The Successor - Act Two: Initiation
Posted on 03/12/13 @ 06:17 PM (updated 03/31/13
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*** This scenario received the awards for Best Gameplay, Best Story, Best Score and was named "Release of the year" in the AOKH Game of the Year Awards of 2013 ***
It was the year 1369. Four years had passed since Krall, formerly known as The Successor, had been crowned as king of Ravenia in the never-ending cheers of Kron citizens, after the demise of the evil Fanarian governor Willan. However, only half of his father's land was now free from invaders and war. The other half of Ravenia, the Sylvanian province, was still under Tugai dominion and Sylvanians suffered every day at the hands of the brutal barbarians from the steppes...
VERY IMPORTANT: To experience the game as it was meant to be played, make sure you have the files from Act One in your installed folder, because the sound files found there are used extensively in this second installment. They are very important, especially for the cinematic moments, so please take the time to include them! You'll find act one available for download >>>HERE<<<
In order to install Act Two, copy the .cpx file in the campaign folder of your Age of Empires II the Conquerors root folder, and the sound files in the sound/scenario folder.
The recommended settings for playing this game are: a resolution of at least 1024x768, normal speed, music off. Using other settings might ruin the game experience. While playing, make sure you always have "chat to everyone" selected in the taunts section. It is vital for the taunt-based moves to work later in the game.
1) A much stronger emphasis on the RPG aspect. You'll control one unit most of the time, improving his skills, stats and equipment throughout the game. In addition to that, the usual fixed force battles, puzzles, etc.
2) The game contains two scenarios. The first is playable and the second is a cinematic. The total gameplay time is over 6 hours (probably a lot more depnding on how much you enjoy exploring). There are around 1900 triggers in total.
3) A huge map featuring improved map design compared to Act One, including an updated and playable version of the city of Hansbrok (rated 4.7).
4) A storyline that builds up on the First Act and sets the stage for the Final one. Old and new characters, non-linear narrative with lots of twists and turns, lots of cutscenes.
5) Tons of side features and easter eggs. Remarkable interactivity (for AOK standards) in terms of character improvement: improving stats through exploration and quests, economy system, levelling up that changes character's appearance/equipment, learning useful skills and special moves. Almost every single NPC in the game (there's lots of them) will talk to you.
6) An extensive and immersive soundtrack in the vein of the previous Act.
CREDITS are to be found in the readme file. A special thank you goes to Excelsior, Shieldwolf23 and Khan Ivayl, for their contribution to shaping the game, and to Blackforest Studios for their support and for being awesome in general.
Thanks for downloading. Please comment and review, I am always looking for feedback :)
UPDATED 31.03.2013 fixing some bugs and balance issues. Related to the change view bug - there's nothing I can do about it, your best bet is to reload and try again, close all other applications running in the background or play on a more contemporary machine. With a pentium I3 processor and 4gb of RAM, I've never encountered any crashes while testing. Can't guarantee for anything lower than that.
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Man with the Shovel trigger is also broken in my game! NOOO! I was SO looking forward to what would happen!
First off: If I spoiled anything previously feel free to edit/delete it.
Secondly: Just finished the Duology completely on HARD difficulty. It was a pain in the ass but you did an EXCELLENT job making it that way...it was JUST barely under impossible! Perfect!
Negatives: There are a few tweaks here and there that need to be done to spelling or grammar and some of the triggers definitely need fixing (I'm sure that's the most difficult part)
Honestly this list could go on for a long time but for the sake of being concise...
Story-line: 10/10 It left little to nothing to be desired. Very long and intricate giving the player high and low points in the story and allowing the player to become attached to characters.
Gameplay: Adventuring aspect; 9/10 there were major improvements in this category compared to Act 1 but the special ability really made it that much better to play. Very creative abilities. Excellent! I also enjoyed the use of resources.
