||Build and Destroy
Forty-five years have passed since the fall of the Witch Queen Xaphira at the end of The Relics of Athalën. Since then, the country of Gwyndlegard has turned from a loose federation of regions and cities, into a centralized, militarized state. Its current leader, King Winstan, is hellbent on expanding the country's borders, and when his enemies ally against him, he decides to attack the weakest link in the alliance: Sarachrion.
You must take control of Sarachrion's armies and fend off the southern invasion!
• A large scale defend the spot-type scenario with three bases and castles to defend, each with its unique strategic importance,
• An enemy AI with mutiple strategies up its sleeve, which it adapts based on your strategy choices,
• AoK compatible! (no mods, custom data or HD expansions!)
• Roughly 1-2 hours of intense, action-packed gameplay,
• Bad jokes!
• Unpronouncable names!
• ... just download the scenario already, will you?
This scenario requires the 1.0c patch and the UserPatch 1.4 (or a later version) to work. (It has not been tested without the UserPatch, and certain effects could cause it to crash with just the 1.0c patch.)
|Author||Reviews ( All | Comments Only | Reviews Only )|
The Winter Storm is Lord Basse's entry to the 2016 Classic Design Contest. Continuing at the torrid pace where he left off, Lord Basse has presented us with another entertaining design that combines a well-executed concept with fabulous map design and triggerwork that harnesses the power of the scenario editor improvements of the UserPatch.
In terms of entertainment and pace, The Winter Storm is top-of-the-line material. The player is thrust immediately into the action, commanding the forces of Sarachrion in a staunch defense against the invasion forces of its aggressive southern neighbor, Gwyndlegard. A high yet manageable level of challenge coupled with a multidimensional set of objects and a spectacularly laid out map contributes greatly to the player's enjoyment of the scenario. The player will find themselves allocating resources to the defense of three separate citadels in an effort to parry powerful enemy assaults, defend supply lines, and break sieges before eventually turning the tide and bringing the fight to the enemy encampment. The only bugs that I could identify were that the dialogue announcing the arrival of supplies from overseas would continue to fire even if the eastern fortress is lost (although the resources would not arrive), and that enemy troops at times had a tendency to get stuck in the scenery, a symptom of the copious use of off-grid placement. These issues were relatively minor, however, and were certainly not enough to detract from an otherwise excellent score.
Having attempted the scenario on each difficulty level, I can attest to a significant variance in challenge presented by the AI as well as a slew of other mechanics. Regardless of difficulty, the scenario is designed in such a manner that the player is forced to make split-second decisions at a torrid pace in order to assure their success against a capable enemy. The intensity is consistently high but not overwhelming, and the player is guided towards harnessing the strengths of their civilization and applying them to numerous aspects of the scenario, be it the lifting of a siege, the defense of a narrow causeway, or battles in the open field. I felt that the difficulty generally increased as the scenario progressed while remaining manageable, a feature that is particularly difficult to strike. The final stage in particular is guaranteed to test the mettle of hardened DTS players, but serves as a fitting closing to the scenario.
The author's take on a siege scenario incorporated a variety of distinct elements. While several of them were rather standard in nature, the sphere in which the scenario truly excelled here was in the manner in which they cohered to produce an altogether novel experience. As I played the scenario, I truly felt as if I were a general in charge of the defense of a nation, with all of the weighty responsibilities and priorities to balance that such an occupation entailed. Further creativity was exhibited through the map design, but more on that later.
Map Design: 5
True to form, Lord Basse presents the AoKH scenario design community with another truly outstanding work in the map design department. I found the map to be extremely aesthetically pleasing while simultaneously contributory in a positive fashion to the functionality of the scenario in terms of gameplay. The various fortresses are laid out in a manner that is aesthetically gorgeous and equally utilitarian in nature, and the placement of a river and mountain ranges correlates to a complex tactical climate, allowing the player to conduct a successful defense despite inferior numbers. A nifty design trick involving icebergs creates the sense of a frigid harbor in the middle of winter, and the off-grid placement feature of the UserPatch is used to excellent effect. One other aspect that I noticed is that units, when tasked from one fortress to another, tend to follow the proper roads between them without any need for further guidance. I'm not sure if this was intended, or simply a byproduct of a well-laid-out map, but either way it presented a tinge of realism that was much appreciated.
