|Required Modpack (if not included with the download):
The wind howled across the open steppe, sending a sharp chill down Aldrin's spine. He opened his eyes in surprise, only to be greeted by the ordinary, if unwelcome, sight of the sun creeping over the crest of the nearest hill, signaling the fast approach of dawn. Splashing his face with water, Aldrin fastened his tunic and gazed around, noting that each of his loyal watchmen stood at attention, vigilant for any unwelcome visitors. The Gerothian Steppe was crawling with brutal hordes of Valonian cavalrymen, and the ruthless horselords of Fuldin tirelessly pursued Aldrin's company from the north, eager for the glory that they might derive from the slaying of a rival king. Looking off into the direction from whence he and his men arrived, Aldrin was overcome with an inundation of memories. He recalled with a grim feeling the horrors of the past several weeks, and briefly relived the events that had brought himself and his men to this desperate pass...
Winner of the 2016 Classic Design Contest
A StormWind Studios Production
Requires the latest version of the UserPatch
Those of you who are familiar with Galderton Hill RP, my previous multiplayer project, particularly if you read the companion document that shipped with the download, will have briefly experienced the world in which Storm of the Steppe is set. This scenario, however, takes place roughly five and a half centuries before the events of Galderton Hill RP, and in an entirely different setting. Hundreds of leagues north of the land of Verstonia lies the Gerothian Steppe, a barren, windswept, and sloping plain whose namesake was a particularly infamous confederation of horselords that dominated much of the region. The inhospitable climate is the least of your worries.
In this scenario, you will guide the distant ancestors of the Aldrian Empire of Galderton Hill RP, who were still known by a different name at that point in time. Driven from their idyllic homeland in a lush valley to the far north of the steppe, Aldrin's followers, who would eventually take the name "Aldrians" in homage to his charismatic leadership, fled to the south in search of a suitable place of refuge. Their success - or failure - is entirely in your hands. Will your guidance bring them to a new homeland and eternal glory, or will they tragically vanish from the pages of history?
For all of you B&D lovers out there, this scenario should be right up your alley. This scenario is in many ways an experiment, as I have embraced a design style far different than my usual repertoire, and am currently toying with pushing the boundaries of B&D gameplay. Here are a few things that you can expect from this approach:
An extremely open and spacious map (4-player size) and, by extension, a largely minimalistic design style. The setting is a nearly boundless steppe, after all! Mobile horsemen rule these plains, and attacks can be unexpected and deadly. Smart AIs utilizing effective troop combinations and attacking on several fronts will allow the player to test their mettle. The goal here is to consistently present the possibility of setbacks or outright defeats while keeping things fair.
Limited fortifications. We all know the time-proven flaw of most B&D scenarios: the ability of the player to hide behind a sea of fortifications and boom with impunity until finally launching an unstoppable attack with a death ball of 100 paladins. Rest assured, you will acquire a few fortifications at the start of the B&D, but you will be unable to construct any more. The player will be unable to build archery units, either, so there will be no abusing of the AI with unstoppable masses of archers.
Sparse resources! This isn't your standard map - concentrations of resources are few and far between on the open steppe, and you will be forced to battle viciously for each deposit, particularly gold. Due to this concern, troops cannot be indiscriminately spammed at the enemy, but instead must be used frugally and strategically. The lack of fortifications will require the player to defend their economy through the strength of arms rather than with infinite castles.
Difficulty dynamism. This normally goes without saying, but the difference in difficulty levels in this scenario will be quite steep and is designed to accommodate all types of players. If you're relatively new to B&D gameplay and/or desire an experience devoid of the more challenging features of this scenario, standard difficulty is there for you. If you're an expert B&D player and/or want to scratch and claw for every inch of ground, then hard difficulty is for you! If you want something right in the middle, moderate difficulty is tailored exactly to your needs. My goal here is to make the gameplay accessible to everyone.
Extensive usage of UserPatch features. From design tricks largely possible due to the improvements that the UserPatch has to offer, to the new UserPatch trigger functionality, to various UserPatch AI features, this scenario has and will benefit greatly from the commendable efforts of the UserPatch team in building a brighter future for AoE2.
Racing the clock! Time is against you, as the same enemies that drove your people from your original homeland are in hot pursuit. Take too long to complete the scenario, and they will strike, with potentially deadly results.
That's not all for features, but I don't want to give everything away now, do I?!
