(Updated on 02/05/12
ICE AGE ICE MAZE
HISTORY: An unexpected Ice Age has taken place in the year 1555. The Bearing Straight is once again frozen. The Spanish have decided to cross it, in search for new territory to settle down in, in hopes that the Ice Age is not global, considering that Spain is almost uninhabitable now. Little do they know that another civilization has survived the ice age, the Vikings, the great savages who have prevailed upon the seas for many years, accustomed to dealing with harsh winters. You are the Spanish Leader, you must survive the first 5 waves of the Viking attacks, find the Viking base, defeat it, fighting Viking enemies along the way, in order to continue across the Bearing Straight. Only one problem, it is a maze.
MUSIC: The background music is my own composition and plays every five minutes, much like the way Warcraft II does it, and I ask that it not be used for anything other than playing this scenario, simply because I have a lot of plans for this music.
INSTRUCTIONS: Quickly have your villagers build 4 houses, then a barracks, build as many militia as you can, and survive the first 5 waves of the Vikings. You may need to build 3 or 4 barracks.
Once you have survived the first 5 waves, build and upgrade your base, train a decent size army, find your way through the icy maze, fight the Viking enemies along the way, and destroy the Viking base.
The key to destroying the enemy's base is the Castle. If you destroy the castle, you will surely have victory. You don't have to kill all of the units on the map, just destroy the original buildings.
Find the sign left by your sentinel - SEE HINTS FOR INFO
Rescue the prisoner, Manuel Gonzales, before it is too late!
Defend the base that your scouts have built before it is overtaken by some strange monks!
Retrieve the treasure that your enemies have lost, to gain special resources.
HINTS: Don't forget to keep building as you repel attacks. Don't get lost!
Be careful when looking for the resources, as you may encounter enemy units.
Follow the snow path, but not the wrong ones.
Don't try to Rambo it and go looking for the Waves, wait for them to come to you. If you don't, you may trigger 4 Waves at one time and get very overwhelmed.
After the game starts, you have 10 minutes to survive the first 4 Waves before Wave 5 comes (The most deadly). You have about 5 minutes after Wave 4 before this happens.
Don't be sidetracked by little skirmishes by individual units before the first 5 waves, you don't want your soldiers following them, leaving your base unprotected.
When Wave 4 hits, you have a few reinforcements, use them wisely.
After the 5 waves hit, the rest of your opponent's attack is controlled strictly by the computer (which is rather vicious at times).
Your commander and chief sent out a sentinel to scout this area for mining resources before you arrived. He was killed by a pack of wolves. Before he was killed, he built a sign with a riddle as to the whereabouts of the mine that he had found. Find the sign, solve the riddle, and you will find the mine.
SCOUTS: Beware of enemy units, and Viking Wooly Mammoths.
Beware of the pack of wolves that killed your sentinel.
Beware of wolves and enemies in the forests and at the mine.
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ICE AGE ICE MAZE is Xylon Draganthus' second scenario, and I have to say there are definite improvements in his design from the last one. Also, this version of the map is improved compared to the earlier one.
The game is basically a build and destroy with some original touches, the most important of which is the "ice-maze setting", that changes the gameplay a lot, though the creativity of the game is hit-and-miss, and not all the aspects that make it different from other scenarios work in its best interest.
The game provides a reasonable amount of enjoyment for the most part. The enemy is constantly harrassing you, making it hard to get bored or lose interest. There are a few objectives that the game sets up for you and they also work well enough. However, I would advise the author to have some of the objectives pop up at a later time in the game,it would work better than to have them all from the very beginning. Also, exploring the entire map should be rewarded in a better manner, that makes up for the tediousness of walking around the ice maze, where not many things actually happen except for the occasional enemy (or hostile animals) encounter.
In the end, the game just became boring because the only thing left to do, apparently, was to erase all enemy buildings. I don't think that is a good objective to finish the game with, it will make people quit out of boredom (as happened in my case).
After releasing the spanish guy that was kept prisoner, the objective doesn't cross itself out, and the only reward is you get a mediocre-to-weak hero (scythian scout). I would've expected more than that. If you want to have sidequests, you should make them worth it.
The balance was actually not bad. The enemies are constantly attacking and harrassing you from the very beginning, though the huge amount of resources you start with will gradually turn the balance towards you. The destroy-the-castle objective is pretty easy to do, you just need a couple trebuchets. You already have the position of the castle on the minimap so you just task your troops there. Actually all of the objectives except the main one are ridiculously easy. Finishing the game does get tedious though, as I have already stated.
One of the most creative elements is the map itself. I haven't seen a map like this before, and even though it does have its shortcomings (which I will get into soon), it does provide a pretty unique gameplay, with good and bad aspects. The author has also taken the time to add a soundtrack (of his own composition, which sounds really good if you ask me), and custom-name some units (the war elephants are used as mammoths). Adding also the fact that he has thought of including some sidequests (even though they were not very well implemented), one can say the creativity of the file is above average. However, it should be further refined in order to serve the gameplay better.
MAP DESIGN: 4-
The map, unique as it is, does present some problems. For one, it is absolutely not suited for a B&D scenario. I think the author wanted to do too many things at once, and maybe it would've been better to stick to a more fixed-force based gameplay for this kind of map. It's hard to build up economy and have a decent base, and the huge amount of resources you have in the beginning don't even encourage that anyway. The big piles of resources are well hidden on the map and people won't even bother to find them. At least I didn't.
As far as aesthetics go, I do believe that the file has improved from the previous version, and there are some parts which look original and eye-pleasing at the same time, but most of the ice maze is still just an ice maze which doesn't offer too much of interest visually.
The high grade I offered here is mainly due to the uniqueness of the map, rather than its beauty, and the fact that in the end, it does make the gameplay different than a normal random map, for instance.
I don't really enjoy scenarios that make use of familiar historical factions (such as the spanish and the vikings in this case), but put them in a totally absurd situation (fighting each other in the midst of an ice age). If you are going to use real world historical nations, you might as well keep the game believable. If not, you can always find a different name for the spanish and the vikings and make the setting entirely fictional. But that's more of a rant than an actual part of the review.
The real problem I have with the story is that it doesn't really exist apart from the beginning messages. It isn't enforced in-game in any way, and it is obvious that it wasn't the author's main concern. There are no interesting characters, nor are there any really interesting events taking place. The only slightly triggered event was the rescue of the spanish guy (I don't remember his name), but it could've been done a lot better too.
The objectives and hints are decent, but try to have them cross themselves out after you finish them, not to get the player confused. Also, as I said, having new objectives appearing in-game instead of having static objectives would be a good way to take things further.
There is progress showing in Xylon's work, but also a lot of space for further improvement. The most work needs to be done in the story department. Figure out if you want to go for realism or for a 100% fantasy theme, mixing the two together usually won't work. Try to have more triggers firing during the game and making the gameplay more interesting. Also, try to focus on the kind of gameplay you really want to achieve, thus making the game less chaotic and more focused.
The game is a decent download, most people will probably have at least a half hour of good fun with it.
[Edited on 05/15/12 @ 05:03 PM]