Combat aspect; 7/10 Where there was some serious micro managing needed it wasn't quite versatile enough with unit options for my taste. And the cataphracts (given they are supposed to be the elites) seemed WAY over powered at times and could VERY easily tip the scales in a fight.
Aesthetics: The scenery was great and very versatile. If there was a "pretty-with-good-storyline-campaign" award you'd be at the top of the list. My only critique for this section would be to vary the building type a bit (meaning taking teutonic, hun, korean and so forth buildings and throwing them in as well)the tile can often get lost after a while especially in big cities with all the tiled paths. 9/10
Based on games I've played so far I give this Campaign considered as a whole a 10/10 for excellent use of triggers, combat, scenery, and an overall amazing story.
Act 1 overall: 8/10. If I compared it to Act 2 6/10 (meaning Act 2 took Act 1 and one-uped it very successfully)
Act 2 overall 9/10 as it stands because of the FEW broken triggers.
[Edited on 05/25/13 @ 08:49 AM]
Act II: Initiation is the second chapter of Panel's The Successor Trilogy, and does well in setting a standard even higher than that of the first act, which was already one of the best scenarios I had ever seen. The style is pure RPG; you never control more than a few characters at a time with little exception. I will do my best to be vague and not give away spoilers, since I do not want to spoil the experience that I myself had, being the first person to play through and finish the release. All I can say is that it was absolutely mindblowing in all spheres, and is without a doubt in my top 3 AOK scenarios ever.
Simply put, the game never stops being fun. A fine combination of challenge, story, and enjoyment, I played for 9 hours of pure bliss, exploring every corner of the map and doing every sidequest, all of which were well thought out, different, and enjoyable to do. Panel does a great job of giving the player varying situations and missions, from boss battles to assassinations to herding sheep. Tearing myself away from the screen to eat meals and do daily activities was painful to do each time; such was the allure of the campaign. Needless to say, I was never bored, and the uniqueness of the gameplay, story, and mechanics of the scenario will keep players amused for hours. After completion of the scenario once, I was presented with an interesting quandary. On one hand, I wanted to play again as it was so fun, but on the other hand, I didn't want to be sucked in to my AOK game for another 9 hours. Of course, I ended up playing it again :)
In a word, perfect. The most recent update of the scenario improved upon an already formidable standard to becoming near-utopian. Eager to conquer, I challenged myself with "Hard" difficulty. I was faced with fast-paced, exciting, and difficult gameplay, just what I was hoping for. Herding sheep could be frustrating, but the ingenuity of giving the player the Celtic civ solves any issues. Battles are difficult but not impossible, a trademark of the entire scenario. For me, that is the perfect situation. Boss fights can be tough, but the player is usually able to figure out the solution through common sense, if not through the hints. The most difficulty I had was at the ice lake village, where I required a couple reloads, but I was able to win even without the bonus "boosts" to that battle. Ironically, the only time that I had to wait a while to heal was right after my hero gained regeneration powers. The final battle is difficult depending on how the enemy acts, I find. Defending two narrow chokepoints is not very difficult, but the enemy hits with surprise attacks in the rear that can catch you off guard and a steady flow of enemies assures that you are kept busy fighting in several locations and recruiting troops. Doing all of the side quests gives you a much better chance of success, wherever you are in the game.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a ton of creativity in side quests, boss battles, map design (will touch on this in the appropriate section), story (ditto). The player is forced to utilize all their knowledge of AOK and appreciate the hard work that Panel has put into this masterpiece. Boss battles are not as simple as "get uphill advantage" and sidequests are not just "go from point A to point B". They are all unique and different, showing much skill in design and triggering and above all, effort. Throughout the scenario, the player gains experience and gold from killing and finishing quests. Thus, the player focuses as much on the process as on the result. The player also can learn nifty combat skills and moves that can be activated through the taunt system. My favorite thing about these is that they are not at all necessary to success, giving the player much choice, but they are available nonetheless to those struggling at a point or wanting to speed up gameplay/hack through droves of enemies. Another cool feature was the progression of the character through different types and the ability to mount/dismount your horse near Hansbrok. Each serves a special purpose, for the huskarl can pick locks and is more adept at fighting archers and pikes but weak vs cataphracts and to an extent, infantry, while the Knight is quick and strong vs everything except pikes. The only complaint is that the heroes can amass huge amounts of attack and hp through doing sidequests, buying weapons, etc, literally becoming walking tanks. However, stronger enemies near the end compensate for this.
