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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Despite some glitches, it's impossible to deny that this scenario provides a lot of solid entertainment. It's a large role-playing style game with a strong narrative aspect, a good amount of side quests and a lot of items and hidden bonuses to reward exploration. Sometimes, for variety, the player takes control of a settlement and must defend it from attack. There are special abilities for your hero to learn but these are almost entirely an optional extra - the majority of the gameplay is about micromanaging a small handful of units. There are some slow periods, especially at the start with the sheep herding, but try to get through them as the pace does pick up.
Saving often is advisable, particularly as there is one problem that can cause the game to crash when entering the inn in Narwan. Other glitches are slightly annoying but not a real problem, such as when special abilities get confused by mounting and dismounting.
Although the scenario is entertaining, that is mostly because of the exploration and the story rather than the challenge. With most objectives you cannot really fail, and must simply walk around or cut down a tree until you get what you need. Elsewhere, provided you retreat for healing every so often the scattered wolves and bandits and other enemies pose no real threat. The sequences involving the defence of a settlement from waves of enemies are also rather easy, even on the hardest difficulty level. The most challenging parts were returning to Narwan and escaping again, and the skirmish at the curiously named Lumberjack Village.
Mostly this plays like the majority of other RPGs made in AoK, but there were some additional creative touches like the special abilities. In particular the lock-picking skill was a nice extra. A mission involving moving through a city recently taken by the enemy was also interesting. The story also deserves credit in this regard, as it is more intriguing than most.
Map Design: 5
Aesthetically, the map design is overall excellent, depicting a generally snowy, forested landscape very well. The village of Zarn and especially the city of Narwan were also very well done. There were a couple of weaker areas such as some relatively bland residential parts of Hansbrok and some woods east of there, but not enough to weaken the overall impression of a map which is a pleasure to explore. The map design is also very good in terms of layout, with long and uneventful walks mostly avoided.
As with the first Act, the story has had more effort put into it than most. I won't give away any details here, but if you enjoyed the author's previous work this is a worthy "successor". The story is probably the strongest aspect of the scenario. The instructions are also very good, and enable the player to keep on top of the main narrative as well as the various side quests and special abilities. There are also extensive hints available.
By the way, I couldn't comment, so I decided I'll write a review instead. Made this account as soon as I finished this campaign. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys RPGs, in game stories, and/or played the 1st Successor. *NOTE* There will be some spoilers.
I give this a 5- because of a couple of bugs which caused me to reload a save file due to triggers not activating (eg; Killing the siege weapon guards did not switch the siege weapons over to me. After reloading a previous save, it worked. Another issue was with the right stable, which if unmounting there, you were not able to pickpocket. Also, to move certain units (eg; worker), through certain areas, I had to do the spam click trick. However, since the left stable worked fine, Playability stays at 5.) Otherwise, the other 1.9k+ Triggers worked fiiiiiine. :D Anyway, the leveling system, the pricing for your gold, the fights, the side missions, they all were great fun and they all fit into the story in some way without seeming to be just "on the side". Except maybe the bastard riders. I liked them though. I hope their leader becomes the Tugai leader and helps the Sylvanians in Successor Act III. All in all, this campaign is hours of great fun.
I gave balance a 4 because while the entire game played out very well balanced, the defense of the town where you can make an army requires SO MUCH LUCK! Even on standard. That's because when they target the villagers, they break through all your units. The only reason I was able to pass that act was because the villager that died (yes, one died), was not linked to the defeat trigger. You might want to fix that. (and I scouted afterwards and then realised how to save the villies. Mercs) As for defending the city at the very end, you might want to reduce the city funding. I had enough pikes + xbows to take out the Giant Tent and the Leader without even using the huge force of cavalry. So I gave the balance 4 because the last act is way too easy, even for standard. The rest of the campaign was very balanced though. You're still going to have a lot of fun, I just didn't feel like I was under pressure from the Tugai.
As a sequel, it was amazing! The ancient stones were worth the search. The main story was a shocker. That ending. That ending makes me so excited for the sequel. Basically, the ending rivals the ending to Ulio, if not bests it. Although, for the scenario 2 cut-scene, what happened to the archers in the tower? Was it just a bluff? Or did they run as soon as their leader was safe? Besides that tiny confusion, no gaps in the story line. It was great.
Map Design: 5
I'm not a good judge on map design, as in I'm not going to check whether the location of each tree with each shrub with each patch of ground matches a certain particular mathematical ratio to please the eyes. I thought it looked great. Buildings weren't clumped up like someone was playing a random map game, natural terrain suited the designed environments, although there was one issue. With the left stable, during remounting, the horse and foot soldier blocked each other at the door. So the soldier didn't enter, so I couldn't unmount. I recommend widening the entrances to the stable. Otherwise, the eye candy was great. Who's DEAD_END by the way? :D
Story was original and exciting, while instructions were clear and precise. Overall, it was great.