Your starting troops | The windswept steppe | A lakeside tomb | A hidden shrine | An abandoned village | Dare you enter? | Precious gold | Restless horsemen | A fearsome enemy | Cascading waters | An ancient bridge
As always, many thanks to my comrades at StormWind Studios for consistent and helpful inspiration, feedback, and above all for being wonderful teammates.
This scenario requires the 1.0c patch of The Conquerors as well as the latest version of the UserPatch. It is not compatible with the HD Edition.
Enjoy! Comments are welcome here or in the project discussion thread on the forum, and a review in particular would be much appreciated.
|Author||Reviews ( All | Comments Only | Reviews Only )|
This scenario was a lot of fun to play. The player is brought immediately into the action, and has to fight his way through the steppe in order to establish a base in an abandoned village. This initial phase might seem very easy, but the real challenge here is to lose as few units as possible, since on harder difficulties this really makes a big difference. After this short initial sequence the scenario becomes an almost pure B&D, which is made unique by the smart limitations on units and technologies and by the excellent AI. Due to the open nature of the map and the inability to rebuild fortifications, it is impossible to defend passively, and it is mandatory to take the initiative and pursue one of the possible strategies as soon as possible. The player can decide whether to complete the secondary objectives and obtain domination over the whole map, or focus on the main target from the beginning. Both are viable strategies, and this adds quite a lot in terms of replayability. The scarce amount of gold forces you to take extra care of the most expensive units, which is best achieved by training (and protecting!) a few monks that can heal them.
I played the scenario on standard and moderate (I tried the hardest option as well, but I was unable to make much progress!) and I found the balance to be excellent. The player is put under constant pressure, as the varied composition and entity of the enemy hordes can easily catch you off guard. Due to the limited population cap and the necessity to organize a counterattack with a certain hurry, it is never possible to defend with too many units, and not spotting an onager in time can mean the end of your hopes. The secondary objectives succeed in giving the player a bonus which is commensurate to the time and resources spent in completing them but not more, so that the game never becomes unbalanced in your favor. However, I believe that conquering the small town in the West early on is almost mandatory, especially on harder difficulties. As the author points out, there is a rather striking difference between the various difficulty levels, achieved not only by giving the enemies more units, but also (and mostly) different upgrades and AI behaviour. One thing to note is that the trebuchets trigger is present only on standard difficulty. This is one thing that confused me at first and might be worth pointing out in the hints, since I played the difficulty levels in order and I was planning to use the trebs on moderate as well.
Although the idea behind the scenario is rather simple, the realization is excellent and shows several creative ideas. In my opinion, the most innovative aspect of the map is the custom AI, that provides a great challenge and simulates well the tactics that an actual horde of riders would use. The small bonuses that are obtained by visiting the landmarks scattered around the map are a nice addition, and the landmarks themselves show some very innovative and creative design. The restriction on units and technologies are very well thought out, and force the player to adopt strategies that are both funnier and more realistic (compared, for example, to building a lot of towers and archers). In general, I enjoyed how all these features came together smoothly to create a very intense mixture of B&D, DTS and all-out attack styles.
Map Design: 5
The map design is of the highest level. Not only does the author succeed in making a map which is 90% barren steppe look gorgeous and variegate, but it does it in a way which is perfectly functional to the gameplay. For example, the open setting makes it very hard to chase and trap the enemy cavalry archers, and there is no place where your villagers can collect resources with complete safety. The eastern corner of the map with the small rocky river, the castle and the archway looks absolutely amazing and can even offer interesting strategic options, although only on the easiest difficulty level I managed to bring warfare there. The landmarks scattered around the map are very unique, and show with great effect what can be achieved by using the off-grid placement to completely hide parts of the existing buildings, so that they look completely different. The abandoned village that the player needs to defend is also very beautiful and realistic, while the enemy towns look more conventional.
The story that comes with the scenario is quite simple and linear, and even during the scenario there are no particular turns of events. However, it is very well written and provides the background and atmosphere that are necessary to fully enjoy the map. The voice acting is quite minimal, but adds a nice touch nonetheless. The soundtrack fits perfectly and contributes greatly to the overall experience. The instructions are precise and the objectives are very simple to understand anyway. The hints are quite general but provide good basic information. Maybe a section with more detailed suggestions about the possible strategical approaches (maybe with a spoiler alert!) would be useful to the less experienced player.