Map Design: 5+
I have already harped enough on creativity, but it manifests itself again in the map design and the story (next section). Panel truly has a unique style of design which has even been controversial in the past on some points (the caves for example, which I happen to love). The use of gold mines, stone, and rocks create a realistic, rocky, and glittering feeling, while sea rocks elicit memories of stalactites and stalagmites in caves. Paths and the countryside are littered with eyecandy, which is used to the maximum extent to depict realistic scenes. It is not merely a show of GAIA objects, though. Terrain mixing is immaculate and as varied and realistic as it comes, and Panel is able to depict different natural features and seasons seemingly with ease, though I shudder at the thought of the countless hours he must have spent drawing every inch of this gorgeous map. Cities are beautiful and realistic and you can even get lost in them if you are not careful; they mesmerize the player so much. Another solid 5.
Instructions were perfect. The player is always clear on where to go or what to do, though you are never led by the nose. Critical thinking goes into the gameplay, but there are never diabolical moments where you struggle to figure out what to do without explanation. To use a metaphor, they are another strong set of bricks in a sturdy wall. The story is the best feature of this campaign, and by far the best in AOK, in my humble opinion. Most good scenarios that you see are able to draw the player in enough to keep them entertained and see the story through, but there is always that outside, third-person feeling that is magnified by you staring at the units onscreen from an aerial view. Panel's skill at telling the story enthralls the player to the point that they themselves step into Vallar's shoes, like one might feel when watching a great movie and they care about the success of a character. The skill of the storytelling makes it almost as if the player is writing their own book or making their own movie through their actions, and the drama, emotion, and enthrallment is up to par. I think that this is enhanced by the fact that the character is going through rites of passage as the game grows on, allowing your conception of him to fester and expand like a large cloud. Hours were obviously put into the script/dialogue that does more than its part in advancing an excellent story. Plot twists and points of heavy action keep the player on their toes and keep the level of excitement high. As I stated on the forum, the plot twists absolutely blew my mind, especially with the backstory presented in the cinematic. It would be the eighth deadly sin to spoil it for you all, however, so enjoy it yourselves!
This is above top-tier quality. Panel deserves a break from designing after this, though I hope he designs the final piece of the trilogy soon. Seeing how his skills and the quality of the campaign increases with each part, I am absolutely drooling for what Act III will give me. Act I was already worthy of a 4.8 or a 5, but this is so good that they might have to add higher scores to the rating scale to meet its greatness. Act III will have a ton of fireworks for sure, as the ending of this act sets us all up for events of epic proportions. I wish the best to Vallar and cast moving forward!
When I save the game during play and reopen the save game AOKTC crashes. This save and reloading game was done herding those sheep (Kill them too easily). I know this is not my AOKTC program for I can save and reload with other campaigns. I can load the saved campaign game that caused my computer to crash after rebooting AOKTC some times
[Edited on 05/19/13 @ 02:52 PM]
Best campaign ever. The story is even better than Ulio's from Igo Van Thel. The map is perfect. Eventhough thre're some bugs but, it's still the best campaign
It took me awhile to get through the game as I tend to do things out of order. But for those who have the patience to follow a linear story line that will not allow you to certain things out of order, this is a really great campaign. This is exactly what I was looking for when I came to AOK Heaven. Thanks to everyone involved and I am looking forwards to the third and final act. If I can be of any help, let me know!
