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Downloads Home » Single Player Scenarios » ESRC12_Shadows of Betrayal

ESRC12_Shadows of Betrayal

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(Updated on 08/24/12)
Author File Description
shieldwolf23
File Details
Version: The Conquerors
Style: Mix
Historically, the Battle of Manzikert was such a shattering defeat that the Byzantines were never able to speak of it as other than "that terrible day". It was on that terrible day in 1071 that "Anatolia, heartland of Byzantium... was lost forever to Christendom". In one catastrophic day the eastern Roman Empire had lost its major recruiting region, its major grain producing region, and its vital trade route between Constantinople and the riches of the East.

But today, you'll find yourself re-living what-if scenarios that will be based on your decisions - decisions that will either follow history or reverse it.

+++ Seven Playable Characters
+++ Thirteen Unique Endings
+++ An aggregate 8 hours or more of game play replay value.

+++ Updated to Version 1.5, thanks to Sword of Storm (aka Jatayu) (changelog included)

Enjoy! :)
AuthorReviews   ( All | Comments Only | Reviews Only )
VenGalen
Rating
3.8
Breakdown
Playability5.0
Balance3.0
Creativity4.0
Map Design4.0
Story/Instructions3.0
Playability: 5
The Playability is very good, I doubt another campaign around the blacksmith, has so many options, certainly the Playability is perfect.

Balance: 3
The balance also depends heavily on the choices you make, but overall is quite uneven, for example, if you can keep the Byzantine army together, in very bad balance, and the army of Alp Arslan is very small compared to my pareser I miss you a little polish this part.

Creativity: 4
Creativity is a good point in this work, I've never seen someone miss ubiese character choice options before, nor seen so many random end.

Map Design: 5
The map is very well worked, Seems the Anatolian landscape, cities are very well made.

Story/Instructions: 3
The part of the story, is very well done, and everything is very well documented, I congratulate you for this part, but the instructions are very vague, not esplican where are the places with flags or something, nor where they are the characters (is that what it says are the places in the word document which is appended, but also the serious fine if you point in the game).

Additional Comments:
It is good that the blacksmith designers count on entrepreneurs, who still enjoy this game as old ;)
Congratulations and I hope you win the ESR12.
I have a question how long it took to make this scenario??

[Edited on 08/24/12 @ 01:55 PM]

Taichud
Rating
4.4
Breakdown
Playability5.0
Balance3.0
Creativity5.0
Map Design4.0
Story/Instructions5.0
Playability: 4
It's a very fun scenario, with more replay value than I have ever seen in a scenario before, no kidding. There are seven playable characters, each with their own storylines and options. The replay value is down to the vast array of choices a player can make. Although the scenario doesn't take too long when played with any of the characters, it's certainly action-packed and entertaining, with big battles that do actually require a certain level of strategy over brute force to win. Unfortunately I couldn't give it a five because of the rampant bugs that made gameplay in some places quite difficult.

Balance: 3
This was the weakest point of the scenario. I would have given Shadows of Betrayal a higher mark if it was a slight bit more consistant in its difficulty. Some of the characters were quite challenging, while others were easy. The fact that characters were given varied amounts of the same troops to win the same battles meant that especially battlefield suffered from a lack of balance. It would perhaps help if you would assign and state a difficulty for each character, which would remove the inconsistancy as a flaw.

Creativity: 5
Balancing historical accuracy with entertainment value has always been challenging, but shieldwolf has struck me as very skilled at this. I have done a slight bit of research and a fair deal of the events in Shadows of Betrayal did actually happen. Shieldwolf merely altered them to make them positively suitable for an AoK scenario. Without hestiation I can say that in this he did better than Ensemble Studios.

Map Design: 5
The map design included terrain mixing, Gaia eyecandy, realistic-looking cities, mixed forests and basically everything that makes a map look good. Elevation was used generously, adding a tactical value in the map design. Too many times have I seen lavishly-decorated scenarios which would have been totally awesome, had the author not ignored the tactical approach to the placement of impassable terrain and resources, the applying of elevation and the layout of cities. A good example of shieldwolf's skill at this comes with Khliat. The tiny garrison and small size of the fort is deceptive. The position of the walls and towers, and the surrounding geography of the town makes it frustratingly costly to attack; battering rams will actually be torn apart by arrows before being able to destroy the castle. Expect to lose a lot of troops.

