Posted on 10/06/17 @ 12:08 PM (updated 10/11/17
Ancient America is a four-scenario campaign, focusing on several important Mesoamerican city-states, which played significant roles in pre-columbian times.
||Age of Kings HD: The Forgotten
|Required Modpack (if not included with the download):
||African Kingdoms, Rise of the Rajas
||Build and Destroy
|Number of scenarios:
+ Rise of the Totonacs: Slip into the role of the Cacique of Cempoala and lead the Totonacs to glory. Defend your homeland, defeat your rivals, the Zapotecs and the Tepanecs, and win the Gods' favor.
+ In the Name of the Serpent: After a long journey, the Itza have returned to their abandoned old capital, the city of Chichen Itza. The priests say that the Itza will only survive, if they succeed in placating Kukulkan, the Feathered Serpent, who is the God of resurrection. At the same time there are countless rumours about invaders from the west ...
+ The City of the Gods: Serve in the army of General Siyaj K'ak', who has promised to lead Teotihuacan, the "City of the Gods", to success. Only if you act wisely and resolutely, you will manage to lay the foundation of the greatest American empire of all time!
+ The Jaguar's Realm: Stroll in the footsteps of the legendary warlord Jaguar Claw, who set himself the task to unite all Mixtec tribes into a common empire. Subdue your rivals and conquer Oaxaca on behalf of the Jaguar! But first of all you need to convince the sceptical priesthood to acknowledge your reign ...
+ Classical Build&Destroy Gameplay
+ Detailed Map Design
+ 25 Artificial Intelligence Scripts
+ 950+ Triggers
+ Three Difficulty Settings
+ Epic Meso-American themed Custom Soundtrack by Derek Fiechter and Brandon Fiechter (80 minutes runtime!) Click the following link to subscribe to the custom music pack (44 tracks), which replaces the basic in-game music:
Ancient America - Complete Soundtrack
Please note: To play this custom campaign, you need the DLCs The Forgotten, The African Kingdoms and Rise of the Rajas. The graphics of the scenario selection menu will only be visible in-game, if you have subscribed to the campaign via steam.
10/11/17: Fixed a bug in scenario III.
|Author||Reviews ( All | Comments Only | Reviews Only )|
"Ancient America" is a four scenario Build and Destroy campaign which features an excellent jungle atmosphere. What distinguishes it from Bassi's previous campaign is a focus on the Pre-Columbian era, with the rise of several mesoamerican states. The warfare in this campaign is therefore conducted without the presence of gunpowder units, which was a refreshing change-up.
As expected of B&D, the player is often tasked with building up an empire from the roots up, gradually gaining the power needed to fulfill the objectives. The enemies early pressure has been mellowed out as compared to previous campaigns from the author, and less experienced players can also take advantage of an improved difficulty system which should provide a more appropriate challenge. Even so the enemies can be expected to put up a fierce fight throughout, and the player can be expected to be waging attrition style warfare, pushing from one objective to the next while securing valuable positions with castles or permanent garrisons.
All but the first mission feature a new focus of play;these hereby dubbed "monuments" in the form of stellae, wise men in caves, and abandoned religious ruins are used as objectives which the player must complete in order to fulfill his character's or city state's desires. This is an excellent concept, and one that had me stoked when I first encountered it, but unfortunately I found these to also be a weak spot in the campaign, a persistent point which was hammered home in repeat playthroughs, as all missions have been played 3-4 times. Besides the final mission, and only lightly at that, these have no practical benefit to the player whatsoever, and can even form a liability making it harder to win. Besides that, they all involve running a named character around to visit the various key locations, and considering you can simply garrison this key character in a safe place and ignore the objectives until all enemies have fallen, its rather a disappointing letdown here. Rather than emerging victorious with great satisfaction after triumphing over your enemies, you must often wait around for five minutes while your character walks about the map ticking off the objectives one by one. Perhaps this conflicts with other game design elements such as optional side objectives for rewards, which also boost replayability themselves but consume limited design space and creative effort.