Additional Comments: Please make an act III.
[Edited on 03/15/13 @ 02:46 PM]
A W E S O M E, that's the word to describe this masterpiece, exactly!
I have played act one and act two, and this is awesome, really awesome, the playability of this game is unique, it attracts you to play and of course the author found a very good way to make you attracted to this game, personally I have to admit it though some moments, it almost made me cry, I swear. This is just awesome, can't wait to see the act three.
The balance was good as well, but I have to be realistic here, I played in HARD mode and from my own prospective I still saw that I can control the balance, specially at the last part of the battle, + the gold that it's comes from the merchants really help you hire new soliders, and this is a great advantage, but still some parts were really hard to win, and I admit that sometimes in some parts took me more then 25 minutes to finish.
Creativity is UNIQUE. Why do I say that?
The author has found the right ways to reach the player feelings, this is a skill that most of the designers can't do, I can simply mention the movie directors as well, there's some movies that make us cry, but sincerely "ALMOST" making you cry from just a game, that's really rare and that skill is just unique.
I push forward the author to continue with this, because he really have some useful skills.
MAP DESIGN: 5
To be honest, and to tell you the right thing, the author used a great way of designing, he is very talented, in-game I saw lot's of areas highly-detailed and this means that it simply makes the campaign so realistic, and of course sometimes the ambient is very important & related with the game.
Sometimes it happened to me that, when I played any other campaign, while watching the cinematic scenarios the map design was so bad that It made me feel uncomfortable, and as a result of that I had to stop playing the game.
But anyways, back to the topic, MAP DESIGN 5 - that was just awesome!
The author is very smart, I have to admit that, the story is amazing, i think a book for this would have been awesome!
The sotry is very, very, very appropriate to this kind of exposure that author decided to make, and of course I will mention it again that the author has some great skills of touching the players feeling, I don't know for the rest but this campaign almost made me cry in some scenes, I don't know it happened to the other players, or maybe it's because im highly-addicted to this game :).
I sincerely congratulate the author for sumbitting such a masterpiece campaign to the blacksmith, and I really push him FORWARD to continue on the ACT III, wich I have a feeling that it's gonna be U N I Q U E, as this one, keep it up, respect!
EDIT - Balance seems fine to me now, increased the Balance to 5.
[Edited on 01/25/14 @ 01:05 AM]
The Successor - Act Two: Initiation is brought to the blacksmith by panel, a blacksmith staff. This campaign continues the story of The Successor, Act One, and the second Act of "The Successor" trilogy. Being an amazingly fantastic campaign, it forces almost everybody, who plays this campaign, to post a comment to appreciate it. Uploaded on 12th March 2013, it has received 3 reviews and above 25 comments by 27th March.
Simply awesome, as it provides solid entertainment and unlimited fun to the player. It is impossible to deny the scenario and refer it as boring. In all the scenarios, or I would say both the campaigns (Act One and Act Two), The author has used a variety of objects, triggers etc. to attract the player to each of the quests and units. The campaign comes with 2 scenarios, of which one is a large Role playing scenario, with the main objective of defeating a player, but broken out into many parts. The large number of side-quests, hidden bonuses and items, although being optional, make the game even more interesting. Managing the game and the enemies with a small number of units and resources was the majority of the game, and was the major factor of attraction.
Still its 5- as there were some problems like game crashing at some points, but can be solved by saving the game often. Saving the game often is highly recommended, as the player might be immersed in the game-play so much that he/she might forget about saving!
Balance was almost perfect. The challenges (not all) were little easy and time-taking. Even on the Hard
mode, the challenges were a little easy to complete. For instance, when Mohan was introduced, the battles
at lumberjack village could easily be won by keeping Vallar aside, as Mohan was very strong, and the paths blocked by stone mines could easily be removed in Part one. The Hansbork battle was also easy as the player regularly got 1000 gold. The map was filled with bandits and wild animals, which too were not a matter of threat as the player could retreat and get healed.
Still other challenges were very hard, which balances the game and gives 4.
The creativity was more than perfect. Everything in the campaign were fully creative. The main attractions were the ancient stone searching and the special skills. The author has also used made AI files for special skills, which is highly appreciable. The story too was completely attractive and filled with turnouts that can make the player emotional. Also, the truth of Zeno the village idiot was a big surprise!
MAP DESIGN: 5+
The Map was very beautifully made. After finishing the campaign, I started it again and typed Marco polo, just to glance at the whole map. I found that even the places which were not visible to the player, were beautifully arranged. The main thing that attracted me was the temple of the oracle, and the city of Hansbork. The design, as an overall, is an EYE CANDY.
The story, of course, was excellent, actually outstanding. It was highly creative and impressive, and the ending story almost made me cry. The most shocking part was the end of the first scenario[SPOILERS]! I was also shocked to see the final dream.