Story/Instructions: 4
The Scenario Companion and the well-crafted hints that were of value to every character, as well as the lush history behind this scenario require that I give it a high mark. Unfortunately it is just off a five because of a certain limit in instructional objectives, as well as a lack of talking. When meeting a character for an objective, he will emit a comment. Then you are required to look at your objectives, where what the character said will be displayed. It is functional, but could be improved.

Additional Comments:
In conclusion, this is a very fun campaign with immense replay value. I recommend anyone to download it. Going through all the characters may strike you as boring, but personally, after playing through the whole scenario with all the characters, I wished there were actually more characters to play with.
HockeySam18
Staff
Official Reviewer
Rating
4.0
Breakdown
Playability4.0
Balance3.0
Creativity5.0
Map Design4.0
Story/Instructions4.0
ESRC12: Shadows of Betrayal is Shieldwolf23's entry to the Ensemble Studios Remake Competition, hosted by Jatayu. Although there are parts that could use some decent improvement, this is an excellent scenario. Seeing as this is only the 2nd or 3rd(?) submission by this author to AOKH (although the designer, as I understand, is one of the greats at Empire Earth Heaven), this scenario is a very good work by a rising star at AOKH.

Playability: 4
As it says in the author's description, "7 playable characters, 13 possible endings". Upon reading that, my jaw dropped. I immediately thought of Berserker Jerker's legendary work Sabato Returns, what with 3 paths to take and ~10 hours of extremely enjoyable gameplay. Without hesitation, I started the scenario and played through all 13 endings and had quite a fun time. All characters are quite unique and have different agendas, making each story and ending different. Despite seemingly unlimited replayability and fun, there were a few errors that hurt the fun factor. First, the games were too short. I would say that all 13 endings amounted to about 4 hours of gameplay on fast speed. Although I understand there was a contest deadline and the author was pressed for time, I would hope that an update would bring with it longer games than ~40 min per ending. Also, many of the choices for the characters to make were pretty redundant. My breakdown was that Alyates, Romanos, and Bryennios were all the "good" guys, and with one exception in which Bryennios could betray Romanos, they all had the same main objectives. In fact, no matter what character you played, it looked like the main objectives were "Take Khliat" and "Take Manzikert" or "Hold Manzikert". Doukas was the main "bad guy" and Roussel, Joseph, and Bryennios all had the choice to betray or support Romanos, making their games pretty similar. Tamis's game was unique, as was his story; it seemed like he had no allies and just wanted to get out. Despite some redundancy, there is a plethora of playability, easily deserving a 4.

Balance: 3+
This was the weakest point of the scenario. The bottom line is that it is too easy. The only time I was remotely challenged was with Tamis the Turk, due to the overabundance of enemy troops and the looping spawn triggers for the yellow pikes and crossbows. In all other cases, you are given too many troops, whose HP increases seemingly exponentially over time, and unlimited onagers for sieges. Although most characters eventually command about 100 troops, each game is winnable with only a fraction of that force. All the large battles with the Turks or Byzantines (depending on choices you make) are cakewalks, and I find it sad that a rabble army of recruit pikes and skirmishers are often able to best the fabled Seljuk cavalry. The extra HP system, though designed to create longer battles, actually grossly tips the scales in favor of the player, as his troops get more bonuses. However, the good news is that these issues could easily be fixed in an update that makes the scenario tougher. I awarded a 3+ instead of a 3 because I felt that the balance might be a little better for less experienced players. Perhaps the fact that I beat games like Way of the Warrior, Ulio, and Chrombasia on Hard difficulty with little trouble might skew my balance rating, so I will give the author the benefit of the doubt. I advise you, however, to include difficulty dynamism, or if you have, with a greater difference.

Creativity: 5-
This scenario is very creative. Nobody before has attempted such an accurate and detailed Manzikert remake before, and the creativity of 7 characters, 13 endings goes hand in hand with the playability. The author showcases a creative design style, his own take on the event and all possibilities, some cool trigger tricks, and varied gameplay. A 5- instead of a 5 was awarded due to small nuances such as major objectives and plotlines being a little too similar sometimes, as well as a bit of redundancy in gameplay. Overall, this was the scenario's finest point.