I believe in order for these monuments to be a successful design feature, they must be made the heart of the scenario with all further design descisions crafted around bring out the utmost of the great potential these ideas have to form a great gameplay. The player could have choices in which objectives to accomplish in what order and what risks and hardships to encounter first, while reaping the benefits each step of the way. Accomplishing these objectives would then be a rewarding experience, which I imagine would add a great deal of memorability to the scenarios. A great deal of text here has already been devoted to these monuments, but they seem of great importance to both story and gameplay elements. As is I cant avoid a hollow feeling that these evoke, which erodes my enjoyment of the scenarios somewhat.
In summary, the gameplay is a strong aspect of the scenario, with the usual tough and persistent enemies who put up a great fight, pleasant to read historical documentation, and a great jungle atmosphere thanks to the superb mapping. A highly enjoyable game that is sure to please B&D fans and others alike.
Those fearing the rumored high difficulty and great intensity of Bassi Campaigns may have reason to breathe easier;a a slightly more mellow attrition warfare game unfolds here, yet still the game can bring a good intensity with numerous battles against a solid AI which keeps up the fight admirably well. The pressure brought by the enemies early on is quite manageable, though one should be gearing up from the getgo to engage in military unit production in order to fend off the eventual raids.
A difficulty system to provide a wider range of players of experience a smoother ride has recieved greater attention here than in the past, although I might mention the final playthrough of the campaign was conducted in standard, and I have to admit after the opening the gameplay felt much the same in terms of difficulty. Especially troublesome was the AI's deployment of fully upgraded Eagle Warriors in many scenarios;of course I managed to handle this just fine, but I imagine someone struggling along on standard might appreciate it greatly if they had less armour upgrades. While I am perhaps not the best judge of what actually constitutes easy, I cant help but feel this system is still falling slightly short, and to be honest I wouldn't have minded Hard having some tougher finale enemies. I usually reached the end of each scenario with very substantial resources remaining in the treasury, and the remaining enemies were swamped under a flood of cheap units.
As far as the challenges issued by the scenario, its a solid if slightly repetitive one, potentially with an interesting twist provided by the introduction of the "Monument" objectives; the previously mention stellae, wise men in caves, and abandoned religious ruins. Fulfilling these missions certainly has the potential to make the game more interesting, though as mentioned they can simply be ignored until the scenario's AIs have been defeated. This AI is the main obstacle, and puts up a good fight as usual. The maps are somewhat susceptible to the old "see stone, mine stone, build castles on chokepoints" routine. One small point of annoyance was with the civilization selection in mission two, "City of the Gods". I was quite happy to receive the Mayans, yet with Chemistry disabled the damage output to the numerous opposing eagles was halved with their massive pierce armour making archery play rather poor.I would have found it more satisfying to play without my archery advantage neutralized in such a manner, although this scenario had a good point in its favor thanks to the high population limit, which made overcoming this weakness much more manageable. I wouldn't have minded if all the scenarios had a slightly higher population limit;I was fortunate to play "Rise of the Totonacs" with a 150 pop version instead, and have to say I preferred that one slightly. It may become easier, but the satisfaction for me of fielding more troops is worth it.
This campaign does well to hit on a goodly number of creative notes, alongside the professional-esque slick presentation with opening bitmaps and properly written documentation ingame with the history tab or scouts report. The main drawback here is that as in previous campaigns, this is more like a collection of scenarios in the B&D theme, but the good points of the individual scenarios outweigh this consideration in scoring. A very appealing new element was the usage of the previously discussed monument objectives;while ive criticized their implementation and rewards system, its still a great idea to add some extra interest to the scenarios beyond simply reducing some enemy bases to rubble. I hope we again see these features in the future, as I believe they hold great potential to form the basis of a great civilization building style campaign. As always, the missions are well designed with a strong, persistent AI which puts up a strong fight throughout;this time around the player tends to have more allies and potential vassals on the map, which makes the world feel a tiny bit more alive to me. Individual missions have many positive points, such as little trading vessels traveling up and down the coast in the finale;small touches like this add a little pizazz to the affair. Very nice soundtrack, though it always seems to start from the opening and run the same pattern, as its only drawback. Little audio effects at key points around the maps added a nice touch.