A fun, challenging and greatly designed B&D scenario. I consider it one of the best -if not the best- of his kind and I recommend the download to anyone!
All in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable scenario and a worthy victor in the Classic Design Contest! The gameplay is intense, fluid and varied, and it keeps you constantly entertained and challenged. From the get-go you are faced with an onslaught of various challenges that require you to employ all your best tactics. The AIs employed, with their hit and run tactics, almost make you forget you're playing against a computer, as their strategy feels intuitive, and their attacks mostly come at opportune times and in your weak spots. Lastly, the addition of spoken dialogue makes the scenario much more immersive and memorable.
Pretty much perfectly balanced. I played on Moderate and the challenges felt perfectly adjusted to the setting. The scenario was challenging throughout, forcing you to be constantly on your toes, but never so hard that your effort was utterly in vain. The challenges also arise from the strength of the enemy and the strategic set-up of the scenario, which makes the challenge feel all that more genuine and worth undertaking.
The gameplay contained few novelties, but the way the challenges were put together, in a perfectly fluid manner, going seamlessly from one challenge to the next without much repetition, was carried out perfectly. The map design, on the other hand, apart from being absolutely stunning, contained more than a few ingenious bits of design. The various ruins that dot the map are marvelously put together, sometimes in ways I haven't seen anywhere before, and they bring a sense of awe and a heightened atmosphere to an already tight and entertaining scenario.
MAP DESIGN: 5
As mentioned above, the map is absolutely gorgeous. The ruined monuments are my favourite part, but the whole map is beautiful: from the general layout with rivers and cliffs cutting up the land, to the steppe themed terrain, beautifully executed, to the tactical design of bases, both the player's and the AI's - there's scarcely a patch of land that doesn't look fantastic.
STORY & INSTRUCTIONS: 5
The story is well-written and quickly and handily brings the player both into the gameplay to come, and the atmosphere of the scenario, the sense of urgency and the desperation of being surrounded by unpredictable foes. It's an exciting read, getting you ready for the scenario to come, and the spoken dialogue during the course of the game, as mentioned before, bring the whole experience to a new level.
All in all, thoroughly enjoyable and definitely worth downloading!
No bugs. No crashes. No errors detected and the game flow ran smoothly. Enemy and ally players behaved fluently and nothing seemed out of place.
I only play campaigns and single player scenarios on level hard, and this was near impossible (to my liking). I also play on fast speed but still managed to win after several reloads. Enemies never really stop attacking you for more than a minute, even when you take out one or two of them. If you really want to be challenged at a build & destroy style map, this is the one for you.
I don't believe I played a campaign before the challenged me in a brand new way. We're used to games where villagers typically have a safe area to build up and gather resources. Here, the author not only limits the building we can make (no walls!) but spreads the resources out so far that you must expect your villagers to constantly get raided, as well as a moderately low population limit.
Map Design: 5
The scenario included an overall well detailed layout of map, featuring eye candy areas and strategically placed bases and side hints. No eye sores or installations were placed.
Story was smoothly installed and instructions were crystal clear. Not much more to be said about here.
Strongly recommended for players who really wish to challenge their AoE skills. Brilliant work!
Storm on the steppe is a old school style scenario from the Classic Design Contest 2016 with a FF leading into a B&D.
By the time i finished i did enjoy the scenario quite a bit;the gameplay offered is very nicely put together and it flowed nicely. Someone said the map was too short, i didnt think so at first but then i was surprised to get the win when destroying the 3 castles at 1:12:xx. I was expecting that to be the midpoint, as i had expected to face the dreaded invaders from the north after pacifying the locals.
The gameplay seems modeled after a competitive 1v1 style but there are a couple issues that i think hurt my enjoyment of it. The most obvious thing is the AI spawning troops in;this is almost necessary to make a strong AI. But unlike some scenarios where the AI has a strong army that can be broken down, this time the AI army is pretty weak in any one battle but the enemy troops simply never stop flooding out. When you fight a human or AI in a 1v1 random, you can raid their eco also to slow them down, or deny them valuable resources by pushing in on a forward gold. I find this competitive gameplay frustrating when im the only one actually playing the game. When a player raids your eco, you do have options to resolve the problem. You can setup static defenses, wall up, or launch counter raids or try pressuring his front area so hard he has to fight there. The AI here just keeps suiciding units in to raid my villagers and the only option to resolve it is to quickly kill them. I would like options against the raiding, and certainly make the human pay a price to pursue them. Some way to weaken the enemy respawn rates by killing tertiary camps and supply lines would be nice.