Map Design: 4
The map design was excellent. As stated above, the author has a unique design style that fits well with the area of the world he was portraying. Also, as a previous reviewer stated, the tactical placement and use of terrain helped the scenario a great deal. Eyecandy was used well and not excessively. My personal favorite parts of the map were the small town outside Khliat with the irrigated farms, and then Roussel's starting position with the jungle bushes, towers, and ruins mixed with road terrain. The author's affinity for map design is not surprising considering his prowess at EE Heaven. The causes for deduction were the rare but noticeable presence of cliffs cut by elevation, the relative lack of elevation in Erzerum, Manzikert, and Mus, a rough third of an already small map being inaccessible when more space is direly needed, and the tiny size of the map (I was hoping that a game with 13 endings would be on a larger map, as the limited amount of space made parts somewhat boring). Overall a great effort and pretty to look at. I should add that the author displays good design skill in snowy, temperate, and urban terrains, something to be proud of.

Story/Instructions: 4
The scenario comes with an outstanding guide, entitled the "Scenario Companion," which provides much backstory and a map of the region. Before even starting the scenario, by reading this I automatically knew that the author took the time to do in-depth research and that the scenario would be very historically accurate. I was further amazed by the fluidity with which the author incorporated separate choices and the token historical inaccuracy to enhance playability. Seldom have I seen such meticulous work and research performed in an AOK project, and the results are stunning. Stunning, as in this scenario (and companion) could probably be used in a highschool or college history class as a teaching tool for a comprehensive study of the battle of Manzikert, (incidentally, I made a PPT presentation on the Seljuks featuring the battle of Manzikert as a project for my history class last year, so I know a good amount about it already, yet this scenario taught me more). Shieldwolf23 accurately and interestingly chronicles this turning point of history from all views, and does it with creative style. It was very difficult to knock a point off here, but I decided some errors made it necessary. The overall awkwardness and abruptness of many dialogues, despite the author's unique and cool way of looking into the character's thoughts via the objectives screen, and the lack of fluidity in the transition from dialogue to objective hurt. I also feel that despite the useful Scenario Companion, revealers should have been used to mark objective spots, and there were some spots where the player was unsure on what to do. I think lack of experience in AOK designing showed a bit here, something I could relate to as a relatively new designer about a year ago. However, all told, there is no denying that this is excellent.

Additional Comments:
Shadows of Betrayal is an excellent submission and is sure to contend for the win in the ESRC12. Despite some problems and a few crashes and bugs in certain characters' games, this is a great work. With an update, this could definitely hit a 4.5 at least. As is, I thoroughly recommend the download, as it was an incredibly enjoyable (and educative) experience for me. Keep the projects coming, Shieldwolf- they just keep getting better and better!
Mayank Sharma
Official Reviewer
Rating
3.2
Breakdown
Playability3.0
Balance3.0
Creativity4.0
Map Design3.0
Story/Instructions3.0
Playability: 3
Although the game had several playable characters and 13 possible endings, many of them were slightly similar to each other. Some endings merely wanted us to click a castle and end the game. While this should be in no way incorrect, it doesn't give you the fun you expected. There are several game breaking bugs which can make you very frustrated. For example, if in some campaign you stood near the southern shore, the tower from across the lake would shoot you! And then when I was Tamis the Turk and the Byzantine army attacked, I couldn't touch their onager just because it just stood there in the restricted area! Another time when I was Roussel, I wandered off a bit to explore the map and across the bridge to the south of Manzikert, all the Turkish cavalry archers shot down my army, while I watched helplessly that my men just couldn't cross the bridge, but their men could! Also, a major problem with the game is that whenever your resources go up to 1000, there comes a screen that tells us not to cheat and takes away our hard-earned resources. One time I left my computer for two hours for the resources to pile up, and I returned just in time to see another 1000 of my wood being reduced to 250. This made me extremely frustrated. Also when you change your diplomacy to attack a character, his troops stand idly until after you have killed him. This is very unrealistic and breaks the seriousness of the scenario. Even though the scenario has a lot of re-playable value, their shortness and slight redundancy are too much for me to grant more marks. EDIT : Although most of the bugs I listed are avoidable, they are present in the scenario all the same, and can trouble you. For the avoidability of most of the bugs, I have changed my original scoring to three.