Map Design 5+
Despite being another four jungle maps, somehow Bassi always manages to shake things up with a slightly different look on each map, resulting in an absolutely stunning terrain. The forests themselves feature a mix of various tree types with careful placement, and this portrays a tangled overgrown jungle environment convincingly. This foliage extends into grassy areas with massive usage of the plants object, something in the past ive not been particularly fond of, yet used to great effect here. Waterways and coastal areas are vibrant with good usage of various shallow terrains and rice farms, which had a great visual impact;there are many points of detailing here with bits of bamboo, rocks, and tree placement along with points of interest like waterfalls and cliff caves. The base terrain of the map is well mixed and well laid out so even the areas with less detailing and objects looked good. A nice amount of elevation usage aided this cause, breaking up any potential monotony. The only downside here is that its as always an HD map, and the cliffs there are rather meh;playing with a cliff mod improves the experience in some ways, but causes some issues since it was never designed for such a thing. The camps, villages and cities are all quite good with nice layouts and nice usage of combined building techniques. The maps are quite enjoyable to simply marco polo and wander about in, and you might find a little spot you hadn't quite noticed before. Top notch mapping.
Present are four loosely related scenarios that could potentially be played in a different order without harming the experience;therefore this is not a campaign that threads a narrative with persistent characters who receive personal growth. Each scenario does have a good story on its own though, covering quite some interesting topics with the rise and fall of various mesoamerican states. The history tabs contain a thorough breakdown of the premise, while the scouts report fills you in on the map, its locations and factions, and expected tactics of enemies as well as potential sources of friends and vassals. The hints are fairly standard and provide useful information as appropriate. Objectives are written in the standard format and provide clarity on what to do, and which units to protect carefully. These story elements are well designed to accompany this B&D gameplay, and you could say the real story is played out by the player in combating the enemies and fulfilling the missions.
Final Thoughts:"Ancient America" can be warmly recommended for any player partial to the B&D genre. Do not be fooled by the short time between the date of this and the last campaign, as the quality is very high.
[Edited on 10/24/17 @ 07:05 AM]
"Ancient America" is yet another fantastic compilation of Build & Destroy scenarios by Bassi, this time focused on various Mesoamerican city-states and their rise to power. Just as with "Kings of Destruction", a disclaimer for those with a chronology OCD: proper chronological order would be 3-2-1-4.However, the release order demonstrates the evolution of certain gameplay ideas, as the designer refined the formula, so I would recommend sticking to the campaign order. The campaign was played in the HD version on Moderate setting.
I had a ton of fun playing these. Although the basic formula is pretty much the same in all 4 scenarios- (start out leading a city-state in the Mesoamerican jungle surrounded by allies and rivals; survive early agression while building up your strength and your city; begin expanding, subjugating enemies and fulfilling additional objectives; destroy your strongest opponents and complete scenario objectives) I found myself constantly engrossed as I balanced maintaining my starting city with cautious exploration deeper into the jungle seeking additional resources and places to expand. With few exceptions the entire experience felt incredibly well-paced and I felt very immersed when playing-added by a good custom soundtrack and very comprehensive objectives/hints/scouts tabs.