While the concept is relatively simple in nature, the author manages, as per usual, to flesh it out with an engaging narrative set some years after the previous iteration in the fabled Gwyndlegard saga. The storyline is such that is draws the player in and makes it quite simple to for the player to feel invested in the gameplay experience. In general, the story compliments the gameplay extremely well, being neither threadbare nor unnecessarily intrusive. The instructions serve to sufficiently orient the player to what might otherwise be a fairly complex situation to acclimate oneself to initially, and provide strategic pointers as well without spoiling the novelty factor of figuring out the best strategic methods for themselves. Top marks here.
A fabulous scenario that is guaranteed to provide players with hours of entertainment and replayability, this is a must download, and a credit to Lord Basse's already impressive repertoire of designs. Congratulations are in order!
"Winter Storm" by Lord Basse is a very good scenario set in the Gwyndlegard universe, although the game didnt exactly play out as i think it was intended to do so, which was the same result on multiple playthroughs and difficulties. Despite the "low" rating its quite a good outing and i recommend a playthrough regardless. The reviewer has played on standard\moderate once each, and every other playthrough was on hard.
The game was quite enjoyable with a great intensity, with the AI putting up a great fight and pressuring all three bases. The player needing to allocate limited resources carefully while weighing attack and defense with troop allocation makes for some really good gameplay. The scenario does a great job at showing how to make a tough defense situation on a larger map;there is also something here that i like very much, and that is the scale of much bigger armies. Instead of sending the usual AI tricklets of men, this enemy brings attack waves that are more substantial, resulting in large clashes with hundreds of soldiers, then lapsing into a quiet interlude as both sides build up.
On the face of it, Winter Storm gives the impression of a fiendishly difficult scenario. The player must hold three bases against a clever AI opponent who senses weakness and poses a lot of problems for the human to maintain the fronts with his limited resources. I found the challenge to be immensely intense, at least until i gained familiarity with the scenario and began breaking down the AIs patterns midway through my first playthrough on moderate.
The problem is that its not very hard at all, even on Hard. Infact a combination of two factors render the game a cakewalk, unless the player chooses to avoid utilizing them. First is the defensible bridge which is very conveniently situated so that heavy scorpions can be placed nearly adjacent to the bridge while being very safe from attack. This has a nice synergy with the ETKs excellent defensive capabilities. Secondly is the fact that with no troops in the capital, the AI only continuously attacks across this bridge;over and over their troops were slaughtered without a single loss to my men. I was able to sit back and have a coffee while waiting for resources to build up for my counterattack. The AI army is utterly incapable of breaking down the players force and has no units who can cope with ETKs anyway;arbalests sort of counter ETK but not sufficiently so when the army relying on them has to attack head on into the ETKs. Around the 1:00:00 mark i put the scenario to the test by saving and just leaving it on fast while i went to do some other stuff, and came back at over 2:00:00 to find only a few skorpians and ETK had been killed and the entire defense was intact and functioning with a carpet of dead gwyndians opposing them. At this point i had 72k food and 30k gold, made 30+ stables, deleted all the defensive units, overwhelmed the gwyndian base and even attacked their last ditch attack army head on;they couldnt make an inch of progress against a yellow sea of paladinos.
There is something to be said for not using exploits and cheese strategies in order to play a scenario properly, but i cannot see how it is reasonable that the player must avoid defending a bridge;holding chokepoints is a vital concern in a strategy game, and the player is well justified in seeing a bridge and having an instinctual desire to defend it. Its hardly an exploit and real bridges in actual warfare are also key points of interest, so its not an unrealistic cheese strategy either. I also dont really see why any other player couldnt also execute this strategy regardless of skill level.