It's far from a perfect campaign, but for those die-hard AOE players, who want a new challenge, its great. Be persistent and save the campaign often and do not be frustrated when the game freezes up often.
[Edited on 07/07/13 @ 11:57 AM]
This review has probably taken me the longest, as the Successor act II is not a short game to play in your coffee break. In fact, the story unfolding as you play it is in my opinion long enough to be released as a separate game on the market and is a very good instance of how AoK can be used to emulate RPG. After numerous attempts to playtest the project I have decided to put my experiences with the project's gameplay, map design and storyline into a review that will hopefully serve the potential downloader and the author likewise.
Once you immerse with the alternative reality offered by the Successor you can get lost in the game for hours. The story and your character never stop evolving and numerous twists keep you alert and interested in the further proceedings. At times I had to wonder, though, whether it was due to my own busy schedule that I experienced the game to be a bit on the long side. The total scenario is at least longer than some other elaborate RPG emulations like 'Vlad Dracula'. Particularly if you have so far mostly played ES campaigns, be alarmed that the story is not broken down into separate scenarios, so you have to decide your self when to pause and save the game for later. Even better you make sure to have time on your hands when you play this campaign, because otherwise you will find yourself torn between wanting to know what happens next and desparatly needing a break.
I am always reluctant to give the highest or lowest score for balance, because it is very relative with regard to the player's own skill and strategy. What is a challenge for some is a walk through the park for others. Personally I found the tasks doable, but at times I had to come up with unorthodox ideas to beat the problems which in my book is a sign of good balance between to easy and too hard.
As in part I the associations evoked by the story are many, suggesting a colorful variety of inspirations driving the author's imagination. Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones fans might find exciting parallels, likewise history freaks will notice parallels with the political and cultural situation of medieval Eastern Europe: the nomadic threat, the political dividedness and the hero who deals with both... this mixture of fictional and historical inspirations has been characteristic for the whole Successor series in terms of story-writing. It is a nice recipy for creative story lines and gives the game it's particular own flavor.
Alot of creativity is also evident in the way that triggers are used to emulate RPG. You get to have dialogues, evolve, learn special moves... the end result is a pretty much complete RPG gameplay.
The virtual world in which the game is set, with its own history, mysteries, religions, cultures, geography, flora and fauna is the probably most elaborate use of imagination about the whole project.
Overall the Successor Act II deserves all points in this category!
Map Design: 5
The mapdesign was already very elaborate in part I, this time it is also more strongly overlapping with my own taste. The strongest part about the mapdesign in Act II is how it is used to give the story an atmosphere... in that sense I particularly liked the ruins at which Vallar receives his first training and also the dock-sites of Hansbrock.
I've discussed many of the story-line's strong points already when talking about the creativity in the game. Let it be added that the development of the character and the increasing knowledge the player gets about the virtual world he/she is thrown into is also defining the strength of the story. Giving the heroes of part I a cameo as support characters is a nice move as it gives the player who is following the series a sense of familiarity, while still offering him/her new adventures and characters to discover. It is also a proven stylistic mean already used in legendary masterpieces of fiction like the Star Wars series. Overall the instructions and story are clear and nicely integrated into the gameplay, since much of the information is discovered by 'talking' to the inhabitants of the virtual world.
Overall the Successor Act II is a highly recommendable download, as its entertainment value is high and can be enjoyed even without playing/knowing part I. Much of the uniqueness of the virtual world offered here comes from combining classics of fiction with the history of Eastern Europe, which has been largely neglected compared to the history and mythology of the Western/Celtic world and therefore offers a relatively uncharged territory to draw inspirations from.
THanks a lot for the (very) in-depth review ;)
"by the way... it would be great if people refrained to post any spoilers about the
story , as I'll probably moderate them ;) it wouldn't be nice to spoil it for other
people." - Panel
A review is already a spoiler, one can always find relevant hints only from reading a
review in here. So here's my barrage of spoilers.