I found it odd that the maps theme was steppes most of the combat takes place within stone walled fortress's;the player must seek refuge from the numerous enemies on one hand, and the only way to neutralize the foes is to storm their castles all at once, as any protracted battle in the open will lead to being whittled down. This results in many siege battles in which you have to storm walls, endure withering arrow fire with nonstop coming defenders, and your only siege weapon of note, the ram, is vulnerable to the mangudai who can shoot them down from safety.
One final note is that the scenario presents a list of optional objectives as if you could do them in any order to try out different routes, but it feels like to me the player has little choice but to gun for the guy in the left corner ASAP to gain space for economy whereas after that its easiest to just attack the 3 castles and win rather than go for that other guy on the righthand side.
Even though you might think from the 'negatives' above that the balance would also suffer, i do feel this scenario is perfectly balanced. The players force is expertly crafted to require good tactics and positioning to win battles, and the tech tree and building limitations were carefully thought out to create a nice castle age warfare environment. Even though i took issue with infinite spawns above, in the end it was quite possible to storm into the enemy fortress's and achieve the goals. Usually i play scenarios on hard and enjoy a good challenge, and thats exactly what is offered. Even though my enjoyment of the game was impact by what i felt was annoying-difficulty moreso than make-you-think difficulty. that was a subjective drawback in the playability area, and objectively i do feel the scenario is delivering what you choose from moderate, hard, etc.
Storm on the Steppes belongs to the more free form B&D genre, but it has all the intensity and challenge of a more tightly focused FF or Defend the Spot scenario. The AI puts up a stubborn and unrelenting fight with the player needing to carefully utilize his heavy troops to avoid being whittled down by swarming horsemen. The games tech tree, population limit, and AI troop utilization has been carefully crafted to create a consistently challenging game from start to finish. Doing all this within the confines of the contests 150 trigger limit is an excellent accomplishment, and goes to show you dont need 8000 triggers to make a great game.
This AI should have received more appreciation in the original review;it consists of more than just a script file, as the entire game environment has been well designed to allow it to fight hard against the player, and with arguably weaker forces to boot. Many of the game elements have been arranged in such a way as to bring out the best challenge possible, and a great deal of effort must have gone into this work.
The implementation of a custom soundtrack with voiced over dialogue lent a unique atmosphere to the scenario, though one of the music tracks that sounded vaguely like something out of an old CoD game sounded a bit overcompressed. In the end i did get a bit weary of the tracks provided and played my own music based on such tracks as "The Great Northern War" from the EU4 "Even more Music Mod", but its still a good creative touch many of the better scenarios are now implementing.
The story itself also contributes something to a high creativity;the world of the Gerothian Steppe does well to draw the player in, and consists of more than the usual simple excuses to allow the game play to proceed. A goodly amount of creative effort has surely been spent in worldbuilding.
Map Design 5
The theme chosen was steppes, which this scenario does a great job at representing. The terrain mixture on the grassy areas takes the forefront, with a really nice blending that made this seemingly simplistic terrain a very nice background. The ruined castle and its village gave a lovely impression;the ruins gave off a melancholy feel while the forage fields added charm. It really felt like people could have lived here once. The abandoned ruins about the map did feel a bit out of place, with their massive bulk and greenery, but the scenario editor is heavily biased towards green forests so it would have been rough to come up with something that fit into the steppes more, and these ruins do look great to look at. The enemy bases were slightly on the misplaced side, i would have expected some kind of nomadic imagery instead of a DoomBase of stone walls and towers. That said, these bases have excellent detailing combined with a good usage of the combined buildings technique.
This story delivered a nice atmospheric intro to the scenario, with a well written opening text introducing us to our character. The scouts report was an exhaustive report on the situation and demonstrates the authors love for his world he has created. The objectives were good, although i do wish the hints would have said exactly how many units needed to die to defeat the left-corner enemy. I did find it odd how the hero simply disappeared for the majority of the game. It feels like a missed opportunity to weave the story into the gameplay, as any random unit can discover the mausoleums and side quests on offer. Then at the end the hero suddenly is back again;the victory message seemed odd to me, as he was detached from what had happened.
Final thoughts: Storm on the Steppes is a must play scenario.
[Edited on 07/07/17 @ 07:53 PM]