But thats not where it ends. I found another strategy which not only renders the game a cakewalk, but breaks the scenario entirely. First, take your starting troops and place them against the north gate tightly;this tends to buy the utmost amount of time as the AI is slower to fight them further away. Meanwhile if your scouts go to the starting bases ASAP you can actually gain control of all 3 bases just before the Gwyndlegards take over the starting fort. Now take every soldier under your command and head for the ruined encampment, meanwhile using your resources to go imperial and make as many normal scorpions as possible. Setup your troops just to the left of the encampment with the scorpions nestled in against the walls and get heavy scorpion researched if possible, while making what extra units you can in the meantime. When the Gwyndlegards march up, the players starting force with the scorpion firepower support is sufficient to defeat their army. At this point i marched into the starting area, killed everything i could find, and also killed the mounted units that were placed to the righthand side below the ruined encampment. The game couldnt be won, and the Gwyndlegards were only owning some horses to avoid defeat.
As an alternative route to this strategy, if you dont wish to prevent the Gwyndlegards from taking the castle, you can actually have trebs unpacked behind their base and in position *before* their base spawns in, and snipe down their castles and military production buildings instantly;although this doesnt seem to have much if any impact on how many troops they can make.
Not paying much attention to the hint that collecting resources was futile, on both moderate and hard i found it quite reasonable and even profitable to setup farming, with the most being 36 farmers on the hard mode. The reason is that both the teutonic knight and paladin eat food heavily, and sustaining repeated attacks while replenishing losses of these troops isnt possible with only the tributed resources. Using this strategy the player can more easily afford to transition into an all-out offensive keeping the enemy AI on the defense or atleast making them fight away from your base. During the moderate playthrough, i was almost constantly on the offensive trying to repeatedly push into the enemy base from the capital, losing my army over and over in field battles, and needed that extra food income to sustain losses;but thanks to this, the enemy couldnt threaten my home base and i beat them down in the long run. I had an additional 15k food income earned during the moderate playthrough and an additional 63k food gathered on the hard playthrough. I would actually recommend getting about 30-40 farms going on any difficulty;its quite helpful. Just for the stat lovers, I finished the first moderate game at 1:32:xx with almost 2400 kills to 660 deaths and the second playthrough on hard finished 2:20:xx with 4100+ kills to 470 deaths.
The scenarios combination of good gameplay with an interesting challenge of a tough base defense makes the scenario stand up well against the field of defend the spot\siege style scenarios. The map was well crafted for the purposes of the gameplay and provided a nice setting for the siege. A good usage of music to raise the tension and bring its own atmosphere heightened the sense of individuality, and the sound effects were well chosen with none seeming to be of low quality or out of place. The creation of a fairly sophisticated AI that can detect weaknesses in the player and attack where it hurts was very nice to see. The AI troops were no slouch at defending their base either and made detours to attack my trebuchets and didnt allow my army easy access to their base at any time. I find this to be a superb effort in the creativity department, and therefore go in for the maximum score here.
Map Design 4
The map conveyed a believable winter landscape with a good amount of detailing work throughout the main areas. The various towns both looked good and were easy to play within. The roadways look good and it was neat to see units would tend to use them. The bridges were a nice point of detail, which i quite liked the look of.
As far as consideration for the maximum rating, i found the map to be a slightly too plain and with some weaknesses to fully support the higher score. The heavy use of green mountains during winter doesnt look right to me, and some of these are placed with little disguise of their base with detailing work. The terrain itself on the broader areas of the countryside is often large expanses of snow terrain. There was also some hay bale placement i found a bit unnecessary. There is also some cave like things above two of the rivers that seemed a bit off.