The instructions were very clear to read and understand. No problem was there in continuing the scenario, and I did not had to click on the chat button to see what was said.
Additional Comments: A unique piece in the Blacksmith, I highly appreciate panel for such an amazing creation.
[Edited on 08/05/13 @ 09:46 AM]
Logged in just to rate this. I haven't seen such a well made campaign in a long time.
The player is rewarded for exploring every possible inch of the map. Small upgrades as well as money can be found dotted throughout the landscape if you bother to explore otherwise ignorable areas.
I only give this a four because the village fight with the monk was difficult. If you move out of the village and slowly batter away at their forces one by one, the monk will die. I understand this is a part of the gameplay, but *spoiler* by the time the final wave comes it is difficult to prevent a ton of cataphracts from killing a single 100 hp villager with the amount of men left over. I probably spent an hour on this part alone due to my bad choice of saving after making my army. */spoiler*
The story and all of the characters were well thought out. I've seen some weird stuff in AOE2 before, and thus I think this lacked something spectacularly different to set it apart. For example, if there had been a scene where a horde of monkeys stampedes across your path, and later on they are captured and need to be freed to wipe out an army of otherwise unstoppable paladins/elephants, then I would have given 5. I guess I'm hard to please.
Map Design: 5
Very well detailed, not much else to say..
I never take the time to read long roleplay-type stories anymore, but the story was easy to learn just by playing. Half way through the scenario you can easily grasp who is friend, who is foe and the personalities of the characters you've been with.
Awesome work. I wonder if there are any other new campaigns I haven't played yet.
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!
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.
This campaign has been sitting on my to-do list for years now. Today I finally got around to playing it, and boy have I been missing out. This campaign, while now nearly four years old, is one of the best released in later years.
This is a story of epic proportions with very rewarding twists and turns, combined with exciting gameplay and a wonderful map that keeps you playing for hours on end. From start to finish, the great variety of missions and the constantly engaging plot had me hooked; I literally played it in a single 5-hour sitting. I had a blast exploring every corner of this huge world and, apart from some long walks back and forth for certain side quests, there was hardly ever a boring minute.
A few minor issues did cloud my experience, such as suddenly losing control over units for seemingly no good reasons (such as the first spearmen you get on your first major quest), map revealers still lighting up places that should've gone dark long ago, a map revealer not being created at all in the scene where Vallar wakes up from his nightmare, and so on. The biggest problem was the bug that causes Villager-Vallar to start taking damage for no apparent reason. Luckily I had saved just before this started to happen, but it definitely detracted from the experience. All in all, though, this is a ton of fun with some minor issues sprinkled on top, but nothing to truly detract from the overall enjoyment of the campaign.
This is the trickiest category to score in this case. Most of the time I felt that the challenges that presented themselves were well balanced. However, once I realized I could hit-and-run my way through most challenges by going back to the nearest monk to heal up, much of the challenge evaporated. This became especially pronouned after Vallar was switched to a hero unit that could regenerate; before that, the threat of running out HP meant I had to be much more on my toes. Still, I never found the scenario to be a cakewalk. The final siege was still a challenge, as were many of the objectives along the way. Overall, though, it was a little on the easy side, even on moderate.
From the twists and turns of the story, to the simultaneously beautiful and practically laid out map, to the great variety of missions, this campaign presented a steady stream of big and small creative touches. I particularly liked the layout of Hansbrok, which, apart from a few areas that seemed to have received too little love, looked and felt very much like a vibrant city; an actual place with an actual soul, if you will. While there was nothing ground-breaking in the triggerwork or map design, it was evident that a lot of thought and care had gone into every nook and cranny of the map, the story and the trigger systems. In a word, impressive!
MAP DESIGN: 5
There are definitely design choices here which I personally do not agree with, such as the ice and bamboo over small streams, and abundance of flowers and dirt patches, and so on. Compared to the overall quality of the map, though, these are merely nitpicks. Panel has improved a lot since making the previous installment in the series, and it very clearly shows.
The map design overall is fantastic. It creates an immersive world that feels very genuine, despite in reality being a very linear and restricted map that guides your every step. This is thanks to every "region" being a relatively open world, tightly sealed off from the rest of the map until it is time to move forward. The starting village is beautiful, the city of Hansbrok, as mentioned before, is a joy to explore and experience, and the map overall is just wonderful to behold. Definitely top-notch material!
STORY & INSTRUCTIONS: 5+
The story is, as so many have already pointed out, the highest of the campaign's many high points. Panel has gone a few steps beyond what most designers ever do and crafted a story with genuinely interesting characters and a gradually revealing plot that keeps you glued to your seat. On top of all that, the instructions throughout are very clear. There is hardly a moment when you're in doubt about what to do. All in all, a strong five!
IN CONCLUSION: An improvement over its predecessor, and an epic in its own right. More than worth the download!