the gameplay has gotten a little into the walk-talk-walk-talk pattern, but no matter. 5
MAP DESIGN: The map design was not very realistic, but it was beautiful and magical justly representing the magestic world of Bane. It was very entertaining and some of the best that I have seen. 5+
STORY / INSTRUCTIONS: The story was very interesting as I have said and very mysterious as well. It was a bit too peaceful for AoK maybe, but it fitted in fine.
The instructions were clear and certain. You had a walkthrough in the Hints section, I would suggest to force the player to scroll down for it, and put general game hints in their place, just as not to spoil the fun. 5
The campaign consists of five scenarios; it is a mix, including RPG, RPS, FF and B&D parts. The history, story, places and characters are fiction; the events take place in a jungle world, an idyllic location called Bane'e. The idyll is threatened when a race called the gringos prepare to conquer the whole region, the city of Cordoba and village of Omu already in their possession. You play Mechalpuco, a young peasant.
PLAYABILITY: The goodies first, the campaign is entertaining, has interesting side quests, new ideas, a mysterious story and I like the game play aspects of a villager since I enjoyed playing 'Panlong'. The campaign was never boring, there was always something happening during the walks, funny road controls, a man who lost his wife, wolves, attacks, love birds, to name a few. The story and the fact that I promised a review, kept me interested to continue despite the computer crashes and annoying restarts of the game. My comp crashed loading a scenario, going to a saved game, and the third scenario crashed repeatedly loading from the .cpx file. I used the Age of Empires & Age of Kings Campaign Manager by Lloyd Kinsella, to play scenario three and five. Four the fourth I went to the editor, gave a bigger pond to the transport to get its butt in, flattened every elevation at the edge of the map with elevation 2, moved items from the edges and finally played the scenario without any crash, and all of the saved games loading. Apart from crashing, I noticed only one random bug in the second scenario. Upon arrival with Xalacho at the dealer's place, the diplomacy to the gringos changed to enemy. The Teutonic knight attacked already in the fog, no chance to click the house or to escape with the few HP left after regaining control of the unit. After a restart it worked, diplomacy changed not until back at Xalacho's place. 3+
BALANCE: Fortunately, the game was not too difficult with all the crashes. Still, well above average for this type of game, with a hero villager, a campaign to tell a mysterious story, supported by nice scenes. I played all scenarios on hard, it was demanding with the mandatory reloads. 5-
CREATIVITY: The campaign shows a good creativity, small skirmishes, creative quests, and a good in game developing story. Considering the unrealistic and repeating maps the rating is a four. 4
MAP DESIGN: The map shows an unrealistic mix of oak, bamboo, jungle, palm trees and pine. One of the designs where the author implemented at random what the editor delivers. Considering the effort that went into this design compared to a random map where you only push a bottom, the overall impression is still above average. I took off another point for map design because the campaign uses the same map for the five scenarios. This deduction is not automatic, often repeating maps are necessary for the story, to give the campaign a sense of continuity. There are good reuses and bad reuses of maps at the blacksmith, the map of Mechalpuco-The Peasant falls into the later category. First scenario; you start in a village, go to Omu, and take the same path back to the village. Second scenario; you start in that same village to take the path to Omu a third time, to visit a priest. Third scenario; you start south of Omu and visit the priest again; other areas were also visited more than once. The fourth and fifth scenario play south of a river, where the locations repeat also. In addition, the crash problem exists in every scenario. 3
STORY/INSTRUCTIONS: The campaign introduces with a good mysterious story, which kept my interest, the instructions are clear and the hints sufficient with a walkthrough. 5
OVERALL: Mechalpuco-The Peasant is a good campaign with map problems.
OBSERVATIONS: I played the campaign with a P4, 1.8 GHZ, 256 MB RAM, 54.5 GB HD
SUGGESTIONS: Edit your campaign; it only takes some minutes to solve the crash problem. I do not know what exactly causes the crashes, but it is one of the reasons described above.
IN CLOSING: I do recommend the campaign, due to the constant crashes, only if your comp is stronger than mine is. ;)