* * *
I don't praise mortal souls easily. Even my girlfriend wasn't told how much she's way
hotter than my wife. Praise could spoil a sweet girl or a talented individual. Praises
and words of encouragement are two different things. Too much praises could
instead lead to discouragement, as in case of complacency... as in Sloth... as in Sin!
Of course we don't want to praise Panel too much too openly because that's
equivalent to revealing spoilers to him while he's on the quest for all the five relics of
designing greatness. So let's play hard to impress, pretend that his "The Successor" is
not-there-yet... so Panel must work harder, and does not sin.
I hate you, Panel, for the following reasons:
1) You enticed me to purchase the I-Sword, which I did (no resources cheats). That 600
gold I spent would have been better spent on meat-shield troops, and actually would
have won me the last battle -- at first attempt! Had to revert to last saved-game,
made a couple of attempts before good men finally triumphed over evils i [...spoilers]
2) You're master of cliffhanger. After I spent long hours grooming Vallar from a mere
day-dreaming shepherd to a mighty general you took away my mouse as you [... spoilers]
3) I knew there's reason for a small pond existed in the walled city of Narwan, but
seriously, the unceasing flame in the nook by the west wall would have been the
better answer for the bandit's resolute, right?! Right?! I knew why the bandit
followed only Patrick. I knew the side-quest was minor important, the answer
shouldn't be difficult. But I don't know why I searched nearly half of the map. Laugh
all you can, I also threw the bandit into wolves den to scare the living daylight out of
him but only getting him killed as the result. He still wouldn't talk, and I had to restart.
Combat wise I'm okay, can micro assorted units quite well, lured Ice Boars in a circle
with ease, had even led Vallar to complete the joint-mission with Mara in Narwan at
first try at the challenge/episode. But the bandit side-quest had made a big fool out
of me, including many restart in case some triggers didn't work in the earlier attempts.
4) In this next case, I really feel like spanking you. No doubt you conveniently
highlighted the "enclosure area" on the map in Zarn but I'm a player who followed
strictly what's written in the Objectives tab. So when the objective asked me to take
the sheep to the enclosure area behind the clergyman's home, that exactly what I did
-- I looked for his HOME! Hellooooooo! But on every door in Zarn I knocked there was
no such thing as BEKAL'S HOME. I was stuck in Zarn for 2 hours, mind you.
Why I kept on trying, not giving up? Aha! That's the effect your scenario had had on
me. If this was a movie I would certainly watch it again. But maybe I should go back to
play it again, this time on Hard Difficulty.
* * *
P/S Panel, you did great improvement with the characters dialogues in this Act 2, love
the English (If you haven't read my comment in Act 1). I expect the Act 3 would be
even better presented. Can't wait.
HOWEVER, after playing the first 2 sequels, I'm sure Act 3 can't surprise me with the
story plot already. I bet Krall [...spoilers, more or less accurate] You just got to work
harder with the storyline in Act 3. Because... if and when it becomes PREDICTABLE,
Kriv forbids, your campaign scenario will lose hardcore fans like me. There's no
surprise left in the trilogy, I suppose.
Okay, bring it on!
"While playing, make sure you always have "chat to everyone" selected in the taunts section."
This is very, very important actually. Failure to do this simple thing would make you
want to shoot your neighbour's dog afterward. You wouldn't want to lose the special
skills -- Dodge, Fatal Blow, and Bloodlust --, would you?
Errors encountered during play were usually the changing of ownership after cut-
scene. Save game before approaching the blue flag. Other than that the scenario is
running okay on my computer.
The monk in Ice Village remained my colour after transition. The naughty side of me
wanted to make the monk convert a villager but then I remember there's no build
options for villager anyway, other than building farms. The Ice boars looked very
(comment moderated for spoilers - panel)
[Edited on 08/06/13 @ 08:11 AM]
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