|Al_Kharn the Great
You raided England with Ragnar, now storm the Mediterranean with Bjorn!
||Age of Empires II (2013): African Kingdoms
||Build and Destroy
About the scenario:
As legendary Viking raider Bjorn Ironside, raid the wealthy islands and shores of the Mediterranean to become a legend of the sagas! Play an epic custom scenario based on history, the Norse sagas, and the History Channel's Vikings series. Lead a warband, recruit Viking heroes, and devastate the rich lands of the Mediterranean. Bjorn, your warbands await your command!
An immersive collection of Norse music from DANHEIM brings the Age of the Vikings to life! (download by subscribing to the link below)
Massive, Giant-sized map for hours of gameplay!
Raid and pillage the cities of the Mediterranean: Cordoba, Tunis, and Rome!
Collect heroes to raise special warbands!
45 minutes of Norse music by Danheim (separate download on Steam)
About the author:
Filthydelphia is the acclaimed and award-winning designer of over a dozen historical custom campaigns and the official Portuguese and Burmese campaigns featured in the African Kingdoms and Rise of the Rajas DLCs.
Ironside requires The Forgotten and African Kingdoms DLCs
Steam Link (Scenario)
Steam Link (Soundtrack)
|Author||Reviews ( All | Comments Only | Reviews Only )|
"Ironside" is the thematic follow-up to an earlier Viking Raids extravaganza of "Ragnar's Raids". The player steps into the shoes of on of Ragnar's sons, Bjorn Ironside in order to loot and pillage his way across the Mediterranean. It was played on HD version, on both Medium and Hard
There were some changes in the formula between "Ragnar's Raids" and "Ironside". In the latter, you are still restricted in what you can build, but there are no other settlements to claim with extra buildings (or sometimes workers). You do get a few extra fishing boats and villagers as you progress through the ages, but aging up is now done the regular way, through your town center rather than via completing story objectives. As such, i found there were lengthy periods where you don't really have a fleet or a force to raid, and you have to wait while your limited workforce amasses the food you need to age up. Because your number of workers is limited with no way of getting more, losing a single fishing ship to a stray tower fire, or a single villager to a wolf attack can, quite literally, cripple your economy- and since you continue requiring resources to recruit additional warbands, as well as your massive longboat fleets, this could have the effect of grinding the game to a halt. And unlike most B&D scenarios that have you start out weak and resisting enemy pressure until you can go on the offensive, the AI in "Ironside" is very timid- it will spawn units endlessly to defend from attacks, but it will never take a shot at your fairly isolated starting position. This leads to long lulls in the action when you are literally unable to do anything, waiting for additional resources, and this significantly impacted my enjoyment of the scenario. Once you get there, the core loop of raiding to amass gold from each destroyed building in order to raise more troops to raid more IS satisfying, but it takes way too long to get there. The scenario is more polished, with only potential bug I found was a trigger for the Spanish princess not firing until that player was already defeated, but its pacing was detracting from fun.
Same as with "Ragnar's Raids", "Ironside" does a good job showcasing the strengths of the Viking civilization- in particular, the Longboats. A large group of Elite Longboats can sweep away most things the AI can come up with in a hail of arrow-fire. Only real exceptions to this are castles and scores of Byzantine Fast Fire ships. Although a large enough group of Elite Longboats can take those out in a single volley, your lack of University (and thus, Ballistics) combined with the enemy's ability to endlessly spam both Fast Fires and heavy demo ships makes the trades unprofitable. This presents the player with a barrier in getting into the Adriatic sea, and makes defeating both Langobard Italy and the Byxantines a more difficult prospect- their navy gets to support any besieged city with the ability to harass the player's army at choke-points like river fords (where the AI loves to unleash its heavy demos for maximum damage). This can actually be largely mitigated by first attacking Africa and finding the hero Haraldr to gain access to warbands of Throwing Axemen, but I found this progression gating to be unintuitive and contrary to the free-flow raiding philosophy the scenario is going for, and the difficulty spike on this roadblock was a bit much. Similar complaint can be levelled at the Franks' last stronghold in Paris-when aggroed, the city begins to produce post-imperial Paladins and Elite Throwing Axemen with extra range from the 3 stables and 2 castles within the city. Trying to stem this tide head-on is a daunting prospect, and the only way to avoid this is to maneuver the slow and expensive siege rams in position to destroy an outer wall that's abutting 2 of the stables- taking advantage of the area of effect attack to destroy the stables through the wall. This is a strategy that can only be derived from trial and error, and I felt that wasn't exactly balanced.
The ideas originally explored in Ragnar's Raids still have merit, and they are demonstrated here. The mechanic to kidnap princesses to hold them for ransom is developed further; exploring the map to find Viking heroes to creae different types of warbands both encourages exploration and allows the player to experiment with combinations of unique units such as Berserkers, Huscarls, Woad Raiders, Throwing Axemen, Tarkans and Boyars. Taking on such a large scale- all of the Mediterranean, from Gibraltar to Asia Minor- is quite the undertaking in and of itself as well.
Map Design: 4
As mentioned above, the game's balance and pacing wasn't great. The map design underscored this-there wasn't a whole lot of exploring to do early on on the sea without running afoul of either towers or Byzantine Rapid Fire Ship Response brigade; on land, the only real avenue of exploration was the path through the alps into Italy, and this was infested with wolves all the way through. The actual cities and countryside of enemy lands was well-done, but there were chunks of the map that just weren't serving any major function and were not that fun t explore.
The story was delivered via the opening bitmap, a a solid aftermath screen and detailed instructions, hints and Scouts sections. No complaints about any of these, they set the background for the scenario nicely; the Aftermath explained just what the impact of the Norse presence in the Mediterranean would end up being; and the Scouts tab gave me a good and accurate idea of what to expect from each of the enemy civilizations.
"Ironside" is first and foremost, an attempt to iterate on the mechanics used to such great effect in "Ragnar's Raids". Unfortunately, I would say it fails more often than it succeeds. Iteration on some of the additional mechanics make the scenario interesting, but the tweaks to the economy system and the more unbalanced difficulty curve undermine the raw enjoyment from gameplay. It is still worth checking out, if you liked "Ragnar's Raids" and you want more of something similar. Just be ready to switch your game speed to Fast and have a bit more patience for the tedious build-up phase.