|Al_Kharn the Great
Posted on 12/19/14 @ 02:21 PM (updated 10/21/15
Take control of the seas and destroy the Ikko Ikki temple fortress in a build and destroy scenario set in feudal Japan
||Age of Empires II (2013): The Forgotten
||Build and Destroy
Kuki Yoshitaka stood on his iron-plated ship as it knifed through the water's skin, each wave scattering sprays of droplets with the regularity of an arterial wound. Known throughout Nippon as a fierce pirate warlord, Yoshitaka had navigated the tides of change of the Sengoku Jidai with the expertise of a salty pilot. When Oda Nobunaga seized neighboring Ise province, Yoshitaka swore allegience to the rising daimyo. Nobunaga welcomed the support of the head of the Kuki clan. For decades, the clan rivaled the Mori in seamanship.
That was until the embarassment of their defeat in these very waters outside the Ikko Ikki temple fortress of Hongan-ji.
Two years ago, Yoshitaka led his fleet to break the backbone of the Ikko Ikki in the midst of a decade-long siege against the monk-led zealots. The ships and sailors of the Mori clan, aligned with the Ikko Ikki against the rising Oda, provided a timber, pitch, and sail bulwark in these waters, the supply lines of the fortress. As long as the Mori controlled the sea, the temple fortress would resist Oda's armies. Yoshitaka's fleet, outnumbered and outclassed, was destroyed.
The shame of defeat, enough to make many samurai commit seppuku, did not faze the pirate lord. With a mind sharper than the tanto blade used for ritual suicide, Yoshitaka designed new large ships, covered in iron plates, which would give him an advantage over the numerous Mori fleet.
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Al_Kharn the Great's 'Fall of the Ikko Ikki' is a scenario set in the Sengoku period in Japan, detailing a naval engagement between the forces of the Oda and Mori clans and their respective followers. The Battle of Kizugawaguchi is an interesting topic, and an often-ignored one - hats off to Al_Kharn for finding a diamond in the rough in terms of historical subjects.
The scenario was a rather straightforward B&D, though the author took measures to assure that it would not be anything like a generic RM. One of the most striking features is the inability to build villagers, meaning you must rely on the ones you start with or convert more from your enemies. I found it rather fun to play, though I think the mapsize was actually a little too small and limited the gameplay a bit by making it too linear. Aside from lousy pathing in some spots due to off-grid objects there weren't really any bugs, but I feel that with some slight restructuring of the map and the AI it could have been a more fun experience.
The balance was decent, but not optimal. It seemed that the player was supposed to use both bases in a two-pronged attack on the enemy, but the western base would always be annihilated within the first few minutes and there wasn't really anything I could do other than to cut the food supply by destroying the mill. The AI seemed to have a lot of trouble attacking my eastern base by land and sea, probably due to pathing issues from off-grid objects and narrow corridors. I never really felt in danger of losing once I had walled off my eastern base. My turtle ships felt very OP and won the water with little opposition, and the shore bombardment they provided severely hampered the AI's resistance. Attacking the AI was more difficult as I had little gold and little room to work with, but with systematic application of pressure over time the enemies eventually caved.
The concept of the scenario, its layout, and the map design were all very creative, as was the use of sound. I feel like the blueprint was here for a top rated scenario, but some of the aforementioned issues caused it to fall a tad short of that top score. The mechanic where you couldn't train villagers normally really shone here and created an innovative gameplay experience. I'm confident that with a few revisions this scenario could get up to a 4.6 or a 4.8.
Map Design: 4+
Overall, the map design was quite good and exemplified Al_Kharn's diverse set of design skills. I really liked the palace yard (though it could perhaps have used a little more elevation), but the water region was the real highlight for me. I feel that the design there was both innovative and effectively executed. However, some of the techicalities that I mentioned before (the off-grid objects and the narrow corridors) merited a deduction because of the way they affected the scenario playability as well.
As usual, Al_Kharn's storytelling abilities and clarity with regard to instructions come to the fore in contributing to the atmosphere. The subject matter is interesting in itself, but his rendition of it makes it truly come alive. Again, I cannot stress enough what a difference clear and organized instructions make in a scenario, and the author has this down to a science.
With a few tweaks and some polishing, this one can certainly improve to an even better score. Nevertheless, its current state certainly merits a download and will bring you a fulfilling (albeit quick) experience!