The story of Winter Storm provided a compelling hook to get invested into the outcome, and the character of our leaders was well fleshed out with some excellent writing in the intro. The objectives, hints and scouts reports were well filled out, with good writing, and were everything you could ask for in these departments. The use of a custom soundtrack adds a great deal of immersion of the scenario, and the sound effect usage was on point.
Although i played most Gwyndlegard content by now, im not exactly an expert on the lore;still, i really like the concept of exploring a single universe and doing world building within it. Its almost like every additional Gwyndlegard scenario slightly enhances the story immersion of the others.
Final thoughts: Winter Storm is a good scenario, which is definitely worth a play provided the player can cope with a little bit of lag. As far as balance goes, to get a proper challenge the player must play into the hands of the AI on purpose to experience the game as it was meant to be played, and i would simply suggest a self ban on placing units on or around the bridge. When i replayed with this restriction, it was truly an intense, hard fought and satisfying game.
[Edited on 03/27/17 @ 12:17 AM]
The Winter Storm is Lord Basse's 2nd place entry to the 2016 Classic Design Contest. Set in Basse's famous Gwyndlegard universe, The Winter Storm is a spin-off sequel set 45 years after The Relics of Athalen in the neighbouring country of Sarachrion.
The Winter Storm is a thoroughly engaging and entertaining scenario which mixes creative design tricks with an engaging story and tactical gameplay mechanisms. I am a big fan of Lord Basse's approach to scenario designing, as he has develop his own unique style of gameplay which incorporates his very original brand of humour and different mechanisms within the game itself which require you to think, micro-manage and work fast in order to emerge victorious. The Winter Storm is now exception to this and is an incredibly enjoyable and typical Basse scenario. The scenario was fun, challenging, and completely bug-free, overall achieving a perfect playbility score.
The scenario's balance is near perfect. I played on moderate and found the scenario challenging but still winnable, if not slightly on the easy side. The scenario has built in difficulty dynamics so playing of Hard would have made it more of a challenge for those who might find Moderate too easy. The scenario's style means that the player has to make use of various micro-management tactics in order to defend three castle from an ongoing army of Gwyndlegard soldiers. The action-packed game means that there is a speed to it which means quick decisions are need to be made.
The Winter Storm is a highly creative scenario which incorporates all of the well-known traits of a Lord Basse design. The most creative aspect of the scenario is its unique take of defend the spot scenario/siege scenario which requires the player to take a different approach to the gameplay. The scenario incorporates a "spy system" which means that the enemy will attack whichever castle of your is weakest, a concept I have not seen implemented into an AOK scenario before.
Map Design: 4
Lord Basse is an expert in map design and has shown throughout his collective works he has shown capability in designing all sorts of map styles from vast deserts to luscious mountain paradises. As the name implies this is a winter scenario, and is a great example of one too. Basse uses all the resources available to him in the vanilla editor to design a white wonderland, and perfectly blends the limited terrains together to make a realistic and beautifully design map depicting to harsh winters of Sarachrion. Unfortunately due to the fact that there is a much more limited number of snowy terrains and objects in the editor it makes that map look quite plain in comparison with any of Basse's other designs.
The story is a continuation of Lord Basse's Gwyndlegard series, set in the same universe 45 years after that last time we visited it in The Relics of Athalen. The Gwyndlegard series is a personal favourite of mine. Throughout the original series we took charge of a group of heroes from the nation of Gwyndlegard, which is depicted as the 'good nation'. It was interesting in this scenario to see the tide change and depict the nation of Gwyndlegard as the antagonists. Now we take control of Sarachrion the neighbouring country in which Gwyndlegard is invading. The story, while short it is funny, engaging, action packed and well written. The intro screen sets up the story well and describes to us what has happened in the years between the Relics of Athalen and now. The story is great and compliments the gameplay well. The instructions were clear, well-written and easy to follow. The Hints provide additional help and has everything you could ask for.
Overall the Winter Storm is an incredibly brilliant scenario which fuses creative and unique gameplay styles with a fun and egaging story and leave you with an hour or two of fun. A highly recommended download.