Balance: 3
The balance, as other reviewers pointed out, was dependent on the character being played and the player playing it. It was too easy for most of the characters, but when I took Khliat, the Turks attacked so suddenly that I had no time to recover. I was left with a handful of units and had to wait for 2000 precious seconds to get all the resources required to fill my population cap. Then again, after taking Khliat, if you couldn't beat all the Turks, they raze your houses, and since you can't build houses, I was left with a 40-population cap. Also, when playing as Theodore, I tried to gather up Light Cavalry first and then the others. But as soon as my population was over 30, I could no longer build any more units and I was left with 4 pikemen (that too the guards) and an army of horsemen to face. Another problem was that we were allowed to create only trash units, which made fighting the units a long task, although it was easy to win.
The leveling mechanic also has severe issues. Perhaps the author made it for a short scenario, but as I mentioned above that I waited for the resources to trickle, I noticed that my units were ridiculously overpowered compared to the enemy, with the king's onager shooting 12(!) times to kill a single skirmisher! EDIT : After reconsideration and an omission on my part where the author said not to pile up resources, I change my views. However, 200 seconds are still too much to wait for, and I think that justifies my marks.


Creativity: 4
This scenario was very creative, with the game offering seven playable characters and three different endings. The most I had seen yet was three endings, but this scenario sets an example in the field of non-linear gameplay with so many endings and paths to take. The scenario features the old styles of fixed force and build and destroy in such a way that it seems very fresh. The only problem I have with the author in the creative aspect is that if he had utilized a bigger map, the game would have been better; right now it seems too crowded. I also would have liked more diverse paths and endings, for the current ones seem too similar.


Map Design: 3
Overall map design was excellent, but quite a few particular irregularities in between. The terrain mixing was expertly done, representing one of the best terrains I have ever seen. Elevation was also liberally used, but I noticed its lack in the cities, where it would have provided some much needed elevation bonuses. The flaws were numerous: the water was too single-toned; the lake was so small that, as I have noted, the tower from the Turkish side could easily hit my units on the other shore. EDIT : After going through the review once again, I notice that I had deducted marks from Map Design when I should have deducted them from Playability. Since the overall design was excellent, I have increased my marks to 3. However, the bug listed above is concerned with map design and will remain as such.


Story/Instructions: 3
The story is very well thought, and it is evident that the author has put in a lot of work researching into the real facts, and even provided a 'scenario companion' which gives many details about the back-story of the scenario. Moreover, at the end of each playthrough, the author provides a little insight into the future as to what happened as a consequence of the player's actions. Most of them are quite detailed and informative. The companion also provides a map to us to be familiar with the areas. There are a few flaws, however. The scenario starts assuming the player knows all the details about the story. This makes the starting dialogues of some paths quite awkward for those who only glanced over the story section. Also the dialogues are very short sometimes and contained annoying ^^^ signs which made me doubt the seriousness of the scenario.
The instructions are precise but lacking. Although the author has included a detailed map in the 'scenario companion', there are only so many times you want to pause the game and look up s map. The least that could be done is to provide general directions in the Scouts section. For example - "Manzikert, to the extreme West". Also the diaries in the instructions are irregular and confusing. There are a few entries in third person, and a few in first person. (This is aside from the ones which contained the name of the author below them)


Additional Comments:
Shadows of Betrayal by Shieldwolf23 is a fine scenario which can inspire a lot of non-linear games. The method by which we select the characters and then follow up their respective parts in their story is quite innovative. The scenario, however, is not perfect and has quite a few flaws which I have pointed out. I hope I'm not too harsh in my judgment. If the author makes amends to the pointed mistakes, I would be happy to give him as much marks as he deserves.

This scenario in a line - "A buggy, but innovative game with lots of replay value"

[Edited on 09/24/12 @ 02:52 AM]

panel
Official Reviewer
Rating
4.4
Breakdown
Playability4.0
Balance3.0
Creativity5.0
Map Design5.0
Story/Instructions5.0
"Shadows of Betrayal" is the well deserved winner of the ES Remake Competition, and one of the most creative games uploaded to the blacksmith this year. It revisits the battle of Manzikert in a much more exciting way than Ensemble Studios did, adding intrigue and multiple playable characters and endings in the mix. I'm pretty sure this game is the AOK record holder as far as the number of endings go. But sometimes more does not necessarily mean better, and the scenario is a bit rough on the edges at times.