The balance, on Moderate, was deceptive. I've had a few rough starts where I would start developing and expending my economy, and then I'd get hit by a massive attack force from a new opponent that would overwhelm me. The early game requires some careful planning taking advantage of your city's layout- most times you start pretty cramped for space but this can be turned into a defensive advantage, even without using house-walls- an exploit I tend to avoid. It helps that there are plenty of turkeys to be found with some early scouting that can help you to stock up food quickly even when you don't have a lot of room for farms to start with. Dealing with early raids tends to be the hardest part up until a point when you can place a castle to secure an area to expand to and build more farms- as soon as you do that, the pace speeds up and going on the offensive isn't generally too difficult. Once the player's expansion starts it tends to become an unstoppable process- and the maps are littered with more than enough resources to fuel the fighting and side objectives (usually completed by eliminating or significantly weakening some of the lesser opponents) tend to make this even smoother. Aside from the reasonably difficult opening, the only setbacks I really expereinced in the mid-to late game was lettigng a mission critical unit wander into a whole lot of enemy units. Once again, Bassi nails the Build & destroy difficulty curve, really delivering that "from humble beginnings into a superpower" feel.
I must also say a few words about the allied AI. Without singing them exceptional praises, I gotta say, they apply some pressure, they stay alive largely without my intervention (usually), and they can occasionally distract an opponent, letting me focus on something.else. They don't build siege engines, so they won't be conquering anything with stone walls themselves, but they are competent enough.
Although I enjoyed all scenarios immensely, I must admit that they are a bit formulaic. Playing as either Aztec or Maya, there are additional restrictions placed on the tech tree- the player can't build walls or construct trebuchets (although in most scenarios some can be gained by fulfilling side objectives). This means that an attack against a walled city inevitably involves a lot of rams and infantry. The last scenario seems to acknowledge this by introducing a water-based enemy and some naval warfare, but it felt a bit tacked on, and it really prolonged that particular scenario. Likewise, although 3 of the 4 scenarios require you to bring specific characters to multiple specific locations in order to perform some scenario-critical tasks, the reality of map design places most of these objectives behind enemy cities, meaning you generally have to demolish a better portion of said cities in order to proceed anyway. I appreciate the idea of moving away from the "defeat all enemies" objective but its execution here does not quite bring anything unique. There are some interesting moments with unique units and ships being recruitable via triggers, but nothing really hits the same highs as the Golden Horde reforming in the background, Tamerlane's initial timed raid on India, or the endless betrayals of Jamukha Gurgan". These are incredibly atmospheric and competent Build & Destroy scenarios, soe of the best I've ever played. But mechanically, they are not particularly innovative.
Map Design: 5
While mechanically the campaign might not feel exceptional, desing-wise it certainly is. Bassi really shows what can be done with all the new Rise of the Rajas jungle assets to create absolutely breathtaking maps. In addition, I found the map design incredibly intuitive when it came to figuring out my playstyle. Most cities would start out feeing cramped, but feature a relatively open area nearby that would become a natural expansion site- once I developed enough to be able to protect it from raids. In this way, the map design really added in experiencing an actual growing and expanding city-state. Age of Empires isn't a city-builder, but the design of these maps still managed to convey that kind of feeling, and it blended beautifully with the narrative each scenario was trying to convey.
There is no overall story here, since each scenario represents a different group at various periods of Mesoamerican history, shining light on some of the lesser-known groups (though it also features the Mayans). Each scenario starts with a professional-looking bitmap that gives you an idea of where your city-state is with respect to others; The incredibly comprehensive Scouts tab in the scenario proper only reinforces this. The scenarios themselves aren't driven by any deep narrative, but instructions and introductions of side objectives are well-done and easy to understand. The custom music and cuts from "Apocalypto" as introduction pieces further add to the overall incredible atmosphere of each scenario. The History section also provides a good overview of whichever group the particular scenario is dealing with.
What we have here is a set of very competent Build & Destroy scenarios featuring absolutely fantastic map work with an overall Mesoamerican theme and compelling gameplay. While they won't blow you away with any innovations in the Build & Destroy genre, you are unlikely to find a more atmospheric experience featuring this region.
[Edited on 07/23/19 @ 09:34 AM]