Playability: 4-
Is it revolutionary? Yes. Is it enjoyable? Yes, but to a lesser extent than it could be. The main problem is the fact that the lack of time has not allowed the author to properly test the game for bugs. Though the game is mostly playable, there are some weird things that pop up sometimes, on top of which some balance issues also show up, many of which have already been brought up by other reviewers. I will focus on another aspect that brought the playability down, and that is the discontinuous nature of the game which is sometimes likely to frustrate the player. You will be pausing the game frequently either to look at the objectives for stuff that could have easily and much more elegantly been presented in-game through cutscenes, or to get out of the game altogether to look at the game companion and see which route you're supposed to take. Some objectives are not even explicitly stated within the objectives tab, and that means the player will try to guess what he has to do next (I've had this problem with the Nikopheros game, when you are loyal to the emperor, IIRC).

The game does have a ridiculous replay value with all the possible paths to take and different choices you are presented with. However, it mostly boils down to the same thing in most cases, defending or taking Manzikert. Some of the "choices" are really "booby traps" that just end the game abruptly, so that's was a bit of a bummer.

I am aware I presented quite a lot of critique here, but the playability factor of the scenario is still strong, helped by the other factors such as the narrative and the map design, and some more or less unexpected twists that come up... such as... betrayal?... The whole package is quality stuff, really.

Balance: 3+
This was not the game's strong point. Even though decent, I can't help but feel the challenge should have been increased. And this is coming from somebody who is not a great AOK player by any standard. Most of the missions I did, i was able to accomplish without even a reload. When Turks attack Manzikert, they are very far from the aggressiveness they were famous for. Some of their troops just stay behind and wait for you to come slaughter them, reducing the balance greatly. In one of the storylines (don't really remember which, I think it was Andronikos), the Turks behave even weirder and start running back, conveniently allowing you to kill Arp.

I'm not very familiar with custom AI but I do believe it would be one of the best paths to take in order to solve this problem, and much more elegant than using a lot of triggers to try to influence the units'behavior.

Creativity: 5
The game shines here. A lot of the features are unique, such as the Scenario Companion and the replay value that I have already touched upon. The music is a great addition. Even though some of the tracks have already been used to death in AOK scenarios (such as Ocean Blue :) ), it's still a very well chosen soundtrack and it enters at all the right moments. Basically all areas of the game show a well above average level of creativity and it's a very fresh take on AOK design, you can tell the author has been "schooled" in a different scenario editor.

Map Design: 5
I really love the map, it's exactly what I was expecting given Shieldwolf's previous AOK designs, and at the same time it presents an improvement over them. I like the terrain mixing and the layout of the cities, and also the use of elevation. The map is not only made to look good, but also to influence the game tactically and last but not least to properly represent Anatolia, in fact I believe it's one of the best attempts of it we have at the blacksmith. Perhaps a bit too many palm trees though, having been there I don't recall seeing that many :p . Snowy regions so close to areas where palm trees grow might also be perceived by some as not very realistic, but the whole map is put together very stylishly so it would be nitpicking to deduct points for that. Overall a fantastic job!

Story/Instructions: 5-
I think this is the area where Shieldwolf has really outdone himself. The game is extremely well documented, very few designers would go to such lengths for a scenario... And the alternate histories provided are realistic and well within the historical framework. The player is warned about this from the very beginning, and the game stays true to this "alternate history" theme throughout, making it a fascinating experience, compelling the player to try each of the paths and see how they turn out. The scenario companion is a fantastic addition to the game, including detailed descriptions of all the characters and the historical background, and a map with the important locations. The only problem is, the need to rely on it in-game which as I said fragments gameplay and is not good for the game's flow.

One thing this game lacks in my humble opinion, and which would also improve said flow, is cutscenes. The author has probably left them out because he had a very realistic outlook on the time he had to spare (and I believe it was a good decision at the time). However, they would probably increase the playability if done right.

Additional Comments:
A designer who puts emphasis on the narrative aspect of the game is such a rare thing nowadays that I am immensely happy we have Shieldwolf around, and I hope he sticks to designing in AOK for years to come. This scenario is an obvious improvement over his last one, and I have strong reason to believe the next one will be even better. This is a very recommended download, especially for history freaks and people that like their game to have a very detailed background and tons of choices and different play options. Enjoy your win Shieldwolf, it's well deserved!

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Rating
4.0
Breakdown
Playability4.2
Balance3.0
Creativity4.6
Map Design4.0
Story/Instructions4.0
Statistics
Downloads:1,188
Favorites: [Who?]2
Size:23.00 MB
Added:08/21/12
Updated